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It’s a merrie, merrie time when ukes come a-calling Richard Peña | Sat, Jul 12 2014 12:00 PM

Many of the schools in the South Bay — in fact, all of them save those that are on year round schedules — are in some sort of a hiatus at this time. They are a little bit like the bear in winter who takes this time out to catch up on those things that bears generally catch up on.

But, unlike the bear, the school is not sleeping.  To the contrary it is getting that spring cleaning, perhaps a little late in the year, but a cleaning it is.

The custodial staff, not having to worry about teachers or kids, are going all out, cleaning, painting and repairing and when everyone comes back in the fall — voila — they have themselves the equivalent of a new school building.

I was thinking of this the other day as I toured a school that is very much in business, summer vacation or not.

This is the Sylvan Learning Center, a Bonita establishment in the shopping mall on Otay Lakes and Bonita roads.

I toured the facility with Elizabeth Hayes who is the center director.  The chief objective of such a school is twofold: either the individual is taking courses to get caught up in his school work or taking the courses to get a little bit ahead.

And with the school’s curriculum and the method of teaching both outcomes are very likely.

One beauty of their approach is the ratio of teachers to pupils. The classrooms have desks that are oval in shape with the teacher sitting in the one opening of the oval.  Around the curve one might have one to three students all with a one-to-one access to the teacher. The positive part here is that the students with the one teacher might be seeing her or him on varied parts of the curriculum, language arts, perhaps, with math students who may be tackling anything from arithmetic to calculus.

The programs and their descriptions are very inviting.  For example there is a beginning reading program that is designed to help the child entering kindergarten or grades one and two to reinforce their reading skills and build confidence.

Then there is academic reading that increases master reading. Here the student develops the tools necessary to read more efficiently and with greater comprehension.

There is one course that quickly caught my eye. This is the one labeled academic writing.  This one is designed to help the student organize his thoughts and effectively communicate them in writing. Students focus on sentence structure, paragraph development and writing mechanics.  There are probably some readers of this space who might think that that would be a good one for me.  They are probably right.

Courses at all levels of math are taught that include the essentials through the various phases of algebra and geometry.  There is also a course of SAT preparation that will help the individual gather strategies for the college entrance exams.

For one who spent much of his adult life in education I think what Sylvan does is a good thing.  Anything that will prepare or reinforce the young person in his maturing, learning years is invaluable. The curriculum offered at Sylvan would, I am sure, meet those goals. 

• • •
The Merrie Ukes, the ukelele group from the Norman Center, was the source of the music program for the Chula Vista Masonic Lodge 626 family picnic at Rohr Park last Sunday.

Led by master-of-ceremonies Hideyo Haga the group played and sang a few medleys of Hawaiian music topped off by some of the old favorites.

One of the principal attractions of the group are the solos performed by some of the players.

Last Sunday this featured the mellifluous tones of Cal Aquinaldo, the group’s native Hawaiian, singing, of course, a Hawaiian air.  There was also the duo of Diane and Merritt Strickland with their rendition of “Princess Papaya,” an old standard.

The performance was arranged by longtime ukelele member Ellie Fulks, in conjunction with Skip Crane and Carol Marshall from the Masonic group.

The Merrie Ukes meet each Tuesday at 10 a.m at the Norman Park Center.

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