Summer learning loss. It's a phrase we hear a lot these days, and one that causes panic among parents. Do we really need to worry that our children are going to forget everything they have learned in school over 3 months of summer vacation?

What the Research Shows

According to the National Summer Learning Association, "most students lose about 2 months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months." Low-income students are more likely to become victims of this "summer slide," mostly due to unequal access to summer learning opportunities.

In fact, a study released by the NSLA last year indicated that 66% of teachers have to spend 3-4 weeks re-introducing previous course material at the start of each school year, with some spending 5-6 weeks re-teaching knowledge and skills that students have forgotten over the summer.

Tips for Keeping Kids Engaged

So what can we as parents do to ensure that our kids' brains remain active and engaged over the summer months? Here are a few ideas:

1. Take advantage of summer school programs

Summer school isn't just for students who are falling behind. Studies indicate that it can be particularly beneficial for students in the earliest grades, and those in secondary school.

2. Look for camps your kids will love

Summer vacation provides a wonderful opportunity for students to explore interests that extend beyond the traditional classroom, or to delve further into a specific subject matter. An abundance of summer camps and classes are offered in most communities.

3. Visit the library

Reading is hands-down one of the simplest and most effective ways to learn something new. Sign up for summer reading programs, read aloud to your kids, and help them discover new books they can read on their own this summer.

4. Conduct science experiments

Summer fun at home can involve learning too. Try some outdoor science experiments and see if your kids can uncover the science behind them.

5. Hire a tutor

If you know your child struggles in a particular subject, consider investing in a tutor. Many tutoring companies offer diagnostic testing which can help identify your child's weakest areas, and also help to build missing skills.

6. Keep your teen active

Volunteering, internships, summer jobs ... there are so many ways for teens to expand their horizons and exercise their brains over summer vacation. Encourage your teen to do more than sleep late and text friends over their hiatus from the classroom.

Resources for Parents

As parents, it's important to remember that summer vacation should be a carefree time when kids can relax and recharge for the school year ahead. Still, there are many small ways we can ensure that learning is taking place. To learn more about summer learning loss and how to best prepare your child for academic success, visit SummerMatters.org or take advantage of the Fun and Free Summer Learning Resources at Edutopia.