At Homework Central, the lessons go beyond reading, writing and arithmetic.
The third, fourth and fifth graders who attend the free tutoring program in San Mateo certainly get help with those school subjects but the staff and volunteers are also keen on teaching the overall importance of doing well in school and helping parents help their children.
“We’re really trying to get these kids over the hump of elementary school. In the general view of the world, among academics ... if kids are struggling in elementary, then the probability increases that they’ll be much [worse off] in middle school and high school,” said Matthew Feuer, co-chair of Homework Central’s board.
Feuer said the program reinforces that goal by hosting dinners where parents and their children can listen to middle school officials speak about what they and their children can expect when they graduate from elementary school.
“The other thing that Homework Central does is provide parent support — we work with parents to support their kids more effectively,” Feuer said.
Homework Central was founded in 1998 as three North Central San Mateo churches — Unitarian Universalists, Congregational Church and Chalice Christian — led an effort to support neighborhood children struggling with elementary school. It currently operates three sites in North Central San Mateo and plans to open a fourth at San Mateo Park Elementary School.
The sites are overseen by coordinators who are helped by bilingual aides from local high schools, along with volunteers. There are approximately 20 to 25 students at each site with an equal number of staff and volunteer to provide individual instruction. The one-on-one tutoring sessions begin at the end of September when teachers have gauged his/her students’ learning needs.
Much of the program is dedicated to financially disadvantaged children who don’t speak English as their first language and the shifting demographic of North San Mateo has seen an increase in Hispanic students. As a result, Homework Central has increased the use of bilingual aides.
Students are referred to the program by teachers from Sunnybrae Elementary Magnet School, Horrall Elementary Magnet School and San Mateo Park Elementary School. Students attend a homework center session for four days a week. Each student at the center is then assisted with his or her daily homework after the school day ends. Besides completing the teacher-mandated homework, the Homework Central staff encourage the kids to read and work on mathematics through flash cards. An average day often ends with the students playing educational games or with Lego pieces.
Kathy Kinner has been involved with Homework Central for 14 years as a volunteer tutor and says the center helped her spend more time with children and teach them life lessons.
“It was really important for me to teach my children about social justice and helping others in the community ... [I was] just reinforcing how important education is,” Kinner said.
Homework Central actively seeks out student aides and volunteers from the area to tutor the students.
“[Homework Central] reinforces to the whole community ... what an important piece education plays in [lifelong success],” Kinner said.
For more information visit www.homework-central.org.