16 May 2013 10:45 AM

Face Small School Challenges Now Before They Grow

by rbavaria

Here it is the middle of May, and schools are already beginning to start their summer breaks in many parts of the country.  Students and teachers are evaluating how they did this school year, looking forward to some time off, and thinking about summer activities.


In the next few weeks we’ll talk about how to evaluate this year, what to do to keep learning skills sharp over the summer, and suggest some cool summer learning fun.


For today, though, let’s talk about what to do when your children are showing some signs of learning distress.  Some may be in hot water over not reaching goals.  Others may have hit a wall in math and are dreading algebra next year.  Some may be in a pickle with their writing skills.  Maybe study skills aren’t strong.


It may be summer, but it’s certainly not the time to put off addressing school challenges.  I’d argue it’s the perfect time to face them.  You have a relaxed schedule and time to dedicate to one or two specific dilemmas.  A little time each week during the summer – starting now – can provide plenty of valuable practice to shore up some problem areas.


And, please, don’t give me the tired old moan that summer should be carefree, lighthearted, blithe, and breezy.  What world do you live in?  There’s plenty of time for fun and frolic in the long American summer break.  A little time spent in keeping up learning can be helpful, provide a nice routine, and still be fun.


If you suspect your child is having a problem, address it now, not later.  It won’t go away; it’ll only get bigger.


Here are some trouble signs to look out for now.


  1. Weakening grades.  This is the clearest sign, right there in black-and-white on the report card.  A little fluctuation in grades is normal, but when they fall consistently or sharply, that’s a warning signal.  Pay attention.
  2. Waning interest.  Kids who used to love going to school and who now dread it are giving us a clear message: “Help!” 
  3. Reading challenges.  Does reading bring about whining?  When you read aloud together, do you notice stumbling, difficulty in sounding out words, or difficulty in comprehension?
  4. Writing difficulties.  Do your kids have a hard time putting their thoughts onto paper or a screen?  Is their spelling awful?  Vocabulary weak?  Does their written schoolwork make you cringe?
  5. Math fears.  Does math scare your kids?  There’s no escaping the importance of math in 21st century America, so strengthening math skills now will banish fears in September.  If your child is a girl , it’s especially important to dispel the old canard that “girls don’t do math.”  Nonsense.
  6. Undisciplined study skills.  Knowing how to study lays the foundation for success in school .  Summer’s a great time to build skills in organization, time management, and planning.
  7. Algebra predicaments.  Algebra’s a bogeyman for lots of kids.  Don’t let them go to algebra class half-convinced they can’t possibly be successful.  There are plenty of ways to ensure they’re ready. Here’s one that can be really helpful .
  8. Maintaining study habits and routines.  You know I’m a strong advocate for routines for kids, especially routines that promote learning.  Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean all those healthy homework/study/bedtime routines can be discarded.  Relax them a bit, sure, but leave time for learning.
  9. Preparing for a more rigorous schedule.  Lots of kids are making a transition from elementary to middle, middle to high, or high school to university.  Transitions can be difficult.  Spend some time during the summer patching up any skill gaps or getting a leg-up on the next level.
  10. Building confidence.  Of course, this is the main reason we want our kids to be prepared.  Confidence gives them the assurance to learn more, the drive to develop self-reliance, and the security to have the poise – and nerve – to aspire to even more.


So summer may be coming fast, routines may be relaxing, and the promise of fun in the sun may be inviting.  But those are no excuses to ignore troubling warning signs about school.  The company I work for, Sylvan Learning, has decades of experience getting kids ready for the new school year without having to give up their summer fun.  Check us out .




6/3/2013 11:04:03 AM

Math Skills Your Kids Should Have

Math Skills Your Kids Should Have

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