Friday, March 31, 2017

Our 2017 Summer Camp Schedule is Now Available - Register Today!

Summer is just a few months away! Check out our camp schedule and sign up your camper by clicking HERE.

I know you’re thinking, “But it’s only spring!” I’m a mom, too, and I know how fast summer can creep up on all of us. It’s never too early to start planning for summer learning activities. We talk a lot about what our kids are learning in school, but did you know we also know a lot about what happens when they’re not in school during the summer vacation?

Here are some facts:

  • Most students lose about two months of what they learned in math over the summer months.
  • Low-income students lose more than two months in reading achievement.
  • Parents consistently say that summer is the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do.
  • Our children’s’ need to learn does not end in May when the school doors close. They need to stay active and engaged, which also helps them stay on track academically when they return to school in August.

The Academy to the rescue!
Yes, it’s time to plan ahead and secure a spot for your child in a program that will support growth and learning during the summer months. Don’t worry, you don’t have to tell the kids they are avoiding summer learning-loss. If they are having fun with engaging, well-run pro-grams, trust me, they will be learning.

The Specialty Classes are taught by credentialed teachers or University graduating student-teachers. Small groups and classes keep your child focused and challenged. There will be days when The Academy is transformed into Mars, a rain forest, or an ocean scene.

Questions? Give us a call. (707) 474-4710 or email

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Don't Fear the Fair: 8 Tips to Make Your Child's Science Fair Project Fun

From brainstorming experiments through practicing presentations, help your child develop the perfect science fair project.

Science fairs have a bad reputation, but if you approach them with creativity, patience, and an open mind, you’ll be amazed at what your child can do. Here are eight tips to help you get started, as you guide your child:

1. There's no need to panic. Science doesn’t have to be expensive, dangerous or terribly complicated. With the Internet at your fingertips, there are countless resources waiting to spark ideas in your young scientist.

2. Let your child take the lead. Every kid is inspired by something, whether it’s baking, music, basketball, or slime. Let her choose the project (within reason, of course), make the supply list, design the poster, and everything else. As a parent, your job is to encourage your child, ask her lots of questions, and keep your hands off of her project unless there’s a safety concern.

3. You don't have to start from scratch, unless you want to. It’s may be helpful to start with an existing science experiment and make it your own. Encourage your child to peruse the Internet or a book to find a project he's interested in. Let him try it and ask him what else he could learn using the same method, or what other things he could try. Encourage him to put his own stamp on it.

4. All ideas have merit. Let your child brainstorm and try things out, even if you don’t think something will work, or it’s not the way you’d do things. In science, invention and success are often the result of a series of failures. The entire process of experimental design should be a learning experience. Is there a way to make her project interactive for her audience? The more imaginative she is, the better.

5. Ask your child what he wants to learn, what he thinks will happen, and how he's going to test it. Does your amateur chef want to learn whether it’s possible to keep strawberries from getting moldy by boiling them for a few seconds? How long does he think a strawberry should be boiled to keep it fresh longer? Will five seconds of boiling stop mold growth? (A guess about what will happen based on what is already known is called a hypothesis.) How can he test his hypothesis? How can what he learns benefit society?

6. Take your time. Remember, your child has to come up with an idea, research it, do the experiments, and create a presentation. If you and your child wait until the day before the science fair, you may be able to pull it off, but the experience will be far less rewarding.

7. Think before you draw. Invest in a decent tri-fold cardboard display board. Avoid having your child start writing directly on the board, but encourage her to make a mock-up of what her poster will look like, and then to write, draw, or print images and information on printer paper that can be attached to the display board. Colorful construction paper makes a nice background for plain whiter printer paper and creative design is always a bonus.

8. Practice. Encourage your child to practice his presentation several times until he's comfortable explaining what he did. Be sure that he's pronouncing any unfamiliar words correctly. Have him make a list of questions that he thinks people might ask and practice answering. Most importantly, remind him that it’s okay to say, “I don’t know, but that’s a great question.”

Finally, as your child dives into her project, try to suppress any desire you might have to take control. Remember that his learning is a journey. Messes and mistakes are part of the creative process, and any project that your child completes — and feels great about — is a genuine science fair success.

Feature Photo Credit: © FatCamera/iStockphoto. Other photos © Quarry Books, 2016/Kitchen Science Lab for Kids and Liz Heinecke.

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

What Makes a Poem … a Poem? - Melissa Kovacs

What exactly makes a poem … a poem? Poets themselves have struggled with this question, often using metaphors to approximate a definition. Is a poem a little machine? A firework? An echo? A dream? Melissa Kovacs shares three recognizable characteristics of most poetry.

Lesson by Melissa Kovacs, animation by Ace & Son Moving Picture Co., LLC.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Math Tutoring to Save Your Sanity

If your child is in elementary school or high school, they have had some type of mathematics in school. The intensity of the courses differs a great deal throughout these years. Some courses are not even required once your child gets into high school, but if your child has the desire to be in a field like medicine or engineering, they would be wise to take upper level mathematics courses in high school. If you are not able to help them, look for a tutor who can do so. It will help both of you.

Some people might assume that they could not go into a field like medicine or engineering if they struggle with these courses. It is true that you will need to take some difficult courses in this study, but it is not true that you need to necessarily be good at it. It is important not to discourage your child from one of these fields if they struggle with mathematics. Rather, you should hire someone to do math tutoring with your child, so that they can learn to like the course or at least do okay at it.

When looking for a company to do math tutoring for your child, it is important to take several things into consideration. It is important to choose an agency that has qualified and experienced staff. They should not just be good at mathematics; they should also be good at working with children. Sometimes it just takes someone applying a subject in a different way for a student to begin to do well at it.

It is also important for the teachers that tutor to be professional yet fun and encouraging. It is important that the tutor does not become a close friend. Anytime a teacher becomes friends with their students they lose the authority to really be the teacher they need to be.

Make sure when looking into agencies that you find one that does background checks on all tutors. You need to know that the individual in your home teaching your child is trustworthy. You will not want to be hanging over their shoulder during every lesson. Trust is essential.

Results are also essential. If after a few weeks of having a tutor your child has made no progress towards improvement in their subjects then you might consider another agency or talking to the agency about a new tutor.

The cost of the math tutoring is likely also a concern. If you go with a tutor through your child's school, it might be less expensive than other agencies, or it might be more. You will want to compare and contrast various aspects between the tutors that you might find online and those at the school.

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

The History of Chocolate - Deanna Pucciarelli

If you can’t imagine life without chocolate, you’re lucky you weren’t born before the 16th century. Until then, chocolate only existed as a bitter, foamy drink in Mesoamerica. So how did we get from a bitter beverage to the chocolate bars of today? Deanna Pucciarelli traces the fascinating and often cruel history of chocolate. 

Lesson by Deanna Pucciarelli, animation by TED-Ed.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

3 Ways to Build Vocabulary at the Dinner Table

Try one of these dinnertime activities to help your kids develop their language skills.

Dinnertime at our house is one of my favorite parts of the day. It's a time when we all come back together and share our successes and challenges. Lately, I've been using our meal as an opportunity to help our kids build their vocabulary.

Here are three activities you can try with your own family to help your child learn new words. There is very little preparation involved, making it easy and convenient to do.

1. Use the Word

Write vocabulary words on slips of paper and keep them in a jar or basket on the dinner table. You could use words that your child is studying in school, or pull a few words from books you are reading to him. Each night, choose one word from the word basket and read it aloud. Define the word in kid-friendly terminology. For example, if the word is flexible, a kid-friendly definition would be, "something that is flexible moves or bends easily without breaking." If you start with something that or someone who, you will be on the right track.

Then, each person at the table takes a turn naming something that is flexible or not flexible. On my turn, I could say, "A rope is flexible." Or I might say, "My pencil is not flexible." Continue around the table giving lots of examples and non-examples of the given vocabulary word.

2. How Many Can You Name?

In this activity, one person names a category — such as fruits, zoo animals, or things shaped like squares. Then taking turns, each person names a word that fits in that given category. If the category is "things shaped like squares," possible answers could be windows, books, or sticky notes. Switch categories when no one else can add a word to the named category.

3. Draw the Word

To extend the activity above, you could also play Draw the Word. Have some blank sheets of paper or a pad next to each place setting. In my family, we like to cover our table with butcher paper before setting it for dinner. You could add a container of crayons or markers as the centerpiece. After dinner, select one vocabulary word from the word basket. Again, talk about the word in kid-friendly language. Then, each of you will illustrate the word on the paper. Everyone around your table should take a turn explaining their drawing.

I hope you are inspired to spend a little extra time at the dinner table talking with your child about new words. It's a great way to build his vocabulary and bond as a family.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

How Braille Was Invented | Moments of Vision 9 - Jessica Oreck

Today, Braille is the universally accepted system of writing for the blind, translated into almost every language in almost every country across the globe. But it didn’t actually start out as a tool for the blind. Jessica Oreck details the surprising wartime origins of Braille.

Lesson and animation by Jessica Oreck.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Academy of 21st Century Learning, Best Tutoring Center in Solano County

Step inside The Academy of 21st Century Learning, where we believe everything is fun!

From addition, subtraction, and beginning reading through AP calculus, physics, and advanced reading and writing our students learn to love learning. Welcome to The Academy!

Feel the difference!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Tutors - How Selecting the Right Tutor Makes a Difference

I am a public school teacher. My wife is a public school teacher. My peers are public school teachers. It seems that there is a common frustration among all of us. So many times in our schools, we see teachers struggle to give the attention each student needs in overcrowded classrooms. The child who is falling behind is getting frustrated because he needs someone, anyone, to help him through this one topic but he can't get the attention he needs in a classroom of thirty-plus students. That one topic of frustration becomes two topics (because the second topic builds off the first) and then two topics becomes three and so until the student is so frustrated, he or she gives up entirely. Then there is the gifted student who finishes their work quickly but sits for a majority of the class waiting for others to catch up. The gifted student falls behind, not on the grade book, but rather towards fulfilling their potential. Then there is the student with the learning disability or the attention disorder; you can imagine how they feel.

So many wonderful teachers out there are doing their best to meet these students needs but it is near impossible nowadays. Classes are held in rooms that were previously closets or in dilapidated trailers and class sizes increase every year. The need for supplemental education to support students has become more important than ever.

Parents usually have a couple places they can turn. They will ask a neighbor who might then refer them to someone down the street they heard was a teacher. Or they will ask the guidance office at the school who will give them a list of twenty tutors or tutoring services. They might ask the teacher as well, but most schools will not allow teachers to tutor students from the same school for compensation and the time the teacher gives after or before school just isn't enough.

The problem the parent runs into is the fact that, even if they find a tutor, they don't know anything about the tutor. They don't have a background on the tutor. They know very little about their qualifications. They don't if the tutor's schedule will fit theirs. And then there is that awkward conversation about price (made even more awkward if it is a friend or neighbor).

Those are the barriers to finding good tutors. A tutoring service can help but it's important to ask these key questions:

  1. How do I know if the tutors in your service are qualified?
  2. Do I have any choice in the tutor I can select?
  3. Will I be able to see profiles or backgrounds and qualifications of ALL your tutors so I can make the choice?
  4. How do I know which tutors service my area?
  5. How do I know which tutors fit my schedule?
  6. How much will this cost? Is the tutoring service upfront with pricing or do they make you call their number and set-up a consultation before you know the price?
  7. If I am not totally satisfied with the tutor, can I switch quickly?

When my wife and I created our tutoring business, we decided to make sure that these answers were upfront on our website. We carefully selected and pre-screened our tutors, including extensive interviews, criminal background checks, and reference checks. We posted their qualifications, philosophies, teaching styles, and schedule availability on the site. We posted pricing information clearly for the parent. We posted our philosophy. We made it so parents could schedule tutors right on the website immediately. It was our goal to make finding an effective tutor affordable and convenient. These are the gaps we found when we saw parents searching in vain for tutors. These are the things you should be looking for when you choose a tutoring service.

Remember, your time is valuable and having the power to choose the educator who will be spending so much time with your child is something you should not take lightly.

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Saturday, March 4, 2017

How to Practice Effectively...for Just About Anything - Annie Bosler and Don Greene

Mastering any physical skill takes practice. Practice is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement, and it helps us perform with more ease, speed, and confidence. But what does practice actually do to make us better at things? Annie Bosler and Don Greene explain how practice affects the inner workings of our brains.

Lesson by Annie Bosler and Don Greene, animation by Martina Meštrović.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

8 Sure-Fire Tips for Smoother School Days

Reduce stress with these simple, time-saving, mood-lifting strategies.

1. Start your day the night before. Prepare snacks and clothes and solidify the next day's plan at night. Fill your child's backpack with the things that he may need for school or for an after-school play date.

2. Wake up earlier. Give yourself and your child extra time in the morning — even 15 minutes will help. Try using an alarm clock that plays soothing nature sounds or happy music to make wake-up time more fun.

3. Send only teacher-approved items to school. Talk to your child's teacher about classroom rules before sending in anything. Most teachers do not want children bringing in valuable items or toys that encourage aggressive play, but will likely encourage a favorite book or photograph.

4. Create a special drop-off ritual. Come up with a memorable, loving way to say goodbye — a lipstick kiss on the hand, a secret handshake, or a special phrase that you create with your child.

5. Set aside after-school downtime. Some children experience a meltdown at the end of the day. To avoid this, try to build in some time to unwind after school. Allow your child to visit the playground, spend time alone curled up with a book, or engage in quiet activities such as painting, building with blocks, or solitary imaginative play.

6. Make dinnertime family time. Whenever possible, eat together as a family. Kids benefit from spontaneous dinner-table conversations. Ask your child to tell you about his day and share interesting things that happened to you. He will feel more "grown up" when he is included in this sort of conversation.

7. Follow the school's rules. Teachers count on families to support the classroom rules and routines — such as sick-child policies, authorized escorts, and arriving on time.

8. Give your child undivided attention.
Set aside time each day just to be with your child — even if it's just 20 minutes — and allow no interruptions. Follow his lead and take time to observe his interests and enter his world. You will learn a lot about your child, and he will be thrilled to have this time with you.

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