Studies indicate that children can lose one to three months of learning over the summer vacation.
According to Duke University Professor Harris Cooper, “…kids do forget over the summer.  Across the board, all kids lose some math skills.”  Losses in language arts skills vary.  “In reading, the middle class holds its own, but the poor lose reading and spelling skills, and that pattern emerged as a possible explanation for the academic achievement gap between those who have financial resources and those who don’t.”
These losses are common, but not inevitable. A key to preventing or reducing summer brain drain is to keep children actively involved in learning and there are many tools and programs to help. 
This year, in between sessions of VBS, youth encampment, arts camp, swimming lessons and general chilling, our children are participating in the following academic related programs and projects.  Each are interesting to the children, and effective in core skill development.  The lessons/activities take 10-20 minutes to complete, making them easy to weave into a busy summer schedule.  Plus most are FREE.
Summer reading programs encourage children to read regularly throughout the summer.  Most public libraries offer reading programs with rewards for completing a prescribed number of books. Our local library systems (East Baton Rouge Public Libraryand Livingston Parish Public Library), offer reading programs and other robust programming in crafts, science and arts to keep children actively engaged.
Other no cost reading programs include:
Barnes and Noble Imagination’s Destination Summer Reading Program – offering a free book and reading kit for children that read 8 books this summer. The program runs May 19th – September 7th, 2015.
The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge™ is a free online reading program where children log the number of minutes they read for rewards and incentives.  The program also has tools to help parents keep their children reading. Program runs May 4 – Sept 4, 2015.
The Sylvan BookAdventure program allows children grades K-8 to search for books, read them offline, come back and take a quiz on what they’ve read, and earn prizes for their reading success.  This program is yearlong.
We double dip, i.e. the children apply the books they read to all the above programs. Racking up rewards helps keep them motivated.

The Tenmarks Summer Math Program is a comprehensive learning system personalized for each child.  Upon enrolling the children take a diagnostic assessment.  An individualized set of lessons are provided with on-demand instruction, video lessons and hints.  Parental controls allow the reordering of lessons, creating of awards and progress monitoring.  Normally $39.95, it is free for the summer.  I am impressed with this program and find the lessons review/refresh the children’s current math skills, and introduce new topics to move them forward.
Other tools we find helpful are the Scholastic Summer Express workbooks.  The workbooks review math, reading, writing, grammar and vocabulary from the grade just completed and introduce a few new grade level topics for the grade your child will start in the fall.  To prevent overload, the book is setup for just 2 worksheets per day, with incentive charts, and certificates of completion to enhance motivation.  If the two sheets are not enough, suggested reading lists and extended learning activity suggestions are also included.  At the end of each school year, our public school system provides these at no cost. Books can also be purchased online or at local bookstores for less than $10.
Trips. Once a week, we try to take a trip to a location that engages their minds and burns off some of that abundant youthful energy.  With a little planning local parks, museums, the farmer’s market, historical sites etc. can provide fun and learning opportunities.

Journaling is the last academic element of my 2015 Summer Momma Camp.  Remember the “What I did this summer” essay?  A few times a week, the children write. I suggest a topic and try to give feedback on grammar, developing ideas, using descriptive words etc.  The goal is to develop their critical and imaginative thinking, expression and language arts skills, and hopefully plant a habit of journaling. (I think I pen and paper are powerful life tools.)
Know of any helpful summer learning tools?  Please share.

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