Avoiding the Summer Brain Drain + Virtual Schooling + Unplugged Play

[amazon asin=1620576112&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Nicole Green, VP of Communication, Carson-Dellosa Publishing, publisher of Summer Bridge Activities
Topic:
Preventing summer learning loss.
Issues: Reading comprehension; multiplication and division; social studies; grammar; character development, and more.


[amazon asin=1250035856&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Laura Overdeck, author of Bedtime Math.
Topic:
Making math fun.
Issues: Clever, smart ways to get kids interested in math; teaching math through stories; why it’s never too early to start math; why we should do math with our kids just like we read to them.


[amazon asin=B005MZDBL8&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Lisa Gillis, coauthor of Virtual Schooling.
Topic:
Optimizing your child’s education.
Issues: How to ignite your child’s passion for learning; easily and effectively improve your child’s current school work; powerful learning resources that can help kids excel; the proper use of computers and technology in education.


[amazon asin=B00BUA90Q4&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Bobbi Conner, author of Unplugged Play.
Topic:
Battery-free, plug-free, electricity-free games and activities for kids of all ages.
Issues: The importance of unstructured play; coping with “I’m bored,” low-tech fun that can stretch the imagination, spark creativity, build strong bodies, and keep the kids busy while you’re making dinner…

Saying No to the Summer Brain Drain

From a family-togetherness perspective, summer is a fantastic thing: family trips, camps, time in the great outdoors, and, if you’re lucky, a chance to just hang out. But from the school perspective, summer is a disaster. Most education experts say that kids lose about three months of knowledge over the summer and teachers have to spend the first two months of the new school year catching up. Fortunately, there are ways—most of them painless—to keep what your kids learned last year firmly inside their head. This week, we review three books that, besides offering a great way to stay connected with your kids, will help you brush up on a few subjects you probably haven’t used in a decade. All three authors were guests on Armin Brott’s “Positive Parenting” radio show. You can listen to those interviews at mrdad.com/radio, then search for the author’s name.

Summer Bridge Activities (Carson-Dellosa Publishing, Greensboro, NC)
summer bridge activitiesThis book (it’s actually part of a series, one for the summer between each year of elementary school—1-2, 2-3, 3-4, etc.) is pretty traditional, meaning it has worksheets, graphs, maps, and even some flashcards. But it manages to keep kids and parents engaged while reviewing last year’s learning and getting a head start on next year’s. Besides math, reading, writing, and other academic subjects, the books also include physical fitness (actually doing it, not just reading about it) and suggestions for family field trips.

Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay up Late, by Laura Overdeck (Feiwel and Friends, New York)
bedtime mathBedtime stories are a wonderful way for families to spend time together—and to get kids to learn to love books. But have you ever wondered why we don’t do math with our kids before they go to bed? Sadly, math gets dumped into the category of things that most people do only because they have to, not because they want to. The goal of Bedtime Math is to change all that and to make math a fun, engaging part of our kids’ lives, to make it as beloved as the bedtime story. Each section (there are more than 30) starts with fun piece of trivia about such topics as flamingos, bungee jumping, exploding food, and team mascots. Then, there’s an equally fun math problem that uses what you just read as “props.” Actually, there are three problems on the same topic: one that involves mostly simple addition and subtraction, one that might require some basic multiplication, and one that incorporates logic along with the other math functions. It’s all such fun that you’ll find yourself reading the book long after the kiddies have fallen asleep.

Potentially Catastrophic Science: 50 Experiments for Daring Young Scientists, by Sean Connolly (Workman, New York)
catastrophic scienceDespite the name, the experiments in this book aren’t really all that dangerous—as long as you and the kids follow the directions. The book is like an archeological dig through 34 of the greatest scientific breakthroughs in human history. We start with Stone Age choppers and the discovery of fire more than a million years ago, and go all the way through rocket launches, lasers, and DNA. Each experiment includes a brief explanation of what made the invention so special, what it does, and where the potential for catastrophe was. Those overviews are so entertaining (and educational) that you could, theoretically, quit right there. But why would you when you’ve got step-by-step instructions for how to actually replicate what you’ve just read about? You’ll have a blast—especially in the chapter that talks about gunpowder.
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There’s a Hole in the (Academic) Bucket… + Father’s Day Seal of Approval Winners

Dear Mr. Dad: As the school year draws to a close, I’m getting worried about my 9-year old daughter. She’s just an average student and really hates to do homework. I worry that she’ll forget a lot of what she learned over this past year and she’ll start fifth grade even further behind than she already is. What can we do?

A: I’m torn about this. On one hand, I think summers are a time for resting up, having fun, giving the mind a little time to recharge. Unfortunately, with so many kids booked into wall-to-wall camps and activities, summer can be even busier than the school year and recharging—at least mentally—is out of the question.

On the other hand, there’s the Summer Brain Drain, which is exactly what you’re worried about. Students lose, on average, 2 – 2.5 months of academic skills over the summer. Math and spelling are the subjects that get hit the hardest. Put a little differently, teachers have to spend the first month or two of the academic year reviewing material students learned—but didn’t retain—the year before. Here are a few ideas for how you might be able to plug the brain drain—or at least slow the leak down…

  • Visit the library. Most have great summer reading programs, complete with prizes for achieving reading goals.
  • Read at home. You and your child should take turns reading to each other every night, for 15-30 minutes each.
  • Look into summer schools. Sadly, only 10-20 percent of students attend one. But if your child is already weak in a subject or two, this is a great time to catch up—or possibly even get ahead.
  • Ask the teacher your child will have next year to let you borrow a few textbooks. He or she may be able to give you a summer reading list. At the very least, you can make doing a handful of math problems a prerequisite for playing computer games.
  • Don’t forget about writing. I’m not just talking about spelling and grammar—although both are important. I recently interviewed Jennifer Hallissy, author of The Write Start, who told me that “the speed and ease of children’s writing can have a major impact on their overall academic success.” Efficient writers take better notes—which makes studying a lot easier, regardless of the subject—and consistently get higher scores on written exams. Jennifer’s book has dozens of easy-to-implement activities for kids of any age.
  • Make learning fun. Of course, there are the usual standbys: trips to the zoo, museums, and planetariums. But you might also check out a few books that are filled with fun, entertaining (and, gasp, educational—but your child will never notice) activities. I’m really like the Geek Dad series by Ken Denmead, The Daring Book for Girls series by AndreaBuchanan and Miriam Peskowitz, and Sean Connolly’s The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science, which isn’t nearly as dangerous as it sounds.

With the big day just around the corner, we’ve been working frantically to evaluate our largest-ever field of submissions for the MrDad.com Seal of Approval and GreatDad Recommends awards. This season’s winners include:

<ul>

<li>A very cool, reusable kit for building a kid-sized fire station, from Box-O-Mania (boxomania.com)
<li>Spanish language learning DVDs and CDs, from Whistlefritz (whistlefritz.com)
<li>A fun, Jack-in-the-Beanstalk play-and-book-in-a-box from InnovativeKids (innovativekids.com)
<li>Web Hunt and Oh, Really? Two engaging family games from Find It Games (finditgames.com)

</ul>
The complete list—as well as submission guidelines for new products and services—is at mrdad.com/seal.