You don’t have to be a Tiger Mom to worry that your child is losing brain cells while he soaks up R&R over the summer break. And you’d be right to be concerned—summer learning loss, as the experts call it, is real. The typical child loses two months’ worth of the math skills he gained during the school year over the summer due to lack of practice, and lower-income kids also fall behind in reading. This summer slide is especially critical for those children without access to summer learning programs, who are more likely to spend summers on the couch in front of a television instead of going to camp or engaging in educational activities with their parents.
For this reason, extending the school year has become the issue du jour for many prominent education experts. “There’s a small positive effect on kids when they go to school year-round and a much larger effect on students who are struggling,” says Harris Cooper, Ph.D., chair of the psychology and neuroscience department at Duke University and a summer-learning expert. But should summer learning be happening in a more formal academic program, at a traditional camp, or right in the backyard? Not surprisingly, parents have their own opinions.