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Avoid the Academic Slump

According to the title sequence of cartoon characters “Phineas and Ferb,” there’s 104 days of summer vacation. That’s plenty of time for kids to find a mummy and give a monkey a shower (if they’re Phineas or Ferb).

Or, to slide out of all those nice habits they developed in school that kept them on a sharp upward learning curve. Military families moving across country may worry even more about their children loosing focus on academics as the logistics of the move overtake their daily activities.

It doesn’t take much to avoid a summer slump, said Karin Reynolds, deputy superintendent for Academy District 20 in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“There’s always going to be a regression of some sort,” Reynolds said. “It’s not as huge as some people think.”She said there are two key things for parents to practice along with their kids of any age to keep their brains sharp and help them slide seamlessly back into the scholastic swing of things once summer ends.

The first is reading.

“For kids who can’t read for themselves, parents reading twice a day, a few times a week is really helpful,” Reynolds said. “Getting books out and reading together is huge.”

For young readers, set a certain amount of time a day – a half-hour, an hour or more – for them to sit quietly with a book. Then ask them about the book at dinnertime – questions about characters, plot, etc.

And books travel in backpacks, cars and airplanes well.

She advises parents to set time every day where the focus is on study. That can mean reading, brain games, going through workbooks you’ve found at the bookstore or other academic activity. Card sets like Brain Quest are age-specific knowledge games that can ease the tedium of long drives or give you a chance to sit down and play constructively with your young ones.

“You can also have fun with some things, too,” Reynolds said. “Those kinds of things (games) keep kids in that learning mode. Not that they shouldn’t play and have fun. But this keeps them in an inquisitive learning mode so they’re seeking knowledge by making it fun.”

The second key to setting up kids for academic success is getting out and learning with your kids, which falls under the category of “prior knowledge,” Reynolds said. That includes visiting historic sites, national parks, museums and other things they’ll be learning about in school. The kids who come in with visuals and a frame of reference excel, Reynolds said.

For children PCSing this summer, a rest stop at historic sites or national parks as the family drives from one duty station to the next might be perfect.

“Take advantage of the children’s museums in the summer time, the book stores, territory days -- there’s history there,” she said. “They’re going to learn that, they’ll come in [to class] with that. Any field trip experiences you can give your kids in the summer time are absolutely invaluable. Again, you’re learning and having fun at the same time.”

You can also use what your kids love – video games, movies, computer time or anything you may consider a brain drain – to teach your kids life skills that will pay off when they get back into the academic groove this fall. Give them a certain amount of time each day they’re allowed to do those activities, but let them choose when. Have older kids graph those times, maybe even post graphs on the refrigerator to compare with siblings, Reynolds said.

“Keep everything in moderation,” Reynolds said. “It’s a really good thing for time management.”

The most important lesson you can teach your kids – no matter the time of year – is that learning is fun, and it never ends, Reynolds said.

“Learning is a lifelong endeavor,” she said. “It should be a part of what you do every day.”


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