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Livingston Families

Summer Learning Opportunities

06/08/2013 11:34 ● By Rick McGarry
Erin Brown Conroy ( is a master teacher that is an expert in homeschooling as well as teaching kids with learning differences,  a published author and she has eight children, many of them adopted from other countries. She shares this advice in response to our questions.

What do you wish families would do over the summer to prepare for the upcoming school year ?

Spend time giving your kids educational opportunities that they might not otherwise have during the school year, because of tight schedules. That includes...

* Travel. There are so many experiences that can build our children culturally and academically. Before you go, do your research together online. What are the animals at the zoo or aquarium? What kinds of rocks, foliage, and birds are in the hills we'll be driving to? Who are the people groups mentioned in that museum's exhibit? Read and discuss it together before you go. 

* Learn special areas of expertise. Find the music performer who isn't teaching a class in the summer, and find out if he or she will give your child a special lesson. Find the sports professional who might be willing to speak to your child and teach him/her a few things. What production is prepping for a play? Would they allow your child to ask a few of the actors questions after a rehearsal? Some will say no, others will say yes. It doesn't hurt to ask, an you might be surprised who is willing to share some moments with your child. These events do cost money, but the money is well worth the learning and the memories. 

* Build confidence and skill in an academic area of challenge. Get special help, even if it's for a few weeks. Find a tutor who has a great reputation and knows how to work with the learning styles of different children, to individualize learning for your child or teen.

* Take an online class. For high school students, Kahn Academy online offers free courses, and places like, though designed for homeschooling, can be used by anyone (they offer access to over a hundred online courses for just $30 a month). 

What can parents do over the summer to help their children thrive next year in school?

* Read. Read. Read. Especially classics. Read with incentives (rewards), and read aloud together, alternating paragraphs. Mix it up. But keep reading!

* Write. Have your child or teen keep a journal. The student can narrate to you, while you type on the keyboard. Write without corrections by the parent, to simply learn to express ideas, especially when telling about a place that you've visited or an event that was "special." 

* Try out a tutor. Have a few tutoring sessions, to get new ideas for learning that are individual to your child. Make sure that you sit in the lesson and take notes, so that you know how to help your child during the school year with homework. 

* Get help. If your child struggles in any way during the year with any subject, get help.  Get an assessment, to find out new ways to approach learning that you may not have thought of, or in ways that a classroom teacher can't address, with so many students in the room. People like myself have many years of experience assessing learning styles and abilities -- and can pinpoint areas to work on and share with you ways to help now, before the struggles get larger. The money spent in consulting is worth it, for averting the possible years of struggle and pain that can compound over time. It's important to get help before it's too late.

More about preventing Summer Academic Regression in the June issue of Livingston Parent Journal.

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