Preventing Summer ‘Brain Drain’ – Online summer courses ‘keep those neurons firing’


Preventing Summer ‘Brain Drain’
Online summer courses ‘keep those neurons firing’

“Kids who don’t continue learning during the summer often lose two to three months’ worth of academic progress.”

Ah, those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Maybe your family has a camping trip planned. Certainly there will be picnics and get-togethers, and plenty of time for the kids to enjoy the great outdoors. But did you ever consider that summer is also a great opportunity to get “outside” of your regular homeschool routine?

April 30, 2009

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Many homeschool families are so busy during the regular school year that they can’t find time to sample those intriguing academic paths that crop up every now and then as they progress through daily lessons. Perhaps a chance mention in a History lesson sparked your children’s interest in foreign countries? Maybe they saw an image that prompted a discussion about photography? Summer is a great time for students to delve deep into their passions, to find out what drives them, and, where they might have stumbled during the school year, to gain new ground. Whether your child is a budding writer or scientist or simply wants to explore new topics, online courses offer summer learning opportunities for students of all types.

Online curriculum companies offer two types of courses during the summer. The first is a full course offering that delivers the same level of content that your student would receive during the regular schooling season, in a slightly compressed timeframe. Think of this as a ‘third semester’ option for students who might need to review a particular topic they’ve struggled with. Some families use these “summer school” courses as a way for students either to catch up or get ahead. Isolating a single topic during the summer and letting your child work on this subject without having two or three others to juggle can sometimes lead to a better outcome. K12 offers high school students four core credit-bearing courses that can be completed in either four- or eight-week sessions at a 10% reduction in cost. Students can select Algebra I, Geometry, Biology, or Literary Analysis and Composition I (English I). These summer courses allow high school students to make up a course or get ahead. Taking a course this summer is a smart way for students entering high school to begin the transformation into high school academics.

Full course online offerings also are a great way for students to take a break from their regular studies and develop new skills–without Mom having to shuttle them all over town. They provide a great opportunity to try something completely different like Web Design, Game Design or Digital Photography.

Whether your student aspires to become the next Bill Gates or Stephen Hawking or simply wants to explore new interests, online courses keep the mental motor humming and offer an easy, fun way to explore engaging languages and new subjects.

“The goal is to keep the neurons firing,” says K12 Chief Learning Officer Bror Saxberg. Research has shown that kids who don’t continue learning during the summer often lose two to three months’ worth of academic progress.

But such setbacks can be avoided, says Saxberg. “If kids do find themselves just a bit behind on the mathematics and language arts side, for instance, continuing to work on some of those basic pieces during the summer, even at a slower pace, is actually a really good investment,” he explains. “There is no reason to put kids into a panic mode in the fall at being behind if you can find some time during the summer—maybe on a weekend or a few days during the week—to finish up, to make the progress you’d like to make to get yourself ready for the new school year.”

The second type of online summer course is a “sampler,” either an abbreviated version of the full-year content, or a taste of several different topics. These samplers are great ways for students to try out subjects before deciding what they want to pursue in the fall—for example, the powerspeaK12 foreign-language sampler from K12 lets elementary students sample 10 lessons each of French, German, and Spanish for $36. Families then can apply the purchase price of the sampler to a full-time course once they’ve made a decision.

Foreign languages in particular offer a great long-term payoff. Studies have shown that students who pursue a second language often perform better in school.

“They’re an excellent choice”, says Jim Blair, K12‘s vice president of world language. “Like no other subject, language connects you with the rest of the world,” says Blair. “Language is one of the great tools to help keep our minds sharp.”

Online courses offer specific strengths for language study. Unlike books, most online courses offer pronunciation tools, so that students get a solid grounding in the basic rhythm of the language. And, unlike packaged or CD-only courses, online courses are interactive and individualized. Students using powerspeaK12 language courses, for example, build an online avatar and work through a series of tutorials, including a feature in which a story starts entirely in English and gradually introduces words from the target language—say, Spanish—so students understand the context in which the words appear and are used.

“Every single activity is meant to build upon what you had before and to bring the language to you in a way that makes your mind work the way it naturally should to learn language,” explains Blair. “You not only understand the language, but the culture, too.”

powerspeaK12 teaches language the way that kids learn—a guided approach that combines interactive activities with virtual quizzes, games, and tests—rather than repetitive and dull vocabulary drills, which are more appropriate for adult learners. With access to all of these fun, , and challenging online courses, homeschool students are bound to find something to engage their minds—and something that will make their stories about “What I did on my summer vacation” far more interesting.

K12 is proud to support homeschool families with high quality online courses ideal for independent study. For more information about the K12 Summer School Program or the powerspeaK12 Summer Language Sampler, visit or call 866-637-1986.