There are several mornings I wake up and have to take a minute to figure out what day it is. Oh, sure, I can listen to the camel on TV screaming that it’s hump day and glean that it’s Wednesday, but for the most part, my life with Grandpa is now an endless series of days that feel like Saturday or Sunday.
We’ve earned this, but retirement is what you make it. I get lots of inquiries about what to do with all the spare time we seem to have acquired, so I’m always in search of ways for retirees to spend time with others. My granddaughter and her boyfriend enjoy volunteering at senior venues, closing the generation gap. They find that extremely rewarding, but there’s a wonderful way to close that gap in reverse.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Julie Wantuck — a retired teacher from upstate New York and recent Brentwood resident — who volunteers as a homework helper at the Brentwood Library. Sponsored by the library, the Homework Help program is open two days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 4-6 p.m. and is offered to students from kindergarten through 12th grade who can use some tutoring assistance. According to Wantuck, most of the students are youngsters in K-4th grade. A variety of subjects are covered, including math, history, English and science.
The process to volunteer begins with a phone call to the library at 925-516-5290. After a conversation, an appointment is required at the police station for fingerprinting and a background check. The cost of these are fully reimbursed by the library. Once cleared, volunteers can choose either of the two days, or both, to participate. They appreciate a commitment to the day you sign up for but are flexible. There are usually several tutors who come to each session, so if someone is stronger than another in a subject, they can help each other out.
Although some high school students participate, most of the helpers are retirees, including some retired teachers like Wantuck, but all backgrounds are welcome. There’s also a need for bilingual tutors who can assist with translation issues, says Wantuck.
Along with helping the students who need an extra boost with their studies, parents also benefit from this program. The tutors will guide them through several websites that offer information for follow-up at home.
This is a free service and has been very successful in helping our local kids who need some extra resources. As a grandparent, I find that lots of children will accept this kind of assistance from people other than their parents. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed enough to keep the child attentive and interested as they get through a subject or two that has previously been intimidating for them.
Wantuck says they have fun along with the schoolwork. Making learning interesting and joyful is a big part of the program. One child was having some difficulty with right and left so a few choruses of the Hokey Pokey seemed in order. It worked! To me this sounds like a win-win situation for all.
Parents are required to remain onsite during the sessions, but are asked to relax somewhere out of sight in the library so their children won’t be distracted. When the Brentwood schools are closed, so too are the tutoring classes. You don’t have to have a degree in any subject to be a tutor, you just need the desire to reach out to a child who could use some kindness and attention. Reading a book aloud or using some flashcards doesn’t take anything more than a love for helping kids and a few hours a week.
Being retired is a blessing, and sharing time with family or traveling is wonderful. Sharing knowledge and bridging that generation gap is icing on the cake.
Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with senior care and advocacy groups. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.