For students, the return of school means reconnecting with friends and the assurance of homework. The first results in smiles, but the second can result in a huge increase in stress. Big Brothers Big Sisters is particularly focused on improving educational outcomes for Littles. In fact, Littles who participate in our program often achieve educational results that are better than their peers.
In 2014, 98% of the children in our program maintained or improved their grades. Ninety-one percent intended to finish high school, compared with 81% nationally, and 79% intended to attend college, compared with 45% nationally.
“For some BBBS parents, one of the reasons they give for enrolling in our program is to gain an educational role model for their children,” said Sharlene Eaton, Match Support Supervisor. “While Bigs are able to provide encouragement and coaching on academics, there are times when Littles can benefit from additional tutoring services.”
To help families deal with some of the educational needs their children might have, BBBS Match Support Specialists frequently refer families to two educational resources: Kahn Academy and Brainfuse. Both of these organizations are nonprofits that offer a variety of types of academic assistance for students of all ages, on all subjects.
Kahn Academy provides free online materials and resources to support personalized education for learners. Their mission is “to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.” Their methods for doing this include practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that allows learners to study at their own pace. Kahn Academy has partnered with NASA, The Museum of Modern Art and MIT to offer specialized content.
In addition, the site offers free tools parents and teachers can use in coaching, motivating and supporting students.
Information on Kahn Academy can be found at www.kahnacademy.org
Brainfuse is another organization offering tutoring resources and it has a local connection, the Austin Public Library. You can access Brainfuse with an internet connection and an Austin Public Library card. There are also Brainfuse apps for iOS and Android devices.
This service provides free online tutoring for students in grades K-12, as well as adult learners, and is available 24/7. It also offers live tutors Monday – Sunday, 2:00-11:00 p.m. You can view a short demo video on Brainfuse at the Austin Public Library website – library.austintexas.gov/brainfuse
Students communicate with live tutors using an interactive whiteboard to chat, write, draw, copy/paste text or images and graph homework problems. All live sessions are saved and can be replayed as well as shared with friends and teachers by email.
Registration is not required to get live tutoring help. However, it is recommended so that students can track their progress. Registration is required for certain modules like The Writing Lab and the SkillSurfer.
The Austin Public Library also offers other homework help with their Explora units that are grade appropriate and test prep units from Learning Express Library, plus research resources with Britannica Library. All of the homework help resources can be used in any Austin Public Library location or outside the library with a library card.
“Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission is to provide mentors who will support their Littles as they encounter adversity, such that they overcome the challenges they face and ultimately experience success,” said Sharlene. “In fact, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas provides academic scholarships for Littles ages 14 and up who have been matched with a Big for one year or more.”
“We recognize educational success as one of the most significant vehicles for accessing opportunities, and it is one of the areas we emphasize in order to help children achieve their dreams and succeed in life.”