This $5 Tool Makes Homework Much Easier

The first day of school is (almost) here! Because you’re likely gathering school supplies and getting organized, I wanted to take a quick moment to share one of our favorite homework tools with you. This simple hack keeps students of all ages organized and focused—and it only costs a few dollars!

What is this simple but powerful tool? Watch this video to find out… or scroll on down if you need to save the video for later. (We see you checking your phone in that PTA meeting!)

So what’s the simple tool our tutors love? Whiteboards! 

They’re not flashy or tech-savvy, but they still work wonders with elementary, middle, and high schoolers. Read on to learn what you need to know to make this whiteboard trick work in your household.

Tip #1: A week is just right.

Planning for an entire month isn’t realistic, but planning for one day at a time is too short-sighted.

Planning out one week at a time? Well, that’s just right.

Have your child write out the days of the week on their whiteboard, then jot down important due dates that will fall on each day (think tests, quizzes, projects, and homework assignments).

Once the week is filled in, your child will be ready to create daily to-do lists. With that list right in front of them, kids are more likely to accomplish every task—and wipe each one away with a sense of pride and satisfaction!

Tip #2: Do this early in the week.

Have you ever heard the saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”? 

It’s true. The best way to avoid stress later in the week is to start the week by getting organized.

Make the whiteboard planning session a normal part of your Sunday night or Monday afternoon routine.

This allows children to enter the week clear on what they need to do and confident that they can get it all done.

Tip #3: Let someone else suggest it!

We know you know best. You know you know best. But your child? Well, they may take some convincing.

Don’t take it personally. Most kids resist their parent’s suggestions, especially on sensitive topics like how to stay organized in school.

Most of the time, when a parent tells their child to use this whiteboard strategy, the child will feel like it’s extra work and drag their feet over doing it.

But when someone outside the family coaches your child and empowers them to take ownership of their responsibilities, you’ll be amazed at the difference it can make!

The truth is that kids don’t like being disorganized or falling behind. And having a coach guide them to strategies that will work for them can make them excited to get organized and stay that way… without any nagging from you!

That’s why we’ve built a team of the best executive functioning coaches in DC—to help your child benefit from skills, strategies, and tools just like this one.

Just click below to learn more or request an executive function coach for your child!

Find Your Coach

How to Enjoy Parenting a Senior

Parenting a high school senior is exciting! You’ve successfully navigated sleep deprivation, potty training, elementary school PTA, middle school hormones, and driver’s permits. Now, it’s time for the big finale: high school graduation!

You deserve to spend your child’s last year at home making memories and celebrating how far you’ve come.

But for many parents, the stress of college applications robs the joy of senior year.

We believe you (and your child) deserve better. That’s why we’re now offering one-on-one support throughout the application process with our new program, The Road to College.

Get Started Now

In this program, a College Application Guide will help your rising senior…

✓ Map Out All Steps and Deadlines for Applications

✓ Create a College-ready Resume

✓ Find Potential Schools to Match Their Needs

✓ Prepare to Write College Application Essays

✓ Track Deadlines, Complete Applications, and Press “Submit” On Time

✓ Increase Confidence and Decrease Stress

✓ And more!

We’ve made it easy to actually enjoy parenting a senior without worrying you’ll miss an important deadline along the way. Here’s how it works.

Step 1

 

Schedule a consult to have your child matched with a College Application Guide.

Step 2

 

Discover where your child is in the process and what they’ll need to succeed.

Step 3

 

Relax as we guide your child through college applications in one-on-one sessions.

 

More About The Road to College

Senior year only happens once. Don’t waste a single moment! Click above to learn more about The Road to College, or schedule a consult to match your child with a College Application Guide today.

We’re here for you!

Parenting A Procrastinator: It’s More Complicated Than You Think

When our kids struggle with procrastination or study habits, it’s easy to think of it as a character flaw.

But in reality, there’s always an underlying reason why they’re putting off doing their work. As parents, we have to figure out where the procrastination is coming from in order to help them get past it.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Adrienne Wichard-Edds at the Washington Post about this exact issue.
 
In this article we discuss:
  • Why procrastination is more of a “symptom” of your child’s executive functioning skills vs. a direct behavior or choice
  • How to work with your child to solve the problem by involving them in the process (ultimately producing a better outcome)
  • Where parents should cut themselves a break, and why

Click the link below to give it a read:

 
 
The topics covered here are also available in additional detail in my new book Getting Past Procrastination.
 

The Do’s and Don’ts of report card reactions

Now that we have a perspective on how to interpret the grades that your child comes home with, the next question is:

How should you react?

If your child comes home with good grades…

…it’s often a parent’s natural reaction to say things like: “Wow, that’s awesome! You’re just so smart. I always knew you were a natural at math.”

Nice Work!

However, this type of praise may do more harm than good. Instead, focus on praising effort, because it’s something kids feel like they can control (unlike their intelligence or natural abilities). Also, though it is indeed time to celebrate good grades as a victory, keep in mind that it’s possible to go overboard with rewards and incentives.

If your child comes home with a bad grade…

First things first, spend the time to figure out what’s going on. There are usually one of two reasons for bad grades.

Reason One: They don’t have mastery of the content.

This means that even though they do the homework, they do extra credit, and they turn things in on time, they’re not “getting” the material. They’re very organized, but they don’t do well on tests, especially unit tests and midterms

tests that cover material over a longer period of time.

If this is the case, your child may not be absorbing the class content

appropriately, and might need to work on their study skills.

Alternatively, despite their best efforts, they may need some one-on-one help from you, a teacher, or a subject tutor who can help bring them up to speed.

Reason Two: They have difficulty with organization and executive functions.

These are usually the kids that get great test scores, but don’t turn in their homework. Their projects are often late. They seem disorganized. They don’t know when things are due.

For students who fall into this category, it’s usually difficulty with executive functions and/or lack of organization skills that’s causing their low grade, not content mastery.

If this is the case, your child may need some work on their routines and habits both in school and at home, and could benefit from working with an Educational Coach.

Once you’ve determined which camp your child is a part of, it’s time to start looking forward rather than dwelling on what happened in the past.

It can be tough

Our natural reaction as a parent is to say:

“Well, what could you have done differently?”

or

“You know, you should’ve done this or you should have done that.”

Instead of looking back, look forward and say:

“You know what? I can tell that you’re disappointed. Now that you know what material is covered and you know how your teacher teaches, what might you do going forward?”

That’s a better question.

Finally, if you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to handling poor grades, I highly recommend you give our full post on this subject a read:

Read the Full Practical Guide to Grades for Parents

Middle School: Help Them Ease Back Into Their Habits

Next up in our top tutor series: Middle Schoolers!

(Read about Elementary Students Here and High School Students Here) 

We asked one of our top tutors, Jan Rowe to share her thoughts on working with middle schoolers as we kick off 2019.

What’s so hard for middle school kids about January?

Jan: January can be a little difficult for kids coming off of the holiday break because before the break, they have worked so hard at establishing good habits for the first few months of the school year. But then during the holidays, they get out of their habits and sleep in, stay up late, things like that.

Whenever January comes around, it’s a little difficult for them to get right back into those habits that they had formed at the beginning of the school year. So not only are students forgetting some of the information that they learned, they also have to establish those habits again.

 

How do you approach this with your students?

Jan: It’s family by family, but what I have taught is this. Whenever I start working with kids in January, it can be somewhat frustrating for them because they’re a little overwhelmed, thinking: “Oh my goodness! I’ve forgotten this, I’ve forgotten that. What do I do?”

So instead what we started doing is having a conversation about what’s coming up to get them mentally prepared: “Alright. What do you see that’s going to happen right away now that you’re back in school?”

Is there anything else parents can do to help?

Jan: Another big thing, especially with middle schoolers, is over the holidays they have free rein to stay up as late as they want. It is very difficult for them to get back to going to sleep at a reasonable time during January.

So the quicker they can start going back to sleep at the same time that they did during the school year, the easier the transition is to getting enough rest for the first week back.

Our Educational Coaches strike just the right balance of positive support, while also challenging students to be responsible and accountable for their schoolwork: the perfect formula for getting your son or daughter’s school habits back on track.

Click the link below if you think they could benefit from some extra help to get back on track.

Get Help with your Middle Schooler's Habits

Why we fight about school

There are some kids who are completely self-motivated and drive themselves to high levels of academic achievement without any pressure from their parents. But most kids aren’t like that.

Self-motivated kids are the exception, not the rule, so it’s pretty safe to say that most of us will fight with at least one of our kids about grades at some point.

So how do we prevent our relationships with our kids from becoming dominated by academics?

Here are a few places to look:

Problem: Conflicting time horizons.

You offer your son the reward of a Disney vacation to motivate him to work harder in school. It works… for about 24 hours. Then it’s back to the same old habits. The nine weeks of hard work and focus it would take to accomplish the goal is too much for him to manage.

Solution: Start smaller. Simple tasks (like completing 30 minutes of studying) followed by simple rewards (praise, a short break) work best.

Problem:Conflicting priorities (and your anxiety about their future).

Almost every parent has walked into a kid’s messy bedroom and asked, “How can anyone live like this?” To most adults (and a select number of children) a certain level of disorder is just intolerable. But for most kids, it’s really no big deal. These differing priorities are bound to lead to conflict, which won’t be completely resolved until the child matures.

The same kind of conflicting priorities can cause arguments in our discussions of schoolwork and grades. Most parents consider success in school important, while many kids are more concerned with making friends and having fun. Parents naturally think about the long-term importance of school, while kids often assume that everything will just work out somehow.

Solution: Focus on the process, not the outcome. Work with your child to build the habits they need to keep their rooms clean, and excel in school, without expecting them to be self-motivated enough to do it on their own.

Problem: Vague or unreasonable standards and communciation.

Kids need their parents to set standards for both their behavior and their performance at school. And there is absolutely nothing unreasonable about expecting your child to go to class, do the work that is assigned, and get reasonable grades in coursework that is appropriate for his or her abilities and interests.

But sometimes parents have expectations regarding grades or academic achievement that are simply beyond what their kids are willing or able to achieve.

In other cases, parents will say that they don’t care about grades, as long as their children “try their best.” But what is “their best”? Most kids don’t know, and most parents, if they are honest, don’t necessarily know how to clarify what they mean.

Solution: Set clear and reasonable standards, and communicate, communicate, communicate! A good place to start is reframing how you ask questions

 

 

This is an excerpt adapted from my new book Getting Past Procrastination.

How Better Grades May Mean Our Kids are Less Prepared for College…

We’ve talked about how the now-common retake policy for middle and high school test-takers inflates grades and could impair how well they think they know the material.

Well, it turns out the effects of this grade inflation trend in high schools extend to College Freshman as well.

A September 2018 study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute study finds that not only does grade inflation continue to be prevalent (especially among the most affluent schools), but that only a minority of those students who do go on to college are actually prepared.

As the study notes:

“…a 2018 survey published by Learning Heroes, a parent information group, found that 90 percent of parents believe their child is performing at or above grade level… That’s a lot of misinformed parents, given that one-third of U.S. teenagers, at most, leave high school ready for credit-bearing courses.”

And as one of the authors Michael J. Petrilli puts it, this disconnect could be coming from the inflated grades they’re receiving in high school:

“Conscientious parents are constantly getting feedback about the academic performance of their children, almost all of it from teachers. We see worksheets and papers marked up on a daily or weekly basis; we receive report cards every quarter; and of course there’s the annual (or, if we’re lucky, semiannual) parent-teacher conference. If the message from most of these data points is “your kid is doing fine!” then it’s going to be tough for a single “score report” from a distant state test administered months earlier to convince us otherwise.”

All of this is to say, as grade inflation continues, and we put less and less emphasis on standardized testing, the chances that our children enter college fully prepared decreases…
Unless we monitor and make sure they’re truly learning the material, rather than just “getting by” – which is easier said than done.

What do you think?

Have you had the experience of an exceptional GPA followed by a less-than-stellar SAT or ACT score?
Comment below, I’d love to hear your opinion.

Adopting The Principle of Practice

Would you prepare for a road race just by studying a map of the course you had to run?

What about getting ready for a violin recital by just looking at the sheet music?

Of course not!

But that’s exactly what kids are doing when they study for tests by rereading.

At the root of the problem, far too many kids think about test preparation in very vague terms, rather than seeing it as a concrete set of tasks. This makes studying seem complicated and overly-difficult.

Instead, how would you actually prepare for the race I just mentioned?

You might run several times a week to build up your endurance. You might mix in some sprinting to build up your speed. You might walk the course ahead of time so that you didn’t have to think too much about where to turn, or what path to follow on race day.

And for the violin recital?

As it turns out, that’s exactly the kind of preparation that our kids need for tests. They need a defined practice regimen that goes beyond just familiarizing them with the information.

They need to practice actually doing what the test will ask them to do.

Once kids are in the mindset of practicing for a test rather than just looking over class materials, the steps they need to prepare become much clearer.

This is an excerpt adapted from my new book Getting Past Procrastination.