Time to brush up on basics

August 29, 2012

For many families in the Crossroads, school is back in session. That means no cellphone use in school zones when those lights are flashing, obeying designated crosswalks and waiting behind school buses. For others, it means hitting the books – parents and children included.

I don't have children of my own yet, but I look forward to the day my kiddo comes to me for help on his or her homework. So long as the homework doesn't cover history or social studies. Math I can do. Art for sure. And maybe smidgen of science. When I was in school, my favorite subjects were math and science.

I came across an article that touched on the subject of math. The writer, Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal, quotes different sources about the relationships that children have with math in school and there were some examples I've seen before. She mentioned kids may develop a like or dislike of math based on the parent's response to it. If a parent says, "Math was never my favorite subject," or "I could never do this when I was your age," it could portray a negative image of the task and begin to believe that they can't do it either. My dad was an Air Force engineer and when I was younger, he shared his love of math with me.

Shellenbarger also writes that it is important to keep a positive approach when working through problems with kids. Relate the subject to everyday routines. Ask them questions during baking or shopping at the grocery store, so they can practice and apply it to real-life situations.

She adds that outside mentors can help. Schools might have after-school programs to help children with homework. The library is a good place to find resources for help.

My personal favorite, is to take a refresher course yourself. With the Internet at our fingertips, we have access to tools to keep our skills sharp. There are websites, including Khan Academy, where they can help you learn or re-learn skills you developed while in school. If it's been 20 since you've done long-hand division, sign up, log in and give it a try. Each lesson has a tutorial, taught be professionals in the field. I love this website. It even keeps tabs on your progress and if you've fallen behind, it'll require to you do the course again before continuing on. They even have videos and instructions on how to do things you didn't learn in school, like physics or astronomy.

Maybe you can take them together. It would be a fun way to bond and develop a love for a subject many people love to hate. Or just learn something new. I'm always hungry for knowledge.

What tips do you have for parents or students for learning new subjects?