5 Ways to Help with Homework Without Nagging

Homework without nagging and begging

It’s a stressful battle that breaks out in many homes each school night. And for many parents, figuring out effective ways to help their child do homework without nagging is a struggle. 
In this blog, we will break down five ways to reduce the nightly drama and ease your family’s frustration surrounding homework. 

1. Discover your child’s homework personality. 

Helping your child get organized and stay focused is key to helping with daily homework without nagging and begging. Of course, every child is different. It can be helpful to identify your child’s “homework personality.” Are they a Last Minute Lucy or Hot Headed Harry? 

Take this quick quiz to discover your child’s homework personality. Based on the results, you will learn a simple but powerful executive function hack to help.

homework personality quiz

2. Stick to a routine for homework. 

Are you already begging or battling with your child to set aside their devices and get their homework done? If so, it may be time to develop a daily routine. 

When you establish a set time for homework every afternoon (and stick to it!), you can often eliminate the daily homework struggle altogether.  

Elementary school students usually focus best about 30 minutes after getting home. Older kids may prefer to start closer to or even after dinner. 

3. Set a spot and eliminate distractions. 

homework without nagging in the kitchen

Should your child do homework in their room? In the kitchen? At a desk or on the couch? Many parents are surprised to find there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It really depends on your child’s personality. 
Does your child focus best when surrounded by the hum of activity? Then they may do their best work at the kitchen table while you’re preparing dinner.  
Is your child easily distracted from the work in front of them? Then they may need a quiet homework space in the dining room, home office, or their room— away from the TV, cell phones, and other distractions— for stress-free, successful studying sessions. 
Focus less on figuring out the “right” place to do homework and, instead, work together to figure out what’s best for your child’s personality and routine. 

4. Introduce tools that keep your child organized.

No matter your child’s personality or executive function skills, organizational systems are critical for keeping papers and deadlines straight without adding to your own mental load as the parent. 
Some of my favorite tools for helping with homework without nagging include:

  • A launching pad by the door where children can stash everything they’ll need for school the next day (from bookbags to sports equipment to musical instruments) 
  • A whiteboard for writing down a weekly to-do list and tracking daily homework assignments 
  • A hanging accordion folder behind a closet or bedroom door for filing papers neatly and out of the way

5. Use “weird windows” in your child’s busy schedule.  

use weird windows for homework

Today’s students are busier than ever, so many have to get creative if they’re going to find time to study or get work done. 
Teach your child to maximize their efficiency by using “weird windows” for homework. This means using those snippets of time that might be spent on Instagram or TikTok (while waiting for the bus to take them to a lacrosse game, for example) to chip away at assignments or study for an upcoming exam. 
Learning to make the most of weird windows not only helps students get work done around a busy schedule now but also strengthens executive function skills that will set them up to excel into adulthood. 

Bonus Tip: Don’t Wait to Seek Help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember your family doesn’t have to struggle alone! There are ways to help your child do nightly homework without nagging and begging.
Whether your child needs subject tutoring to stay on track or get ahead, test prep help, or executive function coaching to improve their organization and time management skills, we can help. We will hand-select a coach for your child, then schedule private and convenient virtual tutoring sessions. 
It’s a great time to get started! We will include one free session with every package purchased by Dec. 15, 2021. Give your child the gift of a smoother, more successful school year! 

Small Business Saturday Free Session at Educational Connections

Taking Better Notes: 5 Effective Strategies for Students

Better notes

Note-taking is a vital, handy tool in school and later in life. It helps keep you alert, organized, and focused on what you’re listening to. It basically forces you to pay attention so you know what to write down. People who take better notes often remember specific details better than those who only listen.

In one study at Ohio University, researchers found students who regularly took notes scored 13% higher on tests than students who didn’t write information down in class.

5 Types of Note-Taking

Different note-taking strategies aren’t always taught in the classroom and sometimes students need help understanding why it’s so important and the best ways to go about it. In this blog, we’ll explain five different note-taking strategies to set your student up for success.

1. Freestyle Method

Freestyle note-taking consists of writing down everything that you hear, in any format. It is a great method for students who need to quickly jot down notes and have time to process the information later. However, freestyle note-taking can be very disorganized and hard to study.

2. Outline Method

Many students have better luck staying organized with the outline method. This consists of writing a heading (the main topic), subheadings, and details under each subheading. The outline method is great for students who are able to synthesize information while listening to the teacher. 

Better note taking the outline method

Brianna Bown, M.Ed., a virtual tutor at Educational Connections, says when students use the outline method their notes are already organized and simple to skim through, which makes it easier to study.

“If you have a student who likes the freestyle method, then they can take their notes and later put them into the outline method,” explained Brown.

3. Cornell Note Method

This is a research-based method, that’s best for middle, high school, and college students. The Cornell method helps students connect everything they are writing to a question

“Teachers love to see that students are thinking from a question-based perspective because they’re going to be asked a ton of questions on tests and in class. So if they organize their thought process, it’s going to keep them stay on task.”

To use the Cornell Method, students can draw two simple columns with one merged column on the bottom. The key ideas or terms should be written in the left column and all of the important details related to the main ideas should go in the right column. 

The bottom section is reserved for a summary. Here the student should reflect on what they have just learned in their own words.

“You can take various notes, but if you don’t sit down and analyze it, of what it means to you, it’s not going to be effective. Because you can write it down and then it’s out of your brain.”

4. Creative Note-Taking Methods

Many visual learners enjoy taking their freestyle notes and turning them into colorful drawings or illustrations. These are great strategies for students who love to be creative.

To make a web, students can write the topic in the center and have subheadings branch off from it. When creating a mind map, students can write the main ideas and connect them with keywords, details, and pictures. Both methods can help draw connections between ideas and concepts.

5. Digital Note-Taking Methods

For many students, notetaking has moved from a notebook to a laptop. The benefits of digital note-taking include easy organization and a smaller chance of losing notes after class.

However, there are many studies including this one that found students are often more distracted in class when using a digital device to take notes. Also, it’s much easier to try to type everything you hear. Researchers found that taking verbatim digital notes can reduce how much a student remembers compared to when they paraphrase while writing by hand.

There’s a variety of programs students can use to take digital notes, including Microsoft’s OneNote and Google Docs.

Note.ly a virtual post-it note board that does not require a subscription. It allows students to easily create a note for each topic, which they can type or draw on. They can then drag and drop the notecards in order of importance. For example, they can move cards that contain information they already know to the bottom of the pile and move everything they need to focus on to the top. 

note.ly in use during a tutoring session
Note.ly can be a great tool during virtual tutoring sessions, as illustrated here by an Educational Connections academic coach.

Important Notes on Better Note-Taking 

No matter the method of notetaking, it’s always important for students to watch someone model the process. This shows the student the proper way to organize notes and includes a thorough explanation of the thought process they can use in class. 

Students should also get in the habit of:

  • Paraphrasing– Put information into your own words to reinforce the meaning.
  • Using abbreviations– It’s okay to abbreviate and write in incomplete sentences as long as you can understand what you wrote.
  • Using main ideas, supporting details, and bullet points– This helps keep the notes organized.
  • Highlighting/color coding and underlining- This can help with memorization, but don’t overdo it and use too many colors or lines.
  • Drawing pictures or using photos- Drawing a picture of the topic or adding a digital photo (while digital notetaking) can be an effective way to help with memorization.
  • Including the date and page numbers– This will help the student keep track of their notes.

Teaching Healthy Note-Taking Habits

Getting in the habit of keeping concise, well-organized notes will make reviewing and studying that much easier. And the benefits of developing great note-taking skills will extend well beyond the classroom. 

If your student needs help learning to take better notes and to keep organized, our executive function coaches are here to help. 

How To Handle Bad Grades: A Practical Guide For Parents

How to Handle Bad Grades on Report Cards

There’s an undercurrent that runs through most conversations we have with our kids about school and bad grades.

With some families it’s more explicit:

“We expect you to do well and earn A’s and B’s on your report card.”

With other families it’s less so, but still implied:

“We expect you to go into school each day and give it your best effort, no matter what.”

Regardless, it’s always a challenge to figure out how to react as a parent when report cards come home, or when you log in to see the grades, and the results are less than stellar.

Common Thoughts About Bad Grades on Report Cards

On the one hand, bad grades represent a failure. They’re the one objective measure we have of how well our children are progressing through school. If they really understood the material, studied for the exams, and stayed organized and diligent, it would be pretty hard not to earn at least a B in most elementary, middle, and high school classes.

On the other hand, bad grades are not always a fair indication of how hard your child is trying, how much they’re learning, or what their potential for success later on in life is. Plus many students are still playing catch up after spending so much time away from campus during Covid shutdowns and quarantines. From that angle, we shouldn’t overreact to a C or D, especially because your son or daughter probably feels guilty about it already. But we should put stock into a C or D because that tells us they don’t have mastery over the content that counts.

In this post we’ll explore:

  • What to do if your child comes home with bad grades and how to talk to them about it
  • Whether you should punish your child for bad grades (or reward them for good grades)
  • And how to investigate why it’s happening and what to do about it moving forward

Read on to find out and click here to receive more tips and strategies to help boost your child’s grades!

What do I do if my child gets a bad grade?

You may have high expectations for your child’s grades, or you may be a bit more laissez faire about the whole thing. Regardless, the answer to “How should parents react to a bad report card?” pretty clear: there is a right and wrong way to approach it.

Here are a few initial tips on how to deal with a bad report card when it first comes home.

Step 1: Give it some distance

The first thing you want to do is to make sure you do not react in the moment.

tape measure

It’s tempting to want to express your frustration (believe me, I’ve been there!), especially if this isn’t a new issue.

Step 2: Schedule a time to talk

Instead, wait until you’ve calmed down a little bit and schedule a time to talk. Say to your child, “let’s sit down after dinner to talk about this.”

This will help to avoid a screaming match, which is the quickest way to guarantee nothing productive will come out of the situation.

Step 3: Create an open discussion, and state the feeling

Now that you have a time on the books, the next question is:

How do I talk to my kids about a bad grade?

How to Talk to Kids About a Bad Grade

First off, you’re going to want to start the conversation off with the phrase, “I noticed” and avoid saying, “you.” Often this will alleviate any feelings of blame and allow for a more open discussion.

For example, you might say, “I noticed that your math grade is a lot lower than we both thought it would be. Help me understand what happened,” rather than, “You did not do well in math. This is unacceptable.”

The phrase, “help me understand,” will give your child a chance to explain himself and explain what went wrong. Listen to what your child has to say and state the feeling.

Try saying, “it sounds like you’re having a hard time with algebra and it’s making you frustrated.” By stating the feeling (but not dwelling on it), you’ve shown your child that you’re on their team.

From there you’ll want to ask questions like, “what do you think you can do to get the grade up?” This will create a sense of accountability and also make your child come up with a solution. Because your child helped to create the solution, he or she will be more invested and more likely to follow through.

Punishments and Rewards for Bad Grades: Do they work?

The instant you see a less-than-stellar report card grade, it’s probably your immediate reaction to punish and restrict activities.

phone and earbuds

Either that, or it’s probably to offer some form of reward for turning it around. You’ll want to fight those urges. Here’s what to do instead.

Should I punish my child for a bad grade?

The short answer is: the punishment should be appropriate. Many parents threaten to take their child out of sports or extracurricular activities, but this isn’t an effective solution.

The research says that parents should avoid taking away activities that boost their child’s confidence, such as sports or clubs. With that being said, it is recommended to tie privileges (like video game time, or time out with friends) to academic processes.

For example, you may say to your child, “when you show me that your homework is completed with a respectful attitude, then you can play video games for 30 minutes.” Try using a “when/then” phrase to boost accountability and tie actions to rewards.

Should I reward for grades?

Here, the answer is a little less clear, but in general avoid external rewards if you can. I’ve talked to parents who have tried offering their child just about anything and everything for straight A’s from money to a new car to a trip to Disney World.

But unfortunately, no matter how grandiose the reward, the straight A’s never come. Research tells us that rewarding for grades doesn’t work because it’s too long-term and students lose steam pretty quickly. Students also need to feel an intrinsic motivation for studying, and providing external rewards tends to extinguish their internal drive (especially when they encounter difficulty).

How To Improve: Tips for turning bad grades around

Okay so now that you’ve taken a step back, and assessed your initial response to your child’s poor performance, not it’s time to talk about how to proceed.

Why is my child getting a bad grade?

Before doing anything else, this is the question to answer, because then we can determine the best steps to take to address the underlying cause.

bad grades image 4

Students often bring home bad grades for one of two reasons: they don’t understand the content or they don’t have the ‘soft skills’ necessary to succeed. There is a third reason this year. Many students are also having a tough time keeping up their grades due to hardships brought on by Covid, including high absence rates.

During the 2020-2021 school year 1 in 5 students in Illinois were classified as chronically absent and that led to “steep declines in student achievement,” according to the recently released Illinois State Report Card. Early reports across the country show absentee rates are still high this fall, because of illness (personal or family) and mass school quarantines.

If your student’s bad grade is the result of a contextual issue, then it is usually isolated to one subject (often math/science or English/history). However, if the student is struggling with “soft skills,” things such as organization, time management, and study skills (also known as executive functioning skills), it will probably affect every subject.

Discuss the issue with your child’s teacher, consider enrolling the child in a homework club after school, or seek out a tutor who can focus on your child’s areas of concern.

Turn the lens inward

The research is in: authoritative parenting (warm but firm) is ideal when it comes to academic performance.

In fact, a study by Laurence Steinberg, Julie Elmen, and Nina Mounts, found that students who are raised in homes with parents using an authoritative approach earn higher grades in schools than their peers.

The problem is, a lot of times when good-intentioned authoritative parents become excessively frustrated or worried, they can slip into helicopter (excessively involved) parenting mode. This can give the wrong message to your child. According to Cathi Cohen, LCSW and president of InStep PC:

“If it goes too far it becomes an issue where you’re not helping your child develop resilience or become autonomous. You’re giving them the message through helicopter parenting that they can’t do it without your help. It undermines the child’s natural need to be independent.”

Her advice: take a step back.

“A child has to be allowed to fail and flounder… Helicopter parents are always trying to do their best to help their child succeed, but sometimes it’s okay to let go of the handle bars and its okay if your child falls.”

How do you do that? How do you let go without having your child fall apart?

“You have to treat letting go kind of like a game of Jenga. When you take it out of the box, it is very safe with scaffolding supports in place, and has a lot of structure. As you go through the game, you pull out little pieces and see if it still stands. In a lot of ways, this is how our kids are and they initially need these scaffolding supports.

But as they get older, you want to slowly take out pieces from the Jenga tower. You don’t want to remove eight blocks at a time, just one. Start with something small, like a homework routine; then teach the skill, and remove the support. See if they are successful and steady for three weeks and then move onto the next skill. Don’t move on until they’ve been successful for 3 weeks.”

Bottom line: check your parenting style and make sure you’re not slipping into helicopter mode. And then ask yourself what you can do to tackle the grades issue while still allowing your child to figure it out independently.

Address organization habits

You may have heard the expression, “a cluttered desk represents a cluttered mind;” the same principle could be said about backpacks, binders, and lockers. Often times if a student is struggling with school, disorganization may be playing a part. Luckily, the end of the quarter is the perfect time to get organized.

bad grades image 5

Some things you can try include:

  • Set up a regular school “check in” time to talk about school each week.
  • Figure out a homework routine that doesn’t involve constant reminders.
  • Get backpacks and assignments organized and ready to go the night before.
  • Schedule a 20 minute “clean sweep” session each week where everyone in the house drops what they’re doing to clean

Just as an example (there are more we recommend here).

Work on study skills

We hear this all the time at Educational Connections: students are spending hours studying, but just not seeing the results. As it turns out, most children haven’t actually developed optimal study skills. For example, 84% of kids study by re-reading content, which is actually the most inefficient way of learning. Determine whether study skills may be a potential culprit.

Some areas you could address (among others) include:

bad grades image 6

  • Setting aside study time before starting homework.
  • Having your child use study guides to test themselves rather than just simply reviewing.
  • Set up an optimal study environment that minimizes distractions (this can include distraction-blocking apps as well).

Next Steps For Parents: Be proactive with bad grades

Most importantly, as a parent you want to be proactive about your approach, whatever you end up deciding to do. If you can get ahead of the curve and have a plan of attack, your chances of successfully navigating the dangerous emotional waters of a bad report card go up dramatically.

If you need outside help, we’re always here for you!

Subjects Currently Offered at ECTutoring.com

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.

Schedule a Consult

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!

3 Habits of Highly Effective Students 🌟

After 21 years of working with students, I’ve discovered that the most effective ones don’t usually obsess over big, long-term goals like the ones many of us set at the start of a new year. Instead, they focus on the simple daily habits they know will generate the results they want.

Daily habits are much easier to stick to than abstract goals—and they’re more likely to get you to that big finish line anyway! Here are 3 habits of highly effective students that your child can begin to practice any day of the year.

Habit #1: Effective Students Study Strategically

While most students resort to reading over class notes when it’s time to study, successful students take a more strategic approach. More specifically, they move beyond information review to information retrieval. This means taking the time and focused effort required to recall information without looking at the answer on the study guide. 

Students can practice information retrieval by creating and taking practice tests, working slowly through a stack of flashcards (without rushing to flip them over!), or writing out short essays about the concepts being studied. This strategic study approach improves a student’s ability to both understand the materials now and recall them on test day—a win-win!

Habit #2: Effective Students Plan Ahead

The most effective students practice short-term and long-term planning. Short-term planning means creating a to-do list each day. Successful students think ahead about the blocks of time in their day and plan when they’ll tackle each item on their list.

Long-term planning means using a planner or app to track upcoming due dates and tests. This helps students avoid late-night cram sessions (which studies show aren’t that effective anyway). Instead, effective students learn to set aside time each day leading up to big due dates or tests to make progress without stressing themselves out.

Habit #3: Effective Students Limit Distractions

For generations, kids have had a knack for getting distracted during homework time. But there’s no denying that today’s students have an unprecedented number of distractions clamoring for their attention.

Effective students know how to silence some of that noise by heading to the library, downloading a focus app, or setting timers for shorter blocks of focused study time. The methods vary by student, but the important part is having a plan in place to limit distractions and focus fully on the work in front of them.

Bonus Tip: Effective Students Know When to Seek Help!

Ok, this one isn’t so much a habit as a mindset, but it’s true. Effective students and their parents aren’t afraid to seek help when disorganized systems are holding them back.

Maybe you read through these habits and thought, “Ok, Ann, that’s all well and good, but I can’t make my child do any of this.” And I get that! I had the same struggle when my own kids were in school… until I invited a tutor into our home to help them out.

That’s why we offer executive function coaches who can come to your home and work one-on-one with your child. These coaches know how to diffuse the tension of the homework battle and guide kids to systems that will work for them—including these three habits of highly effective students.

Click below to schedule a free consultation and learn more about guiding your own child to effective systems (without all the pushback).

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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

Has your child tried this simple (but effective) study strategy? 📖

Does your child beg for your help with their homework? Or do they resent your attempts to lend a hand? Either way, it can be difficult to encourage independence while still giving your child the support they need to succeed in the classroom.

That’s why I love the simple study strategy our head tutor will share with you in today’s short video. It can be used as a tool for independent study or in a group, with a tutor, or one-on-one with you. And it only takes a few minutes to set up!

As Jan Rowe explains in this video, all you need for this simple homework tool is a pack of Post-It notes and three poster boards labeled To Learn, To Review, and Got It! 

To Learn

Help your child prepare to study by putting questions on the front of each Post-It note with the correct answer on the back. Refer to their study guide, past homework assignments, class notes, or the textbook to compile everything they need to know for the test.

To Review

Once the Post-Its are on the To Learn poster, a friend, parent, sibling, or tutor can easily quiz them—or, since the answer is on the back, they can quiz themselves! Whenever they get a question right (without peeking!), the Post-It can be moved to the To Review poster board.

Got It!

Once Post-Its are on the To Review board, encourage your child to take a break to work on another subject or eat dinner. When they come back, they can review the Post-Its on the To Review board and, as they get them correct, move them to the Got It! Board.

Watching the information move from To Learn to To Review to Got It! will help your child study for their next test and build their confidence as they see all the content they’ve already mastered.

Need More Study Strategies?

If your child continues to struggle with confidence or performance in a particular subject, don’t let them struggle alone—or try to shoulder the burden of helping them on your own. Let us match your child with their ideal tutor who can come to your home and share more strategies like this one. They’ll make homework time fun and help your child build the confidence and independence they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond!

6 Proven Strategies for Better Grades

If your child is resolved to perform their best in school this year—or to at least tackle first semester finals with confidence—I’m sharing six study habits today that will help. Each of these learning strategies from The Learning Scientists is backed by decades of cognitive research and is proven to help students study effectively, retain what they learn, and perform their best. In other words, they’ll help your child work smarter instead of harder!

(Full Disclosure: Sometimes kids push back when their parents suggest strategies like these—and that’s normal! You can avoid those homework battles and set your child up for success in 2020 by getting a tutor for some extra support. Just click here to schedule your free consult.)

#1: Space out studying over time.

If your child has ever stayed up late cramming for a test, you already know how stressful that can be. As it turns out, it’s not very effective either. Students perform best when they spread out their studying over time, so encourage your child to study for a small window of time each day leading up to exams. Spacing out their studying will make homework feel less intimidating and help with recall on test day—it’s a win-win!

#2: Practice retrieving information.

When told to study for a test, most students default to simply reading over class notes. But for best results, students should practice bringing information to mind on their own. Encourage your child to try writing or sketching everything they remember on a particular subject before checking class notes for accuracy and missed points. Simple tools like flashcards and practice tests (they can even create their own!) also help with information retrieval.

#3: Elaborate on big ideas with many details.

The best way to wrap your mind around a big idea is to elaborate on it with smaller details and make connections to other ideas. As your child studies a new topic, engage them in conversation about how things work and why. Encourage them to ask questions and seek out answers or to create a list comparing and contrasting two different ideas. Diving into those little details can really make the big picture come into focus.

#4: Switch between ideas while studying.

When you’re building muscles in the gym, you don’t pick one exercise (like push-ups) and do them over and over for your entire workout. Instead, you pick a variety of exercises and rotate between them. Effective studying works the same way. Instead of picking one idea or topic to study for an entire session, allow your child to pick a few and rotate. By switching between ideas while they study, your child can strengthen their mental muscles, make connections between topics, and increase their mastery of all the materials.

#5: Use concrete examples to understand abstract ideas.

When a topic feels confusing or abstract, the best way to increase understanding and commit it to memory is to explore concrete examples. Kids can compile examples their teacher gave in class, find them in their textbook, or try to come up with more on their own or with friends. As students list examples, they should also practice explaining why each example works so they can better understand the big idea behind it.

#6: Combine words and visuals.

Students of all ages learn best when they can combine words with visuals. When students come across visuals in their class materials, they should stop and use words to describe them. On the other hand, when they have a chunk of text, they should stop and create a visual—like an infographic, diagram, or even a cartoon strip—to illustrate the ideas. This practice of putting words and images together will help your child grasp the material now and recall it later.

Each of these strategies can help your child study and succeed in any subject, but we also know that students will simply find some subjects harder than others. If a particular class has you and your child banging your heads against the wall, please remember you’re not in this alone! 

Just click below to schedule a consult, and we’ll connect you with an in-home tutor who’s an expert in that subject area.

Schedule a Consult