Summer Camp for Adopted Kids in Transracial Families

Happy campers at Transracial Journeys summer camp

Adopted children in transracial families – families of more than one race – often carry with them grief and trauma issues. These issues can handicap their ability to concentrate and succeed as students. “Transracial children may benefit greatly from adoptive parents who give them multi-racial diverse experiences,” says Linda Jones, a local psychotherapist who specializes in working with adopted children.

Many times parents can feel blindsided by these challenges and do not know where to turn for help. One form of support has been the creation of summer camps specializing in providing a community environment just for these families. Here are two camps relatively nearby which seem to be very popular.

Kamp Kurat was created by Carrie Lafferty of Ann Arbor and is in its third year at Summerset Beach Campground just 45 minutes west of Ann Arbor, near Jackson. The camp is designed for families who have adopted Ethiopian children.

Transracial Journeys was created by Rita Simpson-Vlach and is beginning its fourth year. The camp is located in Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania, just east of Pittsburgh. This camp is for all transracial families – both the children and their parents.

I hope you will share this information with other families who may benefit. If you know of other similar opportunities, please share them with me.


How To Help Your Middle/High School Student Read That Last Chapter

She patiently overcomes reading anxiety by reading titles, first sentences and captions in order to catch up.

If your middle/high school student is struggling to read that final chapter of history/science/government or other fact-based text as part of their last academic push for the year, you may want to try this strategy.

1. Have them speed read the chapter title, caption headers, and first sentences of each paragraph in the chapter. (If racing the clock helps, you can set it for 1-3 minutes and let the clock pace them.)

2. Then ask them to describe what they predict the topic will be about, including questions which might be answered in the reading.

3. Finally, have them read the chapter completely and highlight main ideas and supporting details as they go along. (If they can’t highlight in the book because it is school property you might consider copying the pages, so that they can highlight on the copies.)

4. Now, give them 1-4 minutes to study as much of their highlighted material as possible.

5. Finally take the book or text away and ask them to repeat, in order if possible, as many details as possible from their highlighted text.
This strategy works for several reasons. First, the student overcomes a little anxiety by getting a ‘big-picture’ quick look at the chapter. Secondly, you are adding a bit of a game element when you challenge them to recall as much as they can without the book. Try it out and let me know how it works!
For more information on last minute study strategies you might check out “Reading Effectively” a very clear article on reading strategies.

A Great Recall Game: My Left Foot

The memory game, My Left Foot, from Engel Tutors, is a great way to work on recall skills. Well, this may not be my left foot, but it is someone’s left foot.


When students have trouble understanding something they have read, we may quickly identify the problem as a comprehension issue. However, it can be difficult to tell whether comprehension or memory or retrieval is really at the root of this problem. Comprehension means understanding the message of the text, memory refers to our ability to hold on to information in our mind – both the literal words and the message they convey; and retrieval means our ability to recall information from memory. All three are interconnected.

Working on retrieval skills may help students with reading comprehension challenges. Recall games encourage a student to concentrate on listening and identifying specific text. While this is not the same as comprehension, it is vital because it helps them improve underlying skills of attentiveness needed for comprehension.

Here is a fun example of a word recall game. Tell your child that you are going to tell him a story and that you want him to identify 3 items in the story that you can hold in your hand. Then proceed to tell a short story. For example,

I rode my bike to the store to buy groceries for a special meal. On the way I ran over a nail and got a flat-tire. I was so close to the store, I decided to walk the rest of the way on foot. Unfortunately, I stepped in some melted gum. It was so sticky that I couldn’t lift my foot. So, I took off my sneaker and kept walking. In the store I bought an apple and some walnuts. On the way home it started raining. Can you believe that? My left foot was soaked.

Now remind the listener to name 3 things they heard which can be held in their hands. Too easy? Make them remember more items, change the criteria, complicate the story with a long diversion. Of course, you have to play too!

This is a great game for car rides, doctor offices, and rainy days. Try it out and let me know how it goes.

If you want to learn a bit more about retreival watch this short Kahn Academy video at .

Want a heavy article on the relationship between memory, retrieval and comprehension? Try: Comprehension of Linguistic Dependencies: Speed-Accuracy Tradeoff Evidence for Direct-Access Retrieval From Memory at

Honor Earth Day With A Good Book

Eric of Engel Tutors recommends Ocean Sunlight, pictured here,  for children working on reading skills and ocean ecology.Spring has arrived and Earth Day is on it’s way. Here is a children’s book, perfect for 2nd through 5th graders, which I guarantee will cheer you and your child and help you dive into the spirit of Earth Day. Ocean Sunlight by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm, offers a complete and fairly detailed overview of the carbon cycle. It illustrates the role of photosynthesis in ocean life as well as land life.

Bang describes the big picture of ocean life in a way that is captivating and accessible to students and adults. I was awed by the mixture of poetry and science and finished the book with a firmer grasp of the whole earth carbon life cycle. This would also be a good book for an older student with a reading challenge who is looking for something on environmental science or ocean ecology.

If you are looking for Earth Day weekend events that are fun for the family, take a look at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum ScienceFest: Earth Day or the Leslie Science Center Spring Eggstravaganza.

What science or ecology books would you recommend for Earth Day?

Creating A Water Garden: Applied Math & Outdoor Fun

the math equation I used for my pond liner, from Engel Tutors in Ann Arbor
Figuring out the right length and width for my pond liner.

Warm April weather can turn student minds away from classrooms and towards the outdoors. Why not bond with them and keep them engaged in learning at the same time? Designing and creating a backyard water garden will give your student the opportunity to apply math concepts such as proportions, fractions, multiplication, division, and algebra, as well as the handy use of important tools. It’s a great way to work with them as a teammate and add an exotic habitat to the homestead for observation and quiet meditation. Continue reading Creating A Water Garden: Applied Math & Outdoor Fun