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Beware the summertime 'brain drain'

Posted: June 23, 2011 10:20 a.m.
Updated: June 24, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Ah, summer is finally here.

Many people like to think of the summer months as a carefree and happy time when “kids can just be kids”  -- a time when they imagine children escaping from the strict regimen of long school days and embracing the freedom of running around barefoot and exploring their neighborhoods.

But if you ask me, all of that just sounds like an excerpt from “Tom Sawyer.”

In reality, some kids today have and will continue to spend the rest of their summer vacation glued to their television, Facebook, Twitter, Playstation 3, BlackBerry or iPhone.

Before you know it, they will meander back into their schools in August having already lost about two months of their math skills during the summertime, according to the National Summer Learning Association. Even worse, low-income students will also lose more than two months in reading achievement during their summer vacation.

So it’s no surprise that many educators have even started referring to this time of year -- the three-month period that causes every teacher to spend the first month of the new school year re-teaching students basic skills that they forgot -- as “The Summer Slide.”

So for those of you who have grown tired of watching your children create permanent dents in your couch cushions this summer, here are three ways to help stave off the summer brain drain:

Math -- Even something as simple as having your kids help with grocery shopping can hone their math skills. Next time you go to the grocery store, have them weigh the fruits and vegetables for you, estimate your change at the cash register, etc. And when you get home, put the kids to work. Following a recipe that forces your children to use weights and measures can help develop their math skills, and more importantly, provide you with a half-decent meal in the process. 

Reading -- The local library offers a ton of resources for children, and I’m sure any librarian can help recommend books appropriate for your child's reading level and interests. Have a summer reading list? Take the time out now to take your child to the library this weekend to pick up one of the books. It’ll save you a headache from listening to them whine during August about how they have to finish a 300-page book in less than a week.

Writing -- Encourage your child to start a journal or create some kind of writing project for them to do. I can remember one summer when my mother made my older sister and me spend time each day working on our own writing projects. By the end of the summer, I had written my first “novel” and my sister -- who is quick to admit that she hates writing -- created the first issue of her own magazine.

Of course, those are just a few things any parent could try this summer.

Will your kids whine, roll their eyes and complain if they know you’re trying to make them do anything educational during their three-month vacation?

Absolutely.

But that doesn’t mean that you have to give in to it.

Yes, summer is here, but that doesn’t mean these long, hazy months should be no work and all play for your children. 

To be successful during the next school year, kids will need constant opportunities to hone their math, reading and writing skills, and the summertime should be no exception.

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