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August 9, 2011 > Ease kids back into learning

Ease kids back into learning

Submitted By Jen Bellmont

For most kids, summer translates into 100 days of sun and fun with minimal time spent on learning. And that can have a big impact on just how prepared they are to head back to the classroom in fall.

With the school year on the horizon, now is a good time to ease kids back into the learning process so that they are ready for schoolwork once that first bell rings.

"Summer offers a great time for kids to take a break from daily class work, however it is unrealistic to think that they can get back into the groove without a bit of preparation," said Don Smithmier, an early pioneer in online education and the founder and CEO of Sophia, a free online social teaching and learning site. "There are many ways to re-engage kids academically that are free, entertaining and fun."

It's estimated that kids lose up to 40 percent of what they learned the previous year during the summer months; however, there are several ways to counteract "summer brain drain" and re-engage kids academically.

Keep it fun - If kids think learning during the summer is just another form of school, they won't want to do it. Today's younger generation has grown up with computers and responds to information that is presented in multimedia formats. There are many online sites that offer a variety of information including, which provides free access to more than 1,000 online tutorials that range from teaching math concepts, grammar and more. Other sites include Ticket to Read, which improves reading skills, and Education City, which provides content about a variety of subjects.

Make it rewarding - Encourage your student to spend 10-20 minutes a day learning something new, refreshing their memory or reading, and then reward their efforts with a special activity or outing. For instance, many libraries and bookstores offer incentives for kids who read a certain amount during the summer months. The positive reinforcement will entice them to keep learning and in the process, they will be preparing themselves to get back to the books.

Make it active - It's been proven that there's no better way to gain knowledge than by doing something, and there are many tasks that offer academic benefits. For instance, welcome your kids into the kitchen so that they learn about planning meals, shopping and measuring ingredients during the cooking process. Or, have a garage sale where they learn about organization, pricing, negotiation and hopefully profits. Even a family game of Monopoly can do a lot to teach kids about money and Scrabble helps build vocabulary.

"The best way to motivate kids is to offer educational material in a way that doesn't seem like homework," Smithmier said. "There are many opportunities for parents to engage kids in daily activities that build confidence, teach skills and have an academic benefit."

The goal of Sophia is to surround the traditional classroom with an online classroom where students and parents have access to academic information in an ad-free environment at no cost. The company plans to have thousands of math tutorials by the beginning of school this fall, which will make the site the web's richest resource for free, credible math tutorials. For more information, visit

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