Summer Brain-Building!

BY Dr. bert pitts

Summer is a time for you and your children to have fun and enjoy more time together than you can during the school year. It is wonderful “down time,” where we can rest, romp, relax, and recharge. Ask any teacher—it is also a time that children lose a lot of what they learned during the school year! Teachers spend much of the first month or two of the school year reviewing the last grade’s work, before it is possible to move on to new material. For weaker students, this may not feel like a “review” at all, if what was learned in the spring was not reinforced over the summer! It likely has been forgotten, and must be learned again, as if for the first time.

Here’s a great idea: Start your child or teen’s summer days with a little learning. Make it a parental proclamation, non-negotiable, that once your kids are up, fed, and dressed, it’s time for Summer Brain-Building, before anybody turns on the TV, computer, leaves the house, or has a friend over to play. For elementary students, we recommend (every weekday) one half-hour of reading, and another half-hour alternating writing one day, and math the next. Rising middle and high school students need to do an hour a day of reading, then an hour of either writing or math (on alternating days), or a half-hour of both, every day. Either parents or sitters (carrying the orders of the parents) can make this work. Again, your child or youth must complete their daily studies first, in order to have any privileges during the rest of the day.

Many schools provide a summer reading list. If not, you can find them online (search “graded summer reading list”). If you need more material, let your child choose books which interest them at the library or bookstore. Magazine articles can suffice for some of what is read. Some schools also provide summer math workbooks. If not, bookstores have excellent math workbooks, compiled grade by grade—or once again, look online (search “graded summer math exercises”). Writing practice can take many forms. Early elementary kids need to practice handwriting (choose a few letters a week to add to their set). As soon as they are able, elementary students and older can make their writing practice more fun and meaningful by writing letters to relatives or soldiers overseas, as well as stories, poetry, plays, games, or even jokes! Some kids even add illustration and come up with their own comic strips. Allow rising fourth graders and older to do some of their writing on the computer, which will further their typing ability. Learning to properly touch-type (type without looking at the keys) as young as possible is an invaluable academic skill, which your teen will greatly appreciate later.

Time for math: 5 days a week times 1 or 2 hours a day times ten weeks of summer equals 50 to 100 hours of brain-building your child can have this summer! What a great way to start your summer days! And just wait until you see the results…wow…it’s an INCREDIBLE way to start the next school year!

High school students are also encouraged to use their summers to enhance their resumes for college admission. (Many applications ask specifically how summers were spent.) Great opportunities exist. Some local high schools offer “get ahead” courses such as American History 10 & 11, and Government/Economics (grade 12). Taking these in summer school enables students to lighten their course load during the school year and take more electives such as art, choir, and debate. Other resume enhancers include travel, community volunteer service work, church mission trips, summer employment, and camps emphasizing sports, arts, sciences, writing, and other areas. Traditional summer camps which a teen has attended might have slots for counselors-in-training (CIT’s), leadership positions that carry much weight on college resumes. Many colleges have summer courses where high school students come to campus and earn credits toward their college degrees—where the credits can be used later at the same college or transferred to another school. One such program, quite popular, is Capstone Scholars at the University of Alabama. If a high school student is selected for the program, the student receives a scholarship for the summer school tuition. Most other colleges, even Harvard, have similar programs. Applications for these summer programs are available online or in your student’s high school Guidance Office. All these activities can be very beneficial in helping students obtain admission to the college of their choice. So, use your summer smartly!