gifted and talented kids activities

After School and Weekend Activities in Howard County Maryland

After school bus stopping

I was recently told about a relatively unique after school/weekend activity for kids: Chinese Dance Lessons.  The source showed me videos and told me the teacher is wonderful.  I was so impressed with the simple beauty and grace of the dances, and how they involved the dancers’ whole bodies and facial expressions.  I am always looking out for other interesting after school ideas.

My kids currently do: Roller Skating Lessons (fun/very cheap), Ballet Lessons, Piano Lessons and Swimming.  These activities fluctuate by time of the year and the amount of energy my wife and I have to spend driving them around.  We’ve done gymnastics in the past as well.

Other popular sports activities:

If you’re interested in academic activities for the gifted and talented kids, I have heard great things about Johns Hopkins Gifted Youth Program.  They have interesting courses after school, in the summer and on the weekends.  Also, for young kids who don’t attend preschool, Glenelg Country School has activities for kids during the week.  There is also after school academic programs in math and science.

What ideas do you have? By the way, here is a list of places to hold a birthday party in Howard County–many of them would also be great after school activities!

Education Private Schools

Private school or public school?

hands - public vs. private school

I recently read an article on which was talking about why the author was going to send his kids to public school.  He was basically saying that if he didn’t send his kids to public school, he would not be doing his part to improve public schools–that parents should all send their kids to public school no matter what, so they could change the system and improve it from within.

I thought some of the readers’ contrary comments were right on the mark.   I thought this comment from someone called Jessica put it the best “…I have to say that the public schools we went to are not the public schools of today. Yes, a determined group of parents can make changes for the better in their neighborhood school, but it’s a difficult, uphill slog. No Child Left Behind has done real, lasting damage that you can’t just opt out of. And I find the “we’ll just fix it with extracurriculars” argument to be shallow, elitist, and ultimately unhealthy for kids, who need time for unstructured play. So I don’t know the answer. Will my kid end up in public school? Probably. Will I be terrified to send her there? Probably.”

Although Howard County Maryland is known for having some of the best schools in one of the best districts in Maryland, and Maryland is known for having one of the two best school systems in the USA, I still have plenty of worries.   Although I am not going to send my kids to public school, I also felt that the article was total bull.  The public school system is so seriously in need of so many kinds of adjustments (everything from no child left behind to PE to school lunches), that I say, if you can afford to keep your kids out of public school (either via private school or home schooling), and find a good fit, your kids would be better off.

At private schools, you’ll find much smaller class sizes, richer curriculum’s and less emphasis on testing. Many of the private schools in Howard County are VERY diverse and emphasize caring about others.

If you’re in Howard County Maryland, here is a list of some private schools you should consider and here is a list of pre-schools. By the way if you’re looking for gift ideas for your gifted / talented child, here are some great educational ideas.

Education Recommendations

Best Resources for Teaching Young Children to Read

I have two children- a girl in preschool who just turned five and another one who is three and a half.  The five year old can read and comprehend on the fourth grade level, and the other one is able to read most five and six letter words without hesitation and reads books like Fancy Nancy with total fluency.

I know that might sound like bragging, and of course I am proud of them, but I take very little credit for their abilities other than giving some time and guidance here and there–my wife definitely deserves more credit, but even she doesn’t get most of it–the kids themselves do.  They like reading so much that they want to do it on their own.

Parents have asked me “how we did it” and I can point to a few things that I believe helped.

Let me preface this list by saying that I think its really important that kids enjoy reading.  Some kids just might not be ready to read at a young age.  I do believe to a certain extent that the earlier they can get learning to read out of the way, the faster they can read to learn.  I also think that many many more kids are capable of learning to read young than actually do learn.

There are plenty of different reasons for this, for instance: many times the parents just don’t think they need to do it, they don’t have time, they don’t think they are able to do it, they think it’s the school’s responsibility to teach them.  The bottom line though is not to push them too hard on it.

Give them the resources and patience and don’t be upset if your child just isn’t ready.  I also want to mention that my wife stayed home with the older one until she was three and the younger one until she was almost two.  I know that’s not possible for many parents, but I do think there were huge dividends from this.  

Ok, and now for the list of reading resources:

1) Hooked On Phonics — Hooked On Phonics is a very good program.  You can order all sorts of different age-appropriate kits from them.  They send you work books, flash cards CDs, DVDs and progress charts.  It is definitely a commitment from the parents to do HOF with them.  Bit I tell you it works.  If you decide to give it a try, definitely look for a promotion code.  The kits we ordered were around $50, but we probably paid about 30 shipped.  Here is a review of the Hooked on Phonics program.
2) PBS’s “Word World” TV show.  You can get it on Netflix.  This is a great animated show where all the animals and objects are made of letters…so if there was a barn, it would be the letters B-A-R-N in the shape of a barn.   My kids really enjoy this show and I believe they do learn some reading skills from watching the show…BTW, I’ve written a complete list of TV shows that I think are great for kids.
3)–My kids love this website.  We have a (relatively low cost) Android tablet and my 3 year old can navigate it herself with the touchscreen.  Starfall is free for a huge chunk of content and you can pay $35/year for “more starfall”.  I can’t tell you how strongly I recommend this website to parents of toddlers.
4) Sesame Street – For very young kids, this is a great show and they have a great website.  On the website a parent can select the most educational videos and ignore the fluff videos.  There is some fun for parents there too–you can find alot of your favorite stars who made cameos on SS.
5) Leapster 2’s have some pretty good games you can count on when you’re in the car.  They are relatively educational.  The cartridges teach all kinds of reading skills including phonics, parts of speech and more.

6) LeapFrog animated videos such as Talking Letter Factory. This an effective and very entertaining series.Also good are the TV shows Little Einsteins, Martha Speaks and Super Why–although the first two don’t help with reading directly.  Martha Speaks builds toddlers vocabulary.  Little Einsteins introduces children to art, musical instruments and composition.  Super Why does include some literacy.

See my list of educational TV shows on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and YouTube.    In another post I discuss great educational gift ideas.