Summer writing for kids, forgotten math for parents

By Morgan Griffith, Federal Way Sylvan Learning Center

With summer here, children are already enjoying the warm weather and fun activities with friends. But summer break also provides many memorable moments, and writing about them is a good way to record those memories and practice writing skills at the same time.

Parents tend to focus on their children's reading and math skills, and writing is fast becoming the forgotten "R." This is unfortunate, as writing is an important part of every facet of education. Writing proficiency can also have a major impact on other subject areas.The following tips suggest ways that parents can encourage their children to write over the summer:

• Pick an engaging topic. For example, Independence Day is a good opportunity for children to explore their own patriotism. Ask your children what patriotism means to them. Help them with some research about America, its history, people and places.

• Give story starters. Help your children get started on their essay by giving them a story starter, such as: "I am proud to be American because…" or "On the Fourth of July, my family and I usually…" or "If someone asked me what my country means to me, I would say…"

• Encourage writing tips. Good writing takes time. Spend time organizing your ideas and thinking about what you really want to say in your essay. Use the Internet or library to research your topic. Prepare an outline before you begin to write. Use transition words such as “after,” “although,” “before,” “however” and “therefore” to help your ideas flow together. Be willing to revise. Change your sentences and paragraphs around, add juicy details to make your writing more interesting, and delete material that doesn’t work. Avoid clichés and jargon. Always keep a dictionary handy to help with spelling. Use a thesaurus to help you think of a new way to say something. Ask someone else to edit your work. Proofread everything. Make sure grammar, spelling and punctuation are perfect before you declare anything “finished.” Don’t rely on a computer’s spellchecker to ensure proper spelling.

Forgotten math for parents

In response to Federal Way resident Allison Vossler’s letter to the editor titled “Children and basic math” on June 10, we understand your concerns.

As a staff at Sylvan Learning Center, we know that many students struggle with today’s math curriculum. It seems like basic math skills are being brushed over, and it is often assumed that those skills have been mastered as students move into higher level math.

In reality, we have entered a fast-paced society in which expectations are higher and, in order to succeed (graduate from high school, get into college or land that dream job), kids need to rise to the occasion, which often requires a little help from mom and dad.

For some students, these new methods of instruction work, and for others, this makes math a real challenge. Likewise, many parents are unable to help their children with math homework because parents have either forgotten the skills they learned in school, or they learned the math strategies in a completely different way.

So, please know that you are not alone in this battle. In an effort to help parents with this challenge of new math, our Federal Way Sylvan Learning Center is offering a free refresher workshop titled “Forgotten Math for Parents” for anyone wishing to restore their math skills in order to help their children learn.

Parents are able to choose from a variety of math areas they want to review in order to make homework time more manageable for the whole family. Whether it is learning how to use a graphing calculator or brushing up on exponents, linear equations or fractions, there will be a pre-algebra or algebra station to fit your family’s homework needs.

Join us at 7 p.m. Oct. 28 at the 320th Library for good food, fun prizes and some answers to this ongoing parental concern. We empathize with you on this issue and hope we can provide some strategies to help prepare you for this new fangled way of teaching.

Morgan Griffith is the center director at the Federal Way Sylvan Learning Center, 32717 1st Ave. S.: (253) 838-0507.

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