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Tuesday, December 10, 2013   The Tutor/ School Connection Teachers in training learn the importance of cultivating meaningful connections with their students and their parents in teaching methods classes. Teachers know that maintaining regular contact with parents is essential to nurturing a positive home/ school relationship. The benefits of such a relationship are too numerous to mention. Tutors, along with students and their families, can benefit from a similar relationship. This article describes several benefits of a positive tutor/ school relationship and lists steps for initiating contact. Why a Tutor/ School Relationship? As a Behavioral Management Counselor at a local juvenile facility for adjudicated youth, my responsibilities included maintaining regular contact with all teachers of the residents on my client list. This included phone contact and attending parent/ teacher conferences. My unit housed young men ages 13 – 17 in a semi-secure... read more

Monday, December 9, 2013   More families are looking for alternatives to traditional public schools. School closings and teaching faculty reductions are leading to over – crowded classrooms that don’t seem to meet all student’s needs. Home schooling is one educational option available to families seeking an alternative to their local public school system. This article highlights four things that will help you get your home school off to a good start while meeting all of your student’s educational needs. 1. What can you teach successfully? As an adult, chances are you can remember that one subject you were good at in school. Whether it came naturally for you, or you simply studied hard and still remember the content, you probably know the subject well enough to teach it to your home school students. However, you should still take some time to decide whether or not you can teach the subject to your students. Unless you have teaching experience as a classroom... read more

Virtual education’s popularity is on the rise. Parents have a wide variety of schools to choose from if they decide to enroll their children in a virtual school. This can make choosing a virtual school that's right for your children difficult. This article summarizes five important things to consider when choosing a virtual school for your children. 1. Independent Study vs. Live Instruction First, review the school’s website and any literature they have to see whether they use a live, online learning environment or if students will learn content in an independent study setting. There are pros and cons to each. An exhaustive list is outside of the scope of this article. In my experience as a former virtual schoolteacher, high school students can handle independent study with the right amount of supervision from their parents, middle school students cannot. They need the structure that live, online classes provide. Live, online classes typically use the same virtual meeting... read more

If you had asked my middle school students to describe our class routines, you might have thought I was their English teacher, not Social Studies. As a teacher and tutor, I’ve tried to pass on a legacy for the love of reading to my students. I often tell them, “If you can read, you can teach yourself anything.” In this article, I will give you some tips on how to get your children to read more, and more often. It’s Not Magic! Occasionally, parents visited my classroom to ask, “How do you do it?” They were usually referring to the success of my Friday Silent Reading routine. Each fall, I explained the importance of literacy to my students and said that practice is best way to improve reading skills. I told them that I expected them to bring a book of their choice to class every day, to read it if they finished all the day’s scheduled activities I’d given them, and that the first 20 minutes of class every Friday was reserved for sustained silent reading. Parents seemed... read more

Unless you or your child attends a year – round school, summer vacation begins sometime in the next week or so. College students have read more pages than they thought humanly possible, taken many exams, written research papers, and stayed up way too late over the past 10 months. Parents of school – aged children have helped with homework, gone to parent/ teacher conferences, E-mailed teachers, and maybe volunteered for one activity too many. This article will help you understand the importance of continuing your/ your child’s learning over the summer and lists several suggestions on how to make the fall back - to - school transition much easier! Suffer No Setbacks Educational researchers agree that students need to continue their education over the summer or they stand to lose up to three (3) months worth of the previous year’s learning. Think about that for a minute. It’s like going to class from March to May for no reason! Unless you keep learning over the summer, you’ll... read more

May is a busy month for schools. Standardized tests, field trips, and graduation planning takes center stage. Teachers meet with parents of struggling students as well as those who would benefit from summer enrichment classes to discuss summer school enrollment. This article will help parents/ guardians decide whether or not to enroll their child(ren) in summer school. A "Bad Rap" The words “summer school” tend to stir negative thoughts. Many parents and students falsely believe that going to summer school is a bad thing. Some cite teasing as a reason for not sending their child to summer school. Others think that their child will become overwhelmed without a summer break. In truth, research has shown that students who do not participate in any school – related activities during a two – month summer break can lose up to three months of the previous year’s learning! Teachers always include nearly a month’s worth of “re-teaching” (reviewing the previous year’s content)... read more

The last article of this series taught readers how to create academic standards – based unit and lesson plans. The key to writing useful lesson and unit plans is creating clear goal and objective statements. This article teaches readers the similarities and differences between the two statements and gives three tips for creating clear, content – relevant goals and objectives. Similarities and Differences Both types of statements must relate to a manageable piece of content. Goals and objectives suffer when they encompass too much content. An example of a goal statement that is too large is, “Students will be able to write a novel”. There are many smaller steps students should accomplish before students can complete this goal. A better goal statement is, “Students will be able to list the parts of a novel”. You can creatively teach this to your child(ren) in one day. Goals and objectives are typically 15 words or less and do not include the word “and”. If you have written... read more

The first two articles in this series covered how to prepare to home school your child(ren). If you’re following along, you’re probably asking yourself the most logical question: how do I know what to teach every day and how do I teach it? The simple answer is, “By pre-planning using unit and daily lesson plans.” This article explains unit and lesson plans, why they’re important to home schooling parents, and how to write each of these plans. What are unit and lesson plans? In part two of this series, I defined curriculum as “what is taught”. While that’s true, this definition can also be used for unit and lesson plans. Unit and lesson plans are written as a series of step - by - step instructions that explain exactly what you will teach, how you will teach it, the state or national academic standards that say you must teach it, and a list of books and materials you will need to teach the lesson successfully. Both lesson and unit plans state how you will check (or “assess”)... read more

In the first article of this series, I reviewed the steps that parents should take to make sure their child(ren) transition smoothly and legally from traditional schools to home schooling. This includes: researching and submitting necessary state department of education paperwork, creating a school year and school day schedule, choosing subjects and books/ materials, and setting learning goals. What’s next? This article explains how to plan each subject along with projects, quizzes, and tests to ensure your home school is successful. 1. Create a curriculum calendar. This is not the same as creating a school year or school day calendar. A curriculum calendar breaks down each subject you’ll teach so the material is spread evenly across your school year calendar. Use the school year learning goals you created along with the state or national subject standards for each class you’ll teach. Read the entire state or national standard before finalizing your curriculum calendar. You... read more

Parents consider home schooling their child(ren) for a number of reasons. Some may be dissatisfied with the curriculum offered by local public and private schools. Others may travel a lot and want their children to experience other countries and cultures. Whatever your reason for considering home schooling, this series of articles will teach you basic steps to take to begin home schooling your child(ren). Today’s article teaches you six important first steps to ensuring a successful and legal transition from traditional school settings to home school. 1. Review state home schooling laws. The first step you should take is to research your state’s home school related education. These regulations are easily found on the internet by entering “home school” in the search box on your state’s department of education website. This will tell you everything you need to know about needed documentation, deadlines, how to withdraw your child(ren) from public school to begin home schooling, and... read more

College - bound high school seniors are facing a deadline they may not know about: the FAFSA application. It’s easy to understand how students can overlook it with all their high school work and graduation requirements on their minds. But, failing to turn the form in can make them ineligible for college financial aid next year. This article will teach high school seniors basic facts and tips to make filling out their FAFSA easy! 1. What Does the FAFSA Determine? The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) determines you/ your “Expected Family Contribution” (EFC) to your college education. In other words, how much college tuition and room and board fees you/ your family can afford to pay and still maintain their current standard of living. In some cases, the Student Aid Report (or “SAR”) you receive will state that you/ your family’s EFC is $0. This simply means you will probably be eligible for more financial aid. It does not mean that you are eligible for “$0 financial... read more

In the early 1900’s, psychologists B. F. Skinner and John B. Watson developed a new branch of psychology they called behaviorism. Both scientists believed that human behavior was shaped by their environment and their reactions to it. They called this behavioral shaping “conditioning”. This article briefly describes the two types of behavioral conditioning and how parents, tutors, and teachers can use them to improve a student’s study habits. Two Types of Conditioning Skinner and Watson identified two types of conditioning in human behavioral studies: operant and classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is probably the most familiar to readers due to psychologist Ivan Pavlov’s famous experiments with his dogs (he actually used about 60 different dogs in his experiments). The differences between the two types of behavioral conditioning (or “training”) are in the kinds of behaviors each one targets. In classical conditioning, the trainer targets involuntary, or reflex,... read more

Spring is just around the corner and with it comes annual standardized testing for many students. These tests can cause a range of emotions from confidence to near panic - inducing anxiety in students, parents, teachers, and administrators. While parents understand that the tests are important to their child’s academic future, they may not understand how the scores are used. This article explains some of the ways teachers use standardized test scores, their general thoughts about the tests themselves, and several reasons parents should review test score sheets. Teacher Opinions About Standardized Tests I certainly can’t speak to every teacher’s feelings about standardized testing. As you might guess, opinions vary widely. New teacher’s opinions on the matter are largely shaped by teacher training programs at colleges and universities. It appears to take about two years of full – time teaching for new teacher’s opinions to becomes more experience - based. By then they have prepared... read more

Recently I was asked to relate my favorite education quote. Admittedly, I had a hard time choosing. Education is nuanced. Thousands of teaching and learning quotes are relevant and memorable. After re-reading several of my favorite education quotes, I chose this one as my favorite: “Education is light, lack of it darkness.” (Russian proverb.) Teachers, parents, students, and tutors will all find relevance in this quote. Telling you about my favorite teacher will help explain why I think this quote is so appropriate. My favorite teacher was a middle school teacher named Mr. Z; that’s what we all called him anyway. He was an English teacher (now retired) and sponsor of the school’s Chess team. I never had him for English; instead, I was in his homeroom and Chess club. I didn’t have to have him for English to know he was excellent at teaching that, too. I’d known Mr. Z. since my family moved to the city where I grew up. He was the sponsor of the city’s Chess club. We learned... read more

In the United States, standardized test scores show that Math is one of the subjects students struggle with the most. State and federal grants are available to fund new and existing Math - focused programs with the goal of helping students improve their performance on these tests. Parents can lend a hand by making Math matter in the young people’s lives. This article lists five activities parents can do with their children to help them understand the importance of Math skills and improve their Math comprehension. 1. “Everyday Math”. This isn’t the same as the Math method many schools teach. Instead, by this I am referring to the chances you - as an adult – have to use Math in your everyday life. This might be the hardest of the five activities because you probably use more Math than you realize. For example, has your child ever asked you, “How much longer ‘til we’re there?” on a long car trip? I’m sure they have! Help them do the mental Math to figure out how long it will take... read more

Many high school seniors are starting to think about their freshmen year of college. Some may have already been accepted and are already thinking about their summer visit and freshmen orientation. In their excitement, they may be forgetting the most important part of the visit, filling out their fall schedules. This article gives you five tips to remember when making your fall schedule this summer. 1. Know Yourself. Most college orientation programs include a graphic demonstration of how many of you won’t be back for a second semester. I remember the demonstration at my orientation. Freshmen attended a mandatory convocation in the arena where one college counselor pointed out that one-third to one-half of us wouldn’t be back due to poor grades. Then, he asked several sections – a thousand or so of us – to stand saying that was 1/3 of us. This many students wouldn’t be back. Several more sections stood and he added that this represented the number that would be on academic probation... read more

When it comes to standardized tests, the PSAT is often overlooked as an “unnecessary step” in the college entrance process. School guidance counselors steer students toward the SAT and ACT; many teachers mention it in their 6th and 7th grade classrooms. This leaves students and parents alike wondering whether they should even bother taking the PSAT. This article explains the purpose of the PSAT test itself and lists four (4) reasons students should take the PSAT and the benefits of doing so. What is the PSAT test, anyway? First, PSAT stands for “Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test”. In some places, you may see it paired with the NMSQT, or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, as in “PSAT/ NMSQT”. The acronym describes its purpose: to test a student’s readiness to take the SAT, to serve as a practice test for the SAT, and to determine student’s eligibility for National Merit Scholarships. So, contrary to popular belief, PSAT scores DO matter if you want to qualify for... read more

Professional athletes hire personal trainers and learn as much as possible about getting the most out of their bodies. They study things such as exercise’s effect on muscles, the vitamins and minerals they’ll need to rebuild muscle, and how much water they’ll need to drink to stay hydrated while working out. Students can use the same approach by learning about biopsychology and learning - related biopsychology research to get their brains in tiptop shape. This article will teach you a few things about biopsychology so you can get your brain ready for maximum learning. What is Your Brain Made Of? About 70% of our brain is made up of fatty acids. (The other 30% is made up of protein.) This is because the cell membranes of neurons, the cells that make up our brain, are created by a double layer of fatty acids. The cell membrane holds all the cell’s contents and gives neurons their shape. So, when you see a picture of your brain, you are looking at the cell membranes of millions... read more

Some schools have strict policies about Christmas gift giving. These include dollar limits, “acceptable” gifts, or a “no gifts, please” policy. Parents often become anxious if their child’s school allows Christmas gifts for its teachers. Some may worry about how others might perceive the gift. Others may worry about what teachers will think if they don’t give their child’s teachers a gift. This article will give you some insight into teacher’s thoughts about student gifts and provide a few tips on gifts teachers need and will use quickly. What Teachers are Saying About Christmas Gifts First, let me say that this article is based on my personal experiences at schools where I’ve taught. This includes Catholic, virtual - hybrid charter, and public schools – a wide variety to be sure. It is based on conversations I’ve had with other teachers over the years. One universal sentiment is that teachers don’t care whether or not students give them Christmas gifts. That is to say,... read more

Students sometimes feel like they’ve run a marathon when the first semester of school ends. Depending on individual circumstances, students may truly have put in more effort than usual this semester. Students who didn’t meet your (or their own) academic expectations may feel anxious about the end of winter/ Christmas break. This article lists four (4) things you can do as a parent (or that adult students can do themselves) to renew themselves and prepare to improve their second semester performance. Four Tips for a Better Second Semester Regardless of grade level, most students feel they can improve something about their first semester performance. Here are some tips to help your child (or yourself) prepare for academic success the second semester. 1. Write Long and Short – Term Goals: One of the best ways to improve performance is to create academic goals and write them down. I always have my students write a weekly academic goal in their journals. Their goals must have... read more

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