A Strategy for Managing My Summertime Downtime

What do you do with your summers?  I’ve tried securing gainful employment every summer for years.  This summer, I’ve decided to accept that I have an 8-10 week sabbatical from tutoring and to use it wisely.

First, I think positively—I’m off 8-10 weeks—who doesn’t like that?  Second, I rejuvenate myself by creating space (i.e., doing delayed spring cleaning), taking longer bike rides, and visiting friends who let me ignore them during the school year.  Third, I do business planning.  A key aspect of business planning is business evaluation.  I look at my tutoring income and expenses for the previous academic year, examine sources of customers, and assess successes of my students; then I plan for the upcoming academic year.  Fourth, I improve my skills.  I enhance my knowledge of a language, re-learn a subject to the extent I can tutor it, attend a webinar to enhance my instruction skills, take a workshop at my local Small Business Development Center, or engage in strategic, non-competitive networking.  Fifth, I let my mind wander….see where it takes me.  This often leads to larger-scale ideas such as improving math and English skills for students in my residential community or an entrepreneurial project that will serve as passive income for summer months.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the downside of a summer without tutoring income.  I manage this by setting aside money during my busier spring months, using passive income, using my lingering gift cards, eating in, and taking gigs.  I prioritize attending free community and business events over those that cost.  I use Time Banks otherwise known as mutual aid networks.  My local Time Bank (http://sfbace.org/) helps me get the services and goods that I need by using my primary summertime currency—time.

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Who Should Take a Summer Math Course?

The most common question that I get in May and June is whether a student should take a math course during the summer. My response has been the same for the last 20 years:  NO, not unless required. Students who don’t have a passing math grade are required to repeat the course. Rather than repeating the course in the fall, students typically take it in the summer. Because they are seeing the material for a second time, they perform better even though the course’s pace is much faster than during the academic year.

However, electing to take pre-calculus in the summer in order to take Calculus or Statistics in the fall is not something I’d recommend. The pace of a summer math course is 4-5 times the pace of the same course during the academic year, and most students can’t keep up. Secondly, since students are cramming 250 pages of math into eight weeks of instruction, students are not learning much and are retaining even less. Doing well in Calculus I is difficult even with a solid understanding of pre-calculus. Students who take pre-calculus in the summer will likely struggle with calculations and concepts of Calculus I throughout the course, which impacts their ability to do well in Calculus II…envision a rolling snowball.

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Is it Too Late to Get a B?

This time of year, the volume of calls triples, and parents are asking the same question–is there enough time to raise Johnny’s math grade from a D to a B?  Well it depends.  Typically, a student needs 6-8 weeks, but there are many assumptions in that estimate.  First, the D has to be closer to a C (70%) than a F (59% or less).  Second, there should be at least three testing opportunities in addition to the final, and other assignments such as homework or projects.  Third, the student needs some motivation to get the B.  Fourth, the student and parent need to agree on the number of hours devoted to studying math.

The first mistake most parents make is that they are not aggressive enough with getting the student back on track; they send the student for one session of tutoring per week, which is like throwing a life jacket to someone who is drowning.  Instead, the student needs to be pulled from the water.  When Johnny is drowning in math concepts, formulas, etc., he needs daily tutoring for a week or two and then 2-3 times a week thereafter.  And, still, there are no guarantees, which is the news that I really dislike delivering.

The second mistake most parents make is changing their stance to ”We just want him to pass (i.e., get a C-).”  Aiming for a C- is …well, it is a bit dicey because students with low math grades perform inconsistently on math tests.  So, I could help Johnny by making sure he knows the material well enough to get a B-, but he could get anxious during the test and get a D.

What’s the best solution?  Call in March.


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Education Fundraiser: Concord-AAUW’s Art & Wine (and Beer) Walk: Sat., 5/10

Stroll around Todos Santos Plaza and Salvio Square in downtown Concord, CA while enjoying fine wine and beer, viewing beautiful art, and meeting local artists.  Proceeds will be used to fund scholarships for local girls and women provided by the American Association of University Women.  $20 per person.  Must be 21 years or older to participate.  Purchase tickets here!

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SAT/ACT Combo Test, the PRA
Sunday, October 20, 2013, 8:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.
Moraga Country Club (upstairs)
1600 St. Andrews Drive, Moraga

Find out whether the SAT or ACT is a better fit for you: take the PRA,  designed to help you determine which test you would score higher on.  Get realistic practice, and answer the types of questions you will face on the actual exam.  You will receive a personalized score report pinpointing your strengths and weaknesses.  For more information:  http://sat-act.aauwoml.org/.

The Princeton Review is working in partnership with the Orinda-Moraga-Lafayette AAUW Scholarship Committee.

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Be Significant! Win a Subscription for your High School!

In 250 words or less tell Mostly Math how your high school would benefit from having Significance on your campus. How might teachers and students use it?  If your entry is selected your high school will receive a subscription to Significance magazine, the magazine that brings statistics to life with fascinating world-wide ways that statistics is being used– like how much vultures pay us in a year.  Mostly Math will post the winning school’s name.  Entries due: April 21, 2013.  High school students, their parents, faculty & staff may apply.

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Mastering College Planning

What: Mastering College Planning
When: Thursday, Dec 6, 2012, 6:30-8:30pm
Where: Lafayette Library, Arts & Science Discovery Center
Register: www.NewSpringCollegePlanning.com or call 415.322.4501

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FREE SAT Practice

What: FREE SAT Practice
When: Sunday, Dec 2, 2012, 1-5pm
Where: Lafayette Library, Homework Center, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, CA
Register: www.smartcookielearning.com or call 925.297.5304

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FREE Education Forum for parents & students: SAT v. ACT

What: Learn the difference between the SAT and the ACT
When: Sunday, October 7, 2012, 3-4pm
Where: Lafayette Library Homework Center
Register: www.smartcookielearning.com or call 925.297.5304

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Tonight: Cutting Edge Careers, College Park HS, Grades 4-12

Sometimes kids don’t seem enthusiastic about school because they don’t see the connection between what they’re learning and the careers that knowledge prepares them for. Whether you’re in Orinda or Pleasanton, take a drive out to College Park High School in Pleasant Hill (down the street from Sun Valley Mall) and give your child the great opportunity of exploring cutting edge careers.

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