Is anyone else blinking, wide-eyed at the calendar right now and wondering how on earth September suddenly became May??! With only a month left of school, I, like many other parents, am turning my gaze from the calendar to the pile of leaflets and booklets offering everything from Lego Camp to Art Attack to Underwater Basket-weaving and wondering whether to dip in a toe and book one course, or just plunge right in and go for it.
Summer is long when you are a parent. Frighteningly long. And here in California, it is double the length I was used to before moving to America. “Whadd`ya mean 11 weeks??!” I hyperventilated, a month or so after arriving here fresh off the boat. Along with “Half n Half” and figuring out what those red flags on top of mailboxes are actually for, we adapted quickly. It was sink or swim team.
But in addition to worrying about how to keep those little bodies occupied as far as Labor Day, there was also the concern that those little brains would turn to mush with all the California sunshine and Icees. Faced with the potential prospect of weeks of slack-jawed drooling at Cartoon Network, I grabbed the pile just yesterday and started flipping through our options.
While I am all for having fun and trying something new (Mad Science Camp is calling to MY inner nerdiness, whether or not my children agree) I was particularly interested in the academic camps. We have struggled in particular this year in Math and Science, and my soon-to-be-6th grader is going to find it even more of a struggle come September if she is still grappling with her 5th grade level fractions and words like “chlorophyll”. As for my 4th grader, he has one of those enviable brains that picks up everything easily but on the other hand, needs to be constantly occupied. Last year, after 11 weeks of having great fun, he took an inordinately long time to get back into his stride in the classroom. His teacher is delighted with his “progress” this year. I don`t blame her. Given the low bar we started from the only way really was up!
The academic camps look good, but they will only cover one or two weeks of Summer. What do we do for the other 9 weeks??! These camps are also in groups, with varying levels of academic emphasis. I know that my 4th grader in particular needs to be set regular homework and fairly strict guidelines to be kept on track. My 6th grader needs a lot of emotional support – in Math!
I spoke to a friend of mine working full time with similar concerns, and the added issue of not having anyone to help her take her children to and from their various summer activities. Her children will be in summer camp every day while she works, and while it is a great program, it is also very light on keeping the academic engines ticking over. She also simply doesn`t have the time or the energy when she comes home from work in the evenings to then sit and work on their Math homework and English homework with them.
Educational research regularly shows that, when it comes to academics, slow and steady wins the race. Students generally perform better in exams and overall when they stick to a balanced study plan, rather than last minute cramming. And they learn and retain more when they are drip-fed a diet of Math and English at a pace that suits them and a level that challenges them without being too much.
The best way for us to do this over the Summer is going to be to hire a Math tutor and an English tutor. Having these private tutors coming to our home for the Summer will mean that we can give the children steady, weekly, one-on-one attention, set them their own goals, move at the pace that is right for them and the level tailored just for them, and most importantly, provide that consistency that will enable them to slide more seamlessly back into school life with renewed confidence come the start of the new school year.
The value for money that comes from the progress made and results achieved when the curriculum is tailored specifically to suit you is well worth the investment. Last Summer, when English was still my daughter`s second language, Lauren came to see her for two hours every week, and turned the sweet, shy little girl that finished 4th grade into a confident, sassy, B-grade average little minx for 5th grade. A mixed blessing! But – the better her grades became, the more she strived to do better. She gave her back her confidence. That was priceless. I hope we can find another Math-Lauren for this year. With a bit of hard work, I am sure we can lift her up and out of her Math-phobia too.
I have told her – the day she gets called a “geek”, will be the day we know we have made it!