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Editor's Note: You learn something new every day

Published: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 9:13 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 11:16 a.m. CST

You learn something new every day. That’s what they say, isn’t it?

And how true it is.

Last week, I learned that I was misusing a word I thought I knew – I learned that the uncomfortable way, by using it wrong in a story and getting called on it.

But now I know, and my vocabulary is a little sharper.

I also learned that I should choose a non-GFCI outlet in my kitchen when plugging in my slow cooker. I learned that an even more distressing way, by coming home to find, not a fragrant dish of roast beef and potatoes, but a room-temperature roast and a GFCI outlet that needed to be reset.

Lesson learned.

I learned about an organization through shampoo maker Pantene that makes free wigs for American Cancer Society wig banks (see a story here about an 18-year-old young lady who donated her hair for that very purpose) and about an adorable exotic pet that is essentially a snuggly miniature kangaroo (see that story here).

(The tiny kangaroo – a wallaroo, actually – is missing. Please take a look at that story and call one of the numbers listed if you see it. I ask that as a pet owner who has, twice, lost my pets. I got both of them back safely, thank God, but it’s a terrible experience while they’re missing. My heart goes out to Willow the wandering wallaroo’s human family.)

Area school children are starting their summer breaks, and according to this week’s cover story, summer can be a great time to learn. The 8-year-old me would have audibly groaned to hear me say that, but it’s true. And you don’t even have to give up summer fun to do it.

I can remember experiencing bits of the summer slide firsthand. I remember one year when my brother, who hadn’t picked up a pencil for three months, gave me a panicky look a few days before school and asked me to show him how to write a cursive “M” – he had forgotten. After a summer of sandals, my niece once forgot how to tie her shoes. Obviously, those are extremes – that knowledge came right back once they saw it done – but often the summer slide is more insidious. Having always struggled with math in the first place, I rejoiced at having three whole months figures-free, but when school was back in session, I’m sure I lost everything from spring break forward from the previous year. Every year. Kids who don’t read for recreation are likely to slide back in their reading skills, perhaps even losing a reading level in the fall.

But beating the slide doesn’t have to mean paper and pencil at the dining room table. Read for recreation, and make sure your kids do, too. Let them read what they want, as long as they read. Then sneak other bits of education into their summer. My son is big on science experiments, which we find online. He is also starting to help in the kitchen, which is a great chance to reinforce math skills. Have your kids figure out the cash when paying at the store. Visit a museum or two. Take a nature hike. There are lots of ways to help kids have a fun summer – without the slide.

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