Volume 7, Number 2
Summer Break Can Mean a Break in Learning
Teresa L. Mareschal, M.A.T.
Human Development Specialist
University of Missouri Extension
permission from Connect with Kids. For resources on teen and
adolescent issues visit
Summer vacation. While our kids love the break, it also creates a
break in learning. Studies report that, on average, students lose
about 2.6 months of grade level equivalency in math computation
not all kids will fall behind when they go to school next fall. For
the Lucero boys, learning is year-round. When the school year ends,
their father uses next year's text to teach them math lessons at
home. "And he'd give us like maybe three-page tests on those, with
like maybe 75 questions," says Orlando, 16.
And during the summer, their mother gives them assigned reading and
asks them to give written or oral book reports. "It can be a hassle
sometimes, but during school, it pays off on tests and everything,"
14-year-old Vidal says.
These boys won't fall behind this summer, but many of their
classmates and other students around the country will. According to
a study from Johns Hopkins University, many kids forget some of what
they've learned, and by the end of summer, they lose, "over two and
one-half months of grade-level equivalency in mathematics," says
Fran Chamberlain, director of an after-school program called KidzLit.
"Teachers are spending easily up to six weeks trying to review what
had happened in previous years," says David Payne, a former
principal. Payne, now the CEO of an after-school program called the
Extreme Learning Center, says reading skills also lag. He tells
parents to actually go to school and talk to their children's
teacher before the end of classes. Ask the teacher what skills could
your children benefit from practicing this summer, and find out what
books they might read now that could keep them sharp and help them
prepare for next year.
He also says that the key is to make learning fun, especially during
the summer. The Lucero boys, for example, write out math problems on
the dining room table ... with shaving cream! Their father, Frank
Lucero, came up with that idea. "I'll take a look at the books, I'll
read through the chapters, pick out the particular problems and
actually spend some time in analyzing how am I going to make this
fun for the boys? What are we going to do this time? How do I keep
it different?" he says.
This summer, the boys will have time for basketball and
skateboarding, but only when the homework is done. Come fall,
Orlando and Vidal will be ready. "Everyone's asking me, like, how do
you do this, how do you do that? Like on the bus. And they
practically have to relearn it all over again," Vidal says.
What Parents Need To Know
As a parent, it is important for you to help your child retain the
knowledge he or she has learned each year. Whether homework is
assigned during the school year or as a "summer bridge" between
grades, you can help your child get it done. In fact, the American
Federation of Teachers (AFT) says parents can help their children
academically, even if homework is not assigned. The AFT describes
home as "a child's first school." The organization recommends
spending a little time each day on reading, writing and math
Parents can use some vacation time to help kids keep their math
and reading skills sharp. Consider these strategies:
||Have your child do math problems at
his/her level a couple of times a week. Workbooks and online
resources can be a guide.
||Help your child realize how math is
used every day. Have kids help in the kitchen and double or
halve a recipe, or grocery shop together and calculate
||Playing family games is a great way
to practice math skills. Some fun family games include
Mancala, Chess, Mastermind, Othelo, Monopoly, Cards (500
Rummy, Spades, Pinochle), Cribbage and Racko.
||Organize a book club for kids. It's a
great way to foster a love of reading and get kids talking
about books. Depending on their age, kids can organize their
own or have their parents join in.
||Plant a garden. Kids who tend a
garden will learn about dirt, seeds and seedlings, where
food comes from and more. Plus it's good exercise.
||Get theatrical. Gather a group of
kids together to perform a play. They can write their own
script, act out a story they have read or memorize a play.
Family and friends make a great, supportive audience!