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Monday
Oct182010

Supplementing

This page covers:

  • Ideas and tips to find affordable after school classes for supplementing your child’s education at school
  • Suggestions, tips and links to give you ideas about activities you can do at home to supplement your child’s education at school.

It’s worth stating again – no school has it all.  Even the fancy expensive schools will frustrate you in some fashion (besides their cost or commute time).  When it comes to picking up the slack or making up the difference, usually your best option is supplementing at home or after school. You can go the route of lining up classes, adding in activities at home, or both.  Whichever you do, it will have to be fun in order to engage your kid!  Below are some suggestions in each category:

Note: Of course good ol' "homework" will affect your need and ability to supplement outside of school. Our own TeacherMama has written about the pros and cons of homework, and how you can strike a balance. She also offers great tips on keeping up summer learning!

Extra Classes

There are countless after school opportunities for Portland kids.  A quick Googling of any activity or academic subject will get you a whole list of resources.  But many of these classes are expensive – running an average of 50 bucks a month per weekly class. Oftentimes however, they offer scholarships – so don’t be afraid to ask (definitely don’t let pride get in the way of your kid’s education). We would love to expand our list, so if you know of any after school or supplementing options out there, please comment below!  In the meanwhile, here’s a smattering of options that won’t break the bank: 

  • Portland Parks and Rec offers countless classes for kids at locations throughout the city, all at affordable rates.  Everything from science to swimming and endless arts! 
  • Community Music Center (in SE) and Ethos Music Center (in NoPo) offer music classes at comparatively cheaper rates, and they grant lots of financial aide.
  • Multnomah County Libraries – Much more goes on there than most of us realize – chess clubs, book clubs for kids, computers stocked with educational software.  And if you’re looking to start a second language for your child, ask a librarian about the free online programs you can access from any computer.
  • Craigslist will often list language exchanges, newly forming clubs, among other education related supplies for sale cheap.  Post what you are looking for and what you can trade for it (Need someone to teach my child to sew, can exchange for babysitting) and see what you get!

Activities to Do at Home

To be honest, supplementing academically at home can be a tough sell to a child.  The key is to make the experience fun, or even part of family time.  Here are some ideas of strategies for fitting in some brain crunching at home:

Note: If you're looking for "one stop shopping" in terms of supplementing, you'll be glad to know about a great afterschool activity that packs a punch. Or if your kid is more of a self-starter and is drawn toward the camera, check this out. And for pure one-on-one tutoring, what's not to like about free, quality online lessons?

 Math & Logic: 

  • Start a game night in your house and invest in games that have clear strategy or math elements to them.  Chess, checkers, card games like War (for the younger set), 21, puzzles, Monopoly, Life, Risk….any games that have some strategic thinking or computation practice can do amazing things for your child’s math skills.
  • Buy some books with fun math problems and do them together as a family during dinner.  Puzzle over them together, encouraging your child to explain his or her thoughts aloud as you go along.
  • Math flashcards.  These can be super boring if just drilled like crazy, so turn it into a game.  Play “Around the World” where your child stands behind you and tries to beat you to the answer.  If you get it first, then you stand and he sits and you challenge the person next to you at the table.  You can also play concentration or Go Fish with it – make a set of cards coupling math problems with answers. 

Reading:

  • This is where your local librarian is your best friend.  Look for series to hook your kids into so they will keep wanting to read the next book. 
  • Start a habit of reading for twenty minutes as a family after dinner, each person taking turns reading aloud, or each to his own book. 
  • Put books all over your house - encourage reading whenever possible! 
  • Listen to a book on tape together for the first fifteen minutes of dinner or post-dinner, then talk about it as a family, predicting what happens next, looking up new vocabulary, etc.

 Writing & Creative Writing: 

  • Teach your child to make blank stapled books to write and illustrate as you cook dinner. 
  • Ask your child to make lists for you for the grocery store, what to pack for trips, things to do. 
  • For little ones, buy a placemat with the alphabet and a dry erase marker and let him trace the letters or pour some flour on a cookie tray and let her draw the letters with her fingertip. 
  • While driving, think of similes for things you see out the window:  “that tree is as green as a garden snake,” etc. 
  • Put a book of poetry near the dining room table and periodically pull it out to read a poem to the family, then discuss it. 

More:  Fostering a creative mindset

 Art:

  • Furnish everyone at your table with some paper after dinner once a week and have an art night!  Draw the centerpiece, an object from your house, or something from your imagination. 
  • Create an easy-access art center in your house.  Provide pens, paper, and other supplies to just create at length and at will.  Make sure you visit it too for the occasional creative break!

 Music: 

  • Take a good look at your music collection and organize it by music type.  Then play music as background in some part of your day – while cleaning up rooms before bedtime, while making dinner…Talk about what kind of music it is, identify instruments, pick favorite songs in that genre. 
  • Sing!  Just making a call & response game from singing back and forth will light up neurons in your kids’ brains.  All the music brain activity in turn feeds the math and foreign language part of the brain too.

Science:

  • Stop and smell the roses – or at least examine them.  Ditto, bugs & animals.  Just simple observation will get the wheels turning in a scientific way.
  • Science experiments at home are the best way to elicit “Wow!” from your kid.  Check out our links for a few websites with ideas to get you started.

These ideas for supplementing are very general -- but as a parent you’ll have a better idea of what your kid needs.  And if you find a class out there, or an activity that really engaged your child, please share it with the rest of us!

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