I was asked by the parent of a seven-year-old about summer school. The little girl was reported to be slightly behind in her reading and had expressed to her mother a dislike of school and that she was looking forward to summer, specifically, no school. The mother was considering homeschooling for not only the summer but for the next school year. She expressed that she felt overwhelmed and inadequate to the task, for teaching summer school, much less homeschooling.
She asked me, “How much time a day would I have to devote to meeting what she needs for summer school? Where do I find out about everything the school needs for her to be able to do? Some people showed me some pretty expensive and time consuming programs, should I consider these?.”
I responded. “I think you can do everything you need for her this summer in about an hour a day, Monday through Friday. Education is not about checklists and meeting requirements; it’s about her learning and gaining essential skills so she can achieve a love of learning and accomplishment. You can do it this summer, just the two of you. And it not be stressful in the least.”
“It still seems overwhelming.”
“Yes, it can feel that way with so many giving you advice. But I can put together a plan that will not only be successful, but fun. It will not be a drudgery that takes away from the freedom of a summer vacation she wants and probably needs. She stated clearly that she did not want to go to summer school, so don’t send her. That’s your first victory with her. What better way to start than letting her know the two of you can avoid her having to go to summer school or having to travel to tutoring? It’s a sure-fire way to get an early buy-in.”
“How can you possibly accomplish everything she needs in such a little amount of time? When I look at all she is expected to learn this year, it seems impossible.”
“Remember her attention span is about fifteen minutes at a time. We will work with that. And much of what I propose will not even look to her like schooling at all. She will learn a lot from what you already know as you travel, go for walks, or work in the kitchen together. Experience is the best teacher.”
“I don’t see programs out there like that.”
“You won’t. The amount of time something takes may be no indicator of whether or not she’s learning. I think you’ll see you are the perfect person for the job and the two of you will be having a summer you’ll always remember.”
“It still feels overwhelming to me,” she said.
“First, it’s the end of May,” I said. “.You have plenty of time to determine her schooling for the fall. Let’s focus on summer. She is behind in reading, but from what you have told me, she is not incredibly behind. You can do something about her reading level, it’s a major reason I wrote Great Leaps. You can, in fifteen minutes a day, make major moves in her instructional reading level. You may even get a year's growth in three months. At seven, with no major learning disabilities suspected other than reading difficulties, I can project we could have her reading at an independent level by the 4th grade, exactly when she is expected to be there. This is something you can do at home, whether you choose home-schooling or not. And you can do that, starting tomorrow if you choose.”
“I don’t think I’m well-trained enough in how to teach reading to do that.”
“You don’t have to undergo significant training. You can do this on your own or hire one of our tutors. I have embedded a considerable amount of the research into the program itself, so you can get these results. Follow the directions, and they are not difficult, and you will get the growth. Trust me, it’s not as difficult as you think. And we can either train you, provide a placement session with one of our tutors, or you can begin on your own by just following program directions. Know we’re there to answer your questions and concerns. It will work, but if you don’t get the results you are expecting, call us. We’ll reason together and come up with a plan.”
“What about the rest of the subjects?” she asked.
“Remember it’s summer and neither of you want stress. Let’s look at the next most important thing, math. At seven she needs to master simple addition and subtraction facts, but it must be more than pure memorization. For less than a hundred dollars and five minutes a day you can teach those facts, hopefully so she’ll know them quickly without hesitation. Like reading, the Great Leaps Calculation Program uses precision teaching methods with a multi-sensory program to quickly teach basic skills to mastery. This only takes four or five minutes a day. The power is in that it’s daily.”
“What about social studies and science? I wouldn’t know where to begin.”
For both, begin with where you’re at and what you like. Social studies could start with putting together a map of your neighborhood. Each day expand the map and talk about it. Who knows how far you’ll get by summer’s end. It can be great fun. You can move from neighborhood, to town, state, etc. You can explore and use Google to find out things you didn’t know about. For example, you can explore a telephone pole. What information is on that pole and what does it mean? There are all kinds of strange and wonderful things in a neighborhood. Always be open for questions and her areas of interest.”
“But that’s not what they’re studying.”
“So what? You’re teaching map skills, the organization of a neighborhood, town, and more. One step at a time, as it comes. You won’t believe just how much you’ll cover and how many interesting things there are to learn. And if maps don’t excite you, there’s architecture, the makeup of the roads and sidewalks and how they are maintained - there’s everything! Or who lives in the neighborhood, what do they do, what do they drive - you can do analysis - oh, so much. Just don’t do it all. And here’s the good part. It takes little or no planning on your part. From her responses and discussions you’ll find out quickly if she’s learning and retaining. But more importantly, is it fun, interesting and something she wants to do. If you travel, all the more opportunities to teach relevant social studies. You do have to make it reinforcing and exciting. One hint, always do something pleasurable after an activity is completed. You can do your neighborhood survey for instance, twenty minutes for her favorite tv show. Make sure to have a great snack as you watch the show together.”
“Okay, that sounds doable. As you were talking, I saw a lot of opportunities. But science is another thing altogether. I never liked it when I was little.”
“Science has a lot of opportunities for you to go with your strengths. Just like in social studies. Again, there is all the science you need right in your own backyard. Your choice: insects, plants, soil, animals, trees, the clouds, temperature, rain … Just put a plan together based on what you like and know and go from there. The secret is not in the curriculum but in the teacher! I can count the different animals at the beach, what they eat, where they live - and we could go home or to the condo and find out more.”
“This seems so easy.”
“It is. You are the perfect summer school teacher for her. I’d say, but this is what I do for a living, the most important things are her attitude and confidence towards learning. She will guide a lot of what’s going on by showing you her high interest levels. As per reading, success breeds success. That fifteen minutes will be your most important. While other students will be undergoing what is called the summer slide, your girl will be making gains. Let’s hope they’ll be huge gains, but I can guarantee that she’ll be in a better position than she is now. If she’s only a little behind, she may very well catch up.”