How to Avoid Summer Brain Drain


brain drainParents of teens: Raise your hands if you can’t wait for the seemingly endless days of kids sleeping until noon, daily requests for money, hours of video games, wet beach towels on the floor of every room, and the loss of approximately two and a half months of grade level equivalency in math skills. Yep, that’s summer in Arizona – and I’m pretty sure no one reading this is raising their hand. There are lots of ways to avoid summer brain drain.

While some teens do take traditional summer school classes offered by their school or district, and some manage to find a job that requires a bit of math or reading skills, the reality is that most Arizona teens are losing a lot of educational ground during the summer months. Even those who have a couple of books assigned to them to read over the summer, usually wait until the last few days – and sometimes even just read a synopsis. (I can neither confirm nor deny that any child of mine ever took this route.)

Here are some inexpensive ways that teens can keep their brains engaged during the summer months:

  1. Free online classes. Have your student check out websites like Coursera and edX. They offer hundreds of courses in many fields of study that have been created by faculty from some of the top universities around the world. These classes are a great way for high school students to delve deeper into subjects they may want to major in during college.
  2. Local service learning opportunities. Does your teen love science? Look into the volunteer program at the Arizona Science Center. Animal lover? The Phoenix Herpetological Society and the Arizona Humane Society both offer volunteer work for teens.
  3. Free SAT preparation. It’s never too early for a high school student to become familiar with the SAT test. The Kahn Academy site now offers video lessons that cover all three sections of the SAT, along with test-taking strategies, and full length PSAT and SAT tests to print out and take on paper.
  4. Travel/Life skills. If your family is going on a vacation this summer, create some online learning tasks for your teenager. Have them research the city you’ll be going to and let them choose one or more of these “lessons”: A typed paper on the history or culture of the location; a financial “report” of the real or imagined budget for travel, lodging and entertainment; a slide presentation on a current social issue that the city, state or country is dealing with.
  5. Learn a new language. Your student can get ahead in a language they are already studying or try a completely new one with DuoLingo. Once they’ve downloaded the app, teens (and adults) can be lying by a pool or hanging out at Dutch Bros while learning Dutch, Japanese, Greek, or yes – Klingon!

Every parent knows it’s important for teens to have fun and relax during their summer break, but it’s also easy for them to spend just a short amount of time on most days challenging themselves to learn something new. Create some incentives for them to accomplish reasonable goals that you come up with together.  Learn to avoid summer brain drain! It’s a no-brainer.


  1. These are all fantastic suggestions. While it can be tempting for kids to just completely unplug, and maybe a little bit of a struggle to get them to engage, taking advantage of summer months can make a huge difference when it comes to starting up again in the fall. Love the idea of travel skills and learning a new language.

    • Thanks, Judy! It can be a bit of a struggle, but the incentives truly help when it comes to teens who seem to always want something! Appreciate your comments.

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