How to Write a Private High School Application Essay Worth Reading

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If you want to write a high school application essay that is worth reading; one that your audience will remember:

Forget everything you’ve ever learned about writing an essay.

Okay, I may be being a bit melodramatic. You still need appropriate grammar, syntax, spelling, and formatting.

But as for the generic boring cluster that begins with “In this essay, I am going to be discussing ___ by looking at x,y, and z,” throw that out the window because it’s nothing but a one way ticket to Snoozeville not only for you but for anyone tasked with reading it.

Remember Your Private High School Application Essay Audience

The biggest mistake students make when writing an essay is that they forget who their audience is. Your audience, be it a teacher, an administrator, or an admissions committee, has likely read hundreds if not thousands of student’s admissions essays.

This means that you are going to have to do more than throw in a few SAT words to impress them. The key to writing an essay worth reading is writing an essay that has not been written before. It needs to be your own story, not the story you think they want to hear.

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One of my favorite things about writing is that there is no right or wrong answer. An essay isn’t a scantron that you have to correctly bubble in or risk some computer incorrectly grading you.  You can’t just play eenie miney moe and hope for the best. Writing is personal. It’s written by one individual and read by another.

But all too often students, especially in the application process, forget this. They write the essay they think that the admission committee wants to read when in reality it’s an essay that the committee has probably already read a million times.

From private high school applications to college ones, this is information that your child will be using for many years. We want to keep up with their journey, so click here to get updated resources and tips so we can help them every step of the way.

The Importance of the Essay Topic

What is the root of this cause? The topic.

If your topic is flawed, cliché, generic, or boring, it doesn’t matter how well crafted your essay is it will be forgotten. When approaching your admission essay, think of it this way: when the admission committee begins reading your essay they’ll view you as just a number, but when they finish it you want them to view you as an individual student.

So, how do we accomplish this?

It’s simple: don’t write the essay you think an admissions committee wants to read, write one that YOU would want to read. If your own essay bores you, it’s highly likely that it will bore everyone else.

Let’s say that your topic is to discuss an extracurricular activity that has played a large impact on your life. A lot of times students are tempted to write what they think the admission committee want to hear.

“I love to volunteer because it has taught me to be appreciative of what I have,”

Or “I love National Honors Society because it allows me to combine my love of academics with my love of service.”

While both of these are wonderful extracurricular activities, unless you are truly passionate about either and have specific details to intertwine into your narrative, it’s going to come off dry and predictable.

What Your Topic Should Be Instead

When describing their ideal student, one of the top words used by the Director of Admissions at some of DC’s top private schools is “passionate.”

Admissions Committees are not looking for a cookie-cutter student; rather they are looking for a student who genuinely loves something and will share that love with other students.

So if you love to spend your weekends driving four-wheelers or riding horses or making short films on iMovie, write about that because I can assure you that your natural enthusiasm will read a whole lot better than the stale and generic “I love to volunteer” response – unless that is actually what you spend your weekends doing.

The Essay’s Opening Paragraph

Don’t believe me?

Consider these two opening paragraphs. You tell me which one you want to keep reading?

1. “’Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’ These famous words were spoken by John F. Kennedy, one of the best politicians of all life. John F. Kennedy led America and has become my role model. He encouraged me to get into politics which is why I joined student government. When asked what extracurricular activity has had the largest impact on me as a person, I immediately thought of student government. In this essay I will discuss how student government has impacted me as a person by growing my leadership skills, developing my social connections, and making me take academics more seriously.”

2. “I don’t ride for blue ribbons or Olympic gold, although I respect and admire those chosen few who do. I don’t ride for the workout, although my trembling muscles at the end of a good lesson indicate otherwise. I don’t ride because I have anything to prove, although I’ve proven a lot to myself along the way. I ride for the feeling of two individual beings becoming one, so perfectly matched that it’s impossible to tell where rider ends and horse begins. I ride to feel the staccato beat of hooves against dirt echoed in the rhythm of my own heart. I ride because it isn’t easy to navigate a creature with a mind of its own around a course of solid obstacles, but in that perfect moment when horse and rider work as one, it can be the easiest thing in the world. I ride for an affectionate nose nudging my shoulder as I turn to leave, searching for a treat or a pat or murmured words of praise. I ride for myself, but for my horse as well, my partner and my equal.”

Next Steps: Your Perfect Admissions Essay

Okay, now you have the framework.

First, remember that you’re writing to a private school admissions audience that has probably seen every high school application essay in the book. So don’t write the one you think they want to read… write the one that you care most about.

Then, choose the essay topic that resonates most with you as a student. That enthusiasm will shine through in your writing, and hopefully “wow” the reader enough to convince them they have to have you at their school.

If you found this article helpful, click here for more free resources and tips that you can use to prepare your child for any application process that comes up next!

12 Writing Activities for Kids This Summer (That can actually be fun!)

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[Writing practice] + [Summertime] = [Fun for your kids]

I wasn’t a math major, but I know enough to tell you that in the majority of households, that equation DOESN’T hold true.

It’s hard enough to get them to sit down and write during the school year… How in the world is this going to happen over the summer?

But think about reading for a second. If you’ve ever seen your kid pick up a book on their own outside of school, you know that reading can be associated with fun – sometimes enough so to win out over friends, TV, and video games.

And the same can be true for writing… if we approach it in the right way.

Well it turns out summer is the perfect time of year to do that. The stakes are low. There are no due dates or grades to assign.

And you can just focus on discovering writing activities that can help build the habit of writing, without seeming like a burden… and maybe even turning into something FUN (whether they’ll admit it to you or not).

So we put together a list of fun things you can try (with a few practical ones thrown in for rising Juniors and Seniors), that might just get your child to put pencil to paper this summer. Check out the 12 writing activities ideas below:

Writing Activities For Elementary School

1. Practice writing names and numbers

For younger elementary-schoolers, have them practice writing their names and letters. Find templates online of the alphabet, print them out, and write over them with crayons or markers. Grab a bucket of chalk and write fun words and numbers on your driveway or sidewalk—there’s minimal mess and easy clean-up whenever it rains.

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If you’re going to the beach this summer, get your kids to write in the sand! They can spell their name, their favorite pet, or a simple sentence. They’ll be having too much fun to even realize they’re practicing.

2. Send letters from camp

With older elementary-schoolers, writing over the summer may seem like an exasperating task. They just spent nine months practicing their writing during school; the last thing they want to do is practice over the summer!

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Try having them instead write letters to family and friends. This works especially well if you send your kids to sleepaway camps. Ask that they send you letters to update you on all the fun activities they’re doing while they’re away.

3. Write to athletes for autographs

You can also show them “Through the Mail.” Through the Mail is a method that encourages children to write to their favorite professional athletes in exchange for autographs. It’s easy to find each team’s address on the “team by team” tab of NFL’s, MLB’s, or almost any other sports site.

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(Image credit: Cathy T)

I love the website Cardboard Connections. It contains a step-by-step approach for writing the best letter possible in order to get those autographs back. Through the Mail has been around for years and if you’re the parent of a sports-minded kid, consider it a great option. Encourage your child to set a goal of four letters to improve their writing skills and to better their chances of getting an autograph in return.

Writing Activities For Middle School

4. Write a Kidpreneur business plan (for the Budding Entrepreneur)

It’s no secret that many successful entrepreneurs struggled in school, yet they found ways to leverage their strengths. So I love the idea of encouraging children to start a business, no matter how small. And part of a successful business includes a written plan.

(Image credit: amy gizienski)

The Kidpreneurs website matches students with business coaches to help them develop and execute a business plan. Alternatively, the wildly popular book, Lemonade Stand Millionaire also teaches children of all ages an approach to follow their dreams.

5. Write to a Pen Pal (yes… these are still around!)

Pen pals may seem like they’re from a bygone era (especially with text, Facebook and Snapchat at your kid’s fingertips). But actually, they’re alive and well!

Check out this video about the benefits of writing to new friends from overseas.

For a way to connect with pen pals, International Pen Pal Friend World has a host of options. The site matches kids with others throughout the world with similar interests.

6. Work on keyboarding skills

I’ll never forget my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Cameron, who told us that one of the most important classes we could take in middle school was typing. She was right! The ability to type quickly saves time and reduces frustration.

Students these days do not have the opportunity to take dedicated keyboarding classes… And with the rise of mobile, they may actually be faster with their thumbs!

So If your child is of the hunt and peck variety, consider a free online typing program this summer. I really like Edutyping. Check up on your child periodically to be sure he’s not looking at the keys as he types since this undermines the goal of being able to touch type.

And if they’re resistant? Just remind them that typing correctly is an even FASTER way to chat back and forth online with their friends!

Writing Activities For High School

7. Create a personal website

When your child hits high school, talk starts fairly quickly about not only preparing for college, but also applying for jobs and special programs. One of the best ways to stand out? Create a website!

Then, your child can record their experiences, awards, and activities for prospective colleges. Younger high school students can also create a website and use it as a journal or blog. Most websites (WordPress, Wix) are free to register and easy to personalize.

Many high schoolers purchase a domain using their first, middle, and last name to create a website of their experiences, awards, and activities. First, a domain in your name is very cool, but secondly, it allows students to have a portfolio of sorts that they can share with admissions officers as they’re applying for college. Not every admissions department will take the time to review it, but the smaller ones will. It’s a great way to get your child to record their activities as they go along instead of at the last minute when it comes to submitting applications.

8. SAT Writing Practice

Studying for the SAT doesn’t have to be all about formal study sessions and test prep, especially during the summer. And the good thing about the SAT writing section is that it provides test takers with a broad theme that can be approached either formulaically or creatively.

So summertime is great for getting familiarized with the format, but also having some fun coming up with creative topics to write about. The best part about it? Because (again) there are no looming deadlines, you can have them pick away at it slowly and do once small practice session each day. And a great place to start might be using resources you can find online like Khan Academy’s writing practice section.

9. College admissions essays

For most rising Seniors, college admission essays end up being a HUGE chore… but mostly because they wait until September or October when they’re in a time crunch and distracted with homework, sports, and other extra-curricular activities. So if you’re son or daughter will be working on their applications in the fall, summer is a great time to get a head start on writing your essays because they’ll have more time to think of topics and important achievements and get all their ideas out on paper without the pressure of a looming deadline.

Here’s how to take advantage of this and make your summer really count:

First, make sure you have a list of schools and their essay requirements. Not every school has the common application essay prompt, so be sure to separate the ones that don’t have it on your list.

Then, plan out a few brainstorming sessions for them to jot down their favorite accomplishments and achievements (this is their time to brag so don’t be shy!). From this more free-form writing exercise, you can work with them to pick out a few good overall topics to start writing their full essay from.

Do this and you’ll be way ahead of the game come September.

Writing Activities With an iPad or Tablet

10. Turn your doodles into writing

For kids, iPads generally mean apps, games, friends… fun stuff! So we can take advantage of those positive associations and build iPad use into the writing process as well. One way you can do that is through turning doodles into writing. A student who benefits from the tactile nature of handwriting can brainstorm his or her ideas on paper, capture of photo of his ideas, import the picture into a word processing app, and continue typing his work.

Or, if you have the iPad Pro or another writing compatible tablet, you can have them start off by handwriting their ideas directly onto the tablet itself. Here’s great demo:

Either way, you’re giving them the opportunity to change things up, so that they can customize the writing process to something that can be more enjoyable and sustainable.

11. Use dictation to get started

Other students, who may have a little more resistance to getting starteed because they’re not naturally inclined to write, might do better speaking out loud to get going.

So try instead to use Siri or another voice dictation tool to have them verbalize their ideas into writing in a note or document first. Then, once the ball is already rolling, jumping into actual writing once something is already written becomes that much less of a barrier.

12. Capture ideas with Evernote

Half of the battle when it comes to getting students going with their writing isn’t even the writing itself… it’s coming up with ideas on what to write about. That’s why using an app like Evernote can be an amazing tool for getting that process going.

Download the App on all of the devices your child uses (you can create a free account), and then take advantage of their web clipper, photo scanner, and note-taking capabilities by having them start saving ideas! Anything that interests them… whether that’s a specific book, sports teams, fashion, etc. just starting this as a habit will have them slowly but surely building a massive catalogue of ideas they can tap into when it comes time to write. And it’s fun to collect ideas too!

Now over to you…

How are you helping your child keep up with their writing skills?

Tell us in the comments below.

We’d love to hear tips and tricks on how you’re practicing writing over the summer.

Writing Mistakes: To Correct or Not to Correct?

Writing mistakes: To correct or not to correct?

female high school student doing homeworkThat is a question that many parents must face when helping their children with homework, especially writing assignments. Do we help them when they use the wrong “too” form? Or do we let them go to school knowing that their sentence reads, “I like books to”? Some parents often ask us how they can help without causing an argument over using the right tense in a paper. Below, you’ll find some great tips on how to help your child without writing their essay for them.



Proofreading vs. Doing the Work Yourself: My daughter’s in ninth grade and she’s doing a lot of essay writing at the moment. How much should I correct in terms of grammar and sentence structure when I proofread her work?

Writing is one of those things that we really struggle with as parents. Kids often get stuck trying to think of a starting point in their writing. For your daughter, I would recommend helping her to get started. Once kids get going, they can often do pretty well, but coming up with that initial topic sentence or that thesis statement is hard for them. Brainstorm with your daughter what might be a good lead-in sentence.

After your child has written a rough draft, you can use a strategy called COPS. COPS is an acronym for helping kids proofread their work:

C = capital letters

O =organization

P = punctuation

S = spelling

For example, if you see a capitalization error and a spelling error in your daughter’s first sentence, you can simply write on that line one C and one S so that she can go back and find the mistakes.

In general, a parent’s pen should never touch the paper. Talk to your daughter about where she might be able to improve her essay, but don’t make the corrections for her. Allow her to find her errors and then go from there.


Fixing Mistakes, Avoiding an Argument: My son drives me crazy with his writing!  He’s in fourth grade and doesn’t use capital letters or correct punctuation, even though he knows he should. When I tell him to go back and fix the mistakes, he gets upset and it often results in a big argument between us. How do I help him fix mistakes without causing all of these arguments?

Getting kids to proofread their work is tough, especially when the assignment is already complete. When you try to get your son to correct his errors after the fact, it probably feels punitive to him.

Instead, address the issue before he even starts. If you know that written language is his Achilles’ heel, pick one thing that is important for him to master. Simply using capital letters is an easy place to start. Prior to tackling the assignment, grab a post-it note, and write “capitals” on it. Put it in his homework area before he starts that writing assignment. Now, you’ve given your son a visual cue, which is far superior to a verbal one.

Pretty much every kid I know responds better to a visual cue. Visual cues are in eyesight for the duration of a task, whereas verbal cues are often easy to forget or feel like nagging. If you can do it before your child begins the assignment and you call attention by using a visual cue, that will help your child to be a lot more successful.


Addressing Spelling Errors via Games, Not Nagging: I have one child who has never had an issue with spelling; it’s always come naturally to him. My other child, however, always has issues with spelling and seems to spell her words out phonetically. How can I help her improve her spelling skills?

Kids will often spell phonetically up until the end of elementary school. It’s not unusual, but to improve this, you want to look for common words to correct. These are called the Dolch Sight Words and there are about 100 that kids should memorize. Dolch words are words like “friend” and “because” and “again”; they are words that kids see consistently and should know how to spell correctly.

If you see that your child is spelling one of these very, very common words incorrectly, I would correct her on it. You can make a copy of this list and keep it in your child’s homework area so it’s easy to reference. That takes the nagging away. Make it a game to see if they can spell 5 words on that list correctly.

shutterstock_207975373Our tutors have worked with plenty of kids who are phenomenal readers but just not great spellers. At the end of the day, don’t stress about spelling phonetically. As long as they understand the common sight words, they will be fine until middle school. In this day and age, once they get to middle school, most of their assignments are on the computer with spellcheck. Once kids get on the computer, spelling becomes less of an issue.


The ability to read and write is key to success in the classroom. If you feel as though your child may need an extra push with writing, give us a call at 703-934-8282 to speak with one of our Education Specialists. A writing tutor may be what they need to succeed.

The College Application Essay: Better to Start Now Rather than Later

EiStock_000015974259Largeven though it’s summer, instead of spending your days watching Netflix and lounging by the pool, your time would be best spent by taking some time to prepare for upcoming college application essays.

Don’t wait until September or October when you are stressed out with homework, sports, and other extra-curricular activities. Now is the time to write your essays so you have more time to think of topics and important achievements, edit and proofread your drafts, work with a mentor on writing, and get all your ideas out on paper. The common application essay questions are already available on admissions websites, which means you have more time to draft an essay.

Here’s how to take advantage of this and make your summer really count:

Create your list of schools & find out their essay requirements

Before you start your essay, create a list of the schools to which you want to apply. Not every school has the common application essay prompt, so be sure to separate the ones that don’t have it on your list – you don’t want to do the wrong essay!

Jot down your accomplishments & achievements

Write a list of your biggest accomplishments and achievements. This is your time to brag so don’t be shy!

Did you win the state championship this year? Did you get a perfect score on your hardest test? Did you solve a problem that had been bothering you for quite some time? Finding out what you’re most proud of can be helpful when figuring out which prompt to write about.

Determine what best topics might be

Have your surroundings or situation at home strongly influenced your beliefs or a path you have taken? Each of us has our own unique set of circumstances and surroundings that often have a profound influence in shaping our lives. Determine what is important to you, share a failure, or talk about a time you challenged an idea. Find more topics on our “The College Admissions Essay: Coming Up With a Topic” blog post.

Find a mentor to guide you through the revising & editing process

Ask someone to proofread your essay and work with you on revising your essay. Some teachers may be available in the summer to help out.

Tutors are also available to help you organize your thoughts into a clear and cohesive essay. If Educational Connections can be of assistance in this process, give us a call today and we can work on finding the right tutor match for you.


Check out these resources on writing your best essay:

How to Write the Best College Essay in 6 Easy Steps


5 Creative Ways to Learn Outside the Classroom

2c733448-9022-4655-8b7c-6c5048515a9bResearch shows that students lose up to 2.5 months in language arts and a whopping 3 months in math! But as a parent, how do you avoid a fight when your kid doesn’t want to complete an academic workbook? Instead of sitting your kid at the kitchen table with the workbook, read below for five creative ways to keep your kids engaged in learning.

Take advantage of your local public library

If your kid is a speedy reader, they’ll love checking out as many books as they want at the library. There are thousands of books for kids of all ages with so many topics to keep them engaged and learning. Even better, most public libraries have discussion groups or summer activities for students to prepare them for school. Let your child get their own library card! Depending on where you live, most cards are free or have a small purchasing fee. They’ll be so excited to show it off to their friends.

Experiment with science kits

Go to your local craft store and pick up some science kits. Many stores have rocket science kits, crystal growing kits, or chemistry kits. Your child will have fun making crazy and cool gadgets and forget they’re actually learning! You can find some here.

Improve math with sales!

Sales are a great way to practice math skills. You can make a lemonade stand in your neighborhood and count the number of buyers, lemonade packets, cups sold, and more. Those who are reluctant to practice math won’t even realize they’re learning. You can also do this with yard sales.

Make a keepsake item

To help with writing, encourage your child to start a scrapbook. They can cut out pictures from magazines, newspapers, or the internet. Have them write captions for pictures and describe keepsake items in the scrapbook. For older students, a blog or journal is a fun alternative. Some blog sites are even mobile-friendly or have apps to download. Some to check out are WordPress or Tumblr. They can add pictures, music, or videos.

Find history in local exhibits

If you live near museums, create scavenger hunts for your child! This is fun for kids of elementary, middle, or high school age. Pick a museum they would love to visit, then map out what kind of exhibits there are. Make a list of items to see and check them off when you visit them. To make it more challenging, find questions about the exhibit. If you’re visiting an art museum, ask your child who the artist was. If they get the artist correct, they get a point. You could even begin in the gift shop first, pick out an item, and then try to find it in the museum.

Have questions or want to know how I can help? Contact me at [email protected]



Prevent The Summer Slide – How to Make Learning Fun without Kids Even Knowing They’re Learning

Today I had the pleasure of being interviewed for a segment on WTOP radio.

You can listen to the clip below.


Many parents and kids alike have grand plans of taking a break from learning over the summer to recharge, but studies show that this isn’t always a good idea. To read the transcript, scroll below!

Do kids really need to keep practicing academic skills over the summer? Don’t they need a break?

Kids lose about 2.5 months of progress in language arts and up to 3 months in math, so it’s important to keep them practicing academic skills, but you don’t need to go overboard.  There can absolutely be a balance between learning and play.

How do you find that balance?

There are actually lots of things parents can do to “disguise” learning. If your child is learning multiplication or decimals, put him in charge of figuring the tip every time you go out to eat this summer. And when you’re shopping, he can also estimate the sales tax on the items you buy.

Another way to squeeze in learning is good old fashioned board games. Consider a family game night once a week where your child gets to pick the game. Games like PayDay, Connect4 and Scrabble are fantastic ways to practice skills and have a lot of fun!

Sometimes students have summer homework assigned by teachers. How do you get your child started early, to prevent procrastination come August?

Waiting until the last week of August to write an essay, finish a math packet, or read a book puts stress on everyone. A good idea is to sit down with your child at the beginning of the summer and find out exactly what he has to do. If he has a book to read, discuss a start date of when he’ll begin reading, and then the dates at which he needs to be to be about a 1/3, and then 2/3 of the way through. Jot these milestones down on a calendar that’s in a public place, such as the refrigerator.

shutterstock_232499257Outside of school assignments, shouldn’t kids be reading for pleasure?

Yes, absolutely, but sometimes as parents, we turn reading into a power struggle. When parents say things like, “Go up to your room to read now” reading becomes a punitive task, which really don’t work well with reluctant readers. For young children, try reading with your child. You read a page, she reads a page.  And if you have a really reluctant reader, you read two pages, and she reads one.

I also like the idea of getting the whole family in on the action. You can set aside 20 minutes a few nights out of the week where everyone sits down to read – could be a book, a magazine, or even the sports section of the morning paper. They material isn’t important, but the act of relaxing and reading is what counts.

Speaking of reading, what’s a hot book for kids this summer?

Check out Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. Great book for kids of all ages, especially middle schoolers!

Have a great summer!

Ann Dolin


WTOP Interview – Tips to Prevent the Summer Learning Slide

Today I had the pleasure of being interviewed for a segment on WTOP radio.

You can listen to the clip below.



To read the transcript and an extra tip not included in the audio, read on!


Do kids really need to keep practicing academic skills over the summer?  Don’t they need a break?

As a parent you have to find a happy medium. Kids lose about 2.5 months in language arts and up to 3 months in math, so it’s important to keep them learning over the summer to avoid the slide. You can still have a summer full of relaxation, while weaving in summer learning.


Sometimes students have summer homework assigned by teachers. How do you get your child started early, to prevent procrastination come August?

WTOP Radio LogoWaiting until the last week of August to write an essay, finish a math packet, or read a book puts stress on everyone in the family. Summer assignments are meant to be done over a period of multiple weeks, if not months, and they are never done well at the last minute. A good idea is to sit down with your child at the beginning of the summer. Help him break down big tasks into manageable chunks. For example, if he has a 300-page novel to read, discuss a start date of when he’ll begin reading, and then the dates at which he needs to be to be about a 1/3, and then 2/3s of the way through. Jot these milestones down on a calendar that’s in a public place, such as the refrigerator. Check in a few days before each mini deadline to be sure he’s on track.


Speaking of reading, what are the hot books for kids this summer?

One of my favorite books of all time, and one that’s been a #1 New York Times Best Seller, captivating over a million readers is Wonder. Wonder is about a boy who was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to school, but in fifth grade he starts at Beecher Prep and wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid. The story is told from the perspective of the main character but quickly switches to his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend and others. A great read for older elementary students and middle schoolers.

For high schoolers, Paper Towns, by John Green, the wildly popular author of The Fault in Our Stars, is top on the list this summer. The book’s movie adaptation is coming out in July, meaning it will be a huge hit with teens.

Regardless of which books they read, the magic number is four. Research shows that the summer learning slide can be avoided in reading when students read four books.


What about writing? How do you get your child to write?

I’ve found that because girls’ fine motor skills, such as handwriting, develop earlier than boys’, they’re more likely to want to write. But for boys, tying writing to sports can be motivating. “Through the Mail” is a method that encourages children to write to their favorite professional athletes in exchange for autographs. The website cardboardconnection teaches kids to write a persuasive letter for their best chance to receive an autograph back.


Math and More…

For tips on how to make numbers more exciting during the dog days of summer, check out my article, 4 Tips to Make Learning Math Fun This Summer. You can find more articles on cutting-edge ideas for learning on our blog.

Wishing you all the best for a fun-filled summer,

Ann Dolin


Preventing Summer Learning Slide in School-Aged Kids

Excited to have been on Let’s Talk Live earlier this month! Research shows that kids lose about 2.5 months in language arts and up to 3 months in math when they don’t practice their skills over the summer, so it’s important to keep them engaged in order to avoid the slide. You can still have a summer full of relaxation and family trips while weaving in summer learning.



Here’s a quick excerpt from the show:

What are the hot books for kids this summer?

Dragons Love Tacos (preschool, early elementary)

This is a New York Times Best Seller about dragons who love tacos – they eat buckets, and buckets of tacos. The problem is they can’t eat spicy salsa and if they do, boy oh boy, watch out!

Wonder (middle school students)

One of my favorite books of all time, Wonder is a #1 New York Times Best Seller that has captivated over a million readers. It is about a boy who was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to school, but in fifth grade he starts at Beecher Prep and wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid. The story is told from the perspective of the main character but quickly switches to his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend and others. These perspectives converge how young people struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance. A great read for older elementary students, middle schoolers for sure, and even high schoolers and adults!

Paper Towns – high school students

Written by John Green, the wildly popular author of The Fault in Our Stars, this book’s movie adaptation is coming out this summer, meaning it will be a huge hit with teens. It explores topics such as growing up, graduating high school, and has a sense of mystery to it.


Now here’s the hard question. How do you get your child to actually read?

There are a few things you can do. The first is to dedicate time after dinner for DEAR (Drop Everything And Read). Put those phones down, TV off, so that everyone is reading their own book. Another idea is to have the whole family read the same book, kind of like a book club. Be sure the book can be read by the youngest child.

And lastly, most kids will want to read before bed. It’s relaxing. If your child is adamant about reading a book that his friends are reading, but it’s just a little too hard for him, get the audible version, too. Research shows that when students listen to a story while they read along with the hard copy (they can’t be staring into space!), they actually improve comprehension and fluency more than if they read alone.


What about writing? How do you get your child to write?

Girls are more likely to keep a diary or write captions in a scrapbook, but boys are often reluctant writers. “Through the Mail” is a method that encourages children to write to their favorite sports team in exchange for autographs. You can find the team addresses on for baseball and NFL for football. The website Cardboard Connection has a step by step approach for how to write a letter for your best chance of getting those autographs back!

Worried that you don’t want to be the summer learning slide enforcer in your home this summer? Give us a ring to learn about how a weekly tutor can set up a the structure to keep your child engaged without stress on your end.


Our May Tutor of the Month: A Writing and Educational Coaching Whiz

Robbyn EllisOur May Tutor of the Month is a Writing and Educational Coaching whiz. Robbyn Ellis, works with Educational Connections students on organization, time management, and study skills, as well as, English and reading. Robbyn creates strong bonds with her students. One mom described her as being, “very sensible” saying Robbyn made her son feel at ease during tutoring sessions.

Robbyn has spent the past decade and a half working with children as a nanny, teacher, and tutor. She has extensive experience working with students on English, ELL, and preparing for college level writing courses. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Western Connecticut State University with a BA in English. When Robbyn is not tutoring she is a talented musician and has played trumpet for years. She has even toured Australia and New Zealand with a brass band twice.

If your child is struggling with writing, reading, or executive functioning skills, we have great tutors, like Robbyn, who can help. Contact us today to learn more about getting started with one of our top-notch tutors.


The Best English Tutor in Northern Virginia

Allyson McGillWhen it comes to tutors in the humanities, it doesn’t get much better than Allyson. Which is why we had to choose her for our February Tutor of the Month. Allyson has an extensive background in English and education. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English from Wheaton College, a Master’s and PhD in English from Indiana University, and a Special Education certification from UVA.

She has over 25 years of teaching and tutoring experience, working with students in primary school to the college level. Allyson has worked with Fairfax County Public Schools, St. Mary’s College, and Georgetown University. With all this experience, Allyson loves working one-on-one with students through Educational Connections. She said, “it’s great and fun to be working with all age groups and grades.” Allyson has been with Educational Connections since September and has received glowing feedback from her parents and students. One mom said, “I am thrilled to have Allyson working with my son. It’s great to have a tutor in place who really cares about my child’s success.”

When she’s not tutoring, Allyson is a voracious reader and a fan of traveling, cooking, and scrapbooking. Allyson also enjoys spending time with her husband and her three children. If you are interested in having a tutor, like Allyson, work with your child on reading, writing, or organization give us a call at 703.934.8282 to get started.