For the past month we’ve been sending Tyler to a local “supplemental educational center” so that he can top up what he learns in school with further training and challenge himself a little further. At his age (Tyler will be six in March), we really just want him to feel comfortable making mistakes in order to understand and to learn that persistence has its rewards.
It’s a shame that we can’t get what we feel our child deserves from the public schools here. It’s mostly due to Proposition 13 which hold property taxes artificially low in California so that, on average, California spends only $3,000/child as opposed to the $10,000/child we saw in New Jersey (table). I just feel fortunate that we can afford this extra schooling as not everyone can.
Score, a Kaplan company, runs the center and we pay a monthly fee for two, one-hour sessions a week which we can schedule at any time. The whole program is computer based and the kids put on headphones and click their way through a series of modules that test their ability and gradually make things harder if they get too many answers correct or easier if they miss too much. Assistants hover over the kids and take notes on how they’re doing and swoop in to help out any time there are any questions. The modules are 10 minutes long and after each module the child can get up and shoot a few baskets into an indoor hoop set up in the corner to get the blood moving and add some fun into the process.
Another motivator for the kids is that for every successful module that they complete, they get moved up a path posted up on the wall and get little chits that they can trade in for prizes and toys. My colleague at work called it Chuck-e-Cheese for schooling and she’s not too far off. But the kids seem to respond and it’s helpful to have monthly graphs which chart your child’s success. It would be a little creepy if this was the way school was but for an after school program it works just fine.
So we went in for Tyler’s one month evaluation and I have to say that we’re pleased. He generally likes it – sometimes he grumbles about going but it’s mostly because he’s into what he’s doing at the moment and doesn’t want to stop. By the time we get there, he’s all into it. He’s reading is at about the first grade level and his math is mid-first grade. The feedback from the instructors is great. They all know Tyler’s name and share all sorts of details about his learning that tell me that they are following his progress closely. I would have taken a picture of him at one of the terminals but some parents understandably freak when you post pictures of their kids on the internet.
During the review, the staffer had to share with us a story that’s made the rounds. During one session where Tyler was learning to add, she looked over and saw that Tyler had taken off a shoe and was dangling a bare foot off his chair. When she asked him about it, Tyler said that he had run out of fingers and was using his toes!