Listen to our
podcast on avoiding summer brain drain
1. Learn at your own pace
If you check out only one resource for your elementary- or high-school-aged kid this summer, make sure it’s online learning sensation
Khan Academy, also available as an
iPad app. This non-profit educational resource backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, originally started as a collection of tutorial videos Salman Khan made to help his cousin with her math homework. After he became a YouTube sensation, Khan quit his job as a hedge fund analyst and turned Khan Academy into a immense free resource with more than 3100 instructional videos covering K-12 math, science, and humanities topics.
Videos run no more than 10 minutes long. Math topics and are supported with interactive challenges and assessments. Kids can earn badges and points in a variety of ways. Parents can also check in using a “coach” account to see extremely detailed reports about how the child is faring. This is the best resource yet for self-paced learning.
Free Rice adds a different twist to learning things by rote: the more questions you answer correctly, the more you help others. This non-profit website is run by the United Nations World Food Programme. Sponsors donate 10 grains of rice to
hungry people across the world for each question you answer correctly. Categories include world flags, countries, capitals, multiplication tables, chemistry symbols, famous paintings, vocabulary from four foreign languages, anatomy, SAT prep, and more. Keep track of your scores and even create a team so classmates or friends can work together. With every right answer, rice piles up in your virtual bowl. What better motivation to memorize?
5. Get ready for the APs
ONBoard online courses from McGraw-Hill help high school students prepare for next year’s Advanced Placement classes. Schools can purchase this review for their students or students can subscribe on their own for $50 per class with 12-month access.
The courses go over skills and concepts for classes including AP Biology, Economics, Environmental Science, Psychology, US Government & Politics, US History, and World History. For example, the AP US History class covers how to analyze primary and secondary sources as well as how to gather and organize information.
Students complete interactive exercises and quizzes, and at the end of each class, receive a final assessment so they know what they need to work on next.
6. Train your brain
One of the hottest areas of online learning is “brain training,” games designed to help improve overall mental qualities like memory, attention, speed and problem solving.
Lumosity boasts more than 20 million subscribers and a long list of
academic endorsements. You’ll find games targeted to school-age children in its student section,
Lumosity Scholar as well as some designed to help with specific learning differences like
ADHD. Games include Word Bubbles, Face Memory Workout, Memory Matrix, Speed Match, and more. The site tracks your progress over time.
A 1-year gift subscription costs $80; a 1-year family membership, with up to five accounts, costs $130. The Lumosity.com games require Flash and can’t be played on your iPhone or iPad. However, the company does offer a small subset through
six iOS apps.
7. Become a coding ninja
Does your kid long to code? This strangely named site,
8. Goose your gray matter on the go
Wake up a sleepy head with the
Mensa Brain Test from American Mensa. This $2 iPhone app helps boost your logic, mathematics, language, and visual skills through training exercises. Tests and exercises take anywhere from five to sixty minutes a pop, so it’s easy to fit in a mental workout while waiting in line for the wave pool or killing time in the backseat during the family roadtrip.
Younger kids might appreciate iPhone and iPad games in the TeachMe series, including the $1
TeachMe 1st Grade, and so on. Kids practice skills like addition and sight words and use the app’s handwriting recognition to write their answers on-screen. Best of all (according to my daughter), correct answers earn coins to decorate an interactive aquarium or to collect onscreen stickers and Silly-Bandz-style bands.
9. Don’t forget to play outside
Sure, it’s easy to worry about kids forgetting all they’ve learned during the summer, but consider this: letting them run free during the break—emphasis on the word run—
may be the best thing you can do for their brains. Focusing on fitness can be especially important if your kid’s school has cut back P.E. or recess.