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SUMMERTIME! And the learnin' is easy.

When it's no-more-teachers-no-more-books time, that doesn't mean education is on vacation. It only means that parents can step in to make summer both fun and productive.Normal vacation activities can be used to hone skills learned in the classroom. And kids don't have to know that they're learning. They can think they're having fun.

Suggestions for activities, gleaned from several sources, include these:

- Keep on reading. Provide books at home, or make regular trips to the library. And seeing their parents engrossed in books is a subtle reminder to children that reading is important.

- Let children help with a garden. There are practical lessons in the life sciences in watching a petunia grow.

- Make a cooking project into a math lesson by doubling or halving a recipe.

- Encourage children to do a play for the neighborhood, adapting Shakespeare or any other famous piece of great drama. Or encourage them to write their own.

- Use a map to identify your own state or states you might travel through en route to a vacation site.

- Visit museums, galleries or local businesses to learn more about the world.

- Using newspaper ads, ask for help in finding the best prices on groceries for your next trip to the store.

- Let a child be the official family weathercaster, using newspaper or television weather reports as a source.

- Encourage a summer diary. Then the child will be ready for the standard "What I did this summer" report for school. Letter-writing is another way to hone writing/English skills.

- Take an unplanned bus ride and see where in the city you end up. Transfer downtown and take any bus to a new neighborhood. Take notes along the way of interesting sights.

- Use a backyard sleep-out to locate some of the major constellations. Or use your imaginations to make up some of your own, just as the ancient astronomers did.

- Make television a tool for discussion, rather than an unthinking activity. Assign children things to look for or ask them to retell a TV story in their own words.

At any season, the thing to remember is that education is a three-legged stool, with the weight divided among a child, his parents and the educators who provide the formal instruction. When any one of the three legs isn't holding up its share, it may be tilt time.

Utah is making a concerted effort to enlist parents in the education mission. The interest and support of parents have been identified among the most important indicators of how well a child will do in school. Such support can sometimes outweigh a child's innate intellectual ability.

"The problem (of parents who absent themselves from their child's schooling) is very real," said Gary Lloyd, director of the Utah Center for Families in Education. The center was established by the State Office of Education to promote parent involvement.

Studies indicate that children can improve their academic performance by as much as 35 percent if they have relevant backing from home.

"Nothing schools can do is more effective," said Lloyd.

Even in Utah, where a strong family emphasis is embedded in the culture, parental support forschools isn't always consistent with that claim.

Only 50 percent to 55 percent of the parents attend back-to-school events at elementary schools. At junior high and high school levels, the support drops to between 20 percent and 25 percent of the parents, Lloyd said.

"Too many parents want to drop their children off in kindergarten and pick them up again when they graduate from high school," he said.

The center's philosophy suggests that education is not society's responsibility, but the responsibility of families. Parents are a child's first educators and should remain integrally involved throughout the school years in a strong partnership with the educators who provide formal schooling.

The pressures of today's society, with both parents working in many families, contributes to the problem, but simple lack of interest or failure to commit time and effort to a child's schooling also are factors.

Schools have contributed to the problem by failing to make parents welcome in the education process, said Lloyd. "They have created an atmosphere that keeps parents out."

Teacher training has also neglected the teacher/parent aspect of successful classrooms. The University of Utah education program will begin this fall to address that problem by including a 10-hour unit of instruction to help prospective teachers recognize the importance of involving parents constructively.

The center used state funds to develop parent involvement programs in 12 pilot schools. The schools included eight at the elementary level, two junior/middle schools and two high schools.

One of the emphases at these schools has been development of individual education plans for each child, Lloyd said. Parents meet with their child and his teacher three times a year to plot and then follow an educational course that meets the needs of that particular child.

The parties sign a contract that divides and assigns elements of the responsibility for the child's educational success.

Though the program is still in the initial stages, the results have been impressive, Lloyd said.

Utah also is part of a national demonstration project, being one of two sites selected to pilot programs promoting family involvement. The second is in Los Angeles.

The project is sponsored by the Knowledge Network for All Americans, an independent private corporation that advocates the creation of responsible learning cultures. The network promotes a revitalization of education through bringing together the elements essential to a child's learning in a singular focus on each child.

In the first two years of the Utah project, leaders of the education community were brought together to support the concept, and 80 schools were selected as demonstration sites. Then 160 PTA officials and Chapter 1 federal low-income participants were selected for three hours of training and 40 hours of practical application of the principles discussed in the workshops.

That effort will multiply this fall when 300 more volunteers from 100 additional schools will receive the training. They will in turn train 1,500 more in preparation for reaching 10,000 families in the Family Education Plan training, said Lloyd.

A major push via print and electronic media is planned for early 1994 to reach an even broader audience.

The center makes parent support services available at cost to help parents fulfill their vital role as education partners, he said. The center telephone number is 538-7756.



Parent Quiz

Parents can make the difference in reducing drug and alcohol use. Here are some question to get you started thinking:

(Give yourself 5 points for something you usually do zero points for something you rarely do, or any other score you think you deserve.)

_____1. I talk with my son or daughter about our family's values.

_____2. I talk and listen to my son and daugher about drugs.

_____3. I help my son or daugther practive wasysof saying no.

_____4. I have helped my son or daughter find fun, drug-free activities.

_____5. I have gottong acquainted with my son or daughter's friends.

How did you score?

Twenty or more means you're helping your child stay drug-free. Fifteen to 19 is average. Below 14 points means you might need to spend more time helping your child learn about this subject.

Source: "Parents Make the Difference," November 1992.

The busy parents' guide to involvement in education

Parent involvement - your involvement - in education increases your children's changecs for success in school. Studies show that children whose parents are involved in education are more motivated in school. Motivated students are more likely to participate in class, more likely to complete homework, and more likely to achieve acadamically. In short, motivated children become students with good changes for bright futures.

-Get involved with your son or daughter

Change "Whatja get?" to Whatja learn? When tests and reports come home, take the emphasis off the grades and focus instead on the inforamtion and skill they learned by doing the work. Give your sone or dughter a chance to sow what they know by asking simple questions about the subject.

-Get involved with the teachers

Be prepared. Bring a list of questions to parent-teacher conferences stay focused and keep you from rambling into overtime.

-Get involved with the school community

No excuses. Next time back-to-school night or parent programs roll around, don't make excuses for not going. your attendance clearly demonstrates to your childre how much you care about their education. To make it easier to get out of the house, freeze leftovers or casseroles with "save for back-to-school night" labels.

Source: "The Busy Parents' Guide to Involvement in Education," The National PTA and J.C. Penney.


The model

Six major types of involvement that help families and schools fulfill their shared responsibilities for children's learning and developement.

1. Basic obligations of parents

2. Basic obligations of schools

3. Parent involvement at school

4. Parent involvement in learning activities at home.

5. Parent involvemtn in governance and advocacy.

6. Collaborations and exchanges with community organizations.


Deseret News/KSL poll

Do you have school-aged children?



If yes: Do you let your children lose ground in their education over the summer vacation break?

Definitely lose ground.......53%

Definitely not lose ground....43%

Don't know.....................5%

If you have school-aged children: As a parent, do you do anything special to help your children stay sharp academically during the summer?




Statewide survey, number polled: 273. Error margin: +- 4 percent. Completed June 28-30, 1993.

Dan Jones and Associates Copyright 1993 Deseret News