Preventing Summer Brain Drain

Written by Stephanie Frumkin on . Posted in Advice Columns

Summer is finally here! Your family has been anticipating some well-deserved R&R, an end to the daily grind, including the dreaded “H” word. (Hint: homework.)

Well not so fast, Imma and Abba. A lot of effort went into learning those math facts and reading skills. Here’s the big question: Do you want to throw all those hours and tuition dollars out the window? Or do you want your children to retain all they acquired this school year?

 Let me share a story I am not proud of, but one that served as an important lesson.

As a former homeschooling parent who taught my kids everything from davening (praying) to science, at the year’s end I felt burned out and did not instruct my children to read any Hebrew for the entire summer.

When September arrived, I expected my children’s Hebrew skills to be around the same level as in June. Nope. We spent two frustrating months catching up, just getting back to where we left off. I learned that in order to be ready for the next school year, I needed to ensure my kids practiced their skills throughout the summer. Not at the same intensity as during the school year — everyone needs a break — but enough to keep those skills fresh.

Schools do incorporate some curricular review at the beginning of the school year, but is it enough? Should kids have to re-learn material they previously mastered? What about those struggling, out-of-the-box learners already at a disadvantage? All kids need to maintain their skills, but these children, in particular, need to engage in activities to reinforce last year’s learning. Additionally, if your children take fall academic placement tests, summer review should land them in the appropriate level.

My recommendation is to require that your children complete the (oftentimes optional) summer homework packets. Trust me, I realize the schoolwork can feel annoying when your family needs a vacation. If the workload feels overwhelming, pick some key areas to focus on and divide the packet into small chunks throughout the summer. Do not just cram that packet into one week (ahem, the week before school starts). The point is for your children to not lose skills and knowledge they worked so hard to acquire.

Another tip is to ensure that basic facts and skills are reviewed throughout the summer. For example, have your children read and write a little Hebrew each day, review some Hebrew vocabulary (or watch Hebrew videos), or read high-interest books. Get a lot of bang for your buck and check out audio books from the library and listen as a family on your way to and from camp or on those long vacation drives. Discuss the books together to encourage critical thinking skills. If your children play an instrument, practice a few days a week. Review math facts with flash cards or utilize computer math games.

Other suggestions to keep your children’s minds engaged include watching (or BrainPOP Jr.) — kids can learn a plethora of information on a wide variety of topics in an entertaining format. Additionally, I suspect many Jewish students have never studied the parshiyot (Torah portions) that are read during the summer months. I highly recommend Rabbi Fohrman’s AlephBeta parsha videos for in-depth, unique parsha commentary. For younger children, the Shazak Parsha app is great. Or use those long Shabbat afternoons to spend quality time with your children learning Torah.

Additionally, it is not too late to enroll in educational summer camps. Everything from the arts to chess to STEM to Hebrew immersion camps are available —check out CertifiKid for economical camp ideas.

Keep your kids’ minds active and don’t let the skills they acquired during the school year go to waste. Enjoy your summer, but spend some time maintaining their skills. Aim for two times a week (or more depending on your child’s profile) of focused learning to achieve that balance. It is amazing how you can sneak in some study time with a little creativity. Your kids will hit the ground running in the new school year and they will thank you (someday).

By Stephanie Frumkin 

Stephanie Frumkin, a native Washingtonian and former MCPS teacher, is an educational consultant and the founder of Exceptional Educational Solutions (EES). Stephanie is committed to finding exceptional educational solutions for out-of the-box learners and supporting families on their journey to success. To learn more, visit Stephanie lives with her husband, two kids, and cat in Kemp Mill, Maryland.