3 Uncommon Signs of Academic Trouble

This is a serious problem, but this comic is still funny.

It’s report card day! Your child digs through loose papers and crumpled fruit snack bags in order to find it and quickly hands it to you before running off to play. You take a deep breath and open it slowly. You both worked hard this quarter. You asked him every day if he had all his homework done, and he always said yes. His grades should reflect that…right?

Wrong. Your heart sinks as you look at the letters and look again. What went wrong? With all the investment that you put into your child’s education, it can be worrisome, and even anxiety producing, for him to continue to not do well in school. One way to avoid a devastating report card day is to catch academic problems before they get out of hand.

Low test scores or low homework grades are obvious signs that your child is in trouble. But there might be a few signs you may not think to look for.

Mood Swings around Homework or Test Time

I’ve tutored dozens of kids and one thing I’ve noticed with the vast majority of them is when they don’t understand something, their entire mood shifts. A child can come into a session smiling and completely pleasant but as soon as we start long division or I’m asking questions about their book report book, they either get mean or they start cracking jokes. It’s a defense mechanism, and if you think about it, you probably know adults who do the same thing. If your child has a hissy fit every time you ask about homework, it could be a sign that they’re struggling but don’t know how to ask for help.

The Magical Disappearing Homework!

I worked with one student for awhile who had the hardest time getting his homework into the teacher’s hands. The night before, I saw that his homework was done. His mother saw that his homework was done. But at some point between getting on the bus in the morning and the start of the class, his homework disappeared. His report card was a disaster that quarter, and it wasn’t because his test scores were low or he didn’t understand the material. It’s because in elementary and middle school (and even many high schools), simply turning in your homework counts for a lot of credit. When you don’t do that, your grades can plummet.

While he wasn’t necessarily struggling academically, this child was losing his homework and that was a sign of a larger organizational problem that needed to be addressed. Now, he’s finishing up his junior year of high school and is one of the most organized, disciplined students I know–all because someone recognized what was going on.

Test-Induced Illness

I’ll admit it…I’ve done it. You wake up the morning of a test and you can’t get your heart to stop pounding. The pressure of doing well and the overwhelming amount of knowledge that you simply don’t know creates a stomach ache. You do whatever trick you need to do to get the thermometer to give out an inaccurate reading (I won’t give anyone any ideas…) and voila! You bought yourself an extra day to study.

Test-induced illness could be a sign that your child doesn’t understand the material or he may understand it just fine. Either way, stress over tests at this level is unhealthy. This kind of anxiety around academics can turn into a serious problem later on, especially as the pressure increases in high school and college. Know when your chid’s tests and quizzes are and when projects are due. If you have these dates listed on your own calendar and start to notice a trend, do what you can to alleviate some of your child’s anxiety.

If you start to notice these or any other worrisome behaviors, check in with your child. Some children are hesitant to talk about what’s bothering them, so try to create an atmosphere that’s comfortable for them. You could go out for fro-yo and chat or take a yoga or martial arts class together or simply sit for awhile and watch his favorite TV show.

If your child doesn’t even know what’s going on (sometimes they don’t), talk to the teacher. Together, you might be able to pick out different trends that are unique to your child and determine if a tutor, academic coach, or psychologist can help.

Hang in there! And on report card day, don’t despair too much. Approach it with some amount of objectivity and you might be able to notice things on your own that you can do to help your child.

Homework comic
How many kids wish this would work?

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4 Ways Parents Can Help the Outcasts

Nelly Yuki
Nelly Yuki had a horrible high school experience but thrived at Yale. Courtesy of Gossip Girl Wiki

What do Kurt (Glee), Toby (Pretty Little Liars), Nelly Yuki (Gossip Girl), and Dale (Greek) all have in common?

They don’t quite fit in.

It can be an awkward or even painful experience for an adolescent to live on the outskirts of their high school society. It can also be awkward or painful for parents. What do you say? Do you push them to be “normal”? Do you try to force them to change so as to save them some heartache? Or do you let them be themselves and suffer?

Parents have the power to make the world bearable for high school outcasts. There are some concrete ways you can ease the pain of not fitting in.

Don’t make it about you

Seeing your child go through an awkward adolescence can bring back flashbacks of your own turmoil. If you were the odd man or woman out and it caused you pain, you may want to push your child not to be the same way. If you were pretty popular or had a lot of friends and enjoyed your time in high school, it can hurt and be confusing that your child isn’t having the same experience. But your child’s high school experience is not about you. So, throw your focus on your child and what you can do to help him.

Choose pressure points wisely

This is basically another way of saying, “Pick your battles.” There are times when you should push your child to behave differently. And there are times when you’ve got to back off and let them do their own thing. I’m not going to tell you which situations are which–it depends entirely on you, your child, and your family’s dynamic. But you with both end up frustrated if you try to micromanage your child’s behavior. They need outlets in which they can be themselves.

Celebrate ways your child is different

Your child is likely an outcast because he’s different somehow. Maybe he prefers to spend time in the chemistry lab than on the dance floor. I was the kid who spend hours upon hours with my head in books rather than chatting on the phone. When you figure out what makes your child different and unique, celebrate that! If your child is a bookworm, buy her more books! And encourage her to talk about the characters she meets and the things she’s learning about life. If your child feels that you’re okay with her difference, she’s more likely to accept herself.

Learn about what your child likes

There’s an episode of Grey’s Anatomy in which one of the patients is a teen and a passionate dancer. His father admits that when he had a son, he was looking forward to hockey games and cheering in the stands. When his son decided to become a dancer, he turned his focus toward that.

He cheers at recitals and has learned the names of various dance moves. He didn’t allow his disappointment to ruin dance for his son. Do the same for your child. Learn a little bit about whatever it is that they enjoy. It doesn’t mean you need to become an expert in the subject. But know enough that you’re able to have a conversation with your child about their passion and understand what they are saying.

Your child’s adolescence can be a time when they pull away from you and assert their own independence. But despite the fact that they are pushing you away, they still need you. Your unconditional love, support and nonjudgemental guidance can be crucial to your child getting through the last rough years of youth in one piece.

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If you’re a potential client or editor, please feel free to check out my online portfolio or email me for my resume.

14 Awesome Reasons to Encourage Kids to Read

Do you read with your kid?

Here are just a few of the plethora of reasons to encourage kids to read. As a parent, teacher, educator, tutor, or whatever connection you have to students, hopefully this list inspires you.

  1. It sparks the imagination.
  2. Reading often can help with standardized tests later in life (i.e. the SAT, AP Tests, and the ACT)
  3. Fiction opens doors and windows to new worlds and often tell us things about life and human character that we wouldn’t otherwise know.
  4. Non-fiction can provide expertise in new fields. Knowledge in most fields can be obtained through some form of the written world.
  5. We get an inside peek into people’s lives. By encouraging your child to read biographies, they might find someone who inspires them.
  6. The more you read, the easier it gets to read and understand.
  7. Reading improves vocabulary.
  8. Reading helps with other skills like visualizing, which is a useful trick for enhancing your mind-body connection.
  9. Reading helps with writing. It improves how kids understand language and sentence structure, so they’re more likely to mimic what they read in their own writing.
  10. It can be contagious! If you kid is talking about the Hunger Games, it can be a great example to other kids and encourage them to read as well.
  11. Reading can help with social skills. Studies have show that children who are poor readers early in life tend to show signs of aggression later in life (I have some theories about this which may be explained in a later blog post).
  12. Reading saves money. Well, this might be a benefit more for parents than children. Reading is cheap. With libraries being free and now offering an array of e-books, the country’s most popular titles are at their fingertips.
  13. For young kids, the reading habit can start early–by you reading to them. By reading books to your kids, you help them grasp the language faster. This will help them be better communicators when they get older.
  14. It’s an excuse to bond with your kids. They may not want you watching iCarly or Gossip Girl with them (and you may not want to watch those shows either). But adults read young adult novels just as much as young people.
There are many, many more reasons why kids should read. I, personally, attribute much of my success to the fact that I learned how to read early. What are some of your reasons for wanting kids to read widely and abundantly?
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I’d love to connect with you. Meet with me on LinkedIn. Check out my Twitter or Pinterest!
If you’re a potential client or editor, please feel free to check out my online portfolio or email me for my resume.