Today’s Table talk is by Alexandra Mayzler. I don’t know Alexandra personally, but she reached out to me to ask if she could share some thoughts on an issue near and dear to her heart – kids and learning. And I thought what she had to say was a lot of fun. It might win a few eye rolls from our teen crowd. But I know some creative moms out there who could spin it in a winsome way. Who knows, the kid might actually have fun… and give “I’m bored” a break.

Thanks for sharing, Alexandra … and thanks for walking the road with me.

books & imagination

Summer slump. Seasonal learning loss. Despite the somewhat innocuous-sounding names, the break in learning that happens during the summer months can be detrimental to young learners. Research shows that students lose one to three months of learning during the summer. Not only do students become rusty with their math skills, but they also lose the momentum created by learning routines and habits. As a result, when students finally make it back to the classrooms in September, they not only need to review the basics from the previous year, but also need time to get into the swing of learning things. The need for catch-up time creates an even bigger delay in learning new material.

To help students maintain fluency in basic subjects and keep their brains working through the summer, use the break from school to foster organic learning. A great way to use the summer months for experiential learning is to plan and take (whether for real or make-believe) a trip. Here’s how:

  1. Around the world: encourage your child to select a country to travel to and set aside the number of travel days for the trip. The journey can be an actual family vacation or an imaginary one. Or have your child play the role of a travel agent creating a trip for other travelers.
  2. Read up on the destination. Have your child do research at the local library and on the internet. Ask the local librarian to help your child understand how to complete thorough research and get acquainted with different types of sources. At home, have your child use the internet and discuss web safety as well as use of information online. All the while, your child should be keeping track of what she’s reading about by taking notes.
  3. You’re the guide. Once your child has learned about the locale, have him create a daily itinerary. That means including important places to visit, perfect lunch spots, and modes of transportation.
  4. Create a budget. Because students lose the most learning ground in math, it is a particularly vital subject to practice. Budgeting a trip is a great way for students to keep math fresh and put it in a real life perspective. For younger students, sticking with adding and subtraction to get to the budget is a good starting point. For older students, including taxes for percents and converting money are upper level math skills that they can practice. By working within a budget, students will learn the value of money while also exercising their math skills.
  5. Let’s go! Once the trip is planned, it’s time to get ready. Before you pack up, you’ll need a great guide book. Have your child make her own guide book with an itinerary for the trip using all the information she’s learned. Use an online book making website (such as or to have your child create her very own book.

If your child prefers staying closer to home, he can be a travel guide for his home . Using the same steps as for a trip, your child can learn about his community and create a visitor welcome pack full of maps and recommendations for local places of interest, favorite eating spots, and schedule of activities. Regardless of how far you’ll travel, your child can employ reading, writing, and math skills all through the summer.

Alexandra Mayzler is the founder of Thinking Caps Group. She is the author of several books including SAT Demystified and Tutor in a Book. Alexandra lives in New York and spends her free time thinking about how to make studying easier, more interesting, and above all, enjoyable for her students.

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