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  • Lessons your Child should be Learning in Preschool

    Pic by Mats Eriksson

    Keeping your child on track

    by Christine Bryant 

    Kindergarten is an important milestone in a child’s life. After all, it’s the first block in the foundation of education they will build over the next 12 years. But many children have their first school experience in preschool where they begin to develop essential skills. Here’s how a preschool should be helping your child to develop so that they can be on track for kindergarten.

    Responsibility

    Be sure that your preschool is asking kids to be responsible for their lunches, snacks and gear from home. “By the end of preschool, most kids can take on full responsibility for all of three items,” says Vicki Hoefle, a longtime professional parenting coach and educator. “When they do, it builds confidence, organizational skills and teaches responsibility.”

    Rules

    If your kid doesn’t like rules, you’re not alone. But Hoefle says it’s important for preschoolers to learn boundaries so when they get into the kindergarten setting, they understand structure. She suggests preschools invite the kids to help each other follow the rules, set up for activities and participate in cleanup. “If kids are invested in the space, supporting classroom rules and helping each other, they will be ready for more participation in kindergarten.”

    Language

    Preschool is an important time for educators to work with children on developing their language skills, incorporating lessons that will help them with items such as answering questions in complete sentences, retelling the plot of a story and even answering hypothetical questions such as “What would you do if you were thirsty?” Dr. Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician with Texas Children’s Hospital, says by the time a child enters kindergarten, she should be able to know her parents’ first and last names, address and phone number and understand instructions containing multiple steps, direction words and objects with descriptions.

    Play skills

    A child entering kindergarten should know how to play simple card and board games, and they should use imaginative and futuristic play when playing with friends, Spinks-Franklin says. “They should be able to take turns, share and negotiate,” she said. “A kindergartener understands rules in a game and how to follow them.”

    Leadership

    Let your kids take the lead — and encourage preschools to as well, advises Brown University researcher and child development expert Richard Rende, who has conducted research with Elmer’s about the benefits of arts and crafts in education. “Creativity is promoted when kids take the lead,” Rende said. “The creative spark is lit when kids try to figure out how to make things work on their own.”

    Confidence in academics

    It’s important for preschool teachers and parents at your child’s age to help build confidence and self-esteem so they’re fully prepared to expand upon academic skills they should know at this age, says Frank Milner, president of Tutor Doctor. Some of these academic skills they should know by the end of preschool include looking at pictures and telling stories, counting to 10, talking in complete sentences, identifying rhyming words, identifying alphabet letters, sorting similar objects and bouncing a ball.

    Independent living

    Sure, no one expects a preschooler to live on his own. But learning independent living lessons in preschool can help set up a child for success in kindergarten. Spinks-Franklin says children entering kindergarten should be able to dress themselves, including buttons, zippers and tying shoes. He should also be able to make a simple meal, such as a bowl of cereal or sandwich and be able to brush his teeth on his own.

    Fine motor skills

    Preschool may seem like it’s all about fun, but at this age through lessons, children are learning important fine-motor skills. “Strong fine-motor skills strengthen finger muscles using play dough, clay, scissors, tweezers, scrunching paper, etc., to make fingers strong for cutting and writing,” says Lori Becker, professor of Early Childhood Education at Kaplan University.

    Safety lessons

    Preschool is a great time to reinforce what moms and dads teach at home about safety, Spinks-Franklin says. “A child entering kindergarten should understand basic rules of safety — do not run into the street, talk to strangers, walk away from parents in public places or take off her seatbelt while the car is moving.”

    Happy memories

    One of the most important items a preschooler should learn is how to create happy memories, and lessons at your child’s preschool present the perfect opportunity for this. “Smiles, laughs and some silliness keep kids engaged,” Rende said.

    What important lessons does your child’s preschool teach that you think are important to a child’s development?

  • What Common Core ‘Looks Like’: Word Problems and More

    pic by Pink Sherbet Photography  

    EducationWorld asked educators and other experts for concrete examples of how Common Core is changing instruction for the better. Below is what tutoring center owner Christopher Lien shared.

    By Christopher Lien

    Lien is a franchise owner with Tutor Doctor, the leading “at-home” private tutoring franchise worldwide.
    What’s your best concrete example of how Common Core-aligned instruction is qualitatively different from previous models of instruction?
    A popular “word problem” is given to kindergarten and first-grade students to help them learn division. They start with a group of 40-50 small blocks they can handle on a table top. The problem statement reads, “Two classes are going to the zoo for a field trip. A number of parents will drive the students to the zoo in their minivans. Each minivan can carry 5 students. If 43 students will go to the zoo that day, how many minivans will be required?”
    Some students will initially count and separate 43 blocks from the others, and then separate them into groups of 5. Other students with slightly more math sense or practice may immediately form groups of 5 blocks until they’ve reached 43, or 45 students. How they process the final group of 3 blocks is interesting – some want to add them to the other full groups of 5, and others might freeze and feel unsure of how to process a group of blocks fewer than 5. This is where they learn about remainders, and once they realize it’s okay to have a less than full group of blocks, it opens up their math sense requisite to division skills.

    What’s your best concrete example of how student learning is enhanced due to Common Core-aligned instruction?
    One of my daughters is a visual learner and was initially having difficulties understanding numbers. Multiplication and division didn’t come naturally for her. When presented with different visual methods of solving a multiplication problem, she rapidly increased in number sense skill and eventually became better able to solve problems without needing visual representations. The visual methods included grids of dots and rows and matrices of squares. Once she had rows or groups of ten squares, she could group them together to solve two-digit or three-digit problems.

    What is the biggest challenge of implementing the Common Core?
    Misinformation or misunderstanding of the nature and objectives of Common Core have sometimes resulted in parents’ fear, cynicism and skepticism. Homework can initially appear foreign from the parents’ prior experience, and some conclude they’re unable to assist their children with homework. A closer look and steady patience can help parents perceive the critical thinking aspect of the lesson, and eventually fears and unfamiliarity can subside.

    What advice do you have for schools that are struggling with the standards?
    Communication is paramount to alleviate concerns parents have about Common Core and the specific methods of implementation used in their schools. Communication forms should include frequent Web site updates of curriculum or text samples and outlines, public assemblies in the evenings or on weekends so more parents can participate, brief videos showing actual classroom sessions where students are learning Common Core lessons, and parent-teacher conferences to discuss the distinction between prior and new methods of student skill assessment. Once parents get both information and the opportunity to ask questions, they’ll rapidly feel more at ease with the new direction and become more supportive of their schools’ efforts.

  • Helping your Child Adjust to a New Sibling

    Pic by Richard Leeming

    Sibling rivalry is a very natural instinct which older children experience with the arrival of a new baby brother or sister. They act out, become aggressive or regress which can put more strain on a family. Bringing a new baby home is tough enough, but knowing what to expect from your older children and helping them to work through the adjustment will make everyone’s transition easier.

    Start early: Tell your child you are pregnant first and explain to them exactly what this means. Answer all their questions and try to involve them as much as possible in every phase.

    Minimize changes: There’s only so much change a little person can handle, so if you have other major changes on the horizon like moving them out of their rooms, starting pre-school, potty training etc. try to get it out of the way long before the new baby comes.

    Get involved: Try to include them in as many of the preparations as possible like getting the nursery ready or choosing names.

    When baby arrives: Set aside time to spend alone with your older children. Really listen to their concerns and problems about the new baby and don’t discount them; try to hear them and help them to adjust.

    Stress the benefits: Focus on all the good things they enjoy by being the older sibling and allow them to participate as much as they want to in the baby’s care.

    Gifts: When friends and family members arrive with gifts for the new baby, distribute some gifts for older brothers and sisters too so that they don’t feel left out.

    Bonding: Allow your child to hold and hug the new baby. You may want to teach younger children how to hold a baby by using a doll before the new addition arrives. You should also discuss what new babies do and that they won’t really be much fun for a while.

    Keep your structures in place: With the upheaval of a new baby, your older children will act up and push the boundaries to get attention. While you must be empathetic and patient, be sure to keep the structures that they are accustomed to like bed times and meal times. Having some structure will help them to feel secure.

    For younger children, there are a number of books that can help with preparation for the arrival of a new sibling. Some titles include:

    When the Teddy Bears Came

    Rosie’s Babies

    Sophie and the New Baby

    Topsy and Tim: The New Baby

    Mummy, Mummy, What’s in Your Tummy?

    Big Brother, Little Brother

    The New Baby

    Alfie & Annie Rose Storybook

    Za Za’s Baby Brother

    Spot’s Baby Sister

  • Save on Back to School Supplies

    Pic by Liz Latham

    It’s almost time to send your children back to school and this can pose a financial burden on most families as you pay school fees, buy new clothing and tick off the back to school supply list. If you start early, you can avail yourself of a number of apps and sites that have specials and coupons that can really help ease the financial strain.

    Only get what you need

    Start with the list that your school has issued and tick off any items you already have. Check drawers and cupboards and see what items you can reuse from last year. When you go shopping, don’t be tempted to buy items that aren’t on the list.

    Shop online

    You can buy most of the items you need online and you can compare prices that way too. Be sure that the shipping costs are lower than traveling costs to go to the store yourself. When you compare items online, you can find the stores which sell them at the lowest price. Of course you don’t want to make a special trip to each store or the gas money will negate any savings, but keep the list handy so that if you happen to be in the area, you can pop in and get a few things. Combining your back to school shopping with other errands will also save you gas money.

    Swap Meets

    You can organize to swap all your school supplies with neighbors and friends. This way you can maximize on bulk buys and you can swap out items which you don’t need. You can also work with other families to take advantage of ‘Buy one get one free’ offers or bulk purchase discounts.

    Coupons

    Coupons are a wonderful way to save and you can really reduce your costs by visiting the following sites to find coupons that you can utilize:

    Coupon Divas

    The Crazy Coupon Lady

    Target

    Bargain Briana

    Common Sense with Money

    Coupon Cravings

    Deal Catcher

    Retail Me Not

    Money-saving apps

    If you want to save money on the go, there are smartphone apps that help you to find bargains on your back to school supplies. You can also use these apps in stores that offer price matches. Simply find items cheaper elsewhere and show the cashier the ad on your phone so that they can match the price. This will really save on time and travel expenses as you don’t have to go to more than one shop.

    Here are some of the apps you can use:

    Rodger’s alerts

    Checkout 51 (iOS or Android)

    Red Flag Deals (iOS or Android)

    CartSmart

    The Coupons App (AndroidiOS)

    RetailMeNot (AndroidiOS)

    Cartwheel by Target (AndroidiOS)

    ShopSavvy (AndroidiOS) / RedLaser (AndroidiOS)

    Foursquare (AndroidiOS)

    Swarm (AndroidiOS)

     

  • Help your Child to Adjust to a New School

    pic by Avalore

    If you are relocating this semester, you can help your children to settle into a new home and school. Moving is a traumatic experience as children have to get accustomed to a different home, a strange town and new friends. They may also be missing old friends and familiar places. There are some ways you can make the transition to a new school seamless. The most important approach is to understand and acknowledge their fears and anxieties and address as many as you can.

    Get orientated

    Contact your new school and ask for a tour. If you can get a copy of your child’s schedule, you can trace their daily route from home to school and then around school to all their classes. Knowing where they need to go will help to reduce anxiety. If there are summer holiday activities where your child could meet prospective new school mates, then get details from the school office.

    Ask your new school about the buddy system. Many schools assign ‘buddies’ to new students who help them to settle in and find their way around.

    Know your new school

    Look online and ask the school for brochures or information on activities and clubs. Knowing all the fun things they can do may help kids to foster a positive image of their new school. Getting involved in activities, sports and clubs from day one is a great way for your kids to make new friends.

    The website can also provide information about dress codes, teachers, school rules and supplies needed so your child can be prepared.

    Talk it out

    Ask your child what they are most afraid of or what they worry about when they think about their new school. For example, if they are concerned about getting lost on their bike ride or walk to school, offer to drop them off for the first week or take the route together a couple of times before school starts so that they feel confident. Getting them to talk about possible problems and helping to address their concerns will alleviate anxiety.

    Get organized

    No one knows your child like you and so you are able to pre-empt any possible issues. For example, shop for and plan clothing choices for the first week. Make sure that they have their back-to-school supplies, get them back into a routine so that they aren’t late on their first day and make sure that they have all your contact details at the new school.

    It’s a celebration!

    Give them something to look forward to for their first week at school. Celebrate their first day with a cupcake party or take them somewhere special on the weekend after their first week. Having something positive to focus on will help to motivate them.

     

  • 7 Ways Technology Can Help Your Child to Learn

    Pic by Kids Making It

    Does technology have a place in education? The fascination your child has with technology can be leveraged for learning. Of course you must tailor each child’s daily dose of screen time to their age and to recommendations from professionals, but you can use their tech time for teaching. Downloading games and apps with an educational twist can help your child to learn though play.

    Active engagement: Choose games and apps that are educational and require input from your child. Apps and games that require tactile engagement and manipulation of objects around the screen help your child to better remember content and improve their fine motor skills.

    Make screen time interactive: Stop them from time to time and ask them to explain the story or the game, ask questions and get them to retell bits of each story to help with communication and comprehension skills.

    Problem solving skills: Pick a range of apps and games that require different skills and work different parts of the brain. When you select games that require your child to solve problems, you help them to develop their analytical skills.

    Make technology fun: There are games for every skill your child needs to acquire, so make tech time fun. For each new math concept or language skill, you can choose from a plethora of different games and apps to find the one that your child enjoys the most.

    Start by looking at the curriculum to see what skills and concepts will be taught over the coming academic year. Then download a number of games and apps for each one that your child can choose from.

    Set times for technology: Set a timer on your tablet or smart phone to switch off when the allotted screen time is up. This will help to alleviate any arguments that may ensue when you want to end a session.

    Ask your teacher: If you aren’t sure what apps are appropriate tools for teaching, ask your child’s teacher for help. Teachers can help you to get the best apps to teach the skills and concepts that they will be covering in their curriculum or apps that they already use in the classroom.

    Stick to the limits: Too much technology, even if it is educational, can lead to behavioral problems, obesity and an inability to socialize well with others. It’s important to keep track of how much time your child is spending on computers, tablets, smart phones and in front of the TV.

    Pediatricians from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children should have no more than 2 hours of screen time a day and should not have computers or TVs in their rooms. Of course it’s difficult to limit screen time to just a couple of hours, especially as children get older. However, the more time they spend outside and engaged with physical, academic and family activities, the more likely they are to be healthy and well adjusted.

     

  • Get your Kids Ready for the New Academic Year

    Click to play video

    September is just around the corner and soon it will be time to make that transition from the beach to the bus. Rade Gratton from Tutor Doctor Lake County and her daughter Mason join Studio A with tips on how to get your kids ready for the challenges of the coming academic year.

    Set the clock back

    If your kids have been staying up later and sleeping in over the vacation, it’s time to reset their routines to avoid a very tough first week back to school. Opt for a gradual reintroduction of early bed times and waking up times by getting your kids to go to bed and get up 15 minutes earlier each day over the week before school. This gradual resetting of their clocks will make it easier for them to get up in time for school.

    Power up the brain

    “Studies have shown that children lose between twenty and thirty percent of what they learned the previous year over the summer,” said Rade. “So it’s always a good idea to have a game plan for August.” She suggests keeping the folders and notes from the previous semester and reviewing these over the month of August.

    Reading is another great way to get those brains in gear. Rade recommends that younger kids should read books and then act them out to help with comprehension. You can encourage reading by offering rewards and selecting books that interest your child.

    Math is an area that needs a lot of attention over the month of August if your child is going to be ready for the new academic year. Teachers don’t have time to review math concepts your child has already learned and they will be building on these so ensure that your child has a solid math foundation. If you think they may have gaps in their knowledge base, consider getting a tutor in to prepare them and bolster their confidence.

    “Tutor Doctor 24/7 is an online resource that gives parents access to tens of thousands of tests and lessons that you can print off,” says Rade. This amazing resource will give parents everything they need to help their children catch up and keep up.

    Socialization

    Plan a play date, a sleep over or a back to school party with new classmates and old friends so that your child makes friends before the new school year starts. Having friends in class will help to alleviate some of the back to school anxiety and will also improve confidence.

     

  • How to Turn your Child into a Math Genius

    pic by Woodley Wonderworks

    “I’m not good at math” is a refrain most parents and teachers hear from students who struggle with this subject. The thinking here is generally that if you aren’t born with an aptitude for math, you will never be good at it. The good news? Studies show that while natural talent does give some students an advantage, all students can be great at math with a little bit of effort.

    Math can be learned by everyone; however it’s one of those ‘one percent inspiration, 99% perspiration’ things which requires concerted effort to master. One of the biggest problems for students is missing fundamental building blocks. Each year, teachers assume that your child understands all of the math from their previous academic years. They just add on to these foundations so, if your child is missing some underlying building blocks, they just get further and further behind every year.

    Hire an in-home tutor

    One of the biggest downsides to an inability to master math is the lack of confidence it creates in kids. When they get one-on-one tutoring at home, they are in a safe environment where they can ask questions and speak out when they don’t understand. Tutors can help to find those missing building blocks and fill in the gaps so your child can catch up and keep up.

    Positive attitude

    ‘I can’t do math’ is simply not true; everyone can learn to do math so outlaw these sentences in your home. It may also be a good idea to show the practical applications of math in the real world as well as the opportunities having math presents for college applications. Students who feel like they will never use math after school will find it difficult to motivate themselves to learn.

    In a study for Purdue University, Patricia Linehan found that students either believed that they could improve their math abilities through practice and study or that they were just ‘bad at math’. Studies show that students who practices math with a positive attitude will see an improvement so a change in thinking is the first step to success.

    Use math every day

    Whether you are getting your child to measure out ingredients for a recipe, calculate a tip on a restaurant bill or project the earnings they will make on their paper route, using math every day will help them to understand abstract concepts and will provide great opportunities for practicing their math skills.

    Math apps

    Free math apps abound for every grade and every new math concept that your child must master. You can get a really great overview of the apps from our blog here.

    When it comes to math, natural ability does factor in to a small degree, but everyone can learn math and get great grades if they study hard and practice. Changing attitudes, filling in missing building blocks, daily practice and offering rewards for improvements will all contribute to turning your child into a math genius!

     

  • Family Guide to Emergency Preparedness: Fires

    pic by DVIDS

    A few weeks ago we published a guide to hurricane preparedness in anticipation of the summer storms and some of our readers asked if we could also provide one for other emergency situations. Having a plan in place for emergency situations will mean your family knows exactly what to do when disaster strikes. In the first of our three part series, we take a look at how to prepare your family for fires.

    Evacuation plan: Start with getting to safety in the event of a fire. Discuss ways to exit the house safely from every room so that, no matter where your family members are when disaster strikes, they already know the best escape route.

    Check that you also have evacuation plans in place at your work and at school. Decide on a meeting place where family members need to go to should they get separated or be in different locations. Be sure that you pick a place that is very familiar and easy to navigate to. Know where your nearest shelters are and whether they take pets.

    Phone numbers: Program all the important numbers for emergency services, family and friends into your phones and your children’s phones. Make sure that you also have a hard copy of numbers in case your phone isn’t functional.

    Basic fire safety: Check smoke alarms every year and keep a fire extinguisher on each floor of your home. Ensure that your children know where these are located and how to use them.

    In the event of a fire: If you are in a closed room when a fire starts, take precautionary steps to ensure that you are able to evacuate safely.

    • Check around the door for smoke so that you know if there’s fire on the other side of the door. If you do notice smoke, don’t open the door. Try to exit through the window or call for help. If you can’t get out, push curtains, clothing, towels or cushions in around the door to prevent smoke from getting in.
    • If there is no smoke coming in under or around the door, gently touch the handle and the door to see if it is hot. If it’s hot, don’t open the door.
    • If the handle and door aren’t hot, slowly and carefully open the door to see if there is smoke or flames on the other side.
    • If you do see smoke or flames, close the door. If your path to the exit is clear, leave the building as quickly as you can, making sure to close doors behind you.
    • If there is thick smoke but no flames, wrap a sweater or t-shirt around your mouth and crawl to the exit.
    • Use the stairs, don’t use the elevator.
    • If you have access to a fire alarm, pull it to alert other occupants of the danger.

    Additional Resources

    London Fire Brigade

    Canadian Emergency Guide

    Fire safety song

  • Reducing Stress for Adult Students

    Pic by Abdallah Foteih

    Thinking of going back to school but worried that you won’t have the time? We understand that families, jobs and time pressures make adult education a daunting task. That’s why our adult tutors help you to prioritize, organize and manage your time so that you have the opportunity for personal development and career advancement.

    Causes of Stress

    The job market is tough and more people are seeing the benefits of retooling. Getting a secondary education may mean a better job or a whole new career for you. Of course your life is busy and complicated and going back to school places an enormous amount of stress and pressure on the mature student.

    There are a number of factors which contribute to the stress that students experience:

    • Work on a full or part-time basis.
    • Family responsibilities.
    • Lagging behind with technological advancements.
    • Haven’t kept up with advancements in the field.
    • Dated study techniques don’t fit with modern teaching methods.
    • Gaps in knowledge base.
    • Pressure to be the perfect student.

    These concerns lead many adult learners to delay the start of their education while others feel pressured and overwhelmed by their new school environment.

    The solution

    When stress and pressure threaten to derail your academic aspirations, it’s time to get a tutor. Tutors understand that you are busy, that’s why they come to you so that they can teach you in the comfort of your home and fit in with your schedule.

    One-on-one tutoring means that the tutor can find the gaps in your knowledge base and help you to fill in your foundation. This will help you to catch up and keep up with the rest of the class.

    The tutor will assess your learning style and help you to record information in a way that you can use while helping you to organize and prioritize tasks so that you have enough time for everything. This means you are working smarter, not harder.

    Tutors help you set realistic academic goals and formulate a game plan on how to achieve them. Tutors help you to complete your homework assignments and work with your curriculum rather than adding on additional tasks for you to complete.

    If you have gaps in your communication and language skills, tutors can help you to effectively communicate your answers. Many students really do understand the course materials, but if they are not able to effectively communicate their understanding or they answer questions in the wrong way, they won’t get the marks they deserve.

    Being an adult student and trying to balance life, work, family and studies is a very difficult task – we get that and that is why our adult tutors are trained to help with all aspects of academics from filling in missing gaps in your knowledge base to helping you with study skills, their holistic approach will help you to catch up and get ahead.