Okay you guys. This is a two-post part. In the second part, I want to give you a school report on the kids. And in part one, I want to remind you about the awesomeness of Chegg — the online tutoring service we fell in love with last fall. We’ve used it a bunch over the school year, and have ramped our use up a bit now that May has arrived. It’s officially test month at our house! AP tests and the SAT test to be exact. Which has Maude making faces at the camera. : )
If Chegg is new to you, here’s the rundown: it’s an online service that gives students instant, on-demand access to real live tutors. Tutors on any subject you can think of. And not just any tutors, total pros! Tutors are vetted carefully, and many are either current students or recent graduates of top-tier colleges and universities around the world. In fact, 98% of lessons on Chegg Tutors have a positive review!
Maude has used the service the most of all my kids and she loves that she can pick a female tutor (she told me she prefers learning math from women), and that she can see where they went to school. Sometimes she picks a tutor that went to a university she’s interested in attending — and then she can ask them about it! Maude chose a tutoring session with Anastasia — she’s majoring in Economics and Public Policy (honors) at University of Chicago. Maude has become very interested in the University of Chicago (via their mailings), but wants to know more about it, so that was a fantastic connection!
Chegg is really easy to use. You have total control — from your account, you can browse and message tutors, schedule lessons, and manage billing for your student. If you want to jump in and find a tutor, here’s the 4-steps process:
1) Start by entering a subject like “Geometry” on the Chegg Tutors homepage. (Chrome, Firefox and IE are the best browsers
2) Tell the site a little bit about what your teen is studying and needs help with. For example, “Taking AP US History and
confused on topics around the Vietnam war for an essay” or “Need help with a problem set in pre-calculus — confused about how to find the roots of a polynomial function”
3) From there, available tutors who can help will send you messages about their availability. You can chat for free to make
sure the tutor you set your child up with is a good fit. You can start a lesson immediately, or schedule one a later time.
4) Lesson time! Just click ‘Enter the Lesson” and meet your tutor there. Once the lesson is over, you can give your tutor a positive or negative review, depending on how the lesson went.
The Chegg platform is really cool because you can interact in different ways — you can text chat, or video chat, or even draw mathematical diagrams. This is important because as we all remember, different subjects require different interactions. Sometimes you need graph paper or a white board, and other time you just need someone who can verbally explain things to you in a way that’s easy to understand.
But what I like most about Chegg is the convenience. No traveling necessary. No advanced scheduling required. And it’s available 24/7! Which means if your teen is having a frustrating homework night — even a very late night — Chegg can come to the rescue. Oh. And it’s affordable too. You only pay for time your student spends in a lesson with their tutor. If your teen only needs help for 20 minutes, that’s all you pay for.
Chegg is aimed at high school and college students, and it’s perfect for getting students ready for finals — helping them prep for AP exams, brush up on confusing topics, or just getting back on track before the end of the school year.
It gets two thumbs up from me and my kids. Highly recommend!
Okay. Now here’s a little report on the kids and school…
June is in Kindergarten at our local public elementary school. She loves it and will continue at the same school next year. She is turning 6 this week and I can’t even believe it! Outside of school, June takes piano lessons and goes to gymnastics class.
Betty is in 4th grade at the same elementary school as June, and will be in 5th grade next year. Betty thrives on doing well at school and I think she’s really going to enjoy being part of the oldest grade next year. Via the school, Betty does choir and band (clarinet), and works in the garden. And outside of school she takes piano lessons and gymnastics, has a French tutor, and participates in a girls activity group through our church. This week the whole 4th grade is headed to an overnight camp and that fact is occupying pretty much all of her thoughts at the moment.
Oscar is at the same school as June and Betty. He’s in 5th grade. Oscar had one of the hardest transitions from French school to American school when we moved to Oakland. He’s a great student, but it took awhile to make friends. His 3rd grade year was rough. But 4th grade was much better, and 5th grade has been fantastic! He’s very involved — band (trumpet), choir, and student council. He’s headed to our local public middle school next year — the same one Olive attends now. Oscar is physically small, one of the smallest in his grade. It doesn’t seem to bother him (which is great), but it’s so hard to picture our little Oscar in middle school! Crossing my fingers for a growth spurt over the summer!
Most of Oscar’s classmates and friends are headed to the same middle school as he is, but some are trying new schools — the Oakland School for Boys, and the Oakland School of the Arts. That has Oscar (and us) wondering if he should be looking at other schools too. But he’s decided to try our usual middle school, and if it turns out not to be a good fit, then we’ll look at an alternative. Outside of school, Oscar takes gymnastics lessons, has a French tutor, and does Cub Scouts.
Olive is in 8th grade at the middle school. She LOVES her school, and we love it too. She has a terrific, close knit group of friends and is an excellent student. Like the rest of her siblings, she like to get involved in lots of stuff — both in school and out. She’s in the choir, is part of the Gay-Straight Student Alliance, and tried Jogging Club too. She also takes piano lessons and has a French tutor. There’s a Goodwill near her school, which she takes full advantage of on early-out days and is developing some pretty killer skills at spotting awesome vintage thrift store pieces.
The one thing I’m looking to add to Olive’s life is something physical — jogging club didn’t take, but maybe she’ll join the track team, or we could get her back into tennis lessons. Like her mother, apparently she is resistant to sports. : ) Pretty much all of her friends are headed to the same high school, and she’s looking forward to that. She’s all registered for next year’s classes and she’s ready to tackle her freshman year. Olive does not have a phone yet (though she does have my old phone that functions as an iPod) — she’ll get a phone when she starts high school and is very much looking forward to that.
Maude is finishing her junior year of high school. As you know, junior year has a reputation for being the toughest year of high school, and that’s definitely been true for Maude. She has a packed schedule of challenging classes, but she’s doing great. She keeps her GPA over 4.0, and takes her studies seriously. As I mentioned at the top of the post, it’s a test month for her, and that’s where her focus is right now.
Maude participates in jazz band (piano), cross-country & track (she’s been team captain this year), and student council. So if she’s not studying, her time usually fills with one of those 3 activities. When she’s available, she also joins in the French tutoring and piano lessons happening at our house. Sometimes Maude feels overwhelmed by her course load and home work. I don’t blame her! She’ll apply for college next fall and I know she’s feeling a ton of pressure about getting in. When it gets to be too much, I know she finds relief watching Ralph.
Ralph’s alternate course has been awesome! As you may remember, this was originally going to be his senior year of high school. But when he got home from his semester abroad in France, he was kind of “over” high school and wanted to move on to college. So we talked with some college entrance consultants about his options and made a plan: Ralph would test out of high school and start classes at one of the many community colleges in our area, and then use their programs to transfer into a UC University (or other university).
So Ralph started school at Berkeley City College last fall. He’s in his second semester and is finishing up 30 credits for the year. He’s a dedicated student and has excellent grades. He’ll do one more year at BCC, following the transfer program guidelines (which require specific classes), and then he’ll apply to transfer.
Ben Blair and I, who knew almost nothing about community college before this, have become huge fans! Like mega fans!! Ralph’s tuition per semester has been about $400. That’s it! And though the transfer program sounds too good to be true, the schools continue to confirm that it is indeed a real thing. It’s amazing! It’s like he’ll be able to earn his university degree at half price. And he never had to take the SAT or ACT — he by-passed that whole situation!
Maude knows that a similar path is available to her, and as I mentioned, there’s relief in the knowledge. I don’t expect that she’ll actually shift her path. She likes the track she’s on and she’s excelling. But just knowing that even if she bombs the SAT, she can still end up at a great university — via community college — is a comforting thought.
The summary? We continue to be big fans of our Oakland public schools. Sometimes (often) the schools don’t get good ratings, but it’s really easy for us to ignore those ratings when we get involved and can see the school community is thriving.
How are you doing school wise? Anyone having a rough school year? Are you looking at new schools for next year? And for those of you with teens, are you facing test month too? AP exams? ACT? SAT? If you need help, take advantage of the Chegg offer — free tutoring for the win!
Sending everybody high-fives. And love. The school-year finish-line is in sight!