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Experts agree that at least 2 months of math and reading skills are lost over the summer months if preventative measures are not taken. With just 2-3 hours of concentrated review a week, that loss can be prevented. Here are 4 ways to beat the summer slide.
1. Family Book Club
There are so many great classics that lend themselves to family book club – Charlotte’s Web, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Little House on the Prairie – just a few of my beloved childhood favorites. Set a day and time, and help create a reading plan that the whole family can achieve. Choose whether to read the whole book first, or just a few chapters at a time to continue the discussion over several days or weeks.
As a consultant with Usborne Books & More, I’ve been introduced to some great new series for our middle grade readers. And like the classics, these make great titles for a family book club – appropriate for younger readers, but engaging for adults as well.
2. Online Math & Reading Apps
There are numerous free and freemium (free to start or for basic services) math and reading apps available for use on your phone, tablet, and computer. Some of our family’s favorites are Prodigy (math), Teach Your Monster to Read, and Epic (reading). Some paid programs that my family has used are Thinkster Math and Readability.
Math is the subject area where the most knowledge is lost during the summer. While it’s easy to work with younger students on counting, addition, and subtraction in everyday life, sometimes workbooks are needed to reinforce those more advanced skills. I love the Usborne math workbooks with their bright colors, fun graphics, and engaging content.
4. Sneak in Some Science
Summer is the perfect time to be outside and learn about nature. Plant a garden together. Experiment with different watering techniques, seed dispersement, and light. Or check out these books full of fun and easy experiments for all ages.
What are some of your favorite tips for preventing the summer slide?
Disclosure: I was compensated for my review of Reading Kingdom, along with given a year’s access to the system. All opinions are my own.
Given that fewer than 1 in 5 words can be “sounded out” and there are 1,768 ways to spell 40 sounds, Reading Kingdom claims to be the first program to use the groundbreaking “Phonics-PLUS” system. In addition to teaching the skill of “Sound”, “Phonics-PLUS” incorporates “Sequencing”, “Writing”, “Meaning”, “Grammar”, and “Comprehension” to help children learn to read.
Reading Kingdom promotes that their program is for children 4-10 years old, from kids who are not yet reading and don’t know their letters to those who have already started to learn and builds skills up to a 3rd-grade level. Given their recommended age range, I signed up both my 8-year-old 3rd grader and 4-year-old preschooler.
When you first sign up, it is recommended to have your child take an assessment to determine which of their five levels to start with. The assessment consisted of 2 sections – identifying words spoken and typing. The first section showed 3 different word options and would speak a word for the student to identify. The typing section showed individual letters for the student to type.
My 8-year-old flew through the word identification with ease but was slower with the typing given he hasn’t spent much time learning to type. He was placed in Level 1. My 4-year-old struggled with both sections, just guessing on the word identification. She was also placed in Level 1. While Level 1 made sense for my 4-year-old, I was surprised that my 8-year-old was also placed in Level 1, so I’m guessing heavy weight is given to typing ability. I would not have equated reading and writing ability with typing, but we proceeded as suggested.
I was given 14 days to review the program and provide this post, so my children both worked through Level 1 in that time. As advertised, the program adjusts based on how your student performs. Both of my students had the same first lesson, and then they varied immediately.
Each session consists of 15-20 lessons. And they recommend no more than 2 sessions per day. The first lesson focused on the word “girls” and the skill of “sequencing”. They were to spell “girls” using the letters in the white box in order from left to right.
Other lessons included identifying a spoken word, identifying all instances of a spoken word in a text in order, typing a spoken word, and identifying which option could become the spoken word then filling in the missing letters. Each session would focus on 1-4 words, with all 15-20 lessons practicing those words in different fun ways.
Reading Kingdom Review
My first impression of Reading Kingdom was that it was unlikely that my 8-year-old and 4-year-old were at the same reading level, but we continued as instructed. My 8-year-old was very bored at Level 1, but it was a good review and repetition of beginner sight words.
As the program is very heavily focused on typing, we improvised with my 4-year-old who had not used a keyboard at all. I would have her speak the letters that were shown on the screen or needed to complete the words and I would type them. I also found the sessions too long for her attention span. They provide a pause button, but you can only use it one time per session.
On a positive note, I do like that the program focuses on only a few words at a time and works on both reading and spelling in the same sessions. While my son is on par for reading at his grade level, I feel like his spelling is lacking, so this has been good practice.
As 14 days is a very short time to review a program like this, check back as I’ll be updating this review over the next year that we have access to the system.
Thinkster Math is a K-12 online math tutoring program available on desktops, laptops (Chrome & Safari) and iPad apps designed to boost performance in math. They use AI technology in their online worksheets to understand each child’s learning process.
Based on the plan enrolled in, your student has access to 100,000+ worksheets and videos and a specified number of one on one tutoring sessions held through Zoom.
The tutoring sessions include a special whiteboard program where both the tutor and your student have access to write on the screen. You can even take a photo of your student’s actual homework from school, for them to work on together.
The Silver plan includes use of the worksheets, videos and assessments. The Gold plan includes the worksheets, videos and assessments, along with a 15 minute session each week with tutor. The Platinum plan bumps up to a 30 minute session each week. Additional sessions can be added on for an additional cost.
The tutor I spoke with recommended completing 7-10 worksheets each week. Each worksheet specifies a target time to complete. The ones we received averaged 7-11 minutes each. After submitting the worksheet, the tutor then has access to view the results, including what notes were added by the student in completing the worksheet, how long the student took on each problem and which problems the child missed or got right on the second try.
Thinkster Math offers a 7 day preview to try the system, complete some worksheets, watch some videos, and meet with a tutor. Read on for our Thinkster review.
What happens during a 7 day preview
Registration was very easy, asking a few questions about your student, including the purpose for tutoring. You could select from multiple options, including Needing Help, Wanting to Get Ahead, and Looking for Supplementation.
The next step was for my son to complete the Assessment. The Assessment was 20 questions, each from a separate topic, with a suggested time to complete of 20 minutes. Once the Assessment was completed, one example worksheet was made available based on his grade level.
You are also encouraged to watch a webinar or hop on a call with the company at this point to learn more. When clicking to sign up for a webinar, they were only available for the next few hours.
Worksheets were populated based on the Assessment results. Three worksheets were available at any one time, with several others visible with a lock image. As you complete worksheets, another one is unlocked to replace it.
When completing the worksheets, one problem is shown at a time, with immediate feedback if the answer is correct or not. Your student can write directly on the screen (so a tablet or touch screen works best) to help solve the problem, which is visible to your tutor for later feedback.
Contacted by tutor to arrange first session by email and text. When using her link, there were no times available for the next month, but communicating through text, we were able to arrange a time the next day.
Met with tutor online to demonstrate white board and let my son try it out. She went over the online system, and no tutoring took place. It was solely a walk through and scheduled the first official tutoring session.
Continued completing worksheets and watching videos. Videos were a mixture of Youtube videos and Thinkster branded videos.
Thinkster sent an email warning that if the trial wasn’t canceled, I would be charged for the Gold plan annual rate. Canceling was very easily done within the app. No phone calls or emails required. I did receive a subsequent email from customer service asking for my opinion and a text from the tutor. I did find all the communication from Thinkster and the tutor helpful and informative and not like they were trying to hide anything.
My Thinkster Review
The tutor we were paired with seemed very knowledgeable and friendly. She connected with my son right away, but was also very at ease speaking to me as well. I like how texting is utilized to send reminders and keep in communication. As we didn’t go through an actual live tutoring session, I can’t say for sure, but it seems it would be very personalized to what your student needs to work on. The worksheets, on the other hand, were more limited. They were based on the Assessment, which had just 1 question per topic. Therefore, your student may have inadvertently missed the problem, but it’s not really an issue. Or on the other side, guessed on a question and got it right, but has not developed a full understanding of the topic. I’m sure if you committed long term, these would adapt to your student’s needs. The videos on the other hand, were all available and you could choose the topics to focus on. It’s definitely worth checking out for 7 days to see if it’s right for your student.
Packing school lunches is a great option when your child isn’t too fond of what the school has to offer or you want a little more control over what your child is eating. In our household, we pack lunches to avoid the nearly daily gluten in the school lunches (sandwiches, pasta, pizza, breaded chicken).
Of course if your child has dietary restrictions or food allergies, packing lunches is a must. Frankly, packing a lunch allows you to include healthy foods your child will actually eat and it doesn’t have to cost any more than what you would be paying for lunch at school.
Of course packing a lunch every day doesn’t do any good if your child doesn’t eat it or ends up trading most of it away for junk food. The key then is to find things that your child loves and enjoys eating.
The best place to start is to get your child involved. Depending on the age of your kids, you could even put them in charge of making their own lunches. Not only do you know that they’ll pack something they will eat, being in charge of packing lunch will teach them responsibility.
Start by talking to your kids about what they want in their lunch box. Make a list of options and then head to the store so you have everything you need for the week. Getting the kids as involved as possible will make sure that they end up with lunches they will eat. For older kids that may mean making their own lunches (under your supervision of course).
Younger children can help. Even your kindergartener can wash grapes and put them into a container, or pick a snack for his lunch box. Get in the habit of making lunches together the night before. Over time you can give the kids more and more responsibility for their lunches. This alone will help make sure they eat what they’ve packed. After all, it’s the lunch they made. Along the way you’re teaching them independence and important life skills.
Of course you want to encourage your kids to pack and eat healthy foods. Insisting on all healthy, organic food options all the time may not be your best strategy though. Strike a balance and make compromises. If your kids pack and eat a healthy wrap or salad for example, let them have some cookies for dessert. Teach them to make good choices, but don’t freak out if they decide to pack some Cheetos or a pack of Oreo cookies. Your goal is to get them to eat fairly healthy and make smart food choices, not restrict all access to junk food, causing them to trade with friends for forbidden Twinkies.
Whether sending your child to college for the first time or getting ready for kindergarten, get ready for the shock to the immune system that comes with new surroundings. New kids, new germs, new stress. And for those going away from home from the first time, you as a parent won’t be there to make sure they eat as they should. Studies show that 95% of college students don’t eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables they need for a healthy immune system! That’s where Juice Plus+ comes in for all your back to school immunity and nutritional peace of mind.
Though not just for kids, Juice Plus+ Chewables deliver added whole food based nutrition from up to 30 different fruits, vegetables, and grains in a tasty, soft chewable form. The appealing taste comes from two all-natural sweeteners – tapioca syrup and organic cane syrup – with absolutely no high fructose corn syrup. It contains no artificial flavors or artificial colors and is 100% vegetarian; the ‘chewiness’ comes from fruit pectins, not gelatin.
When you sign up for the Juice Plus+ Family Health Study, you can receive Juice Plus+ capsules or chewables for your child – free of charge (just pay shipping)– for up to four years as a study participant. Your child must be between the ages of 4 and 18 or a full-time undergraduate college student in a four-year degree program. With more than 1.5 million participating families and backed by 20 years of results, the Family Health Study helps you document the lasting, positive effects of the changes you and your family make. All it takes is 1 participating adult with their own capsules or chewables order.
Back to School Immunity
Backed by research at universities in the United States and abroad, Juice Plus+ has been shown to support key measures of immune system function.
Schools all across the country are gearing up for students to return in the next month or two. And while most families are busy getting school supplies ready and buying new clothes, how much thought is given to making sure kids are healthy enough to learn? Here are some steps to make sure you are setting your family up for a healthy school year.
3 Steps for a Healthy School Year
1. Eat breakfast
We’ve heard it for years, but eating breakfast sets your child up for success for the day. Without breakfast, kids are going 15-16 hours without something to eat. I know when I’m hungry, I’m cranky and can’t stop thinking about my next meal. If your child is thinking about food, he or she is not paying attention to the teacher or test in front of them.
Look for a breakfast with a healthy balance of protein, fiber, and fat. This combination will help keep your child full for longer, without the crash of a sugary cereal or breakfast pastry. Check out my board of quick and healthy breakfasts for some inspiration.
2. Get enough sleep
Sleep is so important and it’s sometimes difficult to see that kids don’t get enough sleep, because instead of slowing down, they wind up. In fact, sleepiness can look like symptoms of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Sleep is required for the mind to process what happened the previous day and to allow the body to rest. Check out this table for the recommended amount of sleep by age.
3. Add more fruits & vegetables
Besides the fact that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and some cancers, fruits and veggies are rich in vitamins and minerals that help you feel healthy and energized. But it’s hard to get kids to eat those veggies and even some fruits. That’s why I love Juice Plus+! It gives me the peace of mind that my kids are getting the nutrients of 30 different fruits, vegetables, and grains every day! And kid’s orders are free under the Family Health Study.