Monday, April 25

A to Z: 7 Ways to Keep Your Child’s Brain Active During Summer

When you’re a school-age child, there is possibly nothing better than the freedom of summer vacation. While this annual break from the daily grind is fun and exciting, the loss of structure and stability of the school routine can be a concern for some parents. Studies have shown that most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in math and reading during the summer break. A great solution for keeping your child sharp during the summer months is enrolling him or her in a quality summer program (none better than Fairmont Summer Programs, of course!).
Summer schools, educational camps, and enrichment workshops are great ways to keep kids active, structured, and learning while school is out. In addition to enrolling in a great summer program, here are several more strategies to keep your child safe from the summer brain drain!

  • Find free classes or workshops in your community that interest your child. Visit your local library for summer reading challenges, children’s events, and youth classes.
  • Start a family book club. Choose several age and level appropriate books for your family to read over the summer. Schedule time to gather, discuss the books, and ask questions of the characters and plot. Click here for reading recommendations!
  • Plan educational outings to museums, historical sites, and cultural events. Encourage your child to study up on the history of the places you’ll visit, and have conversations about the significance of the people, places, and events that occurred.
  • Bring your child into the kitchen when it’s time to make meals. Showing him or her the ways of the kitchen not only teaches basic cooking concepts, but also reinforces math concepts like addition, subtraction, and fractions.
  • Research some online educational games or apps for your child to play during downtime. If you’re traveling this summer or you know your child will have a lot time when he or she will need to be still (at mom’s work or dad’s desk), games that promote mathematics skills and reading comprehension are beneficial.
  • Make time to do lots of experiments this summer. Activities and experiments that promote STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) concepts will engage curiosity, creativity, and draw on math and science topics learned in school. Click here for a curated list of STEM activities!
  • Do lots of arts and crafts. Encouraging creativity in your child opens the door for exploration and builds upon the concepts covered during the school year. Click here for arts and crafts inspiration!

Contributed by Rebecca Stokes, Fairmont Private Schools

Monday, April 18

CHALK TALK: Help Your Child Learn a Second Language

Learning a second language can be a challenging and daunting experience for adults. Children, however, are linguistic sponges soaking up all the sounds and vocabulary necessary to decipher and transmit meaning. With a growing global ethos and more opportunity than ever for people to travel outside their home country, foreign languages are taught or at least encouraged in most public and private elementary schools. Even if your child isn’t exposed to a foreign language during primary education, he or she will most likely be expected to fulfill high school and college foreign language requirements.

Scientists have proven that establishing proficiency in a second language becomes more difficult later in life. While experts say that a basic capacity for language is guaranteed in all infants, the interest and skill level beyond this baseline are differentially distributed depending on the individual. As a child acquires a specific language, he or she use the same brain tissue when acquiring a second language. However, this changes as the child’s brain matures and transitions into adulthood. Once the tissue initially used in language acquisition has matured, learning a second language becomes difficult because the brain utilizes a completely different area to learning and process the new language. Thus, for most adults, learning a new language is formidable and time consuming.

With the growing push for bi and multilingualism, preparing your child for a second language will only benefit as he or she begins formal education. Give them a boost by exposing your children to a second language at home! If you or your spouse speak another language fluently, frequently engage with your child in that language. If you are monolingual, learn a language with your child. There are hundreds of free and low-cost language learning applications such as Little Pim, Gus on the Go, and Kinder App, as well as audio files and books that can be purchased or borrowed from your local library. Expose your child to music, movies, and other digital media presented in a different language. Once your child has grasped some vocabulary, allow him or her to engage in cultural experiences. Attend a local festival or restaurant that is specific to the region of where the language is spoken. The key is repetition and stable exposure as your child begins to grasp the complexities of their native language and a second language.

Contributed by Rebecca Stokes, Fairmont Private Schools

Monday, April 11

BOOK REPORT: Welcome Spring with These 5 Children's Books

Winter has passed and spring is here. Welcome the new season with these five children’s books! Reading aloud with your child helps to boost vocabulary, sentence fluency, and overall comprehension. Use one of the following books to spark a conversation with your child about their favorite flower, how the seasons change, planting a garden, and more.

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The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Gardener.jpg
The Gardener, Sarah Stewart

Miss Rumphius, Barbara Cooney

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Compost Stew, Mary McKenna Siddals

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The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter

Click here to learn more about improving your child’s reading skills! Discover great reading recommendations on Fairmont’s Literary Genius Pinterest board!

Contributed by Rebecca Stokes, Fairmont Private Schools
Images by GoodReads

Wednesday, March 30

SNACKTIME: A Child’s Garden - Lessons in Nutrition, History, and Art

While science and ecology might be the obvious garden subjects, a school or home garden can also provide an environment to support lessons in math, history, art, and social skills.

Science and nutrition:  Nurturing plants from seed to harvest is exciting! Eating a tomato grown in your own garden is rewarding! Eating fruits and vegetables may contribute to the prevention of many diseases, however children often do not eat enough of these foods. Participating in gardening increases awareness of where healthy foods come from, resulting in increased consumption of fruits and vegetables during early childhood and adolescents.

Research shows that students participating in garden activities may reap many benefits, such as
  • A willingness to taste new fruits and vegetables, especially among younger children
  • An increase in overall fruit and vegetable intake
  • An improvement in nutrition knowledge
Overall, children that gardened were more willing to eat nutritious food, try unfamiliar food, had a greater likelihood of cooking and gardening, and expressed a greater appreciation for other individuals and cultures.

Social skills: Additional benefits of gardening include the ability to improve life skills, including working with groups and self-understanding.

History: Children can discover the origins of gardening and design around the globe, from pre-historic forest making to agricultural and ornamental processes.

Art: Garden art nurtures creativity and imagination. Children can create their own planter boxes, paint a garden sign, or add character with small personal touches (colored glass, sea shells, etc).

Contributed by Leslie K. Kay-Getzinger, Regional Dietitian for Nutrition Management Services
Image by Dr. Willard’s

Monday, March 21

EVENTFUL: Top 5 OC Hangouts for Kids on Spring Break

Spring break is just around the corner! If you’re short on ideas to keep your kids engaged for a whole week, here are five top-notch activities for Orange County families!
  1. Visit the animals at the Aquarium of the Pacific! Take a quick trip to Long Beach to see the home of over 11,000 seas animals! Exhibits include the sea otter habitat, mesmerizing jellies, shark lagoon, penguin habitat, and more!
  1. Explore Catalina Island! A wealth of activities are just a ferry ride away, from ghost tours to parasailing! Adventures are endless on the island, where your family can hike, kayak, zipline, and so much more!

  1. Hang out with mummies at Bowers Museum! Check out the current exhibitions at Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, as you explore temple murals, inspect mummy masks, observe the ancient arts of China, and learn California mission history!

  1. Take in a show at the Mission Tiki or Rubidoux Drive-In theater! Trek just outside of Orange County for the special experience of a drive-in movie! Cheap admission and the option for a double feature, lets you get the most bang for your buck while treating your kids to an unforgettable outing.

  1. Hike the Riley Wilderness Park! With five miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, embrace the great outdoors and wander through nature. Boasting a one-acre butterfly garden, the Riley Wilderness Park offers lots of opportunities for wildlife sightings, bug searching, and fossil hunting.

Contributed by Rebecca Stokes, Fairmont Private Schools
Image by UNM Continuing Education

Wednesday, March 16

EVENTFUL: Who was Saint Patrick?

Every March 17th, Ireland, along with countries boasting large Irish immigrant populations - such as Australia, Canada, the United States, and the whole of Europe - gather together in a celebration of all things Irish. A display of traditional Irish culture and icons that have morphed their way into mainstream St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, the 17th of March becomes a sea of bright green, complete with leprechauns, shamrocks, and pots of gold. But that’s not the whole story.

Commemorating the feast day of Saint Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, the origins of the celebration are rooted in 5th century Druid Ireland. Patricius, later Saint Patrick, was born around 387 A.D. in Roman Britain. Historians have been unable to pinpoint Saint Patrick’s birthplace but have narrowed it down to regions possibly in Brittany, Scotland, or Wales. Born into an aristocratic Christian family, Saint Patrick showed little interest in his family’s spiritual beliefs, thus historians have dubbed young Saint Patrick a modern day atheist.

At around sixteen years old, Saint Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders, thrown onto a ship, and sold to a chieftain after landing in Ireland. Enslaved for six years, Saint Patrick served as an isolated shepherd, tending flocks in the harsh island weather with little to no shelter or provisions. Removed from civilization, it was during this time of servitude that Saint Patrick began to rely on the God of his parents, resulting in his conversion to Christianity.

Six years after being taken captive, Saint Patrick received a message in a dream stating that his devotion would be rewarded and he would soon be going home. Immediately after, Saint Patrick set out for the sea, crossing 200 miles as a fugitive and boarding a ship for Britain. Returning home as a young man, Patrick remained devout and began to study at the local monastery where he later joined the clergy and was ordained a bishop of Auxerre.

During his study, Saint Patrick received another dream where he was urged to return to Ireland. He arrived on the Emerald Isle as a missionary around 432 A.D. and was not well received. The people of 5th Century Ireland were enduring harsh times enmeshed in tribalism, division, and violence, however Patrick gained credibility to a widely Pagan audience through his methods of teaching and explaining the tenets of Christianity. Due to his early capture, Saint Patrick was equipped with the cultural knowledge, language, and beliefs practiced by the Celts, helping to integrate Saint Patrick back into their society.

Though Saint Patrick was not the first missionary in Ireland, he was able to grow the small, already present Christian communities by establishing churches and schools, improving literacy, and providing educational resources to the people of Ireland. Saint Patrick served the Irish for almost thirty years before his death in 461 A.D. He is attributed with planting over 300 churches, promoting literacy and education, and acting as the catalyst that transformed Ireland into a Christian state. Though Saint Patrick was never formally canonized by the Catholic Church, his presence and message became immortalized during the early celebrations of his feast day.

Contributed by Rebecca Stokes, Fairmont Private Schools
Images by Crisis Magazine

Mark, Joshua J. (2015, September). “Saint Patrick.” Retrieved from

Kithcart, David “Patricius: The True Story of St. Patrick.” Retrieved March 16, 2016, from Editors “Biography of Saint Patrick.” Retrieved March 16, 2016, from

Monday, March 7

CHALK TALK: Strategies for Strengthening Your Child's Reading Skills (And Yours, Too!)

Reading is a complex process of the brain. Language acquisition begins very early in infancy as children begin to make sounds. As an infant’s brain begins to catalog and interpret sounds, the child creates the foundation of language and lays the groundwork for communication, cognition, and eventual reading. Once a child becomes phonemically aware, he or she will begin to connect letters to their corresponding sounds. This is tricky due to the fact that the English language is made up of 44 sounds and only 26 letters. Next, a child will begin to recognize sounds and blend them to create words.

When we read, several different sections of the brain are used in sequence to parse out meaning. These sections simultaneously link phonics, fluency, and comprehension, decoding and determining the meaning behind lines of words. Once a person has developed the necessary skills, reading is a function of the brain that only takes a matter of seconds. The reading process can be broken into five basic steps:
  1. The brain sees shapes on a page.
  2. The brain recognizes them as letters.
  3. The brain recalls the sounds represented by the letters.
  4. The brain blends the sounds to form words.
  5. The brain extrapolates meaning from the words and punctuation making up the sentence.  

The process of reading is quickened and perfected over time with proper practice. Frequent and consistent reading exercises the brain, improving memory and mental cognition. Work with your child at home to improve their reading and communicative skills!

Read Aloud - Take turns reading aloud with your child. Even for adults, reading out loud helps to improve text comprehension and speech fluency. Another idea is to listen to audiobooks which are handy during stagnant stretches of time (e.g. in the car or waiting room).

Quality Over Quantity - Reading quickly rushes the complex mental hoops that a person’s brain must jump through. Experts encourage both adults and children to read at a slow and steady pace to boost comprehension. When reading is done at a furious pace, many of its benefits (e.g. vocabulary building and meaning comprehension) are lost.

Write, Journal, Compose - Encourage your child to keep a reading journal or to simply write freely. Writing and reading go hand-in-hand and exercise the brain in similar fashions. Fostering the connections between creating words with sounds, and creating meaning through words, is very impactful when children are honing their reading skills. The same is true for adults.

Discussion - When reading with your child, pause for a discussion. Host a book club meeting for you and your child to talk about the characters and events of a story. Engage in a conversation about the actions a character took, situations that occurred within the book, etc. Talking about a text helps to determine reading comprehension, test memory and vocabulary, and also helps children become more equipped to engage in academic dialogue, prepping them for higher education.

Make Time - Schedule a designated reading time for you and your child each day. Lead by example and ensure that your child can see you actively reading. If you establish reading as a habit, your child’s interest and ability will increase over time.

Contributed by Rebecca Stokes, Fairmont Private Schools
Image by Daily Genius