08/15/2002; Section=News; Page=1A
These pupils just love school in the summer
Children: Parents make learning fun outside classroom
Randi Weiner
The Journal News
HILLCREST ? The long picnic table in the back yard was set with a
daisy-strewn tablecloth dotted here and there with workbooks.
Nearly a dozen children ran across the yard giggling and racing while their
parents greeted one another and pulled out flash cards and books.
³This isnıt summer school said Tyric Martin, 11, as he waited for his
middle school group to be called for a session of geography and social
studies. ³This is just a learning program. Itıs really fun.²
Naomiıs Program of Excellence really isnıt summer school. There are no
teachers, no classrooms, and the learning materials are handmade or
purchased from the supermarket.
But for the eight sets of parents and their 14 children who live in and
around Trinity Avenue, the neighborhood learning program is almost as good.
Itıs their way of keeping an educational focus during a time most youngsters
forget all about school.
³Itıs something that my parents said when I was growing up said Jacqueline
Cherry, one of the founders of Naomiıs Program of Excellence. ³Summer is
summer, and you are supposed to have a good time, but itıs expected you will
keep up with the work so, starting in September, you arenıt behind.²
So she gathered a half-dozen friends and neighbors who also didnıt want
their children to lose their educational edge during the summer, and they
brainstormed: Some children were ahead of their classmates and could use
some extra work; others were a little behind and could use the practice.
Some were strong in math, but needed help reading; others could read, but
had problems with multiplying.
³The goal is to teach the kids the value of education. It has to start at
home,² she said. ³If we tell them itıs important, the value of education has
to come from us first and then be reinforced by the school.²
Naomiıs Program of Excellence met once a week from July 8 through this
Monday, usually from 6 to 8 p.m. The scholars range from 4 to 11 years old
and attend a half- dozen private and public schools.
Parents took turns hosting the learning program and providing snacks. The
parents, who include an accountant, a social worker, a marketing
professional, a computer guru, telephone company employee and a housewife,
created entertaining ways to get their lessons across based on their own
talents and interests.
The program began each evening with 20 minutes of exercise ? usually jumping
jacks, sometimes karate. But instead of simply jumping or kicking, the
students also called out the times table or the muscles in the body. Younger
children counted to 10 or 20, and older children called out the 13-times
Then the children gathered in grade-level groups for a reading lesson. The
younger children were read stories and poems, and the older ones read aloud.
Then came speech lessons where the children had to get up and expound on a
topic chosen by the parents, such as their summer vacation, why itıs
important to learn and five interesting things about a student in the group.
At first, Cherry said, some children hid their faces or mumbled as they
spoke, but by the last few sessions, they looked at their audience, spoke
clearly and loudly and kept to the point.
Mathematics lessons included math relay races and ³Leslieıs Shop where the
children priced items, paid with play money and made change. For the middle
school children, geography, social studies and biology lessons were part of
the mix.
³My mother told me I was coming, but I really wanted to come anyway said
Samantha Henry, 11. ³I thought it would be interesting to learn new stuff.
Weıve learned about biology, about African-American people, about the seven
continents, the 13-times table. Iıd do it again.²
During the week, the parents worked with their children on upcoming lessons
and weaknesses they noticed during the group session, Cherry said.
³I think itıs very good, very educational said parent Marvin Malone, whose
8-year-old daughter, Leslie, enjoyed the program so much she insisted on
showing up this Monday, just days after she had minor surgery. ³Theyıll
learn during this summer, and we can get them ready for school. I think itıs
a plus.²
³Itıs fun Leslie said.
Parent Dennis McGloster, who hosted Mondayıs session, said most parents
expected a lot from their schools and teachers, but didnıt necessarily
follow up at home.
³Itıs easy enough to complain about the schools. I think we put a lot of
pressure on teachers; we expect them to discipline our kids,² he said. ³Our
kids should be in the classroom ready to learn. Thereıs just so much
teachers can do. We have to step to the plate and help our children out.²
Cherry and McGloster said they hoped to continue the sessions into the
school year and possibly expand the program to include cultural trips. They
said they hoped other parents would be inspired by their success and start
up their own neighborhood learning groups.
Cherry said she named the program after her 2-year-old daughter, Naomi, who
died in February 2000 from pneumonia, a complication of brittle bone
³You go through something like that, you die inside or you choose to move
on,² Cherry said. ³My daughter really fought for her life. She wanted to be
here. I donıt have the right to throw my life away. If you are here, you do
the best that you can.
³Itıs so easy to complain, ?This is not happening; the school system isnıt
working,ı ² Cherry said. ³You need to say, ?What are YOU doing?ı This is
what I am doing.²
Reach Randi Weiner at rweiner@thejournalnews.com or 845-578-2468.