Wednesday, June 20, 2007

School Is Out, But How Do I Keep My Kids Involved So They Don't Forget Their Main Subjects?

Great Question...

Well let me say that as the father of 3 grown kids in their 20's, and having taught mathematics for 5.5 years, along with being a part time associate college professor, there are a lot of options.

Let me start off, that studies have shown that children start their next school year retaining less information
then when the school year ended. It is amazing that with all the hard work of studying and learning from August to May/June, that children will actually start school with retaining less of this information.

Part of it is that a lot of students do not stimulate their brain with learning during the summer months. They fill their daily schedules with watching tv, working more hours at jobs, parties,hobbies,family vacations,staying up late, sleeping late, video games, etc.

So what can parents do?

Well, short of home schooling your children throughout the summer months (my sister home schooled
all three of her kids), have you tried these ideas?

1. Find out what subjects your children needs help or assistance with. Maybe your child got the results of their TAKS test (In Texas, there is an end of year state test to measure a student's retention and understanding of English,Math,Science and Social Studies). Students have to have a passing grade in all 4 subjects in order to get their high school diploma. If they took their end of course exams, ACT, SAT Exams, even the last report cards, look at what subjects they did the worse in. Maybe your child
did fine, but they are looking at getting accepted in college, need higher grades, want to take AP classes, etc.

a. Look on the web for some free web resources in each of these subjects. I used to teach a summer school math program at a local private school for middle school students, called Middle School Math with Brain Teasers. I liked to introduce middle school students to pre-algebra and algebra concepts, while reinforcing the skills they already learned, but use some brainteasers and some websites that had fun educational games in math/science. It made learning the concepts "fun".

Don't use this as punishment. In my years of teaching, I wish I had a dollar every time a student said they could not do math because they were stupid or not good in math. I always believed in trying to make them believe in their self, and have a positive attitude. I made math fun , exciting and especially how it relates to the real world (science, english,art,social studies, engineering,etc.). I had a student a few years ago who hated math, but at the end of Algebra II, she was smiling and she passed. Another student left school and came back a few months later and told me she had a 4.0 average in her nursing classes in college,and that it was because of the Algebra II I taught her.

The idea is that tutoring or getting additional help should never be used as punishment or to belittle your
child. When I was in the Army, if something was not accomplished the first time, you go back and look
at the task, processes, what ways can it be improved, practice,practice,practice, and do it again.

Life is like that.. It is the reality that if you did not grasp the math,science,social studies or english concepts, then guess what, sitting on the couch all summer complaining about school, will not help you next year.

Get some help. Try some online websites. If you have your textbooks, review those concepts.

b. If you can not do it on your own, see if your community has some summer school programs you can check into. Some are only for a few weeks, and only a few hours a day.

c. Find a tutor who can help you. Maybe you have another student in your neighborhood who can be trusted. Find a reputable tutoring company where you can have a tutor come to the comfort of your home (when you are home) and work one on one with your child. I did this for several years, and I had to reteach math concepts. I have seen a 7th grade student with C's and D's make A's in Algebra, Geometry and Algebra II. Making this investment for your child really helps...Believe me, trying to tutor your child may not work. My daughter told me years ago, after she did not understand the concept of slopes, that she wished I was her math teacher...On the other hand, my two sons, did not like my drilling,asking questions, etc. I don't like to give answers.

d. Visit your local library....Believe it or not, check out some of the books in your subject area. Even books like Math for Dummies, Idiot's Guide for ???, have a lot of good tips that will help your student, but yet make it fun and understandable.

e. Back to the Library. Most have online databases and sample tests. Ours has several tests that you can take to practice for your ACT,SAT,and other exams. Look at your local library and see if they have some online practice exams.

f. Take a summer course to get a higher grade in the class you need. If your local school has a prep class for beginning 9th grade students in Algebra, then this might help.

g. Video series...I personally like the tapes and DVDs from The Standard Deviants. They can cover a year's worth of concepts into a fun interesting way. Check to see if your library will let you check out these resources.

h. Last but not least. There is a whole world of internet resources for getting help. I know several that have practice TAKS questions, SAT prep, etc.

I hope this helps..It might not work with every student, but the idea is to keep them intellectually challenged and still learning over the summer....JohnK

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