Saturday, June 18, 2011

What Not to Do This Summer

Guest Post by Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed.

Many parents, and kids alike, have grand plans of taking a break from learning over the summer to recharge, but studies show that this is not a good idea. In fact, students can lose up to 15% of their academic ability over the summer if they don’t read, write, or practice math.

Here are the facts:
• Learning loss is inevitable when kids take the summer off from educational activities.
• 56% of kids want to build their education and get ready for the next grade by participating in summer programs.

On average, teachers spend the first 4 to 6 weeks of a new school year re-teaching last year’s material due to summer learning loss.

Do Not Go Forward Without a Plan
• Reach out to your child’s teacher(s) before the school year ends for suggestions on books and activities for summer learning. If your child is weak in a particular subject, summer is a great time to fill in the learning gaps and boost confidence.
• Create a schedule and put it in writing. This is perhaps the most important thing you can do BEFORE summer starts. Sit down with your child and agree upon a daily time dedicated to practice (don’t call it homework!). For most kids, morning is best. Twenty to thirty minutes each day or three days per week is all you need.
• If you wait until late July or August to think about summer learning, your child will likely resist your attempts. When children know what to expect early on, they are more likely to comply.

Sometimes, even the most efficient parents feel overwhelmed with two and a half months of unstructured time. Consider hiring a tutor and asking him or her to leave behind practice materials for your child. Many students work better when the teacher isn’t Mom or Dad.

Look for Non-Traditional Books
• For students who resist working from a workbook, consider an online reading program. Some favorites for younger children are,, and
• For your tween or teen, consider purchasing an e-reader. Teens love electronics and are much more likely to read if they just need to flip the switch on their e-book. Moreover, once they finish with one book, the next book is at the tip of their fingers in their e-reader storefront.
• Unless a particular book is required by the school, don’t force your child to read “quality literature” that may not be of interest.

Reading a comic book or graphic novel is reading! Allow your child to read magazines, books on topics of interest, or books based on movies they’ve seen or want to see.

Don’t Forget Writing and Math
• Did you just return from a family vacation or is your son or daughter attending summer camp?
• Work with them to document these summer adventures in a scrapbook with written captions. This is often more appealing than writing an essay!
• For each book read, encourage your child to submit a book review to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online sites. This is a great way to practice writing a topic sentence and good supporting details.
• In the area of math, check out the website Practice problems and activities are based on topics, such as multiplication, decimals, fractions, etc. so you can pick and choose. There are plenty of colorful explanations for how to work the problems, which is especially important for students who need to brush up on the “how” of math.

You can help keep your younger child’s math skills sharp at the grocery store. The next time you’re shopping, ask them to compare similar products based on sale prices and quantity and help you decide which to purchase. Your child will appreciate that you are asking for their advice.

The key to making your child’s summer learning productive is to have a plan in writing early on and to incorporate engaging activities. Students like to feel prepared for the upcoming year. By helping them to brush up on skills over the summer, you will help to make the new school year a successful one!

Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed., is the founder and president of Educational Connections, Inc., a comprehensive provider of educational services in Fairfax, VA and Bethesda, MD. In her award-winning book, Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework, Dolin offers proven solutions to help the six key types of students who struggle with homework. Learn more at or


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