Summer break is often viewed as a time for kids to play and relax, but all that fun may cause a problem when it’s time to return to the classroom.
Parents and school officials are working to prevent “brain drain,” the loss of knowledge created when a student’s brain sits idle over the summer.
“I can’t stress enough how important it is that a parent doesn’t just let their child veg all summer,” said Randa Gilbert, an intervention specialist at Woodrow Wilson Disciplinary Alternative School in Texas City.
Throughout the summer, Gilbert is tutoring five to seven students in math and reading.
“I review what they should know from last year, then try to move them ahead to the next grade level so that when they start in the fall, they’re almost ahead of the game,” Gilbert said.
Christina Stevens planned ahead to keep her kids’ brains busy during the summer and set up tutoring for her fourth-grade daughter, Hanna, with Jacqueline Peimbert.
Hanna, who is dyslexic, meets with Peimbert three times a week.
Beyond this, Stevens has her son and daughter involved with the library, enrolled in art classes with the Galveston Art Institute and has them read daily to keep them prepared for the next grade level.
“If my son doesn’t do anything all summer, then when he goes back to school, it’s almost like we have to reset the clock,” she said. “I really did think about ideas on what I could have them do all summer. I thought about a budget for tutoring. I was very proactive.”
Both Stevenson and Gilbert recognize that not all families have access to tutors.
“The most important thing is to keep students reading and doing math, even if that’s adding up the total at the grocery store with a calculator,” Gilbert said. “Parents can get library cards and have them read there and also have their kids practice math, even with the Splash app or Brain Pop.”
Former math teacher Dedrick Johnson is working with his son during the summer to prepare him for the ninth grade.
“He is participating in regular library visits and has to read an hour a day,” Johnson said. “We are doing some math prep, and he has to read three books this summer. I also want him to learn something new, so he is learning how to tie a tie and a bow tie.”
Johnson is also working with his daughter, who is heading into kindergarten. This summer, he’ll teach her how to tie her shoe and practice reading.
“If I had any advice, it would be to really limit kids’ time in front of video games or make them educational,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with games if they’re learning from it.
“Also, never use learning as a punishment because it makes kids connect those together like, ‘Oh, I got in trouble, now I have to read a book.’”
School districts are also doing their part to keep students learning over the break.
Clear Creek ISD is offering a multitude of programs. Pre-K and kindergarten students who speak English as a second language can participate in a program that aims to keep them from losing ground with their speaking.
Debbie Philips, executive director of curriculum and instruction, said the district offers courses for kids who have failed a state assessment and must retake it, and students who have lost a credit and need to catch up. CCISD also offers a course for students who want to accelerate.
They can take regular classes in the summer and free up their schedule, Philips said.
“We are also offering a program called Summer of Innovation right before school starts,” Philips said. “It’s for intermediate students and for math, science and the STEM program partnered with NASA, by invitation only.”
Programs such as this hope to encourage students who otherwise would probably not seek careers in STEM to do so.
Philips also said the district offers camps for students going into pre-AP chemistry, those taking advanced courses for the first time, reading programs and Jump Start camps at Title I schools in the district.
Phillips also offered her advice for parents hoping to combat a summer brain drain, saying “keep bodies and minds active and read, read, read.”