June 19, 2014

How to keep kids learning all summer

2 minutes
Advice for host families

Friday, June 20, 2014 is Summer Learning Day, designed to raise awareness about the very real and very worrisome loss of educational skills and knowledge that American kids experience between academic years. According to the National Summer Learning Association, kids lose an average of 2 months of math skills each summer, and the effects are cumulative over the years, creating a lasting achievement gap.
Beyond the events that are taking place around the country this Friday, there are many ways you can help your kids combat summer learning loss at home throughout the summer.
Reading: If your children have a summer reading list, encourage them to make progress on it by setting daily goals.  If they are too young to read on their own, make sure to read aloud to them daily. Incorporate regular trips to the library so they can check out new books while you take note of any free educational programming they can take advantage of as well. Involve your au pair, if you have one, and explore her culture through reading some of her favorite books.
Writing: Give your child a new journal and initiate a daily writing challenge. Have them write a summary of each book they read, ask them to keep a journal to document their favorite summer activities each week, or encourage them to write a collaborative story with a friend, sibling or au pair.
Math: There are many fun ways to disguise practicing math skills over the summer. Cooking and baking require measurements—ask your child to help you double a recipe, for example. You can also challenge them to plan a garden or build a fort by taking measurements and drawing plans to scale. Ask for their help organizing a yard sale or setting up a lemonade stand, and let them handle the money. (Then offer them a cut to spend on a treat for themselves!)  If you have younger children, incorporate counting in day-to-day activities. Help them start a collection of simple, common objects and ask them to report back with the total number they find each week.
Music, art and culture: Research and take advantage of summer festivals that include music, art and culture. Or, if you have an au pair, ask her to organize a family cultural festival with food and music from her home country. If your au pair is helping your children learn a second language, try to schedule an hour each day for building vocabulary and practicing this new skill. If your kids play any musical instruments, try to maintain a practice schedule throughout the summer or encourage them to form a band with friends if they are older.
Physical activity: Adequate exercise is equally important to the developing brains and overall health of children. Go for a family bike ride, spend a day at the community pool or organize some neighborhood games like dodge ball, capture the flag, or one-on-one basketball.  Just getting outside each day for walks and taking note of nature also helps kids’ bodies and minds. Be sure to set limits on screen time, including TV, computer, and smartphone use so that kids are more likely to get outdoors and get active.
How do you keep your kids’ brains from going soft over the summer?  Share your tips in the comments below.