5 Reasons to be Really Proud of Yourself Right Now

There’s no doubt these are trying times. Each day, parents call our office looking for help with an array of homeschooling challenges. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, please hear this: Not one single parent I’ve spoken with claims to have it all figured out. We’re navigating massive shifts as parents, as educators, and as families. It’s hard, but you really are doing a wonderful job. 

At EC Tutoring, we’re proud to cheer you on. Read on to discover 5 reasons we believe you should be really proud of yourself right now—and 5 ways we’re here to help when you need an extra boost!


1. You’re figuring out how to homeschool in a crisis.

Homeschooling in a crisis is not like traditional homeschooling. It’s sudden. It’s scattered. It’s scary. But, day by day, you’re adjusting. Celebrate your little victories along the way—the single completed assignment, the successful virtual meeting with a teacher, the 30 minutes of reading your child did today—to stay positive and on-track.

Of course, it’s still normal to feel overwhelmed or discouraged, so I wrote an ebook to help and I’m giving it away for free. Click here to access my free ebook, “Homeschooling During COVID-19: 7 Stress-free Ways to Keep Your Child On Track.” And please feel free to pass that link on to friends or share it on social media! We want to give it to as many parents as possible.


2. You’re a great advocate for your child.

Even as you manage the stress of our “new normal,” you’re continuing to care about your child’s long-term mental health and academic future. It’s a lot, and no one can balance it all perfectly, but we’re so proud to come alongside you as you fight for your child’s best in the present and their future.

If you’re parenting a high schooler, part of that “long-term advocacy” is preparing them for the SAT/ACT. We’re here to help. We’re offering a Virtual Proctored ACT Exam This Saturday, April 11th from 9:00 am - 12:30 pm. Students can take the ACT at home, under timed conditions, and with a proctor present (via Zoom). They’ll gain familiarity with the type of questions, pacing, and stamina required for test day. We’ll even schedule virtual meetings afterward to review a detailed, color-coded score report that identifies your child’s strengths and areas to improve. It’s only $20 to register, so click here to make sure your child doesn’t miss this Saturday’s exam.


3. You’re finding new resources for your child.

You parents are nothing if not resourceful! We’ve seen you master new online tools and discover all sorts of homeschooling tips across the internet. Take a moment and think about all the new apps or websites you’ve used in the last few weeks to help your child connect with others and stay on track. You’re doing a great job tracking down helpful resources!

If you’re still looking for resources to help your AP student prepare for the updated AP Exams, don’t miss our Online AP Coaching program. Studying for an AP Exam is a massive undertaking—even under normal circumstances—and this year’s students may find themselves overwhelmed as they review all of the material, identify which concepts are important to know, make connections between big ideas, and practice timed writing. Our AP Coaches are here to help. Click here to learn more about changes to this year’s exam and click here to match your child with an AP Coach.


4. You’re teaching your child lifelong skills in executive function and focus.

We know it’s not easy teaching your child to work independently and focus on schoolwork from home. But your persistence is worth it! Not only will it give you a few moments of quiet while they work, but it’s also instilling really valuable skills for the long haul. 

We believe this is important work, but we also understand it’s a big challenge—especially while quarantined. To help, we’re putting on a free webinar to share some tips, tricks, and suggestions. Click here to register for our free webinar on April 8th: How to Keep Distracted Kids in “Study Mode” (Even If They Have ADHD).


5. You’re getting creative and staying connected.

We’re all practicing social distancing, but none of us is in this alone. We see you getting creative to keep your family connected. As you schedule virtual playdates, family FaceTime calls, and more, you’re reminding your child that no matter how weird life gets, they never have to do it alone.

To help your child stay connected with the outside world and on-track academically, we’re now offering online homeschooling sessions with expert learning coaches. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or isolated, let an expert learning coach take care of all the details of homeschooling and motivate your child to get everything done without your involvement. Whether your child has school-issued assignments, optional and ungraded work, or nothing at all, click here to match your child with a credentialed tutor who can meet with him or her every day—or just as-needed. Get matched, stay connected, and pass off the homeschooling burden to us. You don’t have to do this alone! 

How to keep kids motivated 😩

Are your kids struggling to stay motivated and focused? Or are they simply driving you up a wall?

There’s a good reason for that—we’re in the middle of what I call “the winter slump.” Winter Break already feels like a distant memory, but Spring Break still feels impossibly far away. For kids, parents, and teachers alike, these weeks can drag on and on. 

Last week, I sat down with our head tutor, Jan Rowe, to learn her best tips for keeping students motivated in these colder months. Watch the video below to hear her ideas, or scroll on down for my recap!

#1: Be positive and focus on your child’s accomplishments.

If the mountain of work in front of your child feels too overwhelming, encourage them to look back instead. When they can celebrate how far they’ve come, it can make it easier to tackle the next assignment in front of them.

Jan shared about a recent student who struggled to get started with a research paper. To kick start her writing process, Jan encouraged the student to focus on what came easily to her the last time she’d written a paper. Then, she started with those easy wins that fit her natural strengths. Those little victories gave the student a sense of accomplishment that powered her through the harder work, too.


#2: Get up and move!

Cold winter weather can make it difficult to get outside and stay active. As a result, kids can get cabin fever. The restlessness then makes it harder for them to focus. When this happens, look for ways to encourage your child to get up and move while they study!

If you’re quizzing your child on spelling words, let them move around the room, wiggle, and stretch as they spell each word. If your child is studying for a test, put post-it notes on the wall, and let them move the notes around as they ask and answer questions. (Added Bonus: This allows them to see and make connections to the material in a new way, too!)


#3: Switch it up.

If one subject or assignment has your child moaning and complaining, don’t feel the need to force the issue. Sometimes, a simple switch in focus is all it takes to get them back on track.

Encourage your child to transition to a new assignment, ideally one where they feel more confident. This can give them the boost they need to return to the more challenging topic later—with renewed confidence!


Bonus Tip: Bring in outside help!

If these tips still aren’t enough to pull your child out of their winter slump, don’t fear! Our tutors are here to help. 

Whether your child can’t seem to get their footing in one particular class or is unorganized and falling behind in this long stretch between breaks, working with a private tutor can make all the difference. 

Click below to schedule a free consultation and get your child matched with their ideal tutor today!

Schedule a Consult

Our 3 most popular posts of 2019 👏

Do you ever look around at other parents and think, “Why does everyone else seem to have it all together? Am I the only one figuring this out as I go?”

The truth is every parent is making educated guesses on what’s best for their child, and every parent second guesses themselves from time to time! And, as parents, where do we turn for answers? The internet!

Over the past year, some of the posts on our website have attracted tens of thousands of readers like you. Today, I want to share with you our three most popular posts from 2019 so you can see what questions your fellow parents are asking—and get the advice we’ve shared with them!

Check out the posts below, then forward this email to a fellow parent as a reminder that we’re all in this together… and no one has it all figured out!


#1: How to Handle Bad Grades: A Practical Guide for Parents


No parent wants to see a bad grade on their child’s report card. If it does happen to your child, it can be really hard to know how to respond. Perhaps that’s why this post has been our most-read post of the year with over 31,000 views.

Check it out for helpful tips concerning…  

  • What to do if your child comes home with bad grades (and how to talk to them about it)
  • Whether to punish your child for bad grades or reward them for good grades
  • How to investigate why your child got the grade and what to do about it moving forward

With report cards coming up after the break, this is a great piece to read now or bookmark for later. Here’s to hoping you won’t ever need it… but being prepared just in case!


#2: This $5 Tool Makes Homework Much Easier


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.

Read our post to discover…

  • Why planning for an entire month isn’t realistic, but planning for one day at a time is too short-sighted
  • The best way to avoid stress later in the week
  • The truth about kids being disorganized or falling behind

Schedule a call with us if your child could use a little extra help.


#3: What’s your child’s homework personality?


How is the school year going for you and your family so far? It’s around this time of year that assignments can pile up, calendars can fill up, and stress can build for the entire family. Add a child’s disorganization or poor time management to the mix, and things quickly go from bad to worse.

Read our post to learn about...

  • Focus Apps for Tick Tock Tommy
  • Planning Ahead with Last Minute Lucy
  • Weekly Check-ins with Hot Headed Harry
  • Clean Sweeps with Backpack Bonnie

If your child resists your efforts to help, know you’re not alone. I’ve been there! And that’s why I’ve created a special Executive Function Coaching program to connect your child with an expert tutor who can coach her to find and implement systems that will work for her… without any work on your part!

Schedule a Consult

Why studying math is so hard? 😫

If you’ve been around Educational Connections for a while, you’ve probably heard me talk about my first encounter with tutoring—and it wasn’t as a tutor. I was a student. It was the summer between fourth and fifth grade, and I simply could not figure out long division.

All the steps confused and frustrated me, and I never could seem to get it right. That summer, my mom got me my first tutor. I biked to her house every week until I finally mastered long division and regained my self-confidence.

I bring up that story today to say this: Math concepts are hard to study. I experienced it myself as a student, and we hear it from kids and parents every day. 

The biggest challenge is that math is incredibly hands-on. You can’t just throw some definitions on an index card or quiz your child aloud on the ride to school. Fortunately, our head tutor Jan Rowe has a technique that can help.

Watch this short video to see how you can turn the math homework your child is already doing into a helpful study tool that can be used again and again before their next big math test:

Don’t you just love how simple that is? Here’s all you need to do to use this strategy with your child. (It works for all ages!)


1. Grab some graph paper.

This isn’t required, but many students find it easier to keep track of numbers when using graph paper to line them up properly.


2. Write the steps on the right side of the sheet.

Using your child’s textbook or notes from class, help them write out the steps on the right side of the sheet, so they can easily follow them as they work through their homework problem.


3. Work the problem on the left side of the page.

Help your child write the homework problem on the left side of the page, beside the steps they need to follow. This allows them to stay focused and on-track, especially when working through a lot of steps.


4. Keep the homework sheet handy for easy access later.

Now that you have a sample problem and the steps to solve it on one easy-to-read piece of paper, don’t throw it away! Store any practice sheets you create in one convenient place, so your child can use them to review steps and work through more sample problems leading up to their next big test.

It’s that simple! This strategy isn’t complicated, time-consuming, or expensive to try, and it makes studying math much easier and more effective. Try it out with your child this week, then hit reply to let me know how it went!


Studying math is hard. We can help!

If your child needs a bit of extra support to conquer confusing math concepts, please don’t feel like you have to relearn it all yourself just to help out. (Math has changed so much since we were kids, hasn’t it?) 

Instead, click below to request a tutor, and we’ll send someone to your home to help your child one-on-one. It’s the easiest way to give your child the skills and, more importantly, the confidence they need to conquer math, school, and any other challenges life throws their way!

Schedule a Consult

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.
 

Is the “No-Zero” Policy doing more harm than good?

The No-Zero Policy is a new grading strategy that is increasing in popularity in schools across the U.S. and, in fact, Fairfax County has adopted it as well.

From the FCPS website:

“Collaborative teams may choose to apply a penalty when work is turned in after the due date. Though if a student has made a reasonable attempt to complete work, teams are encouraged to assign a grade no lower than 50 percent.”

So for example:

Let’s say a student had three assignments he had to complete and he only turned in two of them.

On both of them he got an 80 percent, making his traditional scores 80, 80, and 0. If you average those scores together, that would be 53 percent (an “F”).

Zero Percent of Ten

 

But let’s say the same student got an 80, got another 80, and instead of getting a zero for that assignment he didn’t turn in, he was automatically given a 50 percent. Now the student has a 70 percent (a low “C” – which one might argue better reflects their understanding of the material).

Is this a good or bad thing?

Argument A: It’s good in that it decreases the negativity cycle, and better reflects how well students are doing with a greater weight placed on tests.

Often, if a student doesn’t turn something in and knows they’re going to get a zero, they may be less inclined to try as hard for the rest of the quarter, knowing that their grade is now “screwed up.”

Argument B: Giving kids credit when none is due is inappropriate, and breeds a lack of accountability.

As this Edutopia article on the topic mentions:

“A no-zero grading policy allows students to do minimal work and still pass, pushes students forward who haven’t mastered the content, and doesn’t teach students the real-life consequences of not meeting their responsibilities…”

We may be making positive changes in the short term, but we’re also potentially sending kids off to college unprepared to deal with the consequences of not completing their work.

Overall, I believe that the no-zero policy for most kids is a good thing, but would love to hear from you.

What do you think? Comment below!

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

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.

Do Retakes Help or Hurt Our Kids?

Along with the test grades your child’s teachers have passed back over the last few weeks, may have come the following opportunity:

To retake those tests and try to improve the second time around.

On the face of it, this seems like an excellent policy.

It gives kids who might not be the best test takers the opportunity to accurately demonstrate what they know.

And to the extent that retakes serve that purpose, I’m all for them.

In practice though, I believe retakes have had negative consequences on both our student’s study skills and their preparedness for standardized tests.

First, they inflate grades… and our student’s perception of how well they know the material they’ve learned.

The most awarded grade in high school and in college continues to hold steady at an “A,” three times more common than it was in 1960.

Image Source: USA Today

This on its own wouldn’t be a problem, if we also saw the same trend with SAT scores. Unfortunately, that’s not the case (average SAT scores fell over the last decade).

While retake policies vary, most allow an averaging of the first and second test scores, with some allowing a complete replacement.

That means kids who would originally have received a 60 (and maybe take a hard look at their study routine) can retake and end up with a B or an A.

Second, they affect our student’s ability to take standardized tests.

We receive calls from parents almost every day with stories of students who have amazing grades (sometimes well above a 4.0 with advanced credits), yet unexpectedly low SAT or ACT scores.

These are diligent, hard working kids who care deeply about their grades.

They’re doing the homework, they’re participating in class, they’re working hard on group projects, but they’re not always doing well on tests.

So they retake the test and bring up their grades, but don’t address the core problem: they weren’t ready when the test was given.

As the author of this Washington Post piece puts it:

“When my son told me he’d just retake his math test if he did poorly, we had a long discussion about what it means to be organized… If he studies and does poorly, that is one thing. But falling back on a retake… isn’t going to cut it.”

So is the answer abolishing the retake policy?

No, but I do think we have to make sure we’re preparing kids in the first place with the study skills they need.

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.