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Learning centers stay busy in summer
Advaith Nair, 6, works on problems at Aloha Mind Math on Haw Creek Circle. Aloha is one of many centers offering parents a chance to keep their children’s minds sharp over the summer break. - photo by Crystal Ledford

The summer sun beckons many Forsyth County students to the pool or athletic fields to stay physically active.

But many want to keep exercising their brains during the school offseason, too.

And that’s good news for local businesses that provide tutoring and other academic services year round.

Courtney Harbison, managing director of Huntington Learning Center on Castleberry Road, said she and her staff of about 17 certified teachers don’t get a summer vacation.

“The summer is one of our busiest times of the year actually,” she said.

Likewise, Karen Grochau, who along with husband Douglas opened Omega Learning-South Forsyth on Peachtree Parkway in March, said she has been surprised by the seasonal business.

“I had thought the summer would probably slow down because people go on vacation and everyone’s ready to get out of school by the end of the year,” she said.

“But we’ve grown every month since we opened, so it’s been awesome. I’ve actually lost count of how many [students] we have had because we’ve been so busy.”

Omega has a staff of about 10, most of whom are certified teachers.

“All of our K-5 tutors are certified teachers, but we do make some exceptions in areas like foreign language and upper level math,” Grochau said. “Sometimes we find the best teachers are not teachers, but people who have been in other professions in their fields.”

Parents in high-achieving Forsyth County want to make sure their students stay on course even during their break, Harbison said.

“That’s really the perfect time for students to come in and catch up, or for students who just want to maintain what they’ve learned,” she said. “We have a lot of parents who just don’t want to see their student fall behind over the next 10 weeks.”

Huntington and Omega centers, both franchises of larger companies, offer subject-specific tutoring for students, as well as help with areas such as study skills and preparation for tests like the SAT and ACT.

But the centers aren’t just for students who need extra help. They can be for average and advanced students, as well.

“We have kids that are struggling and need that extra help, but we also have kids here who are very bright and they’re here for enrichment because they’re bored in school,” Karen Grochau said.

Harbison added that offerings such as those at her center can be a relief for many parents, particularly during the long break.

“I think it takes the pressure off of them to try to find things to do with their children and to help them get through the summer,” she said.

Summer can also be a good time for students to begin a new academic program that can help them throughout the year.

That’s what Tapasvi and Rinku Jaiswal, a husband and wife team, offer at their franchise of Aloha Mind Math on Haw Creek Circle.

Tapasvi Jaiswal said they opened the site about three years ago after their own son was struggling with math concepts in school.

The Aloha program is just for elementary school children and helps them learn to do math using an abacus in three different ways — through sight, hearing and “mind math” where they visualize the abacus.

“This forces you to use both sides of your brain,” Jaiswal said. “It’s training for your brain to make it work differently.”

Aloha Mind Math, which also recently introduced an English program, has sites in 14 different countries, with more than 3 million children enrolled.

In order to see true results, Jaiswal said a student must take part in the program for at least a year, and most stay enrolled for anywhere from two to five years.

“Because of that, summer is actually pretty much the same for us,” he said. “We’re a year-round program. We’re not just summer camps or summer programs.”

No matter if it’s tutoring, test prep or learning a new way to do math, many kids in Forsyth County aren’t letting their brains take a vacation just because they’re out of school.

“The misconception is [students] just need a break and we [adults] want to give them time off,” Harbison noted.

“But in 10 weeks [of summer break] there’s a lot that can be lost and then they’re struggling right out of the gate … we want to get them ready for a fresh start in August.”