Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Has Cursive Writing Become a Lost Art?

In the computer age, some would argue that kids don’t need to learn how to write in cursive anymore. Others, generally those predating the computer age, worry about the consequences of losing this important skill. Just consider the Declaration of Independence which was written in cursive. Will future generations be unable to read such a historic document?

There is no set standard for teaching cursive in schools today. How cursive fits into the curriculum depends on the school system. In many districts, teachers who choose to teach the skill can fit it into their curriculum as they see fit, generally in the second and/or third grade. Some students don’t learn cursive at all.

The Positive Sides to Teaching Cursive
• Children who have had problems printing get a new chance to have the playing field leveled, because now everybody has to learn cursive, says Sandy Purvis, Occupational Therapist and Owner of HandRIGHTing, Ink, Ardmore, PA.
• Writing in cursive can improve overall penmanship. The act of lifting up the pencil and putting it on the line to make the strokes, may gain fluency the student never had before.
• It’s an important skill, says Mary Claire Ragan, a second grade teacher at Gallaher Elementary School in Newark DE. Ragan makes it a point to squeeze it into the busy curriculum.
• Cursive is faster than printing and in many cases, more legible.
• Students will know how to sign their names on forms and legal documents.
• Students will be able to read documents written in cursive, whether historical or from a boss or other person who writes in cursive.
• Students are extremely interested in learning cursive, says Ragan. While it’s a difficult skill to learn initially, students catch on quickly.

Why Cursive Writing isn’t Emphasized
• There are so many things that have been added to the curriculum, that cursive has been put on the back burner, says Sheri Pierson, third grade teacher at Signal Hill School, Voorhees, NJ and a veteran teacher for more than 25 years.
• There isn’t time to cover everything. Pierson devotes about 10 minutes a day, three days a week to cursive.
• Many children, especially in middle and high school, use computers regularly, taking the place of handwriting.

What Parents Can Do
• Practice with your child at home. Many schools use the Zaner Bloser program - www.Zaner-bloser.com. Other popular programs include Kid Writing, www.kidwriting.com and Handwriting Without Tears, www.hwtears.com.
• Encourage your child to use cursive regularly by choosing one activity, such as writing his spelling words, in cursive. The more a child uses cursive, the more proficient he will become.
• Use it or lose it. After third grade, very little time will be devoted to cursive in school, so parents can encourage their children to use it for homework or other writing at home.
• Hire an educational coach, such as HandRIGHTing, Ink, www.handrightingink.com
• If available at your child’s school, sign up for a mini-cluster or interest group where cursive is taught.
• Have your child develop fine motor skills through activities such as cutting, coloring, and Play-Doh, because writing in cursive requires small muscle strength.

Friday, January 7, 2011

More Summer Camp Conveniences

Earlier in the week, I wrote about the many conveniences camps are providing to families today. Here, the list continues.

Camp meals have come a long way from PB&J and bug juice. Catered lunches, healthy snacks, and buffets with hot meal choices give parents the peace of mind that their children are being properly fed. “Our pricing includes meals and snacks, so for a lot of parents, that’s a convenience in that they don’t have to pack a lunch or worry about refrigerating things,” explains VanDerzee.

A focus on physical fitness and healthy eating is encouraged at most camps. Camp Ockanickon, features the specialized program, Activate America.
Swim lessons are generally standard fare where kids learn to swim by Red Cross certified instructors. Most camps offer both instructional swim sessions and recreational periods. In addition, parents can take advantage of additional instruction in swimming, horseback riding, or other programs during after-care programs.
An open visitation policy allows parents the flexibility to watch their kids enjoying camp activities at their convenience. Diamond Ridge encourages relatives to come whenever they want to see their kids in action. “That is something parents really enjoy and take advantage of,” says Bernstein. “They can visit according to their own schedule.”
Elective scheduling lets campers create their own schedules. While some camps are devoted to a single activity, such as soccer, theater, or horseback riding, others offer a range of activities and let the kids choose their favorites. The Sesame/Rockwood Camps in Blue Bell, PA (www.srdaycamps.com) allow campers 8 years and older to pick their own activities.
Communication has taken on a new meaning among camps. Parents are encouraged to call with any question or concern regarding the camp in general or their child specifically whenever they want.
Financial incentives are available, including hiring parents to work in exchange for a discount on camp fees. Parents can drive vans, work in the office, or be counselors, while their children enjoy camp. For Brown, who works as a clerk in the nurse’s office while her 5 and 8 year old children attend camp, “It allows me to see first-hand what an incredible experience my kids are having at camp.”
As co-chair of the annual Community Camp Fair at Tower Hill (www.kidscampquest.com) in Wilmington, DE, Racquel Palma works with more than 100 different camps. “For a parent with a wide diversity of needs, there are a lot of options out there,” she says.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Convenience Makes Summer Camp Family Friendly

Parents begin sending their children to camp as early as age 3 or 4. While choosing when your child is ready for camp is a personal decision, camps are working harder than ever to make the experience as convenient as possible for the family. From transportation and food, to activities and extended hours, camp today is about more than just swimming and playing.

When Laurie Brown chose a day camp for her children, certain conveniences were a must. Sharing time between Cherry Hill and Margate, NJ, Brown needed the flexibility of having transportation in both cities. The Medford JCC camp (www.jcccampsatmedford.com) in Medford, NJ, was able to meet her needs by providing bus service to both places according to her schedule. Today, beyond a safe environment and abundance of activities, families like the Browns are selecting camps that make life convenient for the whole family.

“We certainly want to make things as convenient as possible for our busy and hectic camp families,” says Steven Bernstein, Camp Director at Diamond Ridge Camps (www.diamondridgecamps.com) in Jamison, PA. “When you’re talking about taking care of other people’s children, safety and supervision are always going to be the most important concern. But when you’re talking about a parent, it’s the customer service, flexibility, and being there for the families when they need you.”

Transportation tops many families’ must-have list. Bus or van service is generally provided to pick kids up and drop them back off at their homes, or a location very close to their homes. Bernstein points out that Diamond Ridge offers door-to-door service with CDL licensed drivers in yellow buses.

Choices in session length and schedule are important as busy schedules often make it difficult to devote four or eight straight weeks to camp. “We offer three separate camps, a day camp, overnight camp for boys, and overnight camp for girls,” says Keith VanDerzee, CEO, YMCA Camp Ockanickon, (www.ycamp.org) in Medford, NJ. “Whatever parents’ needs are for their kids, whether it’s local care and they can come to our day camp, or whether they’d like to try the overnight experience.”

A choice of locations allows families greater flexibility in choosing the most convenient location. The Phillies Baseball Academy (www.philliescamps.com) offers several locations throughout PA, NJ, and DE.

Extended hours are also important when choosing a camp to make life more convenient for camp families. Many camps offer early morning and late afternoon sessions to accommodate parents’ schedules. “The nice thing is that some parents will take advantage of our door-to-door transportation in the morning, and pick up their child at 5:45 in the afternoon, or vice-versa,” points out Bernstein.

Read more on camp amenities in tomorrow’s post.