NEWS | May 18, 2011

Keep up while laying back: keeping kids engaged during the summer

By Cicely McCray, Joint Base Charleston - Weapons Station school liaison officer

In the south, just as the leaves begin turning red in the fall and yellow pollen signals the beginning of spring, pesky flying and stinging creatures tell us that summer is approaching. And with summer comes other little beings that also buzz and flutter around the house in search of a restful place to land ... children home on summer vacation.

Summer camps can satisfy the need for outdoor adventure and fun in many families, but it is important that parents also use these valuable weeks of summer to keep children academically engaged. According to a recent Huffington Post article by Jennifer Peck on the effects of summer learning, "Studies ... show that a lack of summer learning and enrichment opportunities can lead to summer learning loss - a loss in academic skills and knowledge during summer vacation. Summer learning loss, which is cumulative over time, widens the achievement gap between low-income and middle-income students and increases student drop-out rates."

The notion that learning stops in May and begins again in August has been quite the controversial conversation in many mommy circles during the past few years. In his book "Outliers," Malcolm Gladwell, states, "For its poorest students, America doesn't have a school problem; it has a summer-vacation problem."

Putting numbers to the idea of the summer learning slide, The National Summer Learning Association says on its website, "Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months."

It's important to note they did not say most poor students, public school students, black students, white students or inner city students. They simply said most students.

Two months of math learning loss means that from 1st grade through high school, a well-educated child from a middle class background could potentially fall two years behind in math simply by not practicing their skills during the summer. Children have a lot of energy but they don't always know how to use it. As a parent, it is your duty to manage your children's time in such a way that they can enjoy their vacation and also keep in touch with their studies.

So after a full hot summer day of running, playing and swimming, wind down by helping keep your child at the head of the class. Ask your child's school librarian, counselor and teacher for websites and activities where your child may stay engaged. Other learning opportunities include the public library and other historical sites around the Charleston area which can provide a classroom without walls experience for your child.

Learning is a lifelong passion; keep your children engaged all year round.