How To: Support Your Child Academically

A Good Start to the School Year

Whew! The kids are back in school! The first month of school is typically a time to assess and review from last year. What does this mean for math? Assess and review is great except for those kids who:

  • Reviewed all summer and need something new.
  • Are just naturally great at math and find review boring.
  • Didn’t quite grasp a few concepts from last year, and the fly by September version is not enough AND making them feel like they are bad at math. And now they are starting to hate math.

The math review is adequate and just right, but there will be some concepts and/or math facts mastery coming down the pike that they need extra support to feel confident in math OR you, the parent, want a little extra time because you know that they will be so busy with other stuff (sports, music, you name it) so getting a jump early now will make that period less stressful for everyone.

What’s the best way to proceed if any of the above applies to you? There are lots of choices:

Math Facts for review or getting ahead. Try games. Math iPhone/iPad/iPod apps are inexpensive and fun. There are so many good ones, but I like Math Ninja in particular because my kids LOVE it. I have some free web games that are mostly from Academic Skills Builder (see footer of my home page). My kids like the race games the most. The Blox game is also a good one. Board games specific to math are great for parent and sibling participation. Lakeshore Learning is a great resource for that. There are also other games using dice or decks of cards. Here are two games devised by kids that are fun and really effective.

Math Concept Review with parent or tutor. Workbooks can cover concept review with some drill but they will require 1:1 time with your child. I am partial to Singapore Math because they give such great concept presentation in a visual and intuitive way. If you don’t feel confident in math yourself, you can just read their words to your child and it is usually pretty effective. The other advantage is their presentation, because it’s visual, might be the one that makes the concept gel for your child.

Math Concept Review plus drill without parent. Probably the best program that I’ve run across is TenMarks. What I like about their program is that it has built-in tutoring (tips and also video for solving each problem if your child gets stuck so it is a frustration free experience that does not need parental participation). It’s also a web based program so that kids think it’s really cool and fun. The daily worksheets of ten problems ARE CUSTOMIZED to what you child actually needs help with. A Mom Work Friend tried their summer program because her daughter is very strong in reading but needed math review and she told me that her daughter thought it was SO fun that she would do 5 days worth in one sitting and ask for more!. Gotta love that! And the price is really reasonable at $10/month. Here’s the link.

I will readily admit that phonics is just not my thing. I don’t really get it and I certainly can’t teach it. But when my child needed phonics supplementation, everyone recommended Explode the Code. The workbooks were great and now they have an online version. It’s not fancy or four-color, but it’s really effective. was more fun — silly poems that teach phonics in a step-by-step way — but less effective as a tool for phonics mastery. It’s still worth doing, particularly for a child who insists on reading aloud but knows very few sight words.

For reading, it’s just read, read, read! Now is the time to consider creating a book club for your children if you have the bandwidth to organize one. Or just spend a little time introducing a new series to your child because if he or she likes the first book, you are all set for a few months!

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom

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