Spring Fever Solutions: Overcoming Low Motivation and Missed Assignments

Spring is in the air. Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping…and students are losing all motivation at the end of a long school year! If your child is losing track of assignments or forgetting to do them in the first place, you’re not alone. In fact, we’re having parents left and right ask us how they can get their kids over the finish line.

In this blog, we’re going to look at why spring fever is at an all-time high this year. (Of course, it’s not a surprise after the year we’ve had, but the last reason might really surprise you.) Then we’re going to share a simple solution you can use to get your child back on track without causing any more tension in your relationship. 

5 Reasons Spring Fever Is at an All-Time High

Every year, we see students struggle to stay organized and on track as the weather warms and summer vacation comes into view. And whether or not a child has good grades typically has very little to do with it. That’s because missed assignments and low motivation are more often rooted in executive functioning challenges than academic struggles. 

Let’s look at five reasons spring fever is at an all-time high this year:

  1. Virtual Learning Burnout – Kids (and their parents) are just plain “zoomed” out. After more than a year of virtual learning and little to no in-person contact with teachers, many students feel unmotivated.
  2. Isolation and Grief – We’ve lost a lot this year. Some students have lost loved ones to COVID-19. All students have been grieving their previously normal social lives. It’s a lot to manage as a young child.
  3. Mental Health Challenges – Depression and anxiety are at an all-time high in young people. This can make it hard for even the best and brightest students to stay motivated and complete assignments.
  4. Distractions at Home – Whether it’s siblings on their own Zoom calls or the draw of their favorite video game, there are a lot of distractions at home that don’t exist in the traditional classroom. This puts kids’ executive functioning skills to the test in a very challenging way.
  5. Executive Functioning Weaknesses – Executive functioning refers to the soft skills required to manage time, organize assignments, track progress, and so on. These skills don’t come naturally to most students, but they can be taught and learned. No matter how strong of a student your child may be, executive functioning becomes more important with each passing year (and into adulthood!) as the demands of school increase.

We don’t want to gloss over how overwhelming and difficult this list feels. Parenting is never easy, but parenting isolated kids in a pandemic is an especially heavy burden. If your child is struggling with mental health or isolation, we don’t want to over-simplify the solution. He or she may need extra help from a caring professional.

But if your child mostly is doing well but simply can’t seem to stay organized and keeps forgetting assignments – strengthening their executive functioning skills can go a long way. That’s where our simple “one thing” solution can come in handy.

The “One Thing” Solution

As an adult, when you have a lot on your mind, you probably create a to-do list. Whether you have a favorite app or simply scribble notes-to-self on a napkin, to-do lists are the go-to solution for many adults. They’re not, however, the best option for a student with spring fever. When kids are facing the challenges outlined above, a to-do list can feel more overwhelming than helpful.

That’s why we recommend the “one thing” solution instead. We simply ask kids, “What’s the one subject that’s most important to you right now?” Then we can say, “Ok, looking at that one subject, what’s the one assignment that, if you completed it, your grade would improve and you’d feel a whole let better?”

For most kids, taking this “one thing” approach feels far more doable than a laundry list of items to check off. And it can be applied to many different responsibilities. For example, many students find the college application process to be intimidating. You can break it down by asking, “Looking at the common app, what’s the one thing that, if we got this done, you’d feel very accomplished this week?”

Identifying and completing one valuable task can give students a feeling of accomplishment and build a sense of momentum that carries them through other tasks, too. For kids who feel tired and overwhelmed, this “one thing” approach gives a sense of control and relief while still helping them tackle some tasks.

Make Strides This Summer

Have you ever had your car battery die in a parking lot? Oftentimes, you get someone to kickstart your car so you can get to your next destination, but you still may need a new battery to keep your car running into the future. The “one thing” solution is kind of like a kickstart. It can help you get your child across the finish line of this long year, but they may need more support to strengthen their executive functioning skills.

Right now, many schools and teachers are more lax about kids completing assignments because they understand how trying this year has been. In the fall, however, we expect standards to raise once more and kids who struggle with executive functioning may find the transition difficult—unless they prepare over the summer.

No matter how strong your child’s grades are, they need to master executive functioning. If they struggle with organization, time management, and self-motivation, this summer is the ideal time to improve without all the pressure of normal schoolwork. Better executive functioning skills will not only serve them well next year but for the rest of their lives.

This summer, we’re offering executive functioning coaching for all ages. As always, we’ll cater each one-on-one tutoring session to your child. If they have summer assignments, we can use those as a framework for practicing important skills. If not, we’ll create fun science projects with them as a no-stress way to learn those skills. Either way, we make it fun and easy for your child to make strides this summer. 

To learn more about how our summer programs can help your family, click here or schedule a free consultation with us here. We’re here for you!

Is Your Child Ready for Next Year?

Summer Learning Solutions

It’s a difficult time to be a parent of a K-12 student. From virtual learning to online tests and even virtual college campus tours, you’ve been there through it all and it’s almost the time you have been waiting for: summer. However, it’s hard to ignore the feeling that your kids may not be ready for the next school year.

On one hand, kids have just walked through a highly and extremely challenging year with little or no face-to-face time with teachers. Many are falling behind where they need to be and will affect the rest of their educational journey.

On the other hand, kids (and parents!) are just plain burned out. You’ve done all the homeschool hacks, the Zoom classes, the virtual events, and you desperately want a break from it all. We get that too and we hear you. This past school year has not been easy for anyone.

We feel the tension, too, so we’re taking a very intentional approach to our summer tutoring programs. Each program will be fun and engaging for “zoomed-out” kids, low-key and stress-free for overworked parents, and completely personalized to meet your child right where they are.

Read more to discover three ways we’re here to serve your family this summer, or click below to get started with a free consultation.

Schedule a Free Consultation

 #1: We Can Assess Where Your Child Is

It is almost impossible to know with complete confidence where your child stands academically at this point. Maybe they had no one-on-one time with a teacher all year or couldn’t focus during zoom classes. Maybe their school relaxed the grading system and you’re not exactly sure what they’ve mastered.

Whatever the case, we’re offering assessments to help you know with full confidence how ready your child is for next year. Once we measure where your child stands, a tutor can work one-on-one with them to fill any gaps in their learning and boost their confidence in challenging subjects. It’s a simple, stress-free way to identify where your child is and get them where they need to be.

#2: We Can Handle the “Review and Preview”

After a long year of making sure they were on every video call and completing every virtual assignment, take a few months to simply enjoy your child again. Let us handle the necessary work of reviewing last year’s standards and previewing next year’s material. 

For younger students, we offer subject tutors to help them catch up and regain confidence. For older students, we have writing coaches, AP tutors, and college application coaches to help your high schooler conquer the big “next steps” between here and college.

#3: We Can Boost Their Executive Functioning Skills

Executive functioning refers to the softer skills kids need to learn in order to succeed in school and life. Think organization, time management, and task prioritization. Summer is the perfect time to practice those skills, and we make sure kids have fun doing it!

If your child has summer assignments, we can build their executive functioning toolkit around completing those. (Giving you one less thing to worry about!) If not, we can help your child dream up some creative science projects to practice breaking down big tasks, tracking their progress, and meeting deadlines—all while discovering that learning really can be fun!

Support for Every Student

This is not the summer for one-size-fits-all tutoring packages. We’re offering a wide range of options to help your child get the exact support they need to prepare for the next school year. These will include:

No matter where your child stands today, we’re here to ensure this summer provides both the personalized review and refreshing break they need most while being ready for next year.

Start the Conversation Today!

In over 20 years of business, we’ve never seen kids more in need of one-on-one attention over the summer. (And after the year we’ve had, who could blame them?)

We’re here to make it easy for you to form a plan and ensure everyone in your family starts next year rested, prepared, and confident. Just click here to get started with a free consultation. We’re here for you!

Asking Powerful Questions: How To Help Your Kids Become Independent And Productive

While this month marks spring break for many of our students across the area, for us at Educational Connections, it marks our 23rd year in business. In 1998, I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined that we’d have such a positive impact on our students. From bright but disorganized kids to the child who wants to perform at a higher level, and everything in between – we are committed to overcoming every child’s challenges. My team and I are forever grateful for our families who chose to be a part of this journey with us and have become a member of our Educational Connections family.

Over the years, my tutors and I have homed in on many strategies to help kids in school, no matter the area. In math, we’ve taught tricks to learn the multiplication tables and games to master the Pythagorean Theorem. For our reluctant writers, we’ve developed color-coded graphic organizers and used cool software like Rev. But I can tell you from my many years of experience, there is no better strategy to help kids develop self-awareness, responsibility, and independence than ‘powerful questions.’

Powerful questions are prompts we use to ask kids how they might best tackle some of the common yet tricky obstacles they encounter. These types of questions get kids to buy in and engage far more than telling them what to do.

Now let’s take a step back for a moment. Because you’re here, we can already tell you’re committed to helping your child improve their attitude towards school, homework and study habits, and academic performance. Chances are you also picked up some ideas along the way on how you may help them get organized, overcome procrastination, or study smarter. While these ideas may morph and grow with hybrid learning, the core strategies remain the same.

Click below to get more strategies like Powerful Questions and other resources that you can use to help your child!

Get More Strategies!

 

So, what’s the real problem?

You, as “Mom” or “Dad,” may know what to do, but your son or daughter may have other ideas…

Anyone who’s tried to feed broccoli to a toddler, or get a teenager to stop watching YouTube videos and do their math homework, knows that no matter how much “sense” it makes, or how much logic is involved, there’s not much arguing with “I don’t want to do it that way.”

And this couldn’t be more true when it comes to schoolwork. Unless our kids are ready and willing to make changes to their homework and study habits, no matter how hard you push, nothing meaningful is going to improve until they take it upon themselves to do those things independently.

So how do we do that?

This is where Powerful Questions come in. 

What are Powerful Questions?

Now looking back, Socrates figured this out loooong before any of us did:

Asking questions to spark thinking is far more effective than “telling” someone what they need to do.

Apply that idea to your kids and their approach towards homework and studying, and you find that if you can frame your questions in the right way, you’ll actually facilitate the self-awareness, empowerment, and independence they need to become self-starters and take on the behaviors you’ve been encouraging them to.

But the way these questions are framed is a key point. Here’s an example of a typical conversation you might have with your child:

Mom: “Jimmy, do you have homework today?”
Jimmy: “Yeah.”
Mom: “Well, you better start it now because you have soccer at 6:00 and I don’t want you staying up late again tonight because you started your work too late!”
Jimmy: “Ugghhhhggg…”

The problem here may seem like it’s as simple as: Jimmy just doesn’t feel like doing his homework.

But it actually starts off on the wrong foot because the question Mom asked is a non-starter: it doesn’t get Jimmy thinking about the things he needs to do to get started on his homework.

This is what we refer to as a Yes/No/Why Question, and Powerful Questions are the opposite. They are instead:

  • Open-ended and non-judgmental
  • Not intended to give advice or to solve the problem for the student
  • Intended to get them thinking in the right direction that will provide a much higher chance of a solution they come to themselves

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of some common Yes/No/Why Questions you might naturally ask, and some powerful alternatives you could replace them with to encourage independent thinking.

Yes/No/Why Questions: Powerful Questions:

Do you have homework?

What are your priorities today?

Did you study for that science test?

What’s the one thing you might do to study for your science test?

Are you ready for your big English exam?

On a scale of 1-10, how prepared do you feel for the English exam?

Why didn’t you study?

Going forward, what’s the one thing you might do differently?

Why didn’t you turn that in?

Did something get in your way of getting that assignment done?

And here’s the process to go through when you do go to re-frame that conversation:

  1. Ask an initial powerful question to spark thinking
  2. Listen to responses without passing judgment
  3. Restate or paraphrase what the student is saying
  4. Give positive acknowledgments along the way

Okay so now with that in mind, let’s reframe our conversation with Jimmy using Powerful Questions instead:

Mom: “Jimmy, what are your priorities today for homework?”
Jimmy: “I have to science test tomorrow and some math homework.”
Mom: “Oh, okay, a science test and math homework. What might you do first?”
Jimmy: “Probably study for science.”
Mom: “Okay, that sounds like a good plan to study for science first. I can tell you want to get that out of the way. Great idea. How will you know you’re ready for the test?”
Jimmy: “I’m going to work through the study guide again and practice the vocab words on Quizlet.”
Mom: “Sounds like you have a good plan. You’re going to work through the study guide and Quizlet before soccer. Let’s leave by 5:30. Sound okay?”

Now, let’s not pretend that this is how your conversation will go the first time you try this.

More likely you may encounter:

Mom: “Jimmy, what are your priorities today for homework?”
Jimmy: “Huh??”

Or…

Mom: “Jimmy, what are your priorities today for homework?”
Jimmy: “I don’t think I have any…” as you stand there with his math assignment in your hand.

So if this happens don’t get discouraged, this process takes some getting used to on both sides. The important thing is to keep trying, and to gently lead and prod them in the right direction, trying your best not to outright tell them what they need to do.

Why Powerful Questions work

Powerful questions work well with kids, even the resistant ones, for two reasons:

First: By asking the right questions, you’re not telling kids what to do

And no child (or adult for that matter) likes to be told what to do. It puts people on the defensive… and when they’re on the defensive, they’re far less likely to engage in conversation.

When kids feel defensive or judged, they can begin to shut down. However, when you ask open-ended questions more out of curiosity, kids are much more likely to listen and to talk to you.

Second: They foster executive functioning skills (EF)

When it comes to schoolwork, EF skills have to do with getting started (being a self-starter), focusing well enough to get the work done, and then moving on to the next assignment. The problem is that at times, parents can end up being the Homework Police, by nagging, prodding, and negotiating to get their kids to do three things: get started, focus and finish.

By asking the right questions, you’re encouraging kids to think ahead about how they might get started on their own, what’s important to get done, and how they’ll go about doing it.

For many years, our executive function coaches have found that this approach works incredibly well for all kids, even during online or hybrid school, and it can work in your home, too.

So give it a shot!

If you found this strategy helpful, go here to get access to even more!

“Does my child need to take the SAT/ACT?”

FAQs for Test-Optional College Admission

Walking your child through the college admissions process can be overwhelming. From SAT/ACT test prep and admissions essays to college tours and financial aid applications, the to-do list is long and complex. When your child’s school of choice turns out to be test-optional, you may wonder if you can strike the SAT/ACT from your list altogether.

We understand the desire to simplify the process, but skipping out on these tests may not be the best option for your child. In today’s blog, we’re tackling your common questions about test-optional schools. Read on to learn what you can do to increase the chances of your child receiving that coveted acceptance letter! 

What does test-optional mean?

Before we get into the application process for test-optional schools, let’s get on the same page about what that term means. Each school your child applies to will fall into one of three categories:

  • Test-Required – These colleges require that you send in an SAT or ACT score in order to be considered for admission.
  • Test-Blind – These colleges do not look at SAT or ACT scores for their applicants. 
  • Test-Optional – These colleges leave it up to each applicant to decide whether or not to submit scores. 

While test-optional schools have been around for a while, we’re seeing more and more schools move in that direction, especially in the wake of COVID-19. Going test-optional is a way for colleges to offer flexibility after a year in which a global pandemic made it much more difficult to prep for and take the SAT/ACT.

Plus, going test-optional has greatly increased the number of applications those colleges and universities have received. Kids are throwing their hat into the ring at selective schools where they would not have otherwise applied because they didn’t have the test scores. With more applicants, colleges can be more selective and improve their admissions statistics, so we suspect many schools will stay test-optional for a while longer.

What do test-optional colleges consider when admitting applicants?

All colleges, test-optional or not, try to look at the big picture when reviewing applicants. Your child’s grades, strength of curriculum, extracurricular involvement, and performance in college-prep courses will all be taken into account along with other factors, especially essays. 

At a test-optional college, you get to decide whether or not the SAT/ACT tests will be part of that big picture review. If you opt not to submit the scores, they’ll simply consider the rest of your application in full without them. When you do submit them, however, they will weigh those into the decision. We don’t know how heavily test-optional schools weigh submitted scores, but we do know that they take them into consideration.

Whether or not your child should submit scores will depend on the overall strength of an application with or without the scores.

Should my child study for and take the SAT/ACT? 

We highly recommend that most students study for and take the SAT/ACT, even if every school on their list is test-optional. If they take the test and don’t like their score, they can simply not submit it. There’s no harm done.  However, if they take it and score well, they can strengthen their application and perhaps be admitted to a school where they would have otherwise been waitlisted or rejected.

(You may be asking, “No harm done?! What about all the lost time and effort?” If you’re worried a strong score is too out of reach to be worth the time and effort, we recommend starting with an inexpensive mock test. Then, you can review the results with our specialists and determine what a realistic goal is for your child.)

Right now, grades, especially in college-prep courses, are the most important factor on applications for college admissions. While extracurriculars have always played a role in applications, the challenges of the last year have eliminated or greatly reduced students’ abilities to participate in sports, clubs, jobs, and volunteer opportunities. With this in mind, there could be extra weight put on grades. A strong performance on the SAT/ACT can bring some balance back to the application and, to some extent, make up for less-than-stellar grades.

With this in mind, it’s a good idea to put a test prep plan into place for your child. If your child is a junior, it’s not too late to start studying for a test in the late spring, summer, or even fall. If your child is applying early decision or early action with a November 1st deadline, they can take the test as late as September or October of their senior year and still have the test make it on to their application.

Since grades are the most important application factor right now, your child may need space to finish their junior year strong first. They may need to use the summer for test prep and take the ACT in mid-July or the SAT at the end of August. Then, they can focus on current schoolwork without added interruption or stress. 

Note: The ideal timeline for test prep and test-taking will depend on your child’s particular courseload, needs, and plans. Click here to schedule a free consultation with our team, and we can help you chart a course that works best for your student.

Should my child submit his or her SAT/ACT scores to a test-optional school?

Once your child studies for the SAT/ACT and achieves his or her best-possible score, you’ll be able to decide whether or not to submit those scores to test-optional schools. Again, this will depend on how strong your child’s application is without vs. without those scores. As a general rule of thumb, we recommend submitting scores if they fall within the upper portion of the mid 50th percentile of the range that a school typically accepts. 

For example, James Madison University accepted applicants with an average SAT score of 1120-1290 and an average ACT score of 23-28 last year. If you apply to James Madison and your score falls within the upper 50th percentile of those ranges, we recommend submitting your score. Your score can be an additional data point for the school to identify you as a good match for them. It can also set you apart from similar applicants who didn’t submit a score.

If your child takes part in our college application coaching or test prep tutoring, we’re happy to help you consider the options and make the best decision for your child. 

Just click below to set up a free consultation and learn more about these services.

At the end of the day, performing their very best on the SAT/ACT can never hurt and just might help your child get into their test-optional school of choice. And performing their best starts now with a clearly-charted plan for test prep and test-taking!

We hope we’ve helped answer some of your questions about test-optional schools, but we also know that the college application process is overwhelming. Remember—you don’t have to do it alone! Our college application coaches and test prep tutors can help your family navigate this important process with more confidence and less stress. Just click here to get started with a free consultation. We’re here for you!

Back to School After COVID-19: 3 Tips for Hybrid Learning

It’s been twelve months since COVID-19 shut down our schools and pushed us all to virtual learning. After a very, very long year, it looks like Fairfax County Public Schools are finally heading back to school this month! Students are excited to see their friends, interact with their teachers face-to-face, and reclaim some sense of normalcy. While we’re all looking forward to this big step in that direction, hybrid learning will in many ways represent another “new normal” with its own set of challenges.

In today’s blog, I want to help you set your family up for success with hybrid schooling. Check out these three tips to go “back to school” the right way, then share this blog with a fellow parent who is counting down the days until that first school drop-off!

#1: Review Your Systems

No matter how your child learns—in-person, virtual, or hybrid—there are always due dates, assignments, and resources to keep organized. For many of us, the switch from in-person to virtual schooling last year required new systems for keeping things straight. The transition to hybrid learning will likely require further adjustments to your routine.

Take some time now to review your child’s systems for keeping track of assignments and due dates. When information is communicated both in-person and online, students will need a plan for keeping everything organized. Tools like Google Calendar, the DayBoard app, or even an old-school whiteboard can help your child track assignments and due dates in this new season. Once hybrid schooling begins, you may make additional tweaks as you figure out what works for your child and family, but go ahead and get some sort of systems in place as a starting point now.

#2: Have a Launching Pad

Before we went to online learning, we often recommended families create a “launching pad” for each child. This is a place, often a basket or cubby by the front door, where kids can put everything they need for school. The night before school, your child can place their school supplies, sports gear, and musical instruments in their launching pad. This cuts down on those early-morning frantic searches and the inevitable texts about forgotten “must-haves” as soon as you get to work.

When families stopped leaving the house for school (or much of anything else, really), there wasn’t as much need for a launching pad. With the move to hybrid schooling, however, it’s time to bring this routine back! Each night, encourage your child to gather everything they’ll need for the next day and put it in a designated “launching pad.” Doing this daily, regardless of whether the next day is virtual or in-person, will help your child stay organized and cut down on the back-and-forth confusion of a hybrid schedule.

#3: Work Ahead of Due Dates

Working ahead of due dates is a good practice no matter what, but it’s especially wise if your child is on block scheduling for hybrid school. We recommend students start assignments the day they’re assigned rather than the night before they’re due. That way, if there’s a question, your child has time to ask it in-person at school—especially if they only see their teacher in person once a week!

Working ahead like this can cut down on late-night homework stress, last-minute emails to the teacher, and incomplete or incorrect assignments. But we know this is easier said than done, especially if your child is a procrastinator by nature! Remember, we’re here to help.

Extra Support with Hybrid Schooling

Hybrid schooling requires strong executive functioning skills like time management and organization. These skills are critical to succeeding in school and life, but they must be learned! Of course, many students push back at their parents’ attempts to help in this key area. That’s where our expert coaches come in.

Our Executive Functioning coaches can help your child work independently and master those important skills. Click here to learn more and take our simple yes/no quiz to see if this program is right for your family!

Register Now!

The Real Reason Your Child Procrastinates

They procrastinate getting ready, then walk out the door without their soccer cleats. They procrastinate studying, and no one knows they need help until the bad grade comes back on a big test. They procrastinate on a project, and the whole family suffers through a stressful late night before the due date.

As a parent, you’d love to help your child conquer their procrastination tendencies, but you can’t do that until you understand the underlying causes that drive the bad habit. In today’s blog, I want to help you understand why kids really procrastinate. This information will equip you to instill a sense of responsibility in your child—and regain some order and peace in your home along the way!

The Real Reason Kids Procrastinate

Before we dive into why kids struggle with procrastination and disorganization, let’s debunk some myths. No, you haven’t failed them as a parent. No, they don’t have insurmountable personality flaws. No, they’re not necessarily lazy or bored or overwhelmed. The problem isn’t a reflection of their character or your parenting. It’s simply a sign that their executive functioning skills need further development.

Harvard University defines executive functioning skills as “the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Just as an air traffic control system at a busy airport safely manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses.”

The good news is that these processes and skills can be taught and learned. Your child, who is continually forgetting everything from homework assignments to marching band instruments, can grow and improve. Don’t lose hope!

The Eight Executive Functioning Skills

Experts have identified eight executive functioning skills students need in order to succeed in school, work, and life. Understanding these key skills is the first step in helping your child improve their ability to manage their time, assignments, and goals independently:

  1. Inhibition is the ability to inhibit or stop distractions and impulses that can derail focus.
  2. Initiation is the ability to get started, especially when you don’t want to or when a task feels overwhelming.
  3. Shifting is the ability to “go with the flow” and recognize when things are out of one’s control.
  4. Emotional Control is the ability to process big feelings realistically and effectively.
  5. Working Memory is the ability to use visuals to track what one needs to remember or complete.
  6. Planning and Organization is the ability to think beyond one day and plan out long-term assignments.
  7. Materials Organization is the ability to keep digital files and paperwork organized and accessible.
  8. Self-Monitoring is the ability to accurately assess one’s performance and status.

As you read through that list, you may be able to identify some skills as harder or easier for your child. Recognizing areas of difficulty will help you know which skills your child needs to strengthen to improve their overall executive functioning.

How to Strengthen Executive Functioning Skills

Executive functioning skills are just that: skills. They can be learned, just like dribbling a basketball or solving math problems with long division. Yes, some of these abilities will come more naturally to some children than others, but nearly everyone can learn and strengthen these skills with guidance.

At Educational Connections, our executive functioning coaches help students learn and grow with…

  • Tools and Strategies – Students can use many different systems and strategies to stay organized, manage their time, and track their assignments. Our executive functioning coaches help students learn to identify, customize, or develop systems that fit their personality and needs.
  • Routines and Practice – Executive functioning skills take practice! Our coaches help students get into a rhythm of practicing critical skills daily and weekly so they can grow in confidence and independence.
  • Outside Support – Many students need outside support and accountability while strengthening these skills. Children often balk at their parents’ attempts to help but embrace the guidance of other adults. (Don’t take it personally—their resistance to you is a normal part of growing up!) Our coaches can provide that third-party support as students gain independence.

If your child struggles with executive functioning, we can help!

Our executive functioning coaches are trained experts who can help your child grow in these critical areas. With the help of our coaches and convenient online tutoring options, your child can grow in confidence, independence, and responsibility. (And your entire family can enjoy a more predictable and organized routine!) Click below to get started with a free consultation today.

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3 Good Reasons Why You Should Study for AP Exams

Studying for an AP exam can be a daunting task. The tests are long, in-depth, and cover a year’s worth of material. Especially as “spring fever” sets in, your child may be tempted to study a few times here and there or cram at the last minute, then wing it on test day. But there are three good reasons to study well for your AP Exams. Discuss these with your child and ask how they plan to prepare for test day. Then, click below to match with an AP coach who can help your student study and perform their very best.

Get an AP Coach

#1. Passing an AP Exam Can Save You Thousands of Dollars

You probably already know that passing an AP exam gives your child college credit, but have you thought about the amount of money that could save your family? In Virginia, in-state students spend an average of $500-800 per credit hour on college courses. Passing just one AP Exam could allow a student to test out of a 3-credit class, saving you between $1500 and $2400! If they attend an out-of-state university or private college, the savings can be even higher.

#2: They Can Kiss That Frustrating Subject Goodbye

If your child dislikes the subject of their AP course and doesn’t plan to use it in their career, they have another compelling reason to study hard! If they don’t pass, they’ll likely have to take a similar course all over again just to fulfill general education requirements in college. Don’t let all that hard work from this year go to waste! Any frustration with the class should drive students to put in the extra effort now so they can say goodbye to memorizing dates or practicing quadratic equations once and for all.

#3: They’ll Have More Opportunities in College

The more credits a student can get through AP exams, the fewer requirements they’ll have to fulfill in college. This frees up their schedule to double major, do an internship, hold a part-time job, take random classes that sound interesting, or even graduate early! College is an exciting time to explore, learn, and prepare for the future. Passing AP exams now will give your child more opportunities later.

Will Your Child Be Taking AP Exams? Here’s What You Need to Know

Now that you know studying for AP Exams is well worth the effort, what’s the best way to prepare for test day? Here are a few tips from our leading AP Coaches:

  • Put test day on your calendar now. You can click here for this year’s AP timeline from College Board. Pay special attention to testing days and the tip on using AP classroom resources.
  • Start preparing now. AP exams cover a LOT of material. Last-minute studying is stressful and ineffective. We offer 8-hour AP Tutoring programs spread out across the semester to help students prepare.
  • Devote study time to every subject. If your student is taking multiple AP exams, we recommend a unique AP Tutor and 8-hour plan for each one. Remember, each test could potentially save you thousands of dollars, so every subject is worth the effort!
  • Get a coach. AP Exams are different from any other exams your child has encountered thus far. They will have to go beyond memorizing facts and learn how to connect big concepts in a new way. Knowing how to identify the Big Idea for the science exam or answer Document Based Questions (DBQs) for the history exam requires a new approach to studying and practice. Plus, students will need to develop strategic study guides to use on the exam and practice answering free-response essays in timed settings. Our coaches help students review the materials, create a study guide, and practice with the new testing style so they can achieve their best possible score.

Don’t rely too much on the open-notes concept. AP Exams have allowed for open notes for years, and they still require a lot of studying. Having an open-notes exam makes creating a good study guide all the more critical. If the guide is too long, the student will struggle to find what they need in a timed setting. If the guide is too short, they may leave out important concepts they’ll need to reference in the test. That’s why our AP Coaches help students compile a study guide that will be most helpful on the test.

Get an AP Coach

Step 1: Get an AP Coach

We’ll start with a free consultation to learn more about your child’s needs. We’ll then match him or her with their ideal AP Coach based on their course material, schedule, and learning style.

Step 2: Receive Individualized Tutoring (Online!)

The AP Coach will provide eight hours of individualized, virtual tutoring sessions to help your child review the material, practice timed writing, and prepare for the unique style of AP Exams.

Step 3: Create a Study Guide

Students identify what’s important from each unit, then create a study guide that makes it easier to study effectively now and find critical information later during the open-notes exam.

Get an AP Coach

Don’t let spring fever, distance learning fatigue, or subject frustrations cost your child thousands of dollars in college credits or missed opportunities available to those with more freedom in their schedule. We’re here to help your student prepare and perform their very best!

Just click here to request an AP Coach or hit reply to email us directly with any additional questions. We’re here for you!

Missing in Action: Where Is Your Child’s Homework?

Even if you’ve been out of school for decades, it’s easy to remember that gut-punch feeling of sitting in class and suddenly remembering you forgot your homework. It’s happened to all of us—even though the systems were pretty straightforward when we were in school. Your teachers likely sent home a piece of paper with a list of assignments or wrote them on the whiteboard and waited for everyone to carefully copy them into personal planners.

Times have, of course, changed. Assignments are given, organized, completed, and submitted digitally. Systems and platforms differ from one teacher to the next. Add in the chaos of virtual or hybrid schooling, and it’s no wonder so many assignments skip through the cracks. Without as much in-person instruction, schools are forced to be more lenient, leaving it up to parents to ensure children complete their work and stay on track.

So how can you help your child stay on top of assignments without feeling like the homework police? That’s what today’s blog is all about. Read on for three simple steps to keep your child organized in this digital age. And why stop there? Get more of our homework tips here!

Step 1: Create a Site Map Together

If your parents were closely involved in your schooling, you might remember them checking your folder for homework assignments to ensure you completed everything and stayed on track. That parental support is helpful, especially with younger students, but the process is now a bit more complicated than quickly checking a folder. Especially when your child has multiple teachers, you may find that the platforms and procedures can vary slightly from one to the next. It can be scattered and confusing, but a site map can help.

A site map is a guide you create to keep track of where assignments are posted for each class so nothing gets missed. Sit down with your child and go through each class to review the systems for finding and submitting assignments. Take note of where everything is and any logins you may need, then compile the information in one handy guide.

Your child can then refer to this site map (with or without your help, depending on their age and executive functioning skills) every week to systematically check assignments for every class and teacher.

Step 2: Create a System That Works for You

If your child has only one teacher, he or she may have a straightforward system that works for your family. If so, great! Follow that one. But if you find your child is regularly missing assignments, work together to create a unified system that fits your family best.

Maybe your child can pick out an “old-school” paper planner to track assignments on a weekly and monthly basis. (This can be especially helpful as students get older and big projects have multiple milestones spread out over time!) Or perhaps you both prefer to use Google Calendar or another online calendar that you can both access from any device at any time.

You may also decide to get a whiteboard, where your child can write out their assignments at the start of each week and strike through them as they go. This process keeps students organized and inspires a feeling of accomplishment that motivates them to stay focused and finish everything on their to-do list.

Whatever you decide, start with the site map from step one to ensure no assignments are missed, then transfer them weekly into the system you create together for a more unified task-tracker that works for you.

Step 3: Focus on Completion over Perfection

As the parent, it’s not on you to ensure every homework assignment is perfect and error-free. This level of oversight will leave your child discouraged and resentful of your input. Instead, focus on helping your child track and complete the assignments. Celebrate their efforts and growing independence as their executive functioning skills improve. This encouragement will pay off much more in the long run than ensuring every math problem they complete is correct!

Plus, letting your child complete their homework without your correction can help the teacher better gauge your child’s mastery of a topic. When every homework assignment is reviewed and revised by a parent, it’s harder for the teacher and student to recognize when a little extra support or further clarification would be helpful.

Focus on completion over perfection, and you’ll build your child’s confidence, preserve your relationship, and get a much better idea of how your child is progressing with each subject.

Bonus Tip: How to Know When Your Child Needs Extra Help

Managing time, tasks, and assignments requires executive functioning skills. These skills take time to develop and come more naturally to some children than others. If you follow the above steps and your child is still struggling to manage deadlines and keep track of assignments, don’t lose hope. He or she can still learn these important skills but might need some extra support to get there.

If your child responds well to your help with tracking and organizing assignments, that’s great! Help them with their systems and look for opportunities to encourage more independence over time. However, many kids balk at their parents’ efforts to help. Don’t take it personally—this is a normal part of growing up! In most cases, students are often much more open to the input of another adult, like an Executive Function Tutor.

Our Executive Function Tutors are highly skilled in helping children develop systems and habits that work for them. They can help your child get their homework organized and completed now while also instilling the skills they’ll need to manage tasks and time independently in future grades and into adulthood. If you’re tired of your child’s assignments going “missing in action” and want to see your child strengthen these life-long skills, we can help! Click below to get started with a free consultation.

One last thing to keep in mind: If your child is only struggling to complete assignments in one class, he or she may need extra help in that subject. When students feel confused by a topic, they often put off their assignments because they dread feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. Of course, delaying assignments until the last minute only makes things worse!

In this case, you may decide to combine subject tutoring with executive functioning tutoring to build your child’s confidence and skills. To learn more, click below to schedule a free consultation. We’ll help you explore your options so you can identify the best course of action for your child.

We even provide more homework and study tips that we didn’t get the chance to cover fully in this blog. Click below so you don’t miss out on new strategies to help your child stay on top of his or her assignments!

What’s a Good SAT Score for College Admissions?

Over the past 20+ years, we’ve helped thousands of high schoolers improve their SAT scores. Most of their parents have asked us some version of the question: What’s a good test score for college admissions? It’s an important question. After all, the main goal of taking the SAT is to help students get into their top schools.

Just recently, a reporter with U.S. News asked Ann Dolin to shed some light on this important topic. You can click here to hear her thoughts and read the full article or simply read on for a recap and overview.

You can get even more standardized testing and college prep tips and tricks sent directly to you here!

SAT Scores for Top Schools

The SAT features two main sections: evidence-based reading and writing, and math. Although there is also an essay portion, the score for that is still considered optional. Each section is worth a maximum score of 800, and the combined final score can range from 400 to 1600.

Identifying an ideal SAT score within that range depends, in part, on where a student plans to apply.

“It depends on where the student wants to attend,” Ann Dolin shared with U.S. News. “What we’ve been sharing with our students is to dive into each school’s website and determine the mid-50th percentile of last year’s incoming freshman class, and what that range is.”

U.S. News shared those ranges for some of the top schools in the country, and the mid-50th percentile was generally in the 1470 – 1570 range. Other schools can have an average range closer to 1200 for accepted students.

If your child has a list of schools to which they hope to apply, check out the stats for those schools to get an idea of a good goal for your child’s SAT scores.

How to Improve Your SAT Score

If your child will be taking the SAT in the next couple of years, a good place to start is with a mock test. This gives students a valuable practice run with the format and timing of the SAT and provides a baseline score for test prep.

With a baseline score in hand and a goal score in mind, students can begin working towards a higher score. There are three ways to improve SAT scores:

  • Review Test-Taking Strategies – Students can learn strategic methods for selecting an answer even when they aren’t sure.
  • Work on Targeted Content Review – Students can review mock test scores to identify weak spots and focus their practice on challenging content.
  • Take Full-length Practice Tests – Students can take additional mock tests to track their progress, get extra practice, improve their pacing, and boost their mental stamina for test day.

While some students can get sufficient practice via independent study or group classes, students typically see the most improvement when they invest in private SAT tutoring that’s catered to their goals, strengths, and weaknesses.

Submitting SAT Scores to Test-optional Schools

As you research your child’s top choices for college, you may find that one or more of them is a test-optional school. This means students can choose whether or not to submit a test score.

In these cases, students can decide not to submit a test score without hurting their chances of admission. However, even if your child is applying to test-optional schools, it’s still a good idea to go ahead and take the SAT or ACT and strive for their best possible score.

While test-optional schools don’t penalize applicants who don’t submit a score, submitting a good test score can still strengthen an application. Once your child has a test score, you can consider the strength of the application with versus without that score to decide the best path forward.

A Guaranteed Score Improvement

At Educational Connections, we’re confident that our proven approach to SAT and ACT test prep can improve students’ scores. In fact, if a student completes a full program, including all homework and practice tests, we guarantee a score increase or three sessions (four and a half hours) of free tutoring are on us.

We want to help your child get into his or her top choice of school, and that starts with a strong test score! Click here to learn more about our unique SAT test prep program, or click here to schedule a consultation today.