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FOR THE KIDS : Area Vacation Agendas to Soon Give Way to Homework : Parents can make the transition easier by making decisions on establishing a routine for the daily schoolwork.


With summer vacation nearly over--and some kids on the year-round schedule already back in school--homework soon will be making its way into households across the county. It's a prospect, of course, that strikes a dreary chord with most youngsters. But how do you, as a parent, get 'em to do it?

"Parents need to establish a routine for daily homework," says Susan Parks, assistant superintendent for educational services in the Simi Valley Unified School District. This means doing it at the same time and in the same place each day.

Parks says it's OK if some children want to do it as soon as they get home and if others want to unwind first with a little recreation.

"This differs depending on the child," she says. Some children also like the quiet of their rooms, while others prefer the kitchen table where adults are nearby to answer questions.

"From third grade on, children need a role in these (homework-related) decisions," she said. "Parents need to discuss and plan it with them."

What do other educators say about helping children to do their best work? Here are a few tips:

* Don't worry if your child's homework looks different than what you took home as a child. A recent state superintendent of public instruction report says there is "a new, more creative view of homework." A math assignment may involve your child going to the store with you to figure out which soap is the best buy. "The homework load isn't more or less than it was a generation ago," says Sue Eastman, an eighth-grade teacher at Monte Vista Intermediate School in Camarillo.

* "The most important thing is to have an adult somewhere in the house to help," says Linda Brug, a teacher at De Anza Middle School in Ventura. Her No. 1 tip for kids: "Tackle the hardest work first."

* Be creative in motivating your children, says Karen Knight, a fifth-grade teacher at Berylwood School in Simi Valley. As an incentive, Knight gives extra recess minutes or "homework passes" to students who finish all their homework and behave well. Rewards such as stickers, star charts or even trips to a fast-food place can work for parents, she says.

* "What we're looking for is structure and regularity," says Lana Fricke, a fifth-grade teacher at Justin School in Simi Valley. Parents must be consistent, she says, which means no video games, radio, television or other distractions. Fricke also believes rewards are OK, as long as they aren't extravagant.

* Set aside a certain time each day for younger children because it establishes a routine, says Diane Dempwolf, coordinator of staff development with the Oxnard Elementary School District. Even if no homework has been assigned, she says, "have the child use that time for writing a letter, reading or art work." Her most important advice? Praise your child's work.

* Help older children get in the habit of writing down their assignments, which instills responsibility, teachers say. For long-range assignments, use a calendar and break the project into segments. Then write down when each portion needs to be completed.

* Find out if your child's school offers a homework hot line, which allows parents and students to call daily to find out what has been assigned.

If your child is in an after-school program, ask what's available to encourage homework. Some centers have homework nooks so students can finish by the time working parents arrive. Parents should still review the work.

* Take an interest in your child's homework, be available whenever possible for questions and make sure it gets done. "As the children get older," Parks says, "there should be less looking over the shoulder."

MARITIME DAYS: If you're looking for some seaside adventures, the fifth annual Maritime Days celebration at Channel Islands Harbor this weekend has a few special events that might interest youngsters.

A fishing derby for youngsters 6 to 14 years old will be held Saturday at the jetty next to the small park at the south end of Harbor Boulevard. Sponsored by La Dolce Vita Continental Grocery, the derby runs from 9 to 11 a.m., with check-in from 8 to 9 a.m. Awards will be given at noon for the heaviest, longest and ugliest fish.

The $2 entry fee includes bait but anglers must bring their own gear. A fishing license is not required, but participants must be accompanied by an adult. For information, call 985-2234.

For beach types, a sand-sculpturing contest will be held Saturday at Hollywood Beach, off Harbor Boulevard at Los Feliz Street and Sunset Lane. Contest check-in time is 10:30 to 11 a.m., with the contest running from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Judging for the free event will be from 2 to 3 p.m. There are categories for youths 15 and under, as well as for adults, groups and businesses.

To keep the beach clean, only natural materials will be allowed on the sculptures. The grand-prize winner will get a weekend getaway for two. Other prizes will be awarded. For information on the contest and entry forms, call 988-9232.

GRAND OPENING: The grand opening today of a new Ventura restaurant, billed as a benefit for the Ventura Pier, features free entertainment from 3:30 to 5 p.m. for children 6 to 12 years old. The place is Smokey's Dining Hall and Family Saloon, 211 E. Santa Clara St. Storyteller Jim Woodward will be on hand, along with musician Craig Newton, Sunshine the Happy Clown and historian Richard Senate.

KIDS WORLD: For the eighth year, The Oaks shopping mall in Thousand Oaks is featuring children's entertainers during its Kids World celebration this weekend. Highlights include Richard Perlmutter and the Tin Pan Alley Band, 2 and 4 p.m. Friday; the Scott Land Marionettes, 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Saturday, and the Happy Crowd, 2 and 4 p.m. Sunday. Children-related exhibits and activities will continue through the weekend.

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