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CLASS NOTES – Ways to Wane the Winter Days

If you and your family are embarking on a Mediterranean cruise for the holidays, Bon Voyage! No need to read further. However, if you’re worried about the downtime between family gatherings and wondering how to keep the kids out of trouble, here are a few educational and philanthropic pursuits.

First, check with your child’s teacher to see if there is any extra credit or make up work to be done over the break. Often, teachers have ready-made packets for such occasions. Even if the kids are pulling all As, going above and beyond the call of duty, especially scholastically, is a life skill that will no doubt pay off in the future. If there is a certain area of academic need, ask the teacher for specific supplemental material.

Make an “if bored” list, including assignments like: floors to mop, homework to complete, letters to write, people to call, neighbors to visit, books to read.

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Ask the kids to take a walk around the neighborhood, playground, or church and pick up trash. For an entrepreneurial jaunt, hand out 25 cents for each piece of rubbish collected.

There are many benefits to learning a foreign language. It improves mental development, opens doors to other cultures, gives students a head start in language requirements for college and increases job opportunities. You may consider buying language-learning software, or better yet, check out tapes from your local library. There are also online sites that offer language assistance. Of course no one becomes fluent overnight, but the extra, unclaimed study time may be sufficient to peak interest in becoming bilingual.

Playing a musical instrument is also good for the head and heart. If interest is aroused and ample practice time is available, playing may become an enjoyable habit. Even if your rock star wannabe does not become the next Bon Jovi, studies have shown that playing music can significantly enhance the brain.

Teens can start a temporary babysitting service. Call some working parents in the neighborhood and ask if they need help with the kids over winter break. A CPR class will complement this endeavor. The American Heart Association website, www.heart.org, has a list of classes, including ones online.

Volunteering is a good way to meet new people and develop new skills in addition to sending positive messages about taking part and giving back. To find out about groups in the Bay Area, go to http://www.volunteerinfo.org/ or keep it simple and ask elderly neighbors if they need help walking their dogs, cleaning their yards, or grocery shopping. The local church or synagogue can also steer you in the right direction.

However you enjoy your holidays, I hope it includes both time with loved ones and learning. In the words of the great Greek philosopher Aristotle, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

Contact Margaret Lavin at elementarydays@gmail.com.

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