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Overview: Tutoring, Afterschooling,

Online Learning, Enrichment, Mobile Learning, Etc.


Q. In some school subjects, our son is just real average. But in science, he really excels. He has always been fascinated by nature and doing things with his hands. But there's rarely any time in school for hands-on experimentation. Maybe twice a year they do something simple and hands-on, like make a circuit with batteries, or watch mealworms in little tubes. It isn't enough! We would hate to pull him out and homeschool him, or pay exorbitant private-school tuition. What can we do?


Do what countless millions of other parents are doing - engage your son in out-of-school learning experiences that complement and supplement his regular curriculum. That means make time outside of school to increase his learning, either yourself or with the help of a paid tutor, mentor or corporation set up for that purpose.


Complementary learning makes the regular curriculum complete. Supplementary learning adds to it.


Smart parents are doing both, in the summertime, during school breaks, on weekends, and in the after-school hours. To complement the existing school curriculum and expand their child's learning, they are arranging enrichment activities within and outside of school. When the existing curriculum and instruction isn't filling the bill, parents supplement their child's education by paying for remedial tutoring, test prep and special classes to cover areas such as foreign language and instrumental music which aren't adequately offered within the school setting.


In your case, it might be a great idea to call your local high school guidance office, ask for a nice junior or senior looking for a little extra income and something interesting on his or her resume, and turn that teenager into a science mentor for your son. They could meet once a week at your house and you could provide materials for experiments or activities that they could do together, in anything from botany to astronomy to biology.


It does take a more active role for the parent than most forms of education. Homeschoolers are the ULTIMATE in complementary and supplementary learning providers, for example. But parents of kids enrolled in traditional public and private schools can do it, too.


Of course, you don't want to overdo it and overschedule your child with too much of a good thing. A good rule of thumb is to have your child involved in three things outside of school at any given time - one sport or fitness activity, vocal or instrumental music, and one other thing - for many families, that'll be religious classes or some sort of volunteer service.


But it could also be something that's enriching and adds to your child's educational experiences. For example, one middle-schooler read The Wall Street Journal to his elderly neighbor once a week for an hour. The neighbor, a retired stockbroker, was nearly blind. But the conversations the young teenager and the old man had about the news columns and financial developments chronicled in that newspaper resulted in an extraordinary business education that the young man probably couldn't have gotten sitting in a classroom.


Do you want that kind of enriching experience for your child? Here's how to get started:


n       Obtain the "scope and sequence" of the curriculum already scheduled for your child for the coming school year. Keep a copy on hand. It's nice to get the following year's curriculum plan, too, so that you don't give your child a double dose of the same material.


n       Obtain the recommended reading list, or list of selected books, for every grade level of your school. That way you'll know what books your child's teachers are likely to assign, so that in guiding your child's library checkouts and book selections in bookstores, you can avoid duplication.


n       In your area, there's likely to be a publication or website dedicated to children and schooling, and its feature pages and ads are a good source of enrichment idea, references for tutors, music teachers, foreign language classes and so forth.


n       Get together with other parents and start co-curricular clubs centering on enrichment activities that complement and supplement the regular school subjects. Examples: math club, chess club, comedy club, drama club, nature explorers, music appreciation, Great Books, etc. As a group, the parents can pay a teacher to sponsor and lead this club in the off-school hours, or volunteer your own time to lead it in the style of a Brownie or Scout leader. You should be able to use school space for free for this purpose, or have it in your home or club members' homes.


n       Be aware in your neighborhood and community of opportunities for your child to learn while serving others. There often are triple and quadruple benefits for this: a youngster who visits the elderly in a nursing home once a week during the summer, and draws their portraits and captures a little oral history about their earliest memories, can transform the material into art contest entries and school writing assignments - plus the young person can gain a newfound respect and love for the elderly, and brighten their days besides!


Homework: Here's a report from the Harvard Family Research Project on why complementary learning is so important:


By Susan Darst Williams Learning on the Go 01 2008

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