Parenting

The Choice To Homeschool

Homeschooling your child is a difficult choice. The opportunity to bond with your child, give your child choice in their learning, and watch them grow may not be enough to quell your anxieties. But hopefully these three tips will open up a new perspective. 

  1. You will not be good at everything

One of the big concerns I hear parents express when they are considering homeschooling is that they will not be good enough or will not know how to teach something. One thing I want you to take away from reading this post is…that’s ok! You have a lot to offer your child in terms of learning. You may not even realize your own strengths and talents. However, it’s important not to compare yourself to other parents or teachers. Even teachers who are trained professionals are not great at everything. It’s also important to recognize that just because you’re not good at something does not mean your child will not be good at it. If there is an area you particularly struggle with and prefer not to teach, reach out to your local homeschool community and see if there are co-ops that offer instruction in your weak areas. You could also hire a tutor. The important thing is that you recognize the areas that are hard for you and find an alternative for your child.

      2. Focus on skills

Branching off of the idea that you’re not going to know everything, is the idea that content is not as important as skills. So what if you don’t remember all the events leading up to the American Revolution. Your child can read a book about that or watch a documentary. Focus on the skill you are teaching. You want your child to be able to read a nonfiction text and extract important information. You also want them to find meaningful ways to connect with any text so they can remember what they learn. Don’t worry about what your child is learning, but rather how. Choose a skill to focus on and let your child pick the subject matter.

     3. Don’t compare yourself to school

The structure and environment of school is very different from that of home learning. Being at home affords you flexibility, choice, and the opportunity to build your own structure and routine that works for you and your family. I emphasize to parents that routine and structure are important, but don’t model it after that of school. Children crave predictability and organization. That’s not to say spontaneity is bad or you can’t cancel plans once in a while. But for a child to develop good executive functioning skills and maintain a low stress level, they need to have some idea of what to expect. The structure of school is very rigid and can be anxiety producing for children. Don’t try to mimic it. Also recognize that schools spend a lot of time organizing large groups of students, doing behavior management, moving from place to place, and making sure everyone is on the same page. At home, you don’t need to do all of that. The six hours your child would spend in school is not all learning time. So at home, adjust the amount of academic time based on your child’s stamina, ability, and schedule. Keep it simple and stick to a basic routine.

August 6th, 2020|

Learning Outside

Now is the perfect time to get outside and leave the stresses and confines of quarantine at home. While we may still feel the pressure to socially distance and be mindful of our health, especially at this time, enjoying all that nature has to offer is a great way to calm the mind and ease the spirit. Learning is happening all the time, but it is important to draw your child’s attention to the world around them in unique ways. This doesn’t have to be explicit, formal instruction (although there’s undoubtedly value in teaching skills like planting a flower or drying herbs), but a way to open the door to further inquiry and discovery. Here are some ways you can help your child look at their surroundings with new eyes.

Drawing

Recreating nature through art is a wonderful activity that can build fine motor skills, attention to detail, and artistic ability. Sometimes I hear from students, “I’m not good at art”. But what they don’t realize is that drawing a picture of something is a skill that takes practice and is not necessarily reliant on raw creativity. It’s like playing a piece of music. You learn the piece by practicing it over and over and then you are able to play it well. You are not writing a piece of music, but rather replicating what’s already there. Anyone can learn to draw and you don’t need to be super creative to do it. 

One of the projects I loved while I worked at Brookwood School in Manchester, MA involved art and science. Students chose one spot outside and their task over the course of the school year was to periodically draw that same place over and over. With the changing seasons, each place transformed over the course of the year. This is a great project to replicate with elementary and middle school aged children. Your child could choose a tree, plant, or any place outside and over the course of the summer, draw a picture of the same place weekly. This could be done using the same medium, or you could change it up. Maybe one week your child uses watercolor, and the next markers. Their art will look different anyway, because different plants bloom at different times, weather changes, and nature is constantly shifting. 

Words

Language plus experience is what allows children to understand and communicate. Pre-K and Kindergarten age children sometimes struggle to comprehend words like: on, in, below, under, above, over, across, before, after. These prepositions can be difficult unless your child has the experience to create a context. Simply drawing your child’s attention to these words by saying things like “I see you are on the slide” or “I notice you went under the monkey bars” can help them develop understanding of how to use these words. A fun way to incorporate them into your outdoor time is to play Simon Says. Using commands like “hop on one foot” or “stand on the porch” gives children different contexts for the same word and provides deeper understanding of how these words are used.

For children in elementary grades, boost their vocabulary by creating a chart of adjectives, or describing words, like the one below. Your child can move around the yard feeling, touching, and writing down or drawing pictures of what they find that fits those descriptions. It may be helpful to give them examples first. You might point out that a basil leaf is smooth. Ask, “What else can you find that feels smooth?” Be sure to forewarn your child of any plants they should not touch.

Describing Word Example Your Find
smooth Basil leaf
rough pavement
bumpy
soft
damp
dry
prickly
slippery

Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger hunts encourage children to notice their surroundings in new ways. Kids love the challenge of completing the list and they can do it on their own or with a partner. This Reading Mama has great ones for younger children. For elementary children, there are lots of different scavenger hunts you can put together. A scavenger hunt featuring different shapes challenges children to spot polygons in unusual places like in your yard or in the neighborhood. You can go simple and have a color scavenger hunt or a number scavenger hunt. There are lots of different ways you could structure this.

These activities are great starters for having fun and learning outside, but you also want to be open to ideas your child may have. Brainstorming together is quality time spent, and helps you better understand what kind of learner your child is. For more ideas, check out Jennifer Findley’s post on outdoor learning.

Comment with your favorite outdoor learning activity or share this post with a friend!

June 29th, 2020|

Summer Learning

As schools have made the transition to virtual schooling, many parents have told me how overwhelmed they’ve felt. You may be feeling the same way. Whereas your child had previously been responsible for following directions and bringing homework home to complete, they are now responsible for maintaining a schedule, checking for their assignments, completing the work (often on their own), submitting assignments, participating in online classes, and troubleshooting tech issues. At school, children are told when to sit, stand, do work, play, talk to each other, etc. Everything is dictated for them. No wonder families are feeling stressed! I do believe that students would have adjusted better to this new level of independence had it been given in smaller doses; a gradual release of responsibility. But, I have seen great progress in some of the students I work with in taking ownership and accountability for their new responsibilities.

I’ve also talked to many parents who’ve felt their children have been less stressed by school since being home. There is no longer someone constantly watching their every move. They don’t have to ask permission to use the bathroom. The pressures of competition, socially and academically, are no longer there. Family time is not just the few hours after school arguing over homework and eating a meal. 

But this model is not necessarily sustainable. Parents have to work and children require guidance. That’s not to say they need to be told what to do every second of the day, but learning new skills begs encouragement and support from an experienced mentor. It’s yet to be seen how parents will choose to move forward with their children’s education. But one thing is certain, ongoing learning is a must. Schooling and learning are two separate things. Learning can happen anywhere, while schooling happens within the confines of a teacher-lead structure in a designated space. I am hopeful that this summer will provide children with the opportunity to explore. Scheduled activities and socializing will be at a minimum. What a wonderful time to dive deep into your passions and interests! In the same way a routine can benefit children by giving them a sense of structure, harmony, and responsibility, discovery and exploration are equally important in promoting growth, thoughtfulness, and enthusiasm for life and all it has to offer. 

This summer will be a chance for your child to go outside and do some adventuring. There is so much to learn in nature. Falling in love with stories and pouring over books is the perfect activity for a lazy summer day. Math may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but there are loads of examples of math in nature and plenty of fun games to play to practice math skills. As a working parent, you may not have the time and space to support your child in these endeavors. Hiring a professional may be a good option for you. Even meeting once a week can work wonders for your child’s learning progress. Project-based learning is a great way to build new skills in a hands-on, relevant way. Either way, as I said before, guidance from an experienced mentor will be the key to helping your child grow. If you are able to be that mentor, I encourage you! Helping another person learn is very rewarding, as any parent knows. Check out the resources below that will help you in your journey!

Infographics

Kids Discover offers a range of “infographics”. These beautiful images complete with detailed explanations cover topics from history to biology and everything in between! They are a great jumping off point for deeper exploration into an area. When you click on the link, the site may ask if you want to start a free 30 day trial, and if you click “maybe later” you should be taken to the infographics page. Below is an example of what they offer.

Skillshare

Skillshare is a very popular website amongst my middle school and high school students. You can take a workshop on almost anything and a professional will instruct you on the best methods and strategies. You can start a 30 day free trial and there’s plenty to learn! 

Examples of some of the most recent topics are:

Learn Embroidery: Painting with Thread

iPhone Photography: How To Take Photos On Your iPhone

Make Your Voice Heard: Writing For Impact

Real Productivity: How To Build Habits That Last

This Reading Mama

You may recall this website from previous posts, but it is truly great. If you have an early elementary reader, or struggling reader, this website is for you. Becky Spence not only provides fabulous resources, games, and activities, but she explains how to use them and why they are helpful. Many of the printables are free and if you sign up for the newsletter you will be notified when various free resources are available for download. From letter formation, to phonics, to reading fluency, this site has it all! 

I hope you find these resources helpful. If you are looking for support for your child, please reach out to me to learn more about how I can help. I work with struggling learners, but also learners who are just looking for some guidance and support as they go along. I can also help your child stay organized and put a plan in place that is easy for you as a parent to follow.

May 27th, 2020|

Teaching Subtraction

Teaching subtraction to young learners can be difficult. Unlike addition, where items/time accumulates, subtraction can represent taking something away, as well as the difference between two numbers. This can conceptually be difficult for young children to understand. Then, when you get into subtraction problems with borrowing, such as 45 – 27, you have to borrow a ten to do subtraction in the ones column, and children can be equally confused!

Most parents of public school students have felt the frustration of trying to help a child with homework when the teacher insists they use “new math” or Common Core Math. But with quarantine, now parents across the country are feeling the pressure of picking up where school left off!

In this post, I’m not going to cover all the different aspects of subtraction, such as when you’re borrowing and you encounter a 0 in the tens place. Oh no! But I’ve included 2 simple videos that may help your child get started on borrowing. If you don’t have tens sticks to represent the tens, you can use pens or pencils. You can use little blocks or erasers (or really anything tiny) to represent ones. Get creative and have fun!

April 18th, 2020|

Teaching At Home

As an educator, I subscribe to a lot of teacher sites and blogs. Over the past week, my inbox has steadily been filling up with email after email directed at parents who are now staying home. These emails are typically offering to instruct parents how to teach. While that is helpful for some, that content may not be realistic for all parents, and may even be overwhelming. A lot of parents are working from home, dealing with the transition to their new setup, and do not have time to learn how to become teachers. But here’s where parents have a leg up: every parent is their child’s first teacher. Any parent can do the basics, and going back to basics is not a bad thing. Children need review and continued practice to maintain skills. Below you’ll find my three tips for homeschool success.

Have a Routine

With the days stretching on and each hour blending into the next, it is so easy to get off track with a routine. But children crave routine (even though they may not realize it, or vocally crave it the way they do snacks). It gives them structure and also a sense of responsibility. That’s not to say you can’t have days of spontaneous fun or unstructured time. But to get the best results from at home learning, you should set up a daily routine and STICK TO IT! If your child knows they can get out of their 30 minute reading time at 10 am, your routine will fall apart. You should have designated time set aside for academics each day. Be sure to factor breaks in between subjects and don’t ask your child to sit and work for more than 45 minutes at a time. Keeping a schedule each day will help your child know what to expect and provide predictability and structure during a time when circumstances feel like they’re anything but. Other aspects of a daily schedule you may consider are time for house chores and going outside for some fresh air. Getting outside is just as important as academics. It is beneficial for your mental and physical health. If you don’t live in an area where you can easily access the outdoors, you may want to drive to a state forest or hiking area. It’s a great reset and your family will feel refreshed. 

Keep it simple

The basics of learning are important to review. These include mental math facts like numbers that add to make ten, doubles facts, and multiplication/division facts. They also include sight words and reading fluency for young readers. And don’t forget the basics of writing, such as paragraph form and checking your work. These are all fairly simple to teach and can be done with games too!

If your child is a more advanced student or in the upper grades, they probably have assignments from school. But reading, writing, and math can be done at home without internet access. Summarizing an article, writing an opinion or persuasive essay, or doing a mini research project on a topic of choice does not require anything but paper, a pencil, and some books. If your child has a sense of humor, ask them to write a 5 paragraph persuasive essay (intro and conclusion included) on something completely ridiculous like why they should be allowed to have a pet porcupine. They could also write up a broadcast on something completely made up and record it. Get creative and have fun! 

Make it fun

Practicing basic facts does not have to be boring! There are so many resources online and games for the basics that I mentioned above, but even if you don’t have internet access, there are so many simple games you can put together at home. 

  1. Go Fish
  2. The Memory Game

For both of these games, you can use the same set of cards. For sight word practice, write each sight word on two index cards. For math facts, have one index card with the math fact, such as 6×5, and the matching card with the answer, 30. 

  1. Bingo

Your child should create the bingo cards for the players. The bingo cards will feature the math fact answer, or the sight word. They can also make the calling cards. The calling cards will also be sight words, or for math, they will be the math fact. This activity in and of itself is good practice. 

  1. Black Jack (without the gambling)

This is a super fun game for mental math. My students love it! You have to get to the number 21 (or any number you choose) without going over. Your child will have to add mentally and not use counting up or their fingers! 

Reading Fluency

For reading fluency, you can find free reader’s theater scripts online or if you have a children’s book of plays at home, you can use that. These are so fun and help build fluency because you have to read the same lines over and over. You can practice reading in silly, different voices and reading with expression. You can switch parts too. Get the whole family involved! It’s even more fun once your child develops fluency with their part. They can then find household props and act it out. Record it to play back and have a laugh!

Writing

The first thing that comes to mind for most people is journaling, but for some kids, that’s not very fun or they don’t know what to write about. After all, there’s not much to say about your day inside the house. You and your child can answer a “would you rather” question and write three reasons for your choice. Then compare! You can assign your child a writing prompt a day. You can also use story starters if your child likes to do creative writing. For example, give your child an index card that reads, “As I was walking through the woods on a bright, crisp morning, I suddenly stumbled. When I looked down to see what had caught my foot, I saw a brass handle attached to what looked like a small square door…” They’ll be so excited to tell their version of the story! You can set a timer and write for 20 minutes. Then check in. Your child might be ready to write for longer!

I hope these tips are helpful, but if you are not able to sit and work with your child, which is completely understandable, I offer virtual tutoring that’s structured to fit your child’s needs. Contact me to learn more about how I can support you child.

March 19th, 2020|

10 Ways to Manage Behavior

Helping children develop appropriate behavior and ways to self-monitor is one of the most important aspects of raising a child. It can be an exhausting, consuming, and frustrating task, but when done well and with intention, it can be rewarding. Behavior management is also what takes up the bulk of a school day for young students. Imagine trying to corral a group of 20 adults into the same task or command a room of your peers, and how hectic that could be. Now imagine you’re a Kindergarten or first grade teacher with the same amount of people, except these people have had about 5-7 years on this planet, practically 0 social experience, and are still figuring out how to tie a shoe. Things will inevitably get a little crazy. Classroom teachers not only have to ensure that their charges grow academically, but also that they can just simply exist in the presence of one another without stepping on toes, interrupting, or touching the people around them. This is not to say your little elementary student isn’t lovely, adorable, and sweet, but throw them into one room with 19 others, and I’m sure you can imagine why teachers need to have a variety of strategies in their behavior management toolkit. The ones below may help.

  1. Positive reinforcement

This is a no-brainer but teachers and parents alike may forget to do it, especially when they have a child who they think is doing so many things wrong. Find the one thing he is doing right, even if it’s minuscule, and congratulate him on it. If he’s so used to getting attention for the negative, getting attention for a positive is reinforcing. If you’re a teacher, doing this in front of the whole class can be especially impactful if the child likes to be the center of attention. If you know your student would be embarrassed, it’s best to keep it private. 

Try framing your statement in a way that shows you see your student and recognize his good behavior:

“I notice ________ is helping his friend.” 

“________ is quietly and carefully hanging his coat up!”

  1. Silent reminders and warnings

While it can be useful to praise a student out loud, it is almost always damaging to scold a student out loud. Try using a system of 3 silent warnings or reminders to cue your student. It could be holding up a finger. If it’s hard to get her attention, it could be a touch on the shoulder, or a target word only she knows. When she hears it, that’s a warning. This could also be done to reinforce positive behaviors. For example, the word “bananas” means you just earned a star! 

  1. WHEN is behavior a problem?

There is often a pattern to when bad behavior takes place. Is it when he gets bored? Is it during transitions? Is it during partner work? Is it at the start of a task? Once you know when the behavior is likely to occur, you can preemptively nip it in the bud or address it before it even happens with a check-in. Being able to do this is huge. It means the behavior is less likely to happen in the first place, even if your student is about to do it. Keeping a behavior log can be helpful in figuring this out. 

  1. Good behavior

Ask yourself, “When does my child behave?” What is happening at that time? This forces you to recognize that she’s not always behaving badly (we can start to think that way when we are frustrated and desperate). You can then reflect on how you might be able to replicate some of those circumstantial pieces in other settings or times to encourage better behavior. For example, if your child’s behavior isn’t problematic during play time or when there is an element of play involved, can you experiment with adding more games to learning time? Maybe your child is well-behaved during movement activities. How can you bring movement into learning time?

  1. His level

Imagine you’ve done something wrong, and a giant person three times your size stands over you and starts reprimanding you. You’d probably feel pretty insignificant and perhaps even angry or frightened. When your child or student has misbehaved, crouch down at his level and speak to him directly and quietly. Do not stand at the front of the classroom and call out so that the whole class can hear. If the whole class can hear it, then all eyes are on him and that’s attention. For attention-seeking students, any attention is a plus, whether it’s good or bad. This only serves to reinforce the bad behavior. You can defeat that by not drawing any attention to bad behavior, but addressing it quietly, purposefully, and eye to eye. 

  1. Be selective

Being selective about which behaviors to reprimand can work to your advantage.  Choose one or two very specific behaviors to focus on. If the rest of the behavior is not really causing a problem or hurting anyone, and is a minor annoyance, don’t address it (for now). For a kid with executive functioning and attention difficulties, this will simplify. If you correct every little thing, your child won’t really have a grasp on what she is doing wrong. You can even put those two behaviors on a behavior chart so it’s very clear what the expectation is. For example, maybe you are going to work on simply entering a room quietly and not putting your hands on another person without permission. Some children don’t recognize physical boundaries and while they may not want to hurt someone else, sometimes that can happen. It’s a learning process. You may work with your child on keeping her hands to herself or asking permission when she wants to give a hug, for example. Rewarding or noticing when your child behaves appropriately or does not engage in the negative behavior (over the course of an hour, a few hours, or the whole day) can support behavior change. Once your child has overcome that challenge, it’s good to celebrate it before looking to address another issue.

  1. Empathy

Learning to be empathetic is a skill that is hard for even adults to develop and employ. Understanding another’s feelings or the impact you have on someone can be significant in behavior change. Does your child or student have opportunities to be empathetic? Does he have a chance to see how it feels to do something good and be proud? Has he ever been working on something important, and along comes someone being loud and disruptive? Drawing your child’s attention to their own feelings and the feelings of others can help him understand why his behavior is causing problems. Offering alternatives to those behaviors is helpful and may encourage friendship. For example, maybe your child loves to roughhouse and it’s how they show affection and that they want to play. Other children may not be used to this and may recoil from being bumped or shoved. Explain this to your child and then offer an alternative behavior: 

“I noticed you wanted to roughhouse with your friend. What happened when you tried to play?” (Let them explain.) “Your friend may not be used to playing like that at home. Why don’t you try asking your friend what kind of game they want to play first?”

Follow up by offering your child an opportunity to play the way he wants to play with you at home. Oftentimes children with behavior problems struggle to build friendships and can become socially isolated, as they don’t recognize the affect their actions have on those around them.

  1. Responsibility

Is your child responsible for righting her wrongs? At a young age, it’s difficult for a child to understand the difference between a bad person and bad behavior. If your child often finds herself “in trouble” she can start to believe that she is “bad”. But you can change this if she has a chance to fix the “bad” thing she did. Let’s say she knocks over someone’s tower, or scribbles on another child’s picture. Politely guide and support her in cleaning it up and fixing it. She could help rebuild the tower or create a picture with/for the other child. The other child may still be angry or upset, but giving your child an action may help her feel like she’s fixing it.  

  1. Environment

Sometimes the environment itself can be overstimulating for a child and cause them to act out. We’ve all felt overwhelmed by a situation or a setting. Maybe you’ve felt this way on a crowded bus, or at a social event. Sometimes we just need a quiet place. Having a place for your child to reset (not a time out) can be helpful. Ask him if he’d like some space. He can move away from the group for a brief, designated amount of time. Depending on your child’s needs, this may be time to just sit quietly, read a book, or perhaps work on a quiet project. For your particularly active kiddos, have some resistance bands, which they’ve already been instructed on how to use, or a stretching mat. If you can tell your child is feeling overwhelmed, perhaps offer this space before the stress and anxiety turn into bad behavior. I would encourage educators to not be too concerned that he is missing out on the lesson because if he’s feeling overstimulated or acting out, he’s not learning anyway. This time for space is not a punishment, but it is also not a privilege. Every child has different needs and you are teaching your student or child a valuable lesson in self-care when you show them that taking some time for space is ok. Even adults need to (and should) take breaks to reset and some people just need them more frequently than others in order to contribute the most and give their best. 

  1. Brain Gym

Carrying on with the theme of taking a break, many schools implement movement breaks to help students refocus. Popular programs include yoga, Zumba, and Brain Gym get kids moving as a transition between lessons. All kids need movement to build strong neural connections in their brains and promote healthy brain development. You simply can’t have one without the other. Bringing movement into your daily routine can help your students release energy and focus better during learning time. 

January 22nd, 2020|

Tips for Reluctant Writers

  1. Make a List

For some writers, starting with sentences is too overwhelming. Making a list of words associated with a topic may be an easier place to start. Begin with a basic writing prompt such as, “What should someone pack for a day at the beach?” or anything you know your child/student has solid knowledge of. Then, support your learner with making a list of items that are related to a day at the beach. For example: towel, swimsuit, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat. From there, you can move on to a new topic and continue practice with list making, or if your learner feels ready, choose an item on the list and see if they can generate a sentence about that item. Give them a target too, such as asking, “Why is it important to bring this to the beach?” Then your student can answer that as a sentence: “It’s important to bring sunscreen to the beach so you don’t get a sunburn.” Here are a few websites that offer more information on using lists as a writing tool and have some great prompts: Smekens Education Solutions & Write Shop.

2. Sentence Starters

Sentence starters are short phrases that a writer can use to begin their sentences. Knowing how to start is sometimes the biggest hurdle for reluctant writers. They may have a great idea, but don’t know how to turn it into a sentence. Phrases like, “one difference is” or “similarly” are great sentence starters for comparing and contrasting two things. For sequencing events, some good phrases include: “to begin with”, “the next step”, “finally”. Owlcation is a useful resource for expository writing. If your learner wants to write a story and doesn’t know how to get started, Donna Young has some wonderful starters that get the creative juices flowing!

3. Free Write

Last, but not least, is the classic free write. Free writing is when your child/student sits down to write whatever they want. I like to offer writing prompts and giving them a set time. For more advanced writers, I will challenge them to never let their pencil stop. If they don’t know what to write, they can just write a word or their name over and over again until the next thought comes. The idea is to not think too hard about what you are writing and just let it flow. I love Daily Teaching Tools’ list of writing prompts.

October 3rd, 2019|

Three Strategies For Completing Summer Assignments

When I was in middle school, I was assigned a summer reading list, from which I had to choose a few books, and a summer math packet. First of all, I did not like reading (not until Harry Potter). Secondly, I hated math. School was not easy for me. My ADHD had a way of manifesting itself in ways that didn’t help my academic success or my social life. I was often distracted during instruction time, missing directions and important content. Then I would rush to get my work done, leaving obvious mistakes. I also was distracted during social situations and often missed important social cues. Not to mention, I went to a strict Catholic school where perfect behavior was the expectation (I usually failed). You can imagine by the time summer rolled around, I was thoroughly exhausted. I wanted nothing more than to get outside and run around in the sun and play in the waves. I wanted to give my brain a rest. I did not want to take my medication and I certainly did not want to do school work. NO THANK YOU! But I was probably the child who needed it most. I specifically remember the summer before 5th grade when we had a math packet that was perfectly planned so that if we did a little each day, we would be done before the start of the school year. My parents left that task up to me and so I pretended to do it and then ultimately had to face completing the entire thing in the last week of summer. It was a very tear-filled week. I also would pretend to read, only for my parents to find I couldn’t for the life of me tell them what I’d supposedly read about (I’m a terrible liar). For some children, like myself, being organized and responsible doesn’t come easy. But as a parent, you can help make the challenge much easier!

I understand summer work can be hard. That is why I offer fun mental math fluency lessons and classes as well as reading and writing support. However, between summer camp and work schedules and finding time to relax with family, this may not be an option for everyone. If tutoring is not an option for you, there are a few simple strategies to help your kiddo minimize the frustration of summer work. 

Establish a routine.

Avoidance is the biggest issue with summer work. Kids just want to enjoy summer and have a break from school. Pretty soon that first week of summer turns into a month and nothing has been done to get started on the work. At that point, since your child is not used to doing school work, the idea of getting back into it is even more daunting. They may have already regressed and forgotten some of the content in the math packet. Not only that, but there is less time to do it. The best thing you can do is help your child establish a consistent routine. It’s perfectly fine to take a couple days of the week off from work, but doing the work consistently and incrementally is much better than waiting until the last minute. Figure out how much there is to do and divide it up by the number of days your child has to work on it. I advise keeping weekends work-free. You may also have a family vacation planned. Factor that in as “no work” time. And lastly, don’t make excuses! If you’ve got a fun day trip to the city planned and you’re starting first thing in the morning, know that, and make sure you plan time for work or pack it in the car. 

Timing is everything!

Most kids do their best work first thing in the morning when they are fresh. Make your child’s summer work part of the morning routine. It’s tempting to just let it all go in the summer, but inevitably, the work just piles up. Unfortunately, if there is work assigned by your child’s teacher, it will have to be done at some point and it’s better to form a habit than to do it haphazardly. If you do it in the morning, then your child has the rest of the day to be free without the work looming ahead. Not to mention, after a full day of sun and play, your child will not be at their sharpest and will likely be too tired.  Choosing a time and space when your child is least likely to argue about work or when there will be few interruptions is best. Set up a weekday routine. It might be: wake up, tidy your work space, eat breakfast, do 10 minutes of math, take a 2 minute break, do 10 minutes of reading.

Support your child.

If your child feels like the only one who has to do work, they may end up feeling resentful and be more likely to create distractions and excuses. While your child works, choose to do an activity that helps you take care of your responsibilities while also remaining available if your child needs help. Working on a project, fixing something, folding laundry, doing food prep, weeding the garden, and cleaning are all great tasks to choose from. An alternative is doing your own reading. You are modeling the activity you want your child to do and they can see that it is important. Showing your child that everyone has responsibilities makes them feel like they’re not on their own. 

For some children with learning disabilities, summer work is especially challenging. The content may be at grade level, but above your child’s ability. If your child needs remedial support, it is best to use summer time getting help. Struggling through a math packet or book that is beyond your child’s ability is stressful and not a good use of time that could be well-spent building foundation skills. If your child has a learning disability, contact me to set up a consultation.

July 9th, 2019|

Making the Most of Summer

At the end of every school year, I always have an influx of new students as parents are looking for summer tutoring. Some of these children come to their first tutoring session reluctantly. Their parents have signed them up for extra academic support because the closing school year has been especially challenging. These are often students who have fallen behind and struggle with learning. The last thing they want when school gets out for the summer is more education. Teaching these students is some of the most rewarding work I get to do.

Being in a school atmosphere creates a unique set of challenges for any child. Not only are children expected to sit still for extended periods of time, but they are also expected to stay focused during that time. They have to keep up with the pace that has been predetermined. They may leave the classroom to receive extra help, but often feel like they’ve missed something when they come back from pull-out time. There’s also the competitive nature of school. How am I doing compared to my friends? Am I keeping up? This math seems really hard. Am I the only one who doesn’t get this? On top of all of this, there’s the added distraction of the social aspect of school. It’s no surprise that some students come to me at the beginning of the summer with a somewhat sour attitude. Their experiences with education probably have not been overly fulfilling and successful. Many of them are lacking foundation skills and need to go back to basics.

The reason I love doing this kind of remedial skill work is because it’s an opportunity to show these children that they can be successful. It’s also a time and space that allows them to think and question without the fear of being compared, stigmatized, or embarrassed. One on one work always yields faster and better results than whole group work. When these students start to recognize their own progress and understanding, they are ecstatic! Getting something right feels good. For a child who has struggled through school, this can be a major confidence boost. It often changes their attitudes about learning. Students finish the summer feeling prepared for the upcoming school year, instead of feeling a sense of dread.

Some parents may be reluctant to sign up for summer tutoring because they want their child to have a break. Unfortunately, learning regression is a real problem for average and below-average achieving students. In my blog post about summer learning regression, there are some startling statistics about the growing gap between high achieving students, and average and below average students. Even 15-20 minutes of daily practice over the summer can help your child maintain their skills. One to two hours of tutoring a week can help them gain new skills and progress. If you’re considering summer tutoring for your child, I encourage you to set up a phone call with me. I am happy to answer any questions you have and I work with each student to create a customized plan that will help them reach their learning goals.

May 6th, 2019|

What A Child With Special Needs REALLY Needs

As a person who was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade, I am quite familiar with the fear and stress that families and parents can experience when they learn that their child is struggling with a specific disability. Many parents feel the best approach is to get their child as much intervention and support as possible. They find the best tutors, doctors, therapists, and specialists. They fret over whose class their child will be in. Is their child getting enough academic time? Will they ever catch up? Should they be doing extra homework? How is their time at home best spent with their child?

It’s difficult to know what the right answer is. But I speak from experience as a learning specialist and someone who struggles with ADHD, when I say that all these things are important, but do not let them overshadow your child’s need for free time. If your child’s schedule is filled with school, doctor’s appointments, tutoring sessions, homework, and little else, it may be time to make some adjustments. Every week, your child should have down time ( time to relax, just hang out, or do a quiet activity) and time for something they’re passionate about (not an activity chosen by the parents). I encourage the parents I work with to find out what their child would really love to do. Whatever that activity is, see if you can find a way to make it happen weekly. Your child will feel less stressed, more accomplished, and it will take the focus off of their weaknesses and give them time to do something they are good at.

When I was a kid, I was always involved in a sport and music lesson of my choice. I did this through high school. Not only did it give me an outlet for my energy, but it also gave me a chance to practice something I loved and felt like I was good at (the news came later that I was a terrible athlete and dancer only when I looked back at home videos of games and recitals, laughing at my enthusiasm in spite of my lack of talent). Doing something that brings you joy is important and that became ingrained in me at such a young age. It makes me a happier person and keeps me from getting bogged down by all the responsibilities of life, many of which I can’t fulfill at my best unless I have time to de-stress and enjoy life. I prioritize personal quiet time and physical activity daily. Because I refuse to compromise on this, I am a happier and healthier person. I’m able to do the things I need to do with energy and enthusiasm.

Don’t forget that if your kiddo has a learning disability, that doesn’t mean it has to always be front and center stage. Give them time to relax and think, and time to enjoy the things that make them happy!

April 8th, 2019|