Summer vacation is imminent and with it the concern that students, once out of the classroom environment, will backslide and start to forget material covered in school this year. To keep the learned skills, especially those prone to dulling from misuse like literacy and mathematics, education experts propose parents adopt some easy “tricks” to keep their children’s knowledge fresh until next fall.
It’s important to allow children to enjoy their academic break, so following these tips won’t involve cracking textbooks or opening notebooks. Instead, parents should engage their kids in games that will stimulate their brain while they’re having fun. In particular, games like blackjack keep those mental arithmetic skills sharp and more involved ones like chess or checkers hone analytical thinking. Many schools even provide fun games that hide real learning tools on their website. To find out whether their schools offer such games, parents should get in touch with an employee before the schools close for the summer.
Sexton recommends local field trips to places such as the Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge and Smoky Mountains’ history fairs. “They have play areas,” she says. “And, they don’t feel like they’re there to learn.” Parents can also throw in something educational during family vacation. “Even if you’re going to Disney World, you can talk about the changes in the topography and look for historical markers and cool places,” Sexton says. “It doesn’t have to be big, just little things they learn are the things that stick with them.”
Another good way to keep kids engaged is to combine reading with other related activities. Sally Bishop, a third-grade teacher specifically recommends the cookbooks that are offshoots of the popular young-adult Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingles Wilder. Another of her recommendations is the fairly unknown “Revolting Recipes” by the popular children’s author Roald Dahl.
Even a trip to the movies could prove to be of assistance. In the same way that the recent release of a blockbuster The Hunger Games increased interest in the books that movie is based on, and the Harry Potter movies got a brand new generation to pick up the hefty novels, there are movies being released this summer based on literature that school-aged kids might find interesting and engaging. Parents can encourage their kids to pick up and read the books before going to see the movie. This would also serve as a pretext for a discussion of how cinema presentation differed from the written one, and why one or the other was better.
Many students will not do anything outside of the normal school year, concedes Jada McManus, a special education teacher at Carter High School.
McManus points out that there are many local historical sites within easy reach to bring out their inner history buff this summer, such as James White Fort, Mabry Hazen House and The Bethel Cemetery Civil War Museum.
“I wish more high-schoolers would go see those things,” says McManus. “They would like it if they would just go.”