Even over the holidays, the learning never stops

Michael Dodge/Getty ImagesKeep kids engaged in learning this holiday season.

Friday through Jan. 4 is winter break for San Francisco’s public schools, which gives students and teachers a chance to celebrate the holidays with their families and get some rest before starting a new semester.

But taking a break from the classroom doesn’t mean the learning stops. In fact, the change in routine can reinforce and expand on what students have been studying in school. The time off is the perfect chance to show your child how what she or he learns in school relates to the everyday world around us.

Sneak in some reading

Are you planning to see some movies during the break? Before heading to the theater, have your child read a review of the movie and afterward ask your child to write a review. If you’re more outdoorsy and like to take advantage of our relatively warm winter days here in Northern California, take time to read a map or online guide books before heading to the park together.

Leave things around

At home, have child-appropriate magazines and books on the table to spark your child’s interest. Children are naturally curious, and they will choose good reading material if it’s hanging around.

Do math on Muni

If you’re taking Muni somewhere, ask your child to count the number of people on the bus and then the number of people holding bags, then try to calculate the fraction of bag-holders vs. non-bag-holders.

At the grocery store, head to the healthy bulk-foods aisle and ask your child to pick something out, then weigh the bag and figure out how much it will cost based on the price per pound — the suspense at the checkout counter to see the actual amount might make the trip more interesting. Or on a long car trip, you can tell your child the speed you are driving and the distance to the next rest stop, so together you can figure out how many minutes it will take to get there.

Be a storyteller

This time of year is a natural time to tell family stories. Perhaps relatives will be visiting, or calling to say hello, and childhood memories are part of the conversation. Share fun stories from your own childhood. Perhaps talking about a favorite teacher of yours when you were young will spark a conversation about your child’s teacher or a special staff member at school. Talking about what your child likes about school can help the transition back to the classroom in January.

Most importantly, remember that you are your child’s first teacher. Taking time to do a quick math problem just for fun, finding something interesting to read, and talking about school shows your child that his or her education — inside and outside the classroom — is important to you.

Everyone have a safe and happy holiday season, and I’ll be back with more about our schools in January.

Richard A. Carranza is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District. This column is taking a winter break, too, and will return Jan. 7.

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