How to Beat the Winter Break Blahs
The Examiner
December 28, 2009

By Leah Fabel

Experts offer tips for keeping students' minds active Winter break may have been extended by the snow, but it's hardly the time to let students' minds freeze, according to D.C.-area experts and educators.

Alexandria Superintendent Morton Sherman posted a holiday message on his blog urging students to practice altruism over the break through community groups like Volunteer Alexandria. "Keep your mind sharp by offering to read with or tutor a young student" was one of Sherman's suggestions. Or "become a 'snow buddy' and provide snow removal assistance for low-income residents or citizens who are elderly or disabled."

Lisa Guernsey, director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation, offered some free online suggestions for keeping younger minds active.

The PBS Kids Island Web site is "a carnival of different literacy-based games for children, with options for parents to be engaged in and aware of what kids are achieving as they move up to different levels in the games," Guernsey said.

The "Sesame Street" Web site allows kids to create a playlist of favorite segments from the show. And at Kerpoof, kids can draw, color and animate photos to save and share with friends and family.

Fairfax County spokesman Paul Regnier said, "There's almost always work to be done, whether it's due tomorrow or not."

He encouraged parents to check for homework updates on the school system's FCPS 24-7 Learning page, where teachers post assignments and projects.

Montgomery County schools have a similar system, called Edline, said spokeswoman Kate Harrison. And she pointed to the schools' parent guides, found on the system's Web site, for ideas for younger students.

Harrison said the schools wanted students to focus on relaxation, too, by encouraging them to "read books over the break and check out local libraries and museums."

Finally, parents should take advantage of the time off to talk with their kids about how school is going, said Steven Goodman, author of "College Admissions Together: It Takes a Family." "Use this time in a relaxed way to ask students about their progress -- what they've learned, what difficulties they've had," Goodman said.

"Think about it in the same way as a casual parent-teacher conference."

And if kids are chat-resistant, take advantage of the holidays' seemingly endless family functions. "Sometimes relatives have a better success rate than moms and dads," Goodman said.

"There's nothing wrong with asking aunts and uncles to get involved."

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