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Summer Learning without the Expense

Black Belt Shopper (featured column)
by Larry Wiener

If you're the parent of school age children, you probably are getting the notes from the teacher reminding you to keep up your child's education. You probably are also getting the ads from tutoring centers, book companies, and other providers who will keep your child's education going-at a price.

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Of course you want to keep your child involved in reading and math during the summer months. Don't feel, however, that you have fork out money to these fancy tutoring centers to get the job done. You can put together a program to help your child keep learning throughout the summer without the expense.

Here are a few suggestions:

* Check out the library. Of course your local library is a source of books to borrow, but many libraries also have other services to enhance summer learning. Some have incentive programs in which children can earn various incentives for reading. Others have special events such as videos or story hours.

* Use online sources to buy used books. There are many books that you may want your children to own. Small children often enjoy hearing the same story over and over and this is actually good for them. You can buy used children's book at remarkably reasonable prices online. Look at ebay, Half.com, and Amazon. Don't forget to check out the yard sales as well.

* Set up a realistic schedule. It's generally not enough to say, "I'm going to make sure my children read." You need to set up a realistic schedule that includes reading and other brain-building activities.

* Check out museums. Museums are remarkably affordable and have become much more user-friendly in terms of their presentation. Many museums, such as the North Carolina Museum of History, are free and many, such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, have free days. Many have surprisingly affordable children's programs. A trip to a museum with a picnic in the park (which are often close to museums) is a lot cheaper and often more beneficial than a day at the local amusement park, including the food which is often as under nourishing as it is overpriced.

* Involve your child in practical math. Various home projects provide so many opportunities for reinforcing the math your children have been learning at school. Your children can measure, cook, and work with you on couponing. These cost nothing. By the way, your child probably will be better off if you do this kind of practical math than if you force him or her to do rows and rows of computation.

* Start your child on a creative computer project. Perhaps your child can make a book, do a family calendar for next year, make t-shirt transfers, or create other products using your home computer.

* Watch quality videos. Children love the latest action movies, but time spent watching productions of good literature and other educational material can be time well spent. Videos of classics such as Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe and The Secret Garden are easily available and worth watching.

* Allow your child to earn money. Then help him or her manage it well. Generally, I believe that children should get an allowance because they are part of the family and should have chores to do because they are part of the family. During the summer, however, you may want to give your child the opportunity to earn extra money for doing something beyond chores. You also may want to arrange for your child to earn money working outside the home (in ways that are age-appropriate according to your state law and common sense). Perhaps (s)he can help a neighbor. Then you can help your child manage the money by helping him or her establish savings goals and other money management tools.

Summer is a great time for children to relax and recharge. It also is a time when you can give them a rich learning experience without paying through the nose for it.

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