Although summertime is not normally associated with new academic material and upcoming exams, students of all ages find that there is a loss of academic drive and knowledge during the summer months. A study by Dr. Harris Cooper of Duke University found that a summer break can lead to an academic “slump” associated with a loss of key concepts that were taught the prior school year, with most loss observed in spelling and mathematics. Cooper’s study identified that overall test scores decrease at the end of a summer break as compared to test scores from the end of the previous school year (Cooper et al, 1996). This “learning loss” leads to significant difficulty when school starts up in the fall. So, then, how does one make up for the loss of learning during the summer months?

My name is Patty. I am the Tutoring Coordinator and Head Science Tutor at The Brain Domain, so I frequently work with tutors and clients to develop plans to help keep kids on track during the school year and summer months. Summers are a busy time in my household due to active kids and a busy husband! My husband and I are able to provide a thriving academic environment because of the many ways we engage our kids in learning activities during the summer. My husband and I also frequently research free, publicly available resources in our community.

Below I will outline several resources that are available to families in Houston during the summer month as well as learning activities to keep your children engaged. Our goal at The Brain Domain is to help you make summer an asset instead of summer leading to an academic loss. Here are a few suggestions:

Summer Learning Activities

Engaging kids in learning activities during the summer months can help to avoid the “summer slump” and keep their minds active and sharp to be on-target for the coming school year. Here are ways that you can keep your children engaged in the summertime to maintain their academic skillset:

  1. Make library trips a part of your summer plans. Local libraries usually offer incentives for kids in summer reading programs. Last year my kids earned free tickets to the circus and zoo just for reading 10+ hours in the summer months! Keeping reading well-practiced during the summer will help to ensure that your child will stay on grade-level in their reading skills.
  2. Incorporate math skills into summer trips. Include your children in budget planning for the family summer vacation. Simple math for gas or supplies can build math skills without being cumbersome or make your child feel like they are taking a math exam. I always ask my kids to add up the cost for all of the beach toys and hamburger condiments to see if we have enough money. These valuable lessons not only build basic everyday math skills, but also teach money management.
  3. Grab a book that covers core concepts for the grade your child will be entering in the fall of the next year. Have them create a plan for working their way through the majority of the book or finishing it completely before school starts in the fall.
  4. Start studying for the SAT/ACT. The summer is the perfect time for students to set aside a few hours each week to start preparing for their college admission tests. We recommend taking a full-length practice test every other week for the two months leading up to the exam. We also recommend studying for at least 30 minutes each night, but preferably an hour. There are 24 hours in a day, and, during the summer, most of those hours are free—take advantage! If you would like for us to help you with your test preparation please visit our Test Prep page.
  5. If your child is in high school, start planning for college. Summer is the perfect time to start researching colleges and look at their requirements. The best time do this is actually freshman year! This way you can plan your high school career appropriately. Don’t forget to research scholarships as well! If your student is a sophomore or junior, take some time to visit college campuses to see which ones are a good fit. If you would like help navigating the college application process, please visit our College Counseling or Scholarship Advising page.
  6. If your child is of age, help him or her attain a job or internship or shadow a professional in his or her field of interest. This is a great way to keep kids busy, build character and skills, and be more attractive to potential colleges and employers. Colleges look for students who take advantage of summer and plan for the future.
  7. Make a tutoring plan! The Brain Domain offers in-home tutoring that caters to the learning styles of our clients. Contact us today to design a summer plan to maintain academic skills or get ahead for the coming year! Our tutors specialize in a wide range of subjects, from reading comprehension to advanced mathematics. To see more about what we offer, please visit our Tutoring or Summer Tutoring page.


Free Summer Learning Resources in Houston

There are many resources for summer learning in Houston. Many of the summer reading programs offer free prizes to children for reading a certain number of hours or books over the summer months. You can find additional information about free summer programs online:

  1. Houston Public Library. This is one of the best summer reading programs out there because they offer many incentives for your child to read during the summer! Don’t miss out on an opportunity for your child to earn free tickets to various entertainment venues in Houston. Registration can be found online at
  2. Barnes & Noble summer reading program, Imagination’s Destination. Your local Barnes & Noble provides a summer reading opportunity for children to earn a free book (from an approved list). Register at your local store or online at
  3. Half Price Books, “Feed Your Brain” summer reading program: Half Price Books offers summer reading opportunities to students up through high school age. Kids 14 and under can earn HPB Bookworm Bucks for reading 300 minutes during the months of June and July. High school students can read two books and write a review to receive Bookworm Bucks. More details and registration can be found at
  4. Storytime Tours at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The Museum of Fine Arts offers a unique interactive storytime that highlights themes from the European Rienzi collection. This storytime tour can be combined with a family fine arts workshop!! Pre-registration is recommended. For 2015 summer storytime and workshop dates and times, please visit or call 639.7800.
  5. Scholastic Summer Reading Program 2015. This program is set up for kids to individually earn weekly awards, but Scholastic also offers a grand prize award for the schools that have the most minutes read. This program runs until September 4, 2015. Register today at
  6. Camp Wonderopolis, Mission to Wonder. This is an online summer learning tool made available by the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL). This virtual camp has exciting STEM-based units covering a wealth of topics from sports to technology. Although the camp is designed to target 2nd through 8th graders, students of all ages are welcome to participate. The Wonderopolis camp runs from June 15 through July 26. Register today at!
  7. The TenMarks Summer Math Program. This is an online program by a company backed by Amazon. After a diagnostic test, students from grades 1 through those in Algebra 2 are able to engage with a personalized curriculum that includes videos, problems and exercises, as well as interventions, when necessary. TenMarks claims that students of its program see an 11% learning gain, compared to students with no summer learning who experience a 2-3 month math loss. Learn more at

Although summer reading, science, and math programs are an excellent avenue to sharpen your kids’ skills, engaging them in every day learning activities keeps them in practice to maintain what they have learned.

We are here to help you write your success story! For more information on how the Brain Domain can help your student stay academically engaged this summer, please visit our tutoring page.


Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., & Greathouse, S. (1996). The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: A narrative and meta-analytic review. Review of Educaiton Research, 66(3), 227-268. EJ 596 384.