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They say that once you learn to ride a bicycle, you never forget – but is it true? Do we actually retain all skills and knowledge once learned? The truth is a skill usually must be consistently practiced or it can be lost, at least partially. This is especially evident in school children who go on summer break. At the start of each school year, precious weeks are wasted in the classroom as teachers try to get the children back to where they left off the last school year.

Just How Much Do Students Lose Over The Summer?

Here are some statistics we learned from a new study put out by Rand Education:

• When students return to school after summer break, they perform, on average, one month behind where they left off in the spring.

• While all students lose some ground in mathematics over the summer, low-income students lose more ground in reading, while their higher-income peers may even gain.

• Not all students experience ‘average’ losses. Summer learning loss disproportionately affects low-income students due to:

- Insufficient access to educational resources.
- Being part of school districts that are under-funded and/or under-staffed.
- Lack of transportation to programs.
- Inadequate parental support and involvement.

How Do Race and Ethnicity Play a Part?

“Due to the inequitable proportion of low-income minority students, similarly sized achievement gaps are found between white and black children in the United States, white and Hispanic children, and native speakers and English language learners.” – Rand Education.

Why does this happen and how can it be prevented?

Unless your brain is somehow clued in that the information you’re presenting to it is important, either by the emotion you’re feeling or through repetition, then it is designed to forget it. Forgetting what you don’t use is the brain’s way of working efficiently – much like a computer that deletes unused and temporary files.

So how can you make sure that what your children are learning is “downloaded” to the hard drive?

Repetition and consistency. According to the Rand Education study, “Summer learning programs can prevent the loss of knowledge and skills.”

Does it Matter Which Summer Program My Child Attends?

• Not just any summer program will do. Quality of the program and regular attendance are important.

• Also important:

- individualized instruction
- parental involvement
- small class sizes

Where Does Bilingual Education Play Into This?

While the Rand Education study did not look into whether there is an information retention difference between bilingual and monolingual children, other research exists to suggest that your bilingual/trilingual/multilingual child will fare better over the summer months.

A study done by Psychologist Ellen Bialystok found that bilinguals are more resistant to memory loss related illness, such as Alzheimer’s disease; whether this benefit can be applied to bilingual children who are out of school for the summer remains to be seen.


Bilingual or not, having your child involved in educational activities over the summer months will benefit them as they head back to school in the Fall. You can work one-on-one with your child at home, or enroll them in a class/program. Whatever you decide to do, keep their minds active!

Tomorrow check back with us as we’ll be sharing some of the great language learning summer camps and programs across the country, (and even a few outside our borders!)

Share: Are your children enrolled in any type of bilingual summer learning programs?


NPR – Being Bilingual Boosts Brain Power

Rand Study – How Summer Programs Can Boost Children’s Learning

Stanford University/ScienceDaily.com – Forgetting Helps You Remember The Important Stuff

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