I Want You! (to prepare your kids for college)

uncle-sam

Many parents are concerned with their children’s college readiness. As a community college English teacher over the past 17 years, I have also seen areas where my students could use additional preparation. This post is NOT about critiquing the public schools; instead, I want parents to see the power they have at home in the summer.

Each summer (starting around 7th grade) I complete a mini-session with my kids. I’m not a mean mom; my kids still get to be kids. Four weeks out of every summer, I ask my kids to give me 30 minutes per day (Monday-Friday) to work on their studies. If my kids struggle in math, I buy a summer bridge workbook at my local bookstore and have them complete 1-2 pages every day. They are not learning new material. They are merely spending some time reviewing what they learned the previous year to keep their skills fresh (Don’t worry, the answers are in the back of the book). Most college students have to take at least one math class. Many mathematical concepts are also building blocks. Students who have reviewed the previous year’s content will be better prepared to learn.

I also have my children write a 250-400 word five-paragraph essay. Usually they write about something fun like their favorite vacation or sport. Completing the writing process just once over the summer keeps their writing skills fresh. If you are unsure what to look for in such an essay, I wrote an earlier blog for parents found here. Journaling is another writing activity that will help keep skills sharpened. You can find a list of topics on-line or just let your child’s creative juices flow. Sometimes my kids write a story, wonderful mementoes to save.

For students who are college bound, the ability to write a coherent five-paragraph essay is vital. Many college classes assign a single essay that is worth 10-25% of their final grade. Students who succeed in college learn that these essays take time, planning, and multiple drafts. Successful students tend to have a firm understanding of the writing process when they enter college.

In addition, I encourage ALL parents to complete a logic unit with their children. This is a great middle school age activity. Learning logic reinforces a student’s critical thinking skills. I found a useful workbook called “Logic Liftoff.” During one of our four week sessions, I ask my kids to complete one worksheet per day (Don’t worry, the answers are in the back of the book). My kids only complete this activity for one summer, yet this has led to some productive family discussions and a marked improvement in my children’s reasoning skills. It’s particularly moving when they use logic to defeat me in a friendly debate.

Finally, read, read, read!!! Let them read fun books, take them on a road trip to the local bookstore or library, but please encourage your child to read over the summer! College students have large amounts of reading to complete for each class. They must also be able to understand what they’re reading. Reading over the summer will help increase their speed and comprehension.

Parents, you have the power to truly make a difference in your children’s lives. If you want to give them an edge for the college years, complete the activities above in the summertime. For those who think they can’t help their kids, please know that I struggled with math my entire life, but the workbooks were something I could share/complete with my kids.  Please feel free to e-mail me if you have specific questions or if you need some help planning a five-paragraph essay. Also, please share this with any parent who might find this useful.

Good luck!

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5 thoughts on “I Want You! (to prepare your kids for college)

  1. Rachael says:

    Succinct practical ideas Maggie, thank you.

    In my opinion, these are great suggestions regardless of whether or not your children intend to go to college. I’d say they are preparation for life.

  2. maggiemurphy says:

    Good point, Rachael! I took a logic course in college, and it has helped me sort through many life decisions. That’s why I found the logic workbook. I wanted my kids to have that knowledge just in case they didn’t learn logic in college.

  3. Sue Murphy says:

    Great suggestions for all families. I agree that a small amount of work over the summer will make the next school year so much easier and productive.

  4. Ruan Huysen says:

    I like what you’ve said here. I like how you balance the need for children to be children with the need for them to be disciplined and to grow academically. I heard somewhere that if you, from school, spend 15 minutes a day studying the field of interest, be it medicine, law, whatever, you will be in the top 5% of that field when you grow up. I like how you make room for that progress without pressuring them too much. 🙂

  5. maggiemurphy says:

    Thanks so much for the feedback! I also like your 15 minutes per day suggestion. Continuing small steps lead to large accomplishments.

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