5 Days of Fun, Frugal, Summer Activities: Day 1

library

Today,  I’m singing the praises of West Georgia’s regional libraries system’s summer reading program. When I was a child, our weekly visits to the local library were a treat. Just browsing in an air conditioned building and leaving with an armload of books motivated me to read all summer long. Now libraries offer incentives for reading and attending programs in which special guests entertain and educate at the same time. Some of the offerings this summer are magic shows, storytelling, Lego mine meld, and animal shows, including a reptile show at the Dog River library. Many offer a different program for teenagers; I noticed “broomball” on the calendar for the teen reading program at the Neva Lomason library. Be sure to check out all the different libraries’ programs. In addition to its summer reading program,  the Douglas county library has visiting reading therapy dogs. I love the idea of reading a story while petting a dog. The dogs have a calming effect on the children, and the child can choose any book she wants to read. All of these programs are free of charge; go here to sign up your child for summer reading. To learn more about the reading therapy dogs at the Douglas county library, go here.

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How Can I Motivate My Child to Read?

boy reading

Many parents have asked me a variation of this question. These suggestions are mainly for struggling readers who will do anything to avoid reading. Peruse the list; use what you like; the most important factor is consistency.

  1. Set aside time each day as family reading time. If one of your children is a weak reader, but the others are avid readers, then he won’t feel singled out if everyone participates. You choose a time of day which you will be able to keep most consistently, whether it be morning, afternoon, or evening. You may want to start with fifteen minutes and gradually add more time. Let everyone choose his own reading material, the only requirement is that everyone is reading or listening to a story during that time. If your child prefers audio books, have him follow along with a hard copy. This is your excuse to set aside household chores and indulge yourself in a good book or magazine. No devices are allowed during this time, except for audio or e-reading. Make a commitment to do this the entire summer. You may have to miss some days, and some days will not go well, and you will think, “This is not working.” When you reach that point, remind yourself that you are committed to this until school resumes. By August, I guarantee that you will be pleased with the results.
  2. Allow for a variety of reading material. There are  limitless choices. A favorite of mine is magazines. You can find a variety on many levels covering any imaginable topic. Unlike a story, most articles can be read in part, and your child will benefit from improved fluency, vocabulary, as well as gaining knowledge on that topic. Picture books are written for all levels. I like to browse the youth section of the children’s room at our local library to find good picture books at fourth and fifth grade levels. One of my favorite is Rudy Rides the Rails. Other choices for older readers are Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul and devotional books. Some parents have expressed concern to me that their children pick easy books. That’s o.k. because they are still reading. You can try to guide them to more challenging materials, but let it go if they resist.
  3. Popcorn reading. If your child needs help with reading comprehension or decoding, you can incorporate some popcorn reading. You read a page, then he reads a page. This can be modified where you read more, and he reads less, or vice versa. Since you’re reading together, you can ask questions in a more natural way. Do  you think the character is scared? How do you know?  As fluency improves, you can require him to read more. I notice that some children are more willing to read when an adult engages with them. One important suggestion is that you hold off on correcting them. I like to let the child finish a paragraph before rereading the sentence with the mistake. Many times, they correct themselves. If they don’t, I will ask, “Does that sound right to you?” Only at this point do I help if needed.
  4. Make It Fun. As  a family,  you can listen to an audio book. This is great because you can do this on long car trips also. Another fun activity is to turn off all lights and read by flashlight. Young children love to play with flashlights, and this trains beginning readers in tracking text. You  can also use stories as a riddle. Plan a trip to a blueberry farm; the day before read Blueberries for Sal, then ask your child(ren) to guess what activity you’re going to do. You can find other stories to fit any activity. Your children’s librarian is a great resource for ideas.
  5. Record their progress. I notice that children become more confident when they can measure their progress. You can simply keep a chart and use tally marks for pages read. If you want to reward them, you can drop a penny in a jar for each page. Your child will enjoy watching the jar fill as the summer progresses.

What would you like to add to this list?

Georgia State Parks and Historic Site Passes

How does a day trip sound? Georgia has over sixty state parks and historic sites, and each has something unique to offer. Need another reason to visit? You can check out a ParkPass kit from your public library which will save you the $5 parking fee at the state parks. The historic site pass gives free admission for up to four visitors.

Indian Mound
 

You can climb prehistoric mounds built by Native Americans at Kolomoki Mounds State Park and Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site.

 

It’s easy to plan your visit:

  1. Go to the Georgia State Park website and choose a nearby park or historic site.
  2. Once you find a destination, click the link to that park’s website for activities and special events. You may want to go when you can take a guided nature walk or enjoy another interpretive program such as learning about reptiles. There may be an event fee for some programs so contact the site if unsure. If the park has a lake, check for canoe or paddleboat rentals.
  3. Go to your local library and ask for the state park or historic site pass. You can check it out for one week.

 

Summertime Tutoring

summertime

The school year is ending here in west Georgia. Today is the last day for many schools in this area, and some will let out next week. While many parents see summer break as a time to get away from academics, for the struggling student, it is an opportunity to catch up. Just a few hours of one-on-one tutoring can make a tremendous difference when school resumes. For others, it means they remain sharp and continue to advance their skills. Two years ago, as we were getting ready for a new school year, I commented to my student J. that she was working more quickly with fewer mistakes. I loved her response, “I used to think math was a monster, now I think it’s easy.”

If given the preference of working with a child during the school year or summer break, I choose summer. After tutoring for eight years, I see the most significant progress in those students I work with June- July. There are a couple of reasons for this. During the school year, the focus is on completing school assignments and test preparation; in contrast, the focus is on strengthening a child’s weak areas during summer tutoring. Another factor which I believe plays a very important role is peer pressure or lack of it during summer. While I believe in healthy competition, when a child gets so far behind, he begins to think he is dumb when he hears classmates talk about how easy that test was or bragging on getting A’s. The struggling student begins to view school as an insurmountable obstacle. When a child gets help in the summer, the work is tailored to his needs; his only competitor is himself; and as he practices, he becomes more aware of his improvement. I also add a few more games in summer to make the work more palatable.

Do you have to hire a tutor? Absolutely not! Children are eager to learn, and summer is a great opportunity to sneak in some teaching without a child realizing it. I’ll continue to post about opportunities I discover, and be sure to check past posts in Learning Opportunities. A great idea my friend had was to give her children three review math problems which they had to complete before beginning their fun activities each day. Local libraries have great summer reading programs. Read my post from summer 2015 at iheartpublix for ideas to combine grocery shopping with math practice.

But if you know your child needs the support and consistency private tutoring offers, then I believe the investment is well worth it. Several years ago, I worked with a weak reader who was preparing for fifth grade. Although I only worked with him during the summer, his reading drastically improved.He is now in high school and making honor roll. If you want to hire a tutor, a good place to start is by asking your child’s teacher. Post a request on facebook and other social media. And of course, if you’re in the west Georgia area, I would love to work with your child. You can find my contact information in the About Category. Have a great summer!

I and other readers would love to hear your suggestions for continuing the learning process during school breaks in the comments.

Another Teacher Appreciation Giveaway

Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.soils.usda.gov">USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service</a>

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Shannon!Thanks to the Friends of Georgia State Parks, thelearningtutor.com is offering a second teacher appreciation giveaway: an individual membership for the Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites to one lucky winner. The package is valued at over $175 and benefits are good for twelve full months! Membership includes:

  • One Annual Park pass-good for parking at all Georgia State Parks
  • 25 % Historic Site Discount – good for one person
  • One free night of camping or one round of golf at a State Park Golf course.
  • 10% off any stay at a State Park Lodge, Cottage, or Campsite
  • $10 off one adult ticket per visit, Coach or Premium Seating, on the SAM Shortline Excursion Train in Cordele, Georgia.
  • Georgia Great Places Magazine

From now until May 24, 2016, if you are a K-12 teacher or paraprofessional in a Georgia public or private school then you can submit up to two entries, simply by liking the Friends of Georgia State Parks and The Learning Tutor’s facebook pages.  Then comment below that you have done so. Winner will chosen by random drawing. Good luck!

 

How Do I Help My Middle Schooler with History? Pt. 2

 

historyIn part 1, I suggested several ways to get your child interested in the past. Today, I have some advice for learning the material which leads to better grades. History is defined as the written record of man’s past so reading is intrinsic to doing well. Even though your middle schooler can read the words, she may not really comprehend what she is reading. Show her how each unit is divided into chapters, then those chapters are composed of sections and each section may be further subdivided. Help her formulate questions which may be answered in each section.  The goal is for her to connect each subtopic to the main topic and finally to the chapter. This aids in seeing the “big picture, ” and helps put everything into context. Be sure she studies the pictures and maps, and understands their connection to the reading. Have her summarize each section she has read. Putting the material in her own words demonstrates her comprehension.

Once she has summarized the readings, she can begin learning important terms. Many texts will place these in bold font. They are usually categorized as people, places, events, or ideas (i. e. capitalism). I like putting these on notecards for easy review.  A complete definition or description, the importance, context, and date or time period are needed. For example,  Manhattan Project:

  • Secret American plan during World War II to develop the atomic bomb.
  • Began as  as a response to Germany’s nuclear program.
  • Was not used in the European theater, but was instrumental in bringing an end to the War in the Pacific when an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima  August 6, 1945 and on Nagasaki August 9, 1945.

If your child is visual, she may want to draw a picture to help her remember. If she is an auditory learner, she can record the terms and listen to them as a study strategy.

Initially, she may seem overwhelmed, but encourage her to study a few minutes every day. If she knows even some of the material really well, it will result in better grades. Finally, if possible, review returned tests with your child and talk about strategies for making the best use of her knowledge. From my years of teaching, I have discovered many careless mistakes like skipping questions and not reading the instructions or questions carefully.

What suggestions would you add? 

My First Teacher

Mama with doll
My mom when she dreamed of being a mother.

I remember a few years ago, as I rose early one morning, I glanced at my reflection in the window and saw my mother’s face staring back at me. Until that moment, I had not realized how much I resemble her. More than sharing her looks, I hope I have inherited her character. She has always taken care of those that society tends to forget, especially shut-ins and the elderly. As a child, I tagged along on many of these visits. Even though she has slowed down, she stills gets joy from cooking meals and making sure those around her are happy and satisfied.

Most of what I learned from my mom came from simple observation. She definitely wasn’t a helicopter mom, but I was a clingy child and stayed close to her side. She taught me how to carry on a conversation with strangers just by listening to her interactions around others. I can cook because I spent so much time in  her kitchen; I’m sure most of the time getting in the way. On the weekends, she allowed my sisters and me to rummage through her cookbooks and cabinets to bake whatever caught our fancy.

 

Although my mom did not finish high school – she married at seventeen- she made sure that I and my four siblings got the most of our education. At 58 years old,  she set an example for the importance of higher learning by getting her GED and graduating from a community college. When we were growing up, she made summer weekly trips to the library a priority. And she always rewarded us for any A’s on our report cards.

A few years ago, I wrote down the reasons I’m blessed she’s my mother and gave the list to her. I’m glad I did this because even though I think I’ve expressed those sentiments in other ways, I wanted her to see it in black and white. For this Mother’s Day, I’m sharing a Billy Collins poem. Happy Mother’s to my mom and all mothers!