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The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers who are unable to complete their tax returns on time that it’s easy to get more time to file their return. In fact, it can even be done online. For taxpayers who haven’t yet filed their taxes, the IRS has this advice: don’t panic. Taxpayers who need more time to complete their tax return can request an automatic six-month extension.    The fastest and easiest way to get the extra time is through the Free File link on IRS.gov. In a matter of minutes, anyone, regardless of income, can use this free service to electronically request an extension on Form 4868. Filing this form gives taxpayers until Oct. 15 to file a return. To get the extension, taxpayers must estimate their tax liability on this form and should also pay any amount due. The IRS cautions taxpayers that a request for an extension will give extra time to file a tax return; not extra time to pay any taxes owed. By filing either... read more

The IRS offers free tax help to members of the military and their families. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program has help sites both on and off base. This includes VITA sites to help our military overseas. Here are five tips to know about free tax help for the military: 1. Armed Forces Tax Council. The Armed Forces Tax Council oversees the military tax programs offered worldwide. AFTC partners with the IRS to do outreach to the military. This includes the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy. 2. Trained volunteers. IRS-trained volunteers staff the military VITA sites. They receive training on military tax issues, like tax benefits for service in a combat zone. The staff can help you with special extensions of time to file your tax return and to pay your taxes or with special rules that apply to the Earned Income Tax Credit. You can also get help with the new health care law tax provisions. 3. What to bring. Take the following... read more

Study Skills is quite the buzz word these days in the tutoring world, but what exactly are study skills? I decided to do a little research to see what others are saying about study skills and it turns out there are as many study skills as there are tutors. As I wondered how to choose which ones to write about I decided it boils down to my experience as a student, a teacher, and a tutor. I also recognized that most of the skills we call study skills are also life skills and can be sorted into two big categories; planning for success and taking action. Planning for Success Planning for success encompasses all of the planning skills; get organized, time management, look at the big picture, prioritize, and set goals. These tasks take a little time to set-up at the beginning of each new term or semester. Once they are in place they should only require a few minutes each day to maintain. So let’s take a look at these tasks from the whole (get organized, big picture,... read more

In all of my lessons, I like to ask my students about their interests, and then I tailor the lessons to them! Yesterday my student and I went over Princeton Review's "5 types of Reading Comprehension Questions." These are: 1. Detail, 2.Purpose, 3. Suggest/Infer/Imply/Agree, 4. Vocabulary-in-Context, and 5. Tone/Attitude. We did one of the drills from the book, but I didn't think it would be sufficient practice. Since this particular student loves music, I copied and pasted a music review from Pitchfork.com into a Word document, then wrote my own SAT Prep questions! It went over well; the student said that it was a good exercise because it actually held his interest. He's not a big reader in general, but music reviews are something that he "actually likes to read." So, if you have a student who really loves music, then here's a copy of the Pitchfork article and my questions!   ~Bethany G.

Book 2: "A Nonfiction book"   I came across this one while looking for an e-book to put on my iPad so I'd have something to read on those full-to-bursting-backpack days. It completes the item for "a nonfiction book," and wow...I tore through this book faster than I think I've read a nonfiction in a very long time. My favorite part about this one was Bill Nye's writing style: conversational, informal, strewn with jokes (such as the running gag of his old boss as a lesser-evolved life form), and unquestionably him. Fans of the Bill Nye the Science Guy show from the 90's (like myself) will be able to hear his voice quite clearly in their heads as they read - it's like an adult version of his show in book form! I was also really impressed with the content of the book - I'd expected it to be much more about the debate with Creationist Ken Ham (the impetus for Bill writing this book in the first place). But he actually only touches on the debate... read more

Of course, learning should be fun.  Why?  Because if the student is having fun, that student will be giving his or her full attention to the matter at hand.     However, I do think that students need to be taught, as well, that learning is not ALWAYS going to involve fun, and that sometimes, to conquer challenging material, some effort must be made -- mental effort, an effort of time, reading effort, and problem-solving effort.     What adult's life is ALWAYS fun?  To prepare students for adult life, and for further advanced learning, I believe that it is not ALWAYS necessary to make learning fun.   A teacher should not be expected to be an entertainer.  But a wise teacher will inject a bit of fun every now and then.

S*** invested at least 3 hours of time in her homework and the results were exceptionally good - surprising that she has never explored drawing before. Her skills are at a higher level than the usual beginner.  As part of her homework, she listed what she liked in six issues of "Drawing Magazine". Her taste is as broad as the subject itself! So my challenge, as a teacher, is to help her develop her "foundation" skills, but not discourage her creativity. She is very detail oriented and has good hand/eye coordination, so I am sure she will master representational drawing if she decides to do so. At the same time, it is apparent that there is a "dream" or fantasy side to her interest that should also be encouraged. Therefore, I am going to suggest that she keep a sketchbook in which she can draw whatever she wants, without any "lesson" or discipline in mind.  For her second lesson, I brought some objects for still life study -... read more

If you adopted or tried to adopt a child in 2014, you may qualify for a tax credit. If your employer helped pay for the costs of an adoption, you may be able to exclude some of your income from tax. Here are some things you should know about adoption tax benefits. Credit or Exclusion. The credit is nonrefundable. This means that the credit may reduce your tax to zero. If the credit is more than your tax, you can’t get any additional amount as a refund. If your employer helped pay for the adoption through a written qualified adoption assistance program, you may qualify to exclude that amount from tax. Maximum Benefit. The maximum adoption tax credit and exclusion for 2014 is $13,190 per child. Credit Carryover. If your credit is more than your tax, you can carry any unused credit forward. This means that if you have an unused credit in 2014, you can use it to reduce your taxes for 2015. You can do this for up to five years, or until you fully use... read more

I find that tutoring sessions are often fit into a busy schedule. One thing I like to do at the beginning of the session is to help students regroup and erase the hectic day. Simply having the student sit for a moment and chew bubblegum allows for a moment to relax and regroup. Have the student focus on chewing and count how many times he/she must chew to make the gum pliable enough to blow a bubble. You will notice a decrease in anxiety and distraction with this simple exercise!

So which should it be these days -- the SAT or the ACT?   Below is an edited article by Julia Glum from the New York Times in January 2015 that addresses some of your questions.   But first, a few of my own thoughts.   My own "take" (pun intended) is that more prospective test-takers should consider the ACT.  While the "new" SAT for 2016 eliminates out-of-context vocabulary and makes other positive changes (including reducing multiple answer choices from five to four), the overall tenor of the test (based on online samples posted by the SAT) remains gratuitously "high-brow," with content, writing styles, vocabulary, and cultural references often remote from the content and requirements typically required of high-school seniors, college freshmen, and entrants into the job market.   One consequence is bound to be that the "new" SAT will NOT be the bold step in the direction of "equity"... read more

I have been working in the field of education for the past 5 years. I can tell you that one hugely under utilized resource is to find out what kind of learner you are: visual, auditory, or kinesthetic.   Here is a great online quiz to find out which type of learner you are: http://www.educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/learning-styles.shtml   Once you find out what type or types of learner you are, try some of these unusual learning tips!   Visual: Color-code your notes or flash cards by topic (e.g. blue for mitosis and pink for meiosis) Retype notes to review the information. Use lots of bold print, underlining, italics, highlighting, and bullet points to format important topics.   Auditory: Audio-record class lectures to review and summarize them later  Read material out loud and practice verbal repetition to learn new words and concepts   Kinesthetic: Stretch... read more

As I work with a variety of students, I notice how important the tutor's attitude is.  I encourage all students with sincere verbal praise, assisting them in seeing themselves as capable people, able to master any subject.  

2: All even numbers are divisible by 2. Odd numbers are not divisible by 2. Any number that ends in a 0, 2, 4, 6, or 8 is even and can be divided by 2. 20, 34, 96, 48, and 102 are all divisible by 2. 31, 19, 27, 45, and 103 are not divisible by 2.   3: If all the digits in a number add up to 3, 6, or 9, the number is divisible by 3. For example, take the number 45. If you add the numbers 4 and 5 you get 9, which is divisible by 3. This means that the number 45 is divisible by 3. Another example is 57. If you add 5 and 7 you get 12. Now if you add the 1 and 2, you get 3. This means that the number 57 is divisible by 3. One last example is 19. If you add the 1 and 9, you get 10, which is not divisible by 3. This means that the number 19 is not divisible by 3. 15, 33, 63, 84, and 105 are all divisible by 3. 14, 32, 58, 71, and 103 are not divisible by 3.   4: Many (not all) even numbers are divisible by 4. Odd... read more

You can reduce your taxes and save on your energy bills with certain home improvements. Here are some key facts that you should know about home energy tax credits: Non-Business Energy Property Credit Part of this credit is worth 10 percent of the cost of certain qualified energy-saving items you added to your main home last year. This may include items such as insulation, windows, doors and roofs. The other part of the credit is not a percentage of the cost. This part of the credit is for the actual cost of certain property. This may include items such as water heaters and heating and air conditioning systems. The credit amount for each type of property has a different dollar limit. This credit has a maximum lifetime limit of $500. You may only use $200 of this limit for windows. Your main home must be located in the U.S. to qualify for the credit. Be sure you have the written certification from the manufacturer that their product qualifies for... read more

The Internal Revenue Service is reminding individuals with home-based businesses filling out their 2014 federal income tax returns that they can choose a simplified method for claiming the deduction for business use of a home. In tax year 2012, the most recent year for which figures are available, nearly 3.4 million taxpayers claimed deductions of more than $10 billion for business use of a home, which is commonly referred to as the home office deduction. Introduced in tax year 2013, the optional deduction is designed to reduce the paperwork and record-keeping burden for small businesses. The optional deduction is capped at $1,500 per year, based on $5 a square foot for up to 300 square feet. Normally, home-based businesses are required to fill out a 43-line form (Form 8829) often with complex calculations of allocated expenses, depreciation and carryovers of unused deductions. Instead, taxpayers choosing the simplified method need only complete a short worksheet... read more

Many people who carry on a trade or business are self-employed. Sole proprietors and independent contractors are two examples of self-employment. If this applies to you, there are a few basic things you should know about how your income affects your federal tax return. Here are six important tips about income from self-employment: SE Income. Self-employment can include income you received for part-time work. This is in addition to income from your regular job. Schedule C or C-EZ. There are two forms to report self-employment income. You must file a Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business, or Schedule C-EZ, Net Profit from Business, with your Form 1040. You may use Schedule C-EZ if you had expenses less than $5,000 and meet other conditions. See the form instructions to find out if you can use the form. SE Tax. You may have to pay self-employment tax as well as income tax if you made a profit. Self-employment tax includes Social Security and Medicare taxes.... read more

The Internal Revenue Service recently reminded taxpayers planning to claim charitable donations to make sure they have the records they need before filing their 2014 tax returns. For any taxpayer, keeping good records is key to qualifying for the full charitable contribution deduction allowed by law. In particular, this includes insuring that they have received required statements for two contribution categories—each gift of at least $250 and donations of vehicles. First, to claim a charitable contribution deduction, donors must get a written acknowledgement from the charity for all contributions of $250 or more. This includes gifts of both cash and property. For donations of property, the acknowledgement must include, among other things, a description of the items contributed. In addition, the law requires that taxpayers have all acknowledgements in hand before filing their tax return. These acknowledgements are not filed with the return but must be retained... read more

Tips for Effective Study The most common barrier to success encountered by college students is a lack of effective techniques for study and exam preparation. If you are one of the vast majority of students whose answer to the question, "How do you study for your tests?" is, "I go over my notes," then you need to take a serious look at your study skills. Here are some suggestions to increase your effectiveness as a student. I. Day to Day A. Take good notes. Very few students leave high school with this skill. College of DuPage's Learning Lab can help you here. Some suggestions and observations. 1. Always take the notes for a particular class in the same notebook. Spiral bound notebooks were invented because they solved the problem of keeping related information consolidated in one place. Take advantage of this. 2. Date each entry into your notebook. 3. It is usually best to keep the notes for different classes... read more

Beginning in high school but sometimes as late as college, you will be tasked by a teacher or professor with a topic for which you will need to write a research paper with secondary sources, secondary sources being other papers written by authorities in the field in which they are writing their respective papers. Research papers help demonstrate that you have the intelligence and discipline to pursue a topic and provide objective or scholarly information to support your topic. A research paper can be stressful, certainly if lack prior experience in how to research properly. Hopefully, this list of strategies below will be helpful in reducing stress and saving time.   1) Do NOT Wait until the Last Minute! Waiting until the last minute to WRITE your paper once you have your secondary sources is one thing, but waiting to BEGIN your secondary sources research at the last minute with the expectation of also WRITING at the last minute is another; neither of which... read more

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