Gifted, Schmifted? by Megan Freedman

smart kid playing chessBefore I had kids, my entire experience with the term “gifted” was when I spent a couple weeks at a “G&T” summer camp during middle school. Everyone seemed to be carrying a clarinet on their way to a chess game. To be fair to my parents, I was a homebody who also hated tennis camp. But my perception of gifted people as brainiacs in a culture I didn’t belong to was cemented.

When I had kids and started becoming interested in where kids go to school, I met people in our neighborhood whose children attended a nearby public gifted school. And every time I met one of these parents I thought—ohhh, their kids are little Hawkings. That must be crazy up in there.

And then I had a friend whose daughter was a school year ahead of my oldest. She had her daughter IQ tested, and she tested off the charts. And this was a girl who I’d witnessed stomping around the playground, flinging wood chips with the best of them. Then my husband and I started to talk with more people about the topic of giftedness. And I don’t know if it’s the people we happen to know, or that the gifted bar isn’t as high I’d imagined since my summer at G&T camp. Almost everyone we talked to seemed to have at least one gifted child.

And different parents’ perspectives on giftedness and education were so bifurcated. On one end, there are people who said that giftedness is a type of special need. One dad said that if your child were autistic, you wouldn’t give them a mainstream education. Giftedness carries just an urgent of a need for a special kind of education.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are parents who are aware that their kids are intellectually advanced, but they may or may not get them tested. They firmly believe in going to the neighborhood public school where kids can experience a diversity of levels. One or two intimated that gifted schools “coddle” kids and artificially segregate them from the real world. Back to the other end, when I asked a mom of teenaged gifted children if she thought gifted elementary school had been necessary, she said “yes – it allowed my kids to have friends.”

To be fair to the parents that I’m quoting, there are gifted children with widely varying levels of giftedness and social styles. We all see the world through the lens of our own children’s personalities, abilities and needs. So it’s pretty moot to say gifted education is bunk, or mainstream education is neglect for gifted children. Whatever’s right for your child is the right thing.

So far, our neighborhood school is working just fine for our son. But he’s only in kindergarten. In the long run, is the best thing for him to be able to be comfortable and conversant with people who are different from him, even if he might be little bored sometimes in class (which so far, he hasn’t been)? Or is the best thing to give him intensive, attentive education specifically tailored to his preferences and abilities, even if he may end up somewhat out of sync with the mainstream?

Either way, am I setting my kids up to do the best (and be the happiest) that they can, in the school choice I’m making? Lots of people bring up the fact that school is secondary to family. If you do things like read with your kids, take them to museums, send them to interesting camps, ask them open-ended questions and listen to their answers, they’ll have the intellectual exposure and confidence they need.

One veteran mom I met said that she and her husband had believed in supporting the neighborhood school by sending their kids there, even though the school’s assessment scores were low. She said she took the private school tuition they saved and traveled all summer with her kids, taking them around the country to different educational camps and immersive experiences. Other parents I’ve talked with wouldn’t take back a dime of the tuition they paid to gifted private schools. It’s at least nice to know that there isn’t just one way to approach this.

 

Meg FreedmanMegan Freedman is a freelance writer and researcher, with a special focus on medical and wellness topics. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and three children. 

 

 

 

 

Many Reasons to Choose a School, Part 2

This is the second in a two-part series on suburban school choice, focusing on the challenges and benefits of school choice in Colorado.  Please click here to view part one. 

by Marya DeGrow

learning at homeParents of four and recent transplants to Colorado after nearly 16 years in the military, Amy and Eric S. refused to send their two oldest children back to their neighborhood school for a second year. Neither child was being challenged academically, their daughter missed learning about history, and she learned many curse words within the first six weeks that she had not previously known. This fall, their sixth grade daughter obtained a spot at Lincoln Academy charter school, where the two youngest children attend, but there have been no openings for their fourth grade son. After homeschooling for two months, it became clear that her son needed more structure and a place to go, so with some financial support they enrolled him in a private school.

Northwest Denver residents Rachel and John T. unsuccessfully applied to a charter school in Jeffco that had been their first choice. Their daughter did get in three weeks after school started and they switched to the charter. By then, however, their daughter had made friends at Prospect Valley Elementary, their second choice school in Jeffco, and she says, “We were where we were supposed to be after all!”

Though Rachel is content with her daughter’s learning environment, she has concerns about the future. “I worry about when we go to choose middle and high schools that we will get in where we want.” She would like to see changes in priority for the feeder system. “If your child gets into the elementary school that you want, you should be given the ability to get into the middle and high schools that are within the area of the elementary, if you want to.”

School choice benefits families with a wide range of educational needs. Homeschooling parents Louise and Ryan W. of Highlands Ranch are glad to be part of a community of families who share a similar educational philosophy for their children. Their boys enjoy the group activities. But those things can be found in many privately run homeschool support groups. Louise is grateful to the school district for providing the Cloverleaf homeschool enrichment option. “It has also been tremendously satisfying to receive curriculum from the program,” she said. “It’s nice that the district understands that homeschoolers are also a part of public education in the broadest sense.”

Rachel enjoys the atmosphere, the staff, and the focus on academic growth at her daughter’s school. “My child enjoys going there and we appreciate how involved the parents are, how much the school encourages involvement, the many volunteer opportunities offered, the many after school activities offered.”

Amy is happy with both the public charter and private school her children attend. Were money no object, she would send all four to the private school, but says she also would move her son to the charter school if a spot opened up, so all four children could be in the same school. They love Lincoln Academy’s Core Knowledge and Saxon math curriculum, the structured environment, and the communication between teachers and parents. Colorado School Grades assigned Lincoln’s elementary an A in 2013 and a B+ in 2014.

Expanded school choice options have benefited many Colorado students and their families. Their real stories should motivate local and state policy makers to keep the door open to provide more options as those opportunities arise.

 

Marya DeGrow is a research associate for the Independence Institute’s Education Policy Center and the Website Manager for http://SchoolChoiceForKids.org and http://OpcionEscolarParaNinos.org. She and her husband navigated the open enrollment process to enroll their children in Arvada’s Lincoln Academy Charter School. She and her husband navigated the open enrollment process to enroll their children in Arvada’s Lincoln Academy charter school.

Many Reasons to Choose a School, Part 1

kids walking into schoolby Marya DeGrow

Public school choice is increasingly accepted and common. Choices range from charter, to magnet, to online, to homeschool support programs, to open enrollment in a traditional neighborhood school that is outside of your attendance zone. For a long time school choice was touted as a way for families to switch to a better school if they were not financially able to move into a more desirable school attendance zone. However, school choice has become much more than just escaping from a failing school. There are as many, and perhaps more, reasons for families to choose a school other than their neighborhood school as there are school choices.

Many families have chosen not to enroll in their neighborhood school and yet stay within the public school system. Rachel and John T. are residents of northwest Denver and carefully researched their school options when it was time to put their daughter in kindergarten in 2013. Rachel used services like ColoradoSchoolGrades.com and GreatSchools.org in the family’s search.

She wanted something different than what the neighborhood school was offering, “I didn’t like how my neighborhood school was being run nor the fact that it was going to reorganize with a different style of teaching [Expeditionary Learning].” Her neighborhood school received an F from ColoradoSchoolGrades.com in 2013. Rachel and John’s daughter ended up crossing school district boundaries into Jefferson County where her current school received an A from Colorado School Grades in 2013 and an A- in 2014.

In the suburbs south of Denver, Louise and Ryan W. live in a neighborhood with above average schools. But they decided to homeschool their twin boys beginning in kindergarten and began looking for support programs. Louise explains, “There were lots of private options, but we were excited about the program through the Douglas County school district because it also provided us with additional instructional materials that allowed us to try different curricular materials to find a good match for our family.” The boys are legally homeschooled, but the family is still able to benefit from the expanding public school options offered around the state and especially in Douglas County.

Though options are expanding, many students still are not being served as well as their parents would like.

Amy and Eric S. moved to Colorado in the summer of 2013 after Eric retired from nearly 16 years of service in the military. Amy could not find good school options in her research online before they moved. A contact in Colorado mentioned that she liked Core Knowledge curriculum and that it was used at Lincoln Academy, a K-8 Arvada charter school. After doing some research, Amy said she “loved what I was finding out about [Core Knowledge].” Though they started the open enrollment process in the summer, long after the first round choice window had closed, two of their four children got into the charter school.  That left her two oldest with little choice but to enroll in their neighborhood school.

The second part of this series will examine more of the challenges and benefits of school choice as it currently operates.

Marya DeGrow is a research associate for the Independence Institute’s Education Policy Center and the Website Manager for http://SchoolChoiceForKids.org and http://OpcionEscolarParaNinos.org. She and her husband navigated the open enrollment process to enroll their children in Arvada’s Lincoln Academy Charter School. She and her husband navigated the open enrollment process to enroll their children in Arvada’s Lincoln Academy charter school.

 

Healthy Homemade Lunches: A Quick Guide for Busy Parents

by Carie Sherman

In 2010, the United States Department of Agriculture revised its standards for the lunches kids receive at school. The aim was to increase fruits and veggies, whole grain foods, and low fat dairy while decreasing calories, fat, and sodium.

school lunchYet 41 percent of kids bring their own lunch to school. And a recent report from Tufts University took a hard look at those sack lunches. Of the 600+ they analyzed, ZERO met the criteria schools now abide by. The researchers said kids who bring their lunch eat more calories and less fruits and veggies.

My 4-year-old is a pretty good eater. But she and I both have our days where sugar and salt take the place of the major food groups. So I’m not too surprised. Parents are busy. Our kids can be picky. I’m totally the mom who says “at least chocolate milk has calcium,” which this article points out as a problem.

How does your lunch stack up?

Here is what your child’s lunch should look like plated:

my plate

Are you close to hitting the mark?

Ideally, I’d like to give myself at least a B+ on my efforts. But realistically…I’d probably get a C. But I’m up for improving. Who’s with me?

5 Tips for Packing School Lunches

I’m busy lazy. But I’m also concerned about my daughter’s nutrition. Pinterest knows what’s up when it comes to packing good lunches. There are hundreds of cheat sheets, printables, recipes ideas, freezer plans…seriously, every tool you can imagine. Parent bloggers, you’re my heroes.

1.     Master the Basics

Blogger Kristin from Rage Against the Mini Van (HA!) created this visual aid. It serves two purposes: 1) To help her children take responsibility for packing their lunches, and 2) To help her visualize a balanced lunch as well. I’m not sure how to pack seaweed, but everything else looks legit and seems to coincide with the My Plate above.

2.     Make It Fun

PB & JKids like convenience foods, and we know they’ll eat them (see the “at least” comments above). This blogger says that, with this tip that takes less than 30 seconds, we can make a healthy lunch more fun, and kids are more likely to eat what we’ve packed.  And this blogger really knows how to kick a plain ‘ol PB & J up a notch!

3.     Use Your Freezer

fruit cupsBlogger Lisa gives some great tips on sack lunch prep, including cooking when you can and freezing ‘em. I want to be the person who cooks once, then freezes. I’m not. But maybe you are. So here are a few lunch ideas:

4.     Dedicate space

Make it easier by clearing space in your fridge and pantry to store easy, healthy “grab and go” items like string cheese, yogurts, and snacks. You can even be an overachiever and set up a School Lunch Station.

5.     Make use of free printables.

Here’s a printable for lunchbox ideas. It includes 10+ ideas for each food group. Keep it handy when you make your grocery list.

And another printable for cute notes to include in your child’s lunchbox, ranging from “you are my sunshine” to “I’m bananas for you!” I never even got a boring old handwritten note in my lunch. So I’m pretty sure this will make you parent of the year.

There are literally hundreds of blogs dedicated to creating healthy, fun school lunches. Your child’s lunchbox is one Google search away from being the-bomb-dot-com.  

 

carie-shermanCarie Sherman chose freelancing for two reasons: more time at home with her daughter and a passion for stretchy pants. As a copywriter for the health care and education industries, Carie writes content for businesses, agencies, and nonprofits in Colorado and beyond. She blogs for Lupus Colorado and is a contributor to Colorado Parent magazine. She’s also on the copyediting team for the New York Common Core implementation. Carie is currently writing her first fiction novel. In her free time, she enjoys reading, yoga, collecting recipes, and implementing organizational systems that she’ll never follow.

 

 

Should Your 8th Grader Get to Pick Her High School? by Maren Stewart

Once upon a time there was an 8th grader who shadowed several high schools. After the first visit, her mother asked her what she thought about the school, to which the girl quickly replied, “it was great and I think it is my first choice!” A bit surprised, yet encouraged by her daughter’s enthusiastic and decisive answer, the mother inquired as to why. “I really liked the school colors,” the girl replied.

Just a few blocks away, another 8th grader was shadowing several high schools. After the first visit, his mother asked him what he thought about the school, to which the boy quickly replied, “it was great and I think it’s my first choice!” A bit surprised, yet encouraged by her son’s enthusiastic and decisive answer, the mother inquired as to why. “They had a really good lunch,” the boy replied.

should your 8th grader pick her high schoolBoth of the mothers experienced the same feelings of disappointment and frustration. They knew that deciding where to go to high school was an important decision. How, they wondered, could their children approach it with such a lack of maturity and sophistication? Didn’t they understand the importance of the decision and the ramifications it would have on their future?

Then they remembered an important fact: their children were just that – children.

Thirteen year-olds should not be expected to demonstrate the same level of critical thinking and good judgment as adults. And that is why 13 year-old shouldn’t be deciding where to go to high school.

Over the years, I’ve heard people talking about the high school selection process and how they were simply going to let their child decide. I remember being surprised that parents would give their children so much control over such an important decision but figured they had good, smart, responsible kids and that I simply didn’t understand how it all worked since my daughter was much younger.

Fast forward several years and now we are in the process of selecting a high school…and I can’t imagine letting my daughter decide. She is good and smart and responsible and she absolutely will be part of the decision. Our daughter is fully participating in the process. She has done research on school websites, talked to friends, and visited/shadowed several schools. She is getting information and forming opinions. We very much want to hear her thoughts and opinions and we will seriously consider her input and preferences. However, we will not abdicate the decision, and in so doing, abdicate our responsibility as parents.

Kids need parents to help them navigate through life and I believe that parents do know best when it comes to their kids. School colors and hot lunches certainly can be considered in the high school decision process but they shouldn’t be the driving factors.

 

 

 

 

School Choice by Dominique Gildea

Dominique & Davin 2

Dominique and her son Davin

As a former DPS charter school student, a former DPS teacher, and a graduate of the UNC Center for Urban Education, I thought I knew it all. I knew how important my son’s first experiences in school were. I was all too familiar with what he would be doing in a half-day program with very little resources and I was afraid that he would not flourish in the ways I had dreamed for him. But little did I know, the school of choice system had changed significantly.  How had I missed this opportunity for my son’s education? How did I not know that even though we lived in Aurora, the most amazing school of choice was just right down the road?

Dominique & Davin

Dominique and Davin

Thanks to a friend, I found out about Rocky Mountain Prep and imagined a day that my son would get the kind of education they provided there. I was shocked at how easy the school of choice process was and so grateful for all the help I received through the process.  The waiting was the hardest part and yet, just a few days before school started, I got the call that would put me right back into tears. My son would start his education as a kindergarten scholar at Rocky Mountain Prep.

I could not be more proud of my first grade scholar and I could not have asked for a better community for my son. I have to be honest, if the school of choice process had been difficult or if I had not had so many wonderful people helping me navigate it, I probably would have abandoned hope. We are so lucky to live in an area with so many choices to fit our children’s needs.

Public Versus Private School — How to Choose? by Meg Freedman

public v privateWhen I talked with other parents during our school search last year, private vs. public school seemed to be the most personal and historically ingrained of any aspect of the school choice process. “I went to public school and I turned out ok.” Or “I went to private school. It’s what I know.” But like any parenting choice, we have an opportunity to do something different and maybe better for our kids than was done for us. So it makes sense to look with fresh eyes at your current private and public school options before deciding.

That said, some of the views I have heard from different parents may help you more productively mull the choice between public and private schools.

Some Pro-Public Perspectives

  • “Give the public school system a chance first. If it doesn’t work out, you can always switch to a private school.” – The second sentence is true. Luckily it’s true about any school decision you make. As hard as it is to switch schools, if you need to do it, you can. And we don’t have crystal balls to predict that in advance.
  • “You could take what you’d spend on private school tuition and get a mountain house instead.” – Ok. Some private schools cost so much money. If we sent all three of our kids to certain private schools nearby, that would be $70,000 per year.
  • “Don’t worry about it until high school – that’s when school really matters.” Huh? So many people (including my own husband) brought up this point during our school search. I guess you could say that college is the most important stage of education for your career and general success in life. So it makes sense that since high school performance most directly impacts what type of college you’ll get into, high school the most important stage of education. But you could also argue that the earlier the influence on a child, the more deeply it’s ingrained. Our brains calcify a little more every second once they’re formed, so it might be more important to foster good intellectual habits in first grade than 12th.

Some Pro-Private Perspectives

  • “What’s more important to spend your money on than your kids’ education?” -  I try to buy organic, whole-grain, local food. We bought a warm house in a pretty nice neighborhood. Shouldn’t I invest in my kids’ education too? The assumption there is that tuition-based education is better than public school. Which again, depends on where you live, and on your values and life experiences.
  • “Private schools have better physical security” – I had one friend who told me that she slept better at night because her kids’ private school has a wall around it. For a minute this made me feel terrible for sending my kids to a moat-less public school. The word “Newtown” makes my chest hurt like anyone else. But one of the hardest—and most necessary—things about parenthood for me is to let my kids out into the dangerous world and trust that they’ll be ok.
  • “There’s diversity because of the scholarship program” – Fair. Many if not all private schools I researched in Denver during our search had clear messaging about how hard they worked to make their schools inclusive for families who couldn’t afford the tuition. But it helps to look at the statistics. If 5% of the kids there were on scholarship, how much do they influence a school’s climate of cultural and socioeconomic diversity? On the other hand, the private Catholic college I attended had half its students on some aid or scholarship plan. At first blush, it seemed like a preppy rich kid school. But I met many working class friends there whose parents had to scrape by to get them there.

Meg FreedmanMegan Freedman is a freelance writer and researcher, with a special focus on medical and wellness topics. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and three children.

Students & Parents Celebrate School Choice Week at the Colorado State Capitol

Sky View Academy kids dancing

Sky View Academy kids dancing

School choice supporters from across the Centennial State converged on the west steps of the Colorado Capitol for a history-making rally and celebration on Monday, January 26, 2015 at 9 am. The message of the event: school choice is working for Colorado families.

Colorado Senate Education Committee Chairman Owen Hill (R) and State Senator Mike Johnston (D) spoke at the event and students from the Excel Institute performed.

The event, which brought together education advocates of all ideologies and backgrounds, put a positive spotlight on the success of Colorado’s broad portfolio of education options for families, which include traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, online academies, private schools, and homeschooling.

Senator Michael Johnston at the School Choice Rally

Senator Michael Johnston at the School Choice Rally

Senator Owen Hill at the School Choice Rally

Senator Owen Hill at the School Choice Rally

In addition, students, parents, and teachers shared their personal school choice stories. The event coincides with National School Choice Week (January 25-31, 2015).

Excel Academy Dance

Excel Academy Dance

“Colorado has been a leader in school choice, but it is crucial that we expand the number of educational opportunities available,” said Pam Benigno, Director of the Independence Institute’s Education Policy Center. “As a state, we have not kept up with the demand for choice— especially for the kids who need options the most.”

School Choice Week scarves“Children are 10% of our population and 100% of our future,” said Deborah Hendrix of Parents Challenge. “Choice in education is paramount for our country’s success.”

“As a business community, we are working to make Colorado the best place in the world to raise a child and grow a business,” said Scott Laband, President of Colorado Succeeds. “We know that education is central to that effort, as is access to high quality school choices. Everything we do is focused on making sure our state provides all children in Colorado with world-class educational experiences.”

 

A-School Profile: Hulstrom Options K-8

In this Q & A, Principal Steve Isenhour of Hulstrom Options K-8 writes about his A-school in Northglenn, Colorado.

Describe your school’s mission and illustrate it with an example from the classroom.

Our mission at Hulstrom K-8 is to provide our students with the foundation of excellent instruction, rigorous academics, and accelerated learning, with a focus on 21st Century skills, higher level thinking, and project based learning. We serve and meet the needs of advanced students, including those identified as gifted and talented, while supporting their unique social and emotional needs in a caring and nurturing environment.

Hulstrom students on the floor of the Colorado House of Representatives with Rep. Kevin Priola

Hulstrom students on the floor of the Colorado House of Representatives with Rep. Kevin Priola

We make learning an exciting, life-long, hands-on endeavor at all levels of instruction. Learners excel when they are rigorously challenged. We do this while developing critical thinking and problem solving skills, which are essential for future success. Our focus of 21st Century learning combined with our Bring Your Own Device policy has especially engaged students in new and relevant learning opportunities.  One of the strongest examples of this is the involvement and partnership our students have with the Colorado Youth Summit. The program allows our students to get out of the classroom and into the field to learn about history, archaeology, heritage tourism and preservation. They’re able to participate in experiential, applicable, and real life learning about history, documentation, presentation, etc.; all involving true historical sites in and outside of Colorado.

What are one or two ways that the team at your school meets students’ academic needs?

We do what is best for kids by individualizing and focusing on the specific strengths and needs of students. This way our students may accelerate when ready to move forward, or stay where they are until mastery has occurred. We also focus on the affective needs of the student. By doing this we proactively assist students with emotional struggles, but also empower students to understand their own emotional strengths and areas of need.

Name one or two characteristics, programs, or other detail about your school that makes it a special place.

Hulstrom students on a trip to Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site.

Hulstrom students on a trip to Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site.

Our students and parents constantly say, “Hulstrom is a family.” The size of our school and the ability for students to attend for nine years instills the feeling of family. Our students enjoy the challenging academics provided from a caring and tightly-knit family of teachers and staff. Having our Advanced Academic Program and our Gifted & Talented program provides options for students needing more than a traditional school can provide.

What’s the most frequently asked question from parents visiting the school – and how do you respond to it?

We are often asked how well we meet the affective needs of the students. Our staff is trained to meet the unique social and emotional needs of students, as well as any academic challenges students may need for success. Our staff is exceptional at understanding the relationship building and safety net the students require for ultimate success.

Where can parents go to learn more?

 

10 Ways to Keep Kids Learning When They’re Not in School

By Carie Sherman

Extended breaks from school can lead to a loss in learning. So what can you do to help your children keep learning outside of school? Here are 10 ideas.

#1 Spend Time at Your Local Library1. Spend time at your local library. Every child has a topic or two that really get them excited. Whether its cars, castles, or dystopian society, you can find a book or video that can pique interest and deepen understanding. Many libraries also host events and classes for all ages and interests. I’m planning to sign up for the Denver Public Library’s newsletters so I get a reminder in my inbox about local event info, “book buzz,” film news, and more.

2. Think in terms of “teachable moments.” It’s actually pretty easy to get your kids reading, doing math, or learning geography without them realizing they’re learning. For example, make up an outdoor scavenger hunt that will boost their critical thinking skills. Pay attention to the questions your child asks – take a “Daddy, why is this leaf red?” question back home and do some investigating together. Grocery shopping can promote math and literacy; telling stories of your childhood can be a history lesson; even watching television and discussing plotlines or current events can be effective teaching tools.

3. Take advantage of Scientific and Cultural Facilities District free days. It can’t be any easier to expose your children to art, botany, theatre, cultural history, music, natural history, zoology, dance, and more.

#4 Use Computer Time Wisely4. Use computer time wisely. Check out the activities at Fred Rogers Center Early Learning Environment, add educational games to your PC, or sign up for ABCMouse. For teens, online gaming can offer educational opportunities. Download ebooks or check out the Idea Lab, a free digital media lab for teens ages 12 to 19 featuring tons of hardware (think 3D-printer, mixers—they even have sewing machines) and software (think Photoshop, web design tools, Linux machines).

5. Have a kid’s choice day. Whether it’s a long weekend or you’re headed on a family vacation, let your child pick an activity for the whole family. Older kids can do all the planning—give them an old-fashioned map and put some math skills to use. Kids of all ages can enjoy researching and looking at photos of places and events.

#6 Blast Away Boredom with Science Experiments6. Blast away boredom with some at-home science projects. Science projects don’t have to be complicated. My husband recent bundled up our daughter on a freezing cold night and threw boiling hot water into the air (be really careful if you try this at home!). This webpage gives you two project ideas per month—and all of them seem simple to implement and entertaining for all ages.

7. Incorporate math into fun challenges. For example, give your younger kids $5 and let them see how far the money goes during your next shopping trip. Form a “shapes” hunt when you’re out for a walk—whoever finds the most triangles wins! Give older kids a stopwatch and have them time themselves as they run or skateboard through the neighborhood. Keep track of their records, map their routes, and graph the results.

8. Start a family book club. This can involve choosing a book, setting up an “on-theme” meeting, and letting the kids lead the discussion. You can keep it to just your family, or invite neighborhood families to join in the fun.

9. Get them writing. Check out this awesome blog post on 5 sneaky ways to get your kids writing. Little ones can start creating journals or writing lists (even if they are just drawing pictures). But my favorite is for the more advanced writers: The “convince me” letter. If your child is repeatedly asking for something, tell them to put it in writing: “Make sure you consider all sides of the argument and address them in your letter.” Bonus: Argument writing is a big part of Common Core!

10. Seek out structured learning programs. For longer breaks, it might make sense to find a more structured program. This might be summer camps through the YMCA, enrichment programs through Summer Scholars, or seasonal programs through private schools such as Denver Academy (open to non-Academy students as well). There are computer camps, performance-based camps—even science and math camps in our area.

Learning doesn’t need to stop when school is out. Keep your kids learning long after the bell rings, and you’ll be setting them up for a strong future.

carie-shermanCarie Sherman chose freelancing for two reasons: more time at home with her daughter and a passion for stretchy pants. As a copywriter for the health care and education industries, Carie writes content for businesses, agencies, and nonprofits in Colorado and beyond. She blogs for Lupus Colorado and is a contributor to Colorado Parent magazine. She’s also on the copyediting team for the New York Common Core implementation. Carie is currently writing her first fiction novel. In her free time, she enjoys reading, yoga, collecting recipes, and implementing organizational systems that she’ll never follow.