Summer Brain Drain

Summer is a great time to slow down, to head outside (even in the heat!) and to have unstructured, self-directed fun!  Unfortunately, summer can also be a time when learning not only stagnates, it regresses.  On average students in the US lose 1 – 3 months worth of academic knowledge over the summer (Cooper, 2003).  In his analysis, Dr. Harris Cooper, professor of psychology at the University of Missouri, found:

  • Math and spelling skills take the hardest hit, primarily because they involve factual and procedural knowledge.
  • Reading and problem solving skills regress less, as they are primarily conceptual knowledge.
  • Summer learning loss is not correlated with gender, IQ, nor ethnicity.
  • Socio-economic status was related to the degree of reading loss, but not loss in math skill.

Of course, there are some public policy solutions to combat this knowledge loss during the summer.  If you are a public policy wonk, check out some of the options:

But what can we, as parents, do about this summer brain drain? Here are some suggestions:

Summer Brain Drain & Tutoring

10 Ways to Beat Summer Brain Drain

  1. Set aside one day per week for math or spelling practice
  2. Read, read, read
  3. Get a tutor (we can help!)
  4. Keep a journal or write a book
  5. Focus on a few learning apps and websites
  6. Identify your kid’s passion and create a summer learning project
  7. Let your kid plan a summer vacation (finances, itinerary, logistics, etc…)
  8. Participate in a book club (or make a family book club)
  9. Design learning adventures (day trips and outings to the zoo, the Botanical Gardens, local areas of geographic or cultural interest, etc…)
  10. Design a carpentry project (build a bat house or dog house)

The ways to keep your kids learning and engaged over the summer are endless.  How do you prioritize summer learning in your home?



Maggie McMahon is a businesswoman with more than decade of experience building and growing new organizations. She believes that learning should be fun, but recognizes that frustration and worry or boredom and routine can sometimes get in the way. Maggie is excited about building a learning environment that helps kids grow into their confidence and success. Maggie is married and has two children.

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