The Case For Shorter Summer Breaks

Studies show that kids tend to lose math and reading skills during extended vacations. Is there an antidote to so-called 'brain drain'?

More recent studies have been inconclusive as to whether all students definitively lose what they learned the previous school year. But newer research has confirmed that low-income students experience greater setbacks over the summer relative to their wealthier peers.

“The upside is, because no one owns summer, there’s really an opportunity for innovation to engage kids in different ways than during the school year,” says Matthew Boulay, founder of the Baltimore-based nonprofit National Summer Learning Association. “We spend millions of dollars investing in our kids for nine months from September to June; why would we stop for three months?”

Above all else, educators say, it’s important to keep summers fun. It may be tempting for parents to push children into an academic setting, but unless their skills have slipped precipitously, there’s no need to enroll them in a traditional classroom-based course unless they’re clamoring for it.

Doing so may even be harmful for kids—if their brains and bodies don’t get a break, some might come back to school exhausted and anxious in the fall.

“Nonacademic activities are just as valuable as academic activities, and meaningful learning does not have to come from a book,” says Cynthia Thrush, an English teacher at George Mason High School in Falls Church City. “If we inculcate them with summer academics, they’re missing out on other opportunities to be productive citizens.” n

Lisa Lednicer is a freelance writer in Arlington who, despite her fear of summer slide, sent her daughter to sleepaway camp this summer.

For a list of fun ideas to keep kids curious and engaged during school breaks, visit 

Categories: Education