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How to keep your student from losing ground during the holiday break



File: Winter and fall vacations can mean a significant loss in schooling for students, but educators say there are ways parents can keep their kids learning.
File: Winter and fall vacations can mean a significant loss in schooling for students, but educators say there are ways parents can keep their kids learning.
Photo by Tom Woodward via Flickr Creative Commons

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Between the Thanksgiving and New Year’s holidays, some students can lose as much as a month of schooling and forget what they've just learned in the fall.

What's a parent to do?

One approach teachers have taken is to create vacation packages that include reading logs, math worksheets and book report forms, said Marco Nava, a longtime Los Angeles Unified School District teacher and principal. 

But in those packages, he said, teachers might also include ideas that students and families can work on together — "different projects, different suggestions that they could do while at home that don’t necessarily involve worksheets or traditional homework.”

For some teachers, vacation packages smack too much of the routine that is de rigueur these days in public schools, where the focus is often on standardized testing and structured class time.

Instead, to help cut learning loss while away from the classroom, some teachers have created “parent universities” for the adults who will be spending time with kids.

“I talk to my parents about [planning]: plan something, plan a project like, cook something," said La Habra teacher Danette Brown. "If your kids are interested in cooking, cook a dinner together.” 

That way, kids get to read, add, measure and learn as they work out recipes. And talk to your kids about the family’s holiday traditions. What better way to get kids to listen, question and understand new concepts? Brown asks.

“It’s almost as if you’re tricking them into learning, applying their learning. But it’s not really tricking because I really feel deep down, my pedagogical philosophy is that learning is fun.”

Here are some websites to browse for more ideas on holiday break activities that can help keep your kids' minds engaged: 

Preschool to 2nd grade -- Starfall.com: reading, math, phonics for the young set. Some of the resources are free, others available with paid membership.

8th grade on up -- Coolmath.com: fun math games, brain benders, science games.

Science for all -- HowStuffWorks.com: how life jackets work, facts about lobsters, other weird science.

Reading for all -- Goodreads.com: find a good book to read for all family members, including that high schooler.