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For the majority of children in my area this is the first week of summer vacation. Parents and kids are happy that school work is only a memory. Sadly, that memory does not retain all the knowledge that it learned the previous year.

Summer is a big contributor to knowledge loss. Numerous studies have been done that confirm elementary children lose 20-25% of their basic knowledge during the summer break.

Many years ago when I graduated from college, we were informed that year-round school was just over the horizon. I clearly remember thinking at the time that it was a fantastic idea! I’m a grandmother and I’m still waiting for year-round school to be established! What happened?

Sadly, parents are the main objectors. They have the memories of their own childhood summers and want the same for their children. Teachers are another roadblock. They like the long time off, and many use the time to return to school themselves. Then there are the childcare issues. We have been programmed to accept that children are off in the summer. People are resistant to major changes in any accepted or long term life practice.

These are legitimate objections.

However, even the schools that are not on a year round schedule have altered the school year. We were always out by Memorial Day and school began in the fall right after Labor Day. If you are counting, that was a full three months. Now even schools that are on what may be considered an old-fashioned schedule only take June and July off.

Additionally, there are more and longer vacations during the school year.
And for many teachers returning to school has become much more accessible via the many online opportunities.

The changes are coming – albeit slowly. But a young child’s brain is only young once. And how that brain develops is fundamental to the overall success of the child. Think about the brain being a malleable mass of matter (that was a mouth full!). In order for the proper paths to be developed in that brain matter, various activities need to be repeated on a regular basis.

Pathways that are not “exercised” over the summer lose their way. One can equate this to any muscle in the body. If it is not exercised, it will become limp. On the last day of second grade (quite a number of years ago) my seven year old son broke his leg. He spent the summer first in traction, then in a full body cast. By the end of summer when the cast came off, the muscle on that leg had literally disappeared. It took about 18 months for the muscle to return to normal size and strength.

The brain is a muscle. Although I doubt the deterioration would be as dramatic as my son’s leg muscle, the brain does deteriorate – thus the loss of the 20-25% of knowledge.

Although many parents would rather not have their children burdened with “learning” over the summer, I posit that this is actually a disservice to the kids. I have a long term client who was the only student in his class last year who returned to school at grade level (after the requisite NWEA back to school test). He comes three days a week, two for reading and one for math. Each session is 45 minutes. With this small amount of time he was able to keep pace over the summer.

A little bit of time can reap generous results for young children. Additionally if a child has exhibited any difficulties learning new skills, then getting ahead can result in a much smoother back-to-school transition. And just maybe instead of trying to catch up or figure out what is wrong, your child will be right on task!