Stopping the Summer Slide

My daughter has only 27 days of school left—not that I'm counting. I've planned camps, a family vacation, and visits to grandparents, but I haven't given much thought out yet to how I'm going to prevent her brain from turning to mush as she watches a Good Luck, Charlie episode for the eighth time or spends her afternoons at the playground. Okay, I'm exaggerating about her brain turning to mush—but, seriously, will she still be able to bust out the multiplication tables after 10 weeks away from them, or remember the formula for calculating the area of a circle? Will her writing get lazy in the lazy days of summer—will she even know what a participle is come September?

These are the kinds of questions that I wrestle with every summer striving to balance the carefree (and sometimes even boring) days that I believe kids should have versus the knowledge that studies show, math and reading skills regress over the break. In fourth grade, my daughter's class took a math test at the end of the year—she got a perfect score. At the beginning of fifth grade, when she received the identical test, she got several wrong.

Forgetting the previous school year's lessons is a problem in the earlier grades, too. In a piece by Michelle Crouch, last year, even first- and second-grade teachers talked about this phenomenon that's known around schools as the "summer slide."It's actually led some educators to lobby for "year-around" school with several shorter breaks throughout the year rather than a long summer hiatus.

But that's not an option in our district (and I don't know if I'd love that idea anyway). So I'm stuck trying to slip some academics into summer. Lucky for me, my daughter is obsessed with reading (she read every title we considered for Parents Best Book story) and, last year, she also did the summer reading program at Barnes & Noble and our local library. Plus, a trip to the library in general is a great rainy-day activity. She's already made herself a stack of summer books she wants to get to, but if your child is a reluctant reader, try a friend's trick: Take out library books about something your child is passionate about (whether it's learning more about Disney or dinosaurs) and set aside 15 minutes daily when everyone in the family drops what they're doing to read. Since everyone is reading, your child will be more likely to want to join in.

Retaining math skills, however, is much more challenging for us. My daughter does play games sometimes on First in Math, and when she was younger, she used some of these cool math apps. I'm reluctant to buy workbooks because they seem like, well, work. Please share your ideas!

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