By Lisa Rosenthal
Think summer is a carefree time when kids should put away the books and cut loose? Think again. If you let your children just hang out, they may fall victim to “summer slide,” or the loss of knowledge and skills acquired during the school year.
On average, students who don’t engage in summer learning lose the equivalent of two months’ worth of grade-level math and reading skills, according to the National Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University. “What I worry about a lot is summer reading loss,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently commented in Education Daily. “You have kids who don't have a lot of books at home and aren't read to. You get kids to a certain point in June, and when they come back in September, they're further behind than when they left you three months ago. It's heartbreaking.”
Other ways kids lose ground over the break:
Keeping up on their learning doesn't mean that children should be studying vocabulary lists and doing math worksheets. Summer is the perfect time for children to discover that education isn’t limited to the classroom.
"You don't want your kids to think that learning is only something that happens in places called schools," says Susan K. Perry, author of Playing Smart: The Family Guide to Enriching, Offbeat Learning Activities for Ages 4-14. "Rather, you want them to grasp that learning is fun and can go on anytime, anywhere, with handy materials, not only based on the instruction of an actual schoolteacher.”
Whether you are taking a trip to a far-off place or staying in your own neighborhood, there are ample opportunities for your children to grow and learn. But be careful not to overplan. "To avoid boredom, a child has to learn to be motivated on his or her own to a certain extent, and that is an acquired skill," says Perry. "If every time your child says, 'I'm bored' you step in with a quick solution, they'll never learn to develop their own resources. But do provide some options. Just don't try to instill learning. That's not how it works."
Need help stemming the summer slide? Sign up for our back-to-school tips of the day and learn about fun activities to keep your kids engaged and busy. For example, you can: