Like many of us, Brenda Morgan-Goble is a busy working mom. Two years ago, when her daughter, Sara, was struggling to get her homework done to allow some family time in the evenings, Goble enlisted professional help.
She hired a teacher to come to her home after school, where Sara could relax with a healthy snack before hitting the books.
Goble says that the decision made a real difference for her daughter. Sara is in the sixth grade this year, and she enjoys schoolwork in addition to sports and other extracurricular activities – and mother and daughter have some free time together in the evenings.
Now, with the support of her church and a grant pending from the Duke Endowment, Goble has started a program called Study Buddies so that other kids can have the same opportunities that Sara does.
Goble says she wanted the program to offer a comfortable family environment where kids could get help with their schoolwork.
“It was important that it wasn't just (staffed with) adults, but that it was teachers,” she says.
Study Buddies meets at Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church in Sherrills Ford. Students in kindergarten through sixth grade ride the bus from school to Study Buddies. When they arrive, the kids eat a warm meal. Goble says the mealtime is like a family meal, with kids of all ages sitting at the table together and relaxing for a short while.
The kids are then divided into groups by grade level. They work on homework, reading skills or other activities that target their academic needs.
Study Buddies is staffed by a team of professional educators – teachers, retired teachers and school counselors. Shelly Meadows, a sixth-grade science teacher at Sherrills Ford Elementary School, works with the sixth-graders at Study Buddies. “It's really rewarding,” Meadows says. “It's not as uptight as school.”
She says the program is also helpful for parents, who know the homework is done when they come to pick up their kids.
Goble recognizes that the school environment can unintentionally set up some students for failure. Students who don't get the one-on-one attention they need can become insecure in their ability to do schoolwork; that insecurity can lead to behavior problems and, worse, apathy toward learning.
“No kid wants to fail,” Goble says. “But when you struggle over time, you fail.” She hopes that Study Buddies will give kids the confidence that comes with doing well.
While some students can afford well-established, private tutoring programs to get them back on track, this is not an option for all families, says Goble. The cost to attend Study Buddies – $60 per week – is comparatively low.
As the name suggests, Study Buddies encourages kids to help each other. In the sixth-grade room, Sara and another student take turns working math problems on a computer game. At 5 p.m., she's finished her homework – something that wouldn't have happened a few years ago.
“It's definitely different because the past few years I've had to go home and do homework. Now I just get to go home and relax,” says Sara. Her mom can relax, too.