Monthly Archives: July 2014

Sunday Morning Shout Out


math_lets_talkThe term summer slide is probably very familiar to many of you by now. But the question is, what are you doing about it?  While summer reading programs that are offered by libraries and schools are pretty common place and an excellent way to buffer reading loss, what are you doing to address the loss of math schools in your child?  In the article, “Math’s steep slide: how far behind is your child,” author Crystal Yednak shares researcher statistics that found the average child loses 1.8 months of math skills during summertime.  How can this be and what is being done to remedy this serious academic issue?

First, let’s look at why there is such a steep slide, in terms of math skills during the summer.  Yednak discusses how reading is much more naturally woven into a child’s day, as opposed to math skills. Children are often read to at night or may willingly-eagerly read a book of their choosing throughout the day.  Reading is a fine, easy, and relaxed way to pass a rainy summer’s day or cozy, summer’s night! On that same rainy day, do most children run for their flashcards? –Not so much.  Practicing math tends to be a much more focused and rigorous activity. Younger children do not get the “practice time” that we have as adults, when it comes to mathematics.  On a daily basis, writing checks, paying bills, comparison shopping, cooking, etc. actively immerse adults in numbers and math.  Children do not get this or have this regularly.  The problem is even more pronounced for Middle and High School students since the math they are learning is generally not used in every day life…when is the last time you used a graphing calculator to figure out a Quadratic Equation for the parabolic path of an astoroid entering our solar system?

This slide is further exacerbated by the Common Core Standards as they are being instituted into you child’s school.  The author discusses how this new curriculum assumes not only higher skills but also mastery right from the start of the school year.  You have teachers who are being asked to go forward and not backwards to review last year’s skills.  As a teacher, there is increased pressure to get through all the curriculum.  Thus, the math work at school may be far beyond your child’s normal capacity even from where they left off at the end of the previous school year.  Place deteriorating skills on top of this situation and you have a child who is very far behind academic expectation and in many cases their peers who may have been working on their math skills throughout the summer.

Fortunately, there are steps parents can take to ameliorate the situation.  Ideally, before school ends, sit down with your child’s teacher. Find out where they are struggling most mathematically and discuss ways to address this over the summer.  The teacher may have specific math sheets, a website, or an old book your child can use to practice her rusty areas.  If your child’s teacher is unavailable during the summer, there are websites for parents to determine their child’s strengths and weaknesses in math.  There are also websites that discuss how these fit in with the common core standards.  Your child can review what they learned in the last grade and also do “preview work” in math for the grade to come. Some of these website s are listed in the embedded article.

Educators are taking increased steps to tackle this issue.  Controversial for some, many schools are offering longer school years or even all year round school, with more shorter breaks built into the academic year.  The thought is to not allow space –time for a slide.  Still others are encouraging parents to work with tutors or send their children to math camps, to avoid this “slip and slide.”  Other educators are hoping libraries will implement summer math programs, alongside their reading programs to address this need.  While still other educators also point to specific websites like “Calculation Nation” for parents to use with their children.  Such websites combine math problems with games.  Lastly, parents are asked to look at where they can sprinkle math into the day.  Perhaps Johnny or Janey can county their piggy bank change or money earned from a lemonade stand.  Cooking is a fun way to work on both math and reading skills. Rest assured parents that such large learning loss does not have to be the case.  It just takes a little forethought to combat and come out on the right side of this issue and forgo the slide…..

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


So we are more than a few weeks into summer vacation and I ask:  What’s more annoying and frustrating to this parent than the “back to school” sales that start right after the 4th of July?  My Answer: Children ( mine, yours, the neighbors, the distant cousin’s) saying they are bored!  Mind you, children often mean many things with this statement.  They might be tired; tired of their siblings; tired of their mother; ambivalent about their choices; overwhelmed about their choices; without choices, etc.  But this is one mother who bans those words in her house.  One immediate way I end “boredom” is by giving out extra chores when this word is used excessively.  I do not have much tolerance for this word when there are so many choices.  But what else is a parent to do?  Fortunately, my good friend Google had some answers.

One writer, Wilma Henry, discusses how classic games can help in her article ‘Fighting Summer Boredom With Fun Activities‘.  Her grandchildren loved jacks, playing card games, making spaceships out of huge appliance boxes, and many more low tech, classic games and creative pursuits.  In this day of instant everything and easy gratification, such games and crafts can be long enjoyed and appreciated.

Another writer, Mary Cooney offers her top ten list for fighting summer boredom in ‘10 Ways For Kids To Fight Summer Boredom‘. From chores and dedicated reading time (both alone and together); lots of outdoor time; playdates,; and board games to advertising the joys and greatness of certain pursuits (to children who need a little guidance as to what to do); and finally the “bored” book—a brilliant idea that is best explained by hitting the link, she offers some great ideas to overcoming boredom in your home.

Of course there is the bored jar, where non bored children can brainstorm some ideas for a dull day.  While there might be some outside excursions to the library or playground, many options should be doable from your home.  Perhaps your options include: a game of kickball; a board game; baking a treat or cooking a meal for an elderly neighbor; writing a story; painting a picture; acting out a play; playing charades; building a fort; or playing dress-up.

And with ending where we started, saying I am bored can mean many things.  Perhaps your child needs some increased attention from you.  Including them in your tasks; taking a few minutes to play with him/her; reading together; cuddling together; taking a walk together, etc. can be just the thing to nip the bored bug and return to enjoying summer.

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


Summer Challenge Two

I am so glad summer is here!  We all crave its more laid back pace, temperatures, and the air of freedom.  It can be a marked departure from the longer to-do lists and pressure of other parts of the year.  Yet for all its pleasure and glory, it can be a particularly dangerous time of year as well.  The immediate things I think of are swimming danger; the risks of sun exposure; and Lyme Disease and West Nile Virus.

Then there are the specific risks teens can face during summer.  With their developmental need for autonomy; the restlessness many teens feel; desire for excitement and stimulation; and less or zero supervision, problematic teen behavior rises.  According to an article on the website At-Risk.org titled ‘Safety Summer Tips For Teens‘, the rate of accidents that involve teens increases by 40%.  Alcohol drinking and substance abuse increases by 70%.  The number of car accidents by these young inexperienced drivers increases too.  A recent article in “The Washington Post” titled ‘Summer Takes Toll On Teen Drivers‘ stated that the rate of automobile accidents doubles during summer time.  The first website mentioned here also provides a good link to parents for typical summer safety items.  But what about summer safety for teens, in terms of driving? There are some great driving tips for adults and teens alike at ‘Summer Tips

Parents must be adamant and vigilant about driving rules and consequences for not following them.  They must also be a good example about not being a distracted driver, by not talking on the phone or texting; not flipping the radio dial; and not doing other things that take their mind and eyes off the road, like eating or putting on makeup.  There is little to be learned from do as I say and not as I do. Parents must keep on communicating about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.  Teens need to feel safe and able to talk to their parents about these issues.  They must know they can always call and get a safe ride from their parents, if they happen to make bad choices about drinking and substance use.  Consequences can follow later!

It is important for teens to have oversight for all that unsupervised and free time.  There are summer jobs to be had and other organized activities, geared towards teens, that can help lessen too much free time.  Checking in and consistent communication helps.  Perhaps there are ways to adjust your schedule so you can be more available and home during the summer months? Is flex time or working from home part of the day an option?

There’s so much to enjoy about summer, but there is also a lot not to take lightly.  With forethought, preparation, and oversight, summer can maintain its glorious reputation and shed its deadly one….

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Monday “Think About It”


Why not take your backyard fire into the wilderness on a camping trip? (Image Credit:http://www.adirondackdiamondpointlodge.com/)

Why not take your backyard fire into the wilderness on a camping trip? (Image Credit:http://www.adirondackdiamondpointlodge.com/)

Now that the big summer holiday is past us can you remember what was the most meaningful conversation you had?  Who was it with?  Your child?  Your spouse?  What made it meaningful?  Did you say everything you wanted?  If not will you have the opportunity to talk to that person again?  I hope you do.

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


“Summer Challenge One: Transitioning to Summer”

Alongside our children, we wait all year for summer.  Yet transitioning from school to summer can be a challenge for parents and children alike.  The schedule has changed; the weather is warm; expectations are high; and there is a new dynamic in the house.  It always seems like we need a few days to find a new equilibrium once school is out.  Each family and family member needs to regroup and adapt.

As I thought of this today, I reminded myself of how this occurs each summer.  All in all, we seem to come out on the right side of things even though the transition isn’t always picture smooth.  We maintain a homeostasis and establish a new routine.  When I researched this online, many articles and blogs had good thoughts on the concept.  In pulling from these ideas, these were what I liked best.

  1. Lay low for a few days or a week. In this instant, social media driven, Pinterest world, we seem to want to rush to create, spend, and have the fabulous summer being advertised to us by friends, Pinterest, and perhaps our own high desires and expectations for the season. While it is nice to have a plan, it is also good not to force too much and plan too much, too soon or acroos summer. I aim to spend summer at our own pace. It may not match yours, but it fits the needs of our family.
  2. Establish your summer routine. While it is good to loosen up and not be scheduled out for summer, children do need a routine. In fact they thrive on it! It is the constancy that helps children know what comes next. As summer gets under way, I am going to try to lay this out for children so visually and also verbally to ease our transition.
  3. Put aside your to-do list at least some of the time. We all have them, but our tasks aren’t going anywhere. Yet before we know it, our children are. Take time to enjoy them more this summer!
  4. Summer is a wonderful time to be outdoors. Stock up on the sunblock and bug spray and get your children outside! Outdoor time is beneficial to every component of health and learning.
  5. Balance active time with quiet time during your day. This can help balance everyone’s needs in the house for activity, rest, and peace of mind. Quiet time is a wonderful time to read and fight summer slide.
  6. Band with other parents for support. Continue to do the things you normally do to take of your health and needs for well-being.
  7. Make use of community resources: recreation programs, the library, and other local programs for free or low cost family fun and stimulation.
  8. As you do your tasks throughout the day, engage your children to help. Outside of their regular chores, this is a way to learn other things and connect one-on-one with you.
  9. Summer is short and so is childhood. Find ways to savor both!

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How To Get Your Kids To Do Their Chores


Are chores a constant battle in your home? Do you have to ask a hundred times before things get done while “I’ll do it later” is what greets most of these requests? Chores are important because they help your children to understand responsibility, prepare them for the routine, mundane tasks they need to fulfill on a daily basis in order to make their lives possible and give them the skills they need to one day run a home of their own. For some parents, getting the chores done is often more trouble than it’s worth. Here’s how to get your kids to do their chores every day.

Kids resist doing their chores because routine maintenance tasks are boring and take them away from activities they should be doing. While a general reminder to do chores is fine, if you find yourself nagging, it’s time to change the behavior.

Stop The Cycle
If you find your kids only do their chores if you nag them and stop once your attention is elsewhere, stop whatever activities they are doing. Whether it’s TV, games or time with friends, stop the distraction and talk to them about the situation. Explaining abstract ideas of responsibility is rarely a hit, so concentrate on what they have to gain by doing their chores now. That means that they can resume their fun activities once their chores are done.

Up The Ante
If focusing on the positive consequences of completing chores doesn’t work, set time limits. For example, if chores aren’t done by dinner time, or if the dishes aren’t done in 30 minutes, then limit internet time or set an earlier bed time. I have a friend who nagged her children every day until they were old enough to get internet access. Now she changes the WiFi password every night and they only get the new one when their chores are all done. Now she never has to nag her kids to do their chores.

Rewards
Rewarding your child for chores completed is always preferable to punishment. You can offer extra internet or TV time or a later bedtime for chores that are done on time without nagging.

Another way to incentivise the chore routine is by linking it to their allowance. Each chore that is completed earns an extra portion of their allowance. If they don’t want to do their chores, siblings can opt to do their chores for them and earn more allowance.

This is a good way to teach children the link between working and receiving a salary. Take care that this doesn’t lead to a situation where your children won’t do anything without getting paid. If you find this is the case, rethink your strategy.

Don’t Turn Chores Into Punishment
The idea here is to get your child to do their chores without hating every minute of it. You can start by giving them a choice of what chores they want to do. Making a choice gives children a sense of control and they are less likely to complain. Don’t make chores a punishment or you will only add to their reticence to complete their daily tasks.

If you are in a bad cycle of nagging and fighting about chores, it’s time to change the routine. Speak to your children about ways in which they can work at being better about chores, ask them which chores they would like to do and when they would like to do them to give them a sense of participation in the process.

Note: Adapted from a post originally published 6/30/2014 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog

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