The sun is out, which means kids and school faculty are running for the doors as fast as they can! Hold on a minute, though. Your kids have just spent nine months cramming their little brains with the skills they’ll need to succeed both next year and for the rest of their lives. What’s going to happen to all of that knowledge? Well, the research says a lot of it is going to go away if you don’t do a little work to preserve it. Never fear, though! With just a little practice in five key areas, you can make sure your child is poised to shine next school year.
It’s so obvious that it has to be first. Be sure your child reads as often as possible this summer. Of course, it’s best if they read challenging material that requires critical thinking, or books slightly above their Lexile level; however, any reading is better than no reading, so encourage them as much as possible. Take trips to the library; get them into e-books; do whatever it takes to get words in front of their eyes.
Questions are the key to learning. Socrates taught almost exclusively through questioning. If your child is not one that typically questions things, try playing games like Twenty Questions, or other games that involve asking questions to win. If you can’t be with your child during the day, there are some awesome electronic versions of these types of games out there.
Working together is more important than ever in the modern world, and it’s easy for kids to cut themselves off from social interaction during the summer months. To combat this, try giving your child(ren) a task to complete that requires teamwork. Offer a modest reward for completion of the task, but make sure they can only complete it if they work together. Google is your friend for finding these types of activities.
This doesn’t have to be work. Encourage your kids to write a story. Encourage them to blog. Encourage them to find an e-mail pen pal (thoroughly vetted by you, of course). One fun writing activity that also requires collaboration is to write a story with each person in the group taking turns writing each sentence.
A study by Herman Ebbinghaus suggests that we can lose up to 70% of information that we commit to memory over a relatively short time if we only encounter it once, but if we repeat the information, our long-term retention can be as much as 90-100%. Think of a song you know by heart. You had to hear it multiple times before you finally knew it, right? Well, the same goes for algebra, literature, history, and science. The key to effective studying is multiple repetitions over time, not one long haul session, so tell your kids to spend five to fifteen minutes on a couple of these areas a day.
These five keys are essential to keeping all of that hard earned knowledge in your child’s head over the summer months. One thing I didn’t mention specifically here, but that should not be ignored is math. You can incorporate some mathematical problem-solving in any of the above activities (Tell Jr. he can check out 5x-3 books if x has an absolute value of 3, or put some math into those collaborative tasks). Whatever you do, keep that right brain engaged – but remember that short reps are much more effective than marathon sessions. In short, there’s no need to deprive your kids of all of their summer fun, but if you try to ensure that their critical thinking is engaged for just a little bit each day, it will go a long way to helping them succeed next year.