If you thought that your kids lost some of their smarts over summer vacation, you wouldn’t be alone. That’s what most parents think — but it turns out that we might be wrong. A new U.S. Department of Education study found that kids who travel over vacation — no matter where they go — did better in reading, math and general knowledge than their peers who didn’t vacation.
As some of the nation’s schools shift to year-round programs, researchers are watching closely. Although at first glance it might seem that a year-round program prevents kids from losing ground — and skills — they later need to make up, that’s not always the case.
Understanding the study
Dr. Norman and other researchers used data collected by the U.S. Department of Education as part of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study of the Kindergarten Class database. The database contains information on 21,600 children followed from kindergarten through fifth grades, and looked at children’s early school experiences as well as family and life experiences, such as summer activities.
The benefits of a break
The results surprised many! Researchers could clearly identify a significant link between academic achievement and taking a family vacation:
- Children who traveled with their families scored higher on academic achievement assessment tests than those who did not travel.
- The number of days spent on family trips positively affected academic achievement.
- Children who spent time at museums, historical sites, state parks, and even the zoo and the beach had significantly higher academic achievement scores than those who did not.
Plan an educational vacation
Some tips to make your vacation experience more educational:
- Research your destination ahead of time. Hit the library and the internet and learn about what you’ll see and do.
- Encourage your kids to keep a trip journal while you’re away. Set up a blog and let your kids post about the days’ events. Add photos, and link to exciting attractions. Not only will your kids learn a lot, your family and friends will enjoy reading about your adventures.
- Take lots of pictures and create an album when you return. Let the kids show it off and talk to others about everything they did while you were away.
For more tips on kids, travel and education:
- Travel with kids: Activities on route
- Stress-free family travel guide
- How to prevent your child from being a high school dropout