Can Summer Workbooks Really Prevent Vacation Brain Drain in Your Kids?

What’s happening to the carefree days of childhood? First, they took away running and dodge ball during recess. Then recess itself. And now summer vacation is under assault.

Education publishing has a new niche category: summer workbooks. These often hefty volumes promise fun activities and exciting worksheets that will help your young student make it through summer vacation without forgetting everything she learned the previous school year. Certainly summer learning loss has been studied and documented for several decades. But are one-size-fits-all workbooks the answer to the average child completely forgetting fractions, or how to read a calendar, over the summer break?

I don’t think so.

The problem with any core curriculum that assumes all children learn the same information in the same way and at the same pace is that it provides too much of the “easy” material for any given child… and too little practice in areas where serious drilling is needed to stay at grade level. A workbook that supposedly contains all the math, reading, language arts, geography, and science material a child must study over the summer in order to succeed next year is a cookie-cutter solution to summer brain drain – the problem you didn’t know you had.

Involved parents already know in which subjects their children could use practice 365 days a year to be an A student – and in which they are far ahead of the curve. That’s the point of report cards and parent-teacher conferences.

For children who truly need help in a specific subject over the summer, the relevant section in one of these summer workbooks is hardly enough material to do the job. For math especially, any of the regular grade-specific workbooks out there is a much better option.

When it comes to language arts, the summer programs at the local library are a good deal more enticing to the typical kid than… a brand-new workbook. Avid readers develop better vocabularies and stronger grammar and spelling skills than kids who’ve never learned an appreciation for books. And if contractions or certain phonics combinations are a consistent problem for your child, well, we’ve got a free, downloadable worksheet for that!

As do many other education-related websites. Start with your favorite children’s book author and see what their publisher’s site has available. Sites for home-schooling parents often list recommended resources for free downloadable teaching materials.

Just remember, it’s summer vacation! “It is not enough to be busy,” as Thoreau observed. “So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

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