4 Ways To help Your Child Grow Academically

During the school year Oasis Day Camp owners Brooke and James Schamber are public school employees.  Brooke is a nationally certified school psychologist and James a Golden Apple Fellow and second grade teacher.  They are passionate about providing children of all backgrounds enriching opportunities that teach campers about themselves, their world, and their friends.  They have created and would like to share a few tips to help encourage academic growth.   Did you know winter and summer camp registration has begun for our Winnetka, Highland Park, and Arlington Heights campuses?  Come join our award-winning program that is filled with special guests, events, enrichment classes, swimming and swim lessons, adventure trips, friends, laughs and magical memories! 

1. Encourage reading in any way you can
There is no way to overestimate the importance of reading. It not only enhances learning in all of the other subject areas, it exposes children to a wealth of information and experiences they might not otherwise enjoy. It stimulates the imagination, nourishes emotional growth, builds verbal skills, and influences analyzing and thinking. In fact, according to every teacher I spoke to, reading to or with your child every day is the single most important thing you can do. But you shouldn't worry so much about how well your child is reading in any particular grade. Different children acquire reading skills at different ages and in different ways. And you can't force a child who's not ready to start reading.  But you can promote a love of reading by giving your child lots of fun experiences with print at whatever level she's in. Here are some reading milestones you should look for now (but remember, your child's skill level may vary), and specific tips on how to help.

MILESTONE 1: Your child begins to read short, illustrated books on his/her own, for enjoyment.

How to help:

• Make frequent trips to the local library, and encourage your child to pick out his/her own books.

• When your child is reading to you, casually supply the words he/she doesn't know or can't figure out. Encouragement is still more important than correction.

• Play games that involve reading skills (for example, have a treasure hunt and place written clues around the house; play Junior Scrabble and other age-appropriate board games).

• Ask your child to read to a younger friend or sibling.

• Leave your child brief notes — to say "I love you" or "Good luck" or "Don't forget to take your homework to school" — in her lunch box, near her cereal bowl at breakfast, or on the bathroom mirror.

• Give books as gifts.

• Limit TV, computer, and video-game time, and encourage your child to read instead — even it's only his baseball cards or some comic books.

 MILESTONE 2: Your child begins to read longer books with fewer illustrations and distinct chapters (chapter books).

How to help:

• Take turns reading the pages aloud together.

• Talk about the plot, characters, and conflicts in the story you're reading together.

• Explain complex words and sentences; help with pronunciations.

• Encourage your child to read you recipes and other written directions.

• Show how much you value reading by doing a lot of it yourself. Ask for books when it's your turn to get gifts. Talk about the books or magazine articles you're reading and enjoying.

2. Treat your child as though he's/she’s an author

He doesn't have to be Hemingway or Shakespeare. All he has to do is grow up thinking that he can put thoughts and words onto paper. And the sooner he starts, the better.

MILESTONE : Your child begins to fill out the words he/she writes, using more standardized spellings.

How to help:

• Don't act overly concerned about spelling. Instead, continue to praise your child for the imagination and ideas he/she expresses in writing.

• Gently correct spelling on school homework assignments (when the teacher requests it). Your attitude should convey "Let me help you" rather than "Get it right!"

• Reinforce the idea that a piece of written work rarely just happens: It gets written, edited, proofread, and rewritten before the final copy is published.

• Let your child create a quiet writing corner in the house, and encourage him/her to write frequently. Give him/her ideas about what to write if she's stumped. For instance: "Write a note to Grandma to say thank you for the birthday present"; "Write down your favorite memory from when you were little"; or "Write a story about your favorite toy."

• Have your child write lists — of anything from what he/she wants for her birthday or what his/her favorite movies are, to what he/she loves most about school or what he/she wants you to buy at the grocery store for snacks.

• Let your child see you writing, and talk about how you're using writing: to express thanks, for instance, communicate information to office mates, lodge a complaint, request vacation information, remember errands; create a shopping list, etc.

• Get the whole family involved in keeping a vacation or "special days" journal.

 3. Make math part of her everyday life

Leave the flashcards, workbooks, and other skill-and-drill stuff to the teacher. At home, the best way to help your child learn to love math is to play with numbers, and to frequently point out the various ways in which math makes our lives easier. By working with tangible objects, and counting, sorting, estimating, measuring, looking for patterns, and solving real-life problems, children learn to think in mathematical terms, without worrying whether or not they're "smart enough" to do math.

Almost anything you do that involves numbers and/or problem solving will build your child's math skills. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

• Have your child set the table (counting and sorting the sets of plates, napkins, cups, and silverware).

• Post a running countdown of the days until his/her birthday. Let him/her change the number each day.

• Challenge him to guess at things, and then find the answers. For example: How many bowls of cereal do you think we can get out of this box? How many M&Ms do you think are in your (snack size) bag? How many minutes do you think it will take to clear off the table? Which of these cups do you think will hold more juice?

• Play a copycat game, where one person creates a pattern (pat your head, touch your knee, clap three times) and the other person has to repeat the pattern three times in a row.

• Ask your child to help you create a pattern for a quilt square or an abstract picture using markers and paper; construction paper in different colors, cut into square, triangle, and other shapes; or shapes cut out of different fabrics.

• Ask your child to measure things in non-traditional units. For example: Let's see how many footsteps it takes to get from here to the door. Why do you think it's more for you and fewer for me? How many action figures (or Barbie dolls) long is this table?

• Have your child compare things: Which do you think is heavier — a cookie or ten chocolate chips? Who do you think is taller, mom or dad? Which carrot is longer? Fatter? Crunchier?

• Give your child problems to solve — and let him/her work them out by touching and counting actual objects. For example: I have four cookies here, but two people want to eat them. How many should each person get? If we invite six kids to your birthday party, and put two candy bars in each kid's treat bag, how many of these candy bars will we need?

 4. Teach your child how to listen

Teachers who've been around for 15 or more years say they've seen a definite decline in children's attention spans and listening skills since they first started teaching. Many of them attribute it not only to the fast and entertaining pace of television and computer games, but to the fact that many children today don't have a lot of time to just sit around, listening and talking to family members. Between parents' jobs and children's after-school activities, it's hard, sometimes, to get everyone in the same room for a family dinner once a week. But being able to focus on what other people are saying is an important element in learning. So, whenever possible, try to build your child's listening skills. Here are some strategies that will help:

• Read aloud to your child on a regular basis — even after he/she has learned to read by himself/herself. Ask questions as you read, to make sure your child is understanding what he/she hears.

• Limit television, computer, and video game time. While they're all entertaining, and can even be educational, they tend to promote tunnel vision. Make sure the time your child spends in front of a screen is balanced by time spent with other people, talking face to face.

• When you speak to your child, make eye contact and gently touch his/her shoulder or arm, to secure his attention.

• When giving directions, ask your child to repeat back to you what she heard you say — to make sure he/she really did hear, and does understand what he/she needs to do.

• Model good listening behaviors. When your child wants to talk to you, for example, stop what you're doing and look at him while he's/she’s speaking. When he's/she’s finished, say something that indicates you heard him/her, even if you only repeat back what he said.

• Play talking and listening games with your child like Charades, Red Light/Green Light, Duck, Duck, Goose, and Twenty Questions.

• Teach your child that even if an adult is saying something he/she finds boring, he/she still needs to listen, look at the person, and show respect.

• Spend time with your child doing quiet activities that encourage conversation, such as taking a walk together, taking a ride in the car, folding laundry, picking strawberries, etc.

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