By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Parents and kids feel pressure each summer in balancing play and education. Research shows kids lose some learning when they’re away from school.

But, how much do they lose during the summer?

The statistics are sobering.

On average, children lose one-month of school learning over the summer. The declines are larger in math compared to reading, and the losses are higher as children get older.

Researchers have also found the losses can be cumulative, making it harder every year to catch up.

Some call it the summer brain drain, but Scott McConnell, a professor of educational psychology, prefers it be called a summer slide.

“The kids have the same brain at the beginning of the year and at the end of the year, so it’s about what we do with them,” he said.

McConnell points out not every student slides.

Students with more limited access to academic materials, learning opportunities and books are more likely to experience learning loss over the summer.

Often, researchers have found lower-income students to be affected more profoundly.

So, what can parents do to slow the slide?

“That’s the big question,” McConnell said. “We’re a little soft on the evidence, but the things we can expect will help are keeping kids engaged.”

For example, some studies have shown quality summer programs or schools can help, but sometimes they don’t.

McConnell recommends making everyday interactions more fun – such as: science experiments in the kitchen, fun math problems while on a walk or stopping by the library every so often.

“I don’t think it’s a parent’s job to teach their children the way teachers do during the school year,” he said, “but it is our job to help the teachers do what they’re doing, to show our interest and attention to it.”

Heather Brown

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