By Lisa Tolin, published on May 1, 1997 - last reviewed on August 21, 2008
Most kids just love the idea of forgetting about school during the summer months. But they may be taking that goal too literally. University of Missouri psychologist Harris Cooper finds that children typically forget between one and three months' worth of schooling during the summer. Math and spelling skills suffer the most, while reading is least affected by the break. The likely reason: Most kids read at least occasionally outside of the classroom, but often their spelling and math muscles get a workout only at school.
Because summer vacations no longer serve their original purpose—they were created to allow farm kids to work the fields during the growing season—places like Orange County, California, have adopted a year-round school calendar, which may reduce the academic decline that occurs during the dog days. For communities that retain a traditional nine-month school year, Cooper recommends summer camps, educational vacations, and trips to libraries and museums to keep kids mentally stimulated all year long.