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Modern Parenthood

Summer school: Free online educational activities for students and adults

Online you will find a wealth of websites to help your kids, or yourself, learn materials from the least to most complex. Think there's no substitution for face-to-face learning? One woman's goddaughter passed college level chemistry, and you could too. 

By Lisa SuhayGuest blogger / May 21, 2013

Khan Academy teaches users visually. Here, an instructor uses a diagram to explain the US Social Security system, part of a 13-video series on American civics that includes pensions, a fiscal cliff explainer, and Medicare sustainability.

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When Jeanne Cairns Sinquefield’s goddaughter Kelley Sandhu, a student at St. Louis University, began to struggle to keep up with her advanced science classes, it was clear that, short of a magic wand, this godmother didn’t have what it takes to help.

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Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.

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When it comes to helping their kids with homework, many parents admit defeat while parsing through their kid's math and science assignments. However, Ms. Sinquefield found help for her goddaughter in free online tutoring resources, and she credits them for helping Ms. Sandhu make it to graduation last Sunday. She received a degree in organic chemistry.

“Kelley would come to me for help with organic chemistry. I would look at the assignments and it was just sort of a blur. Greek. Total Greek,” says Sinquefled in a phone interview with The Christian Science Monitor. “I was like, uuhhmmm don’t call me for help.”

However, Sinquefield, who holds an impressive educational pedigree and founded the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation, refused to quit and started looking for solutions online.

“I have raised four or five other children beside my own and Kelley was always with us,” she says. “When it comes to kids having difficulties in school, my theory is to never wait for a teacher who has 30 other kids in the room to get around to helping yours. Help them yourself, any way you can.”

Sinquefield went to the university and asked if Kelley could fulfill her community service hours needed to graduate by researching and testing various online tutoring sites, then sharing her findings with the Missouri Children's Education Alliance, with local charter schools, and in the local newspaper. Administrators gave her a green light. “So she got her free tutoring and she got her hours,” Sinquefield says proudly. “Believe me, it’s not the teacher’s fault that they have so many students. The teachers are all trying at every level from grade school on up. But hell’s gonna freeze over before they have time to get to your kid.”

Why is this woman in business administration and not education? “I spent 25 years in Boy Scouts with two sons and as den chief. Now I’m working with the U of Missouri on distance learning. So I suppose really, I am in teaching and have always been as a mom and in the Scouts.”

What she discovered as the mom of Eagle Scouts is, “Everybody learns differently, some are better with books, others with videos and visual learning.”

While the Khan Academy site worked best for Sandhu and Sinquefield’s, “But that’s not saying the others aren’t going to be great for you depending on how you learn,” Sinquefield explains.

I am going to pause here to say that this mom/godmom is an absolute genius in my book for turning the problem around in this manner. She turned lemons into lemon chiffon pie and brought enough to share with the whole parenting class.

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