Sunday, September 26, 2010

It's time to start checking in with your children

It is getting busier by the day I am sure. With earlier mornings for off to school, homework, sports, fitting in family dinners and time together it can be hard to capture moments to truly connect with your kids. So much of our time is spent "directing" ( "time to get in the car. Get your things ready for school. Make sure you do your math etc") that we think we are communicating but we are missing the connection.
Finding out what is going on with your child takes effort but it becomes easier with practice. So often we hear ourselves ask "How's school?" "Do you like your teachers?" Or we use the online school sites to check homework assignments and test scores, and begin conversations around missing work or low grades.
Take some time to ask open ended questions like:"What is Mr. Jones like?" "What are you talking about in Science now?" "How do you feel about your homework load?" "What can I do to help you with school?'
There are many ways to find out if your child is struggling in school, loving school or having challenges with time management and even social interactions just by asking questions like you would in a conversation rather than an inquisition. When you do check the online site and see good grades and completed homework, make sure to mention that.
Here's to helping your child Leap 2 Success

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fun Ways to Teach Your Child Sight Words

A really fun way to help your child learn sight words is to make four sets of the sight words on index cards. You can use different color markers for each word. Then, shuffle them like a deck of cards and play a "Go Fish" like game with them. If the youngster cannot read the word in his/her hand they can show it to the other player(s) and say do you have one of these? The reader players (parent or siblings) say the word, the youngster says the word first to be able to collect any cards, and collects all of them.
At the end of the game players win just like in go fish but can get "extra" points by reading their hand.
Another fun way to do it is like a cake walk. Put the cards on the floor and play some music. When the music stops you and you kiddo see what you are standing on. He/she reads both your card and his/her card. Help them when needed. They get to keep the card if they read it correctly. Game is over when all of the cards are off of the floor.
I have more- let me know if you need any.
( another way is good old flash cards and say them in silly voices to each other)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

No Screaming

Any time we feel the boiling waters of stress we need to take this in and of itself as a cue to step outside the moment. So many times the stress builds and the steam blows in the form of yelling. In the end only hurt comes out of this reaction. Physical cues tell us when we are overloaded and we can choose our reactions..feel the cue, and rethink the reaction. Take a breath, say to yourself I'm angry, or I'm stressed. By then you have added time from the incident to your reaction and it can hopefully be less than a scream and more of a redirecting of your child or if you need to, give yourself some space. Screaming hurts..words like I'm angry right now or what you are doing is making me angry are appropriate in controlled tones. Say them instead of screaming...everyone will be better off in the long run.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

It's Saturday morning here in West Michigan and it is a beautiful day. Bright blue skies and sunshine. This is a nice break in the grey snowy weather we have had for awhile. When I sat down at my desk this morning, I looked around and thought about all of the things I "needed" to do today in contrast with the inviting, sun-filled freedom outside my windows. This might just be how our children/students feel when they look at their homework, extra curricular schedules, upcoming exams, study time and responsibilities at home. All of these things to do "instead of" doing what they "want to do" or seeing no free time in their day.
Let's address this as a preamble to the test anxiety discussion. It will help us lay some foundations for how we view our tasks at hand.
When talking to your child about scheduling and time management, it is a nice idea to have a visual. We have access to all sorts of time lines, block schedules etc or home made graphs blocked out in 1 hour increments.(Microsoft Office, Palm, or google "schedules")
Grab some colored pencils or markers or highlighters of different colors if you have them which are best.
Now, approach this with the concrete times first. Anything that is set (like hours in school) can be blocked off with one color.
Then chunk out the practices, rehearsals etc. Don't forget to include sleeptime, some kids need to be guided in their sleep patterns and have to be given a time for lights out.
You'll see open areas of time then, that you can fill in approximate homework time or the agreed time you have as a family.
Now the important part:
Show your child the "empty spaces" These are times where they can fill in the "what I want to do's" Showing your child the free time they do have is very important, especially in our busy world.
As your child has things come up that they'd like to do, you can both "see" where they will fit and an even more advanced skill can be taught which is shifting times.
So, if John wants to go to the gym on Saturday with his pals and shoot hoops, or Amanda wants to hang out with some friends at the ski hill, they can see with your guidance if there is room to shift say a 2 hour block time they have for homework over the weekend. It all has to fit, so they learn to schedule how long they hang with their pals so they have time for the homework.
It is empowering because they are in control rather than having that homework hanging over them and feeling anxiety or pressure, or for the procrastinator, they can see when exactly the homework choice-fully fits in their day.

Show them the free time. Let them know they have choices of when to plug things into their day. This is not to say you'll never hear, "I never get to do anything fun."But that is human nature.
I'm off to bundle up and take a walk on this beautiful winter day. I'll shift that straighten my desk time to when I come back.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Reminding students and schools about test accomodations

As these big test dates come into view we as parents can help by making a simple check in with the school about any test accommodations that have been set up for our children. This includes those things talked about and written in IEP meetings for those students who have them and even past conversations with teachers and staff about special seating, extra time, having tests read to the child etc for those students who don't have an IEP (Individual Education Plan).
A simple e-mail or note to the head teacher for your child, or learning consultant or counselor letting them know that you are getting ready for exams at home and are just checking in to see if there is anything you need to do to help with the accommodations there at school is good. The sooner you begin this dialogue the better because then everyone especially the student will be on the same page and any adjustments can be made in advance of test day.
From the teacher's desk: Sending home a short note letting the parents and students know that you are ready with the accommodations tends to ease minds and generates dialogue early enough for us to be able to help out before test day.
More on helping your child with test anxiety through preparation next.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Exam and test prep

Our students are facing heavily weighted exams in the upcoming weeks. Even if we cannot help them with the content of their subjects we can support them. Check out your schedules and see what you can do to eliminate the extra appointments during this study time. Make a place where your student can study and make it a family activity to honor the time your student needs. Help your student organize his/her time by asking questions like: "Which exams do you have first?" "What subject do you think is going to be easiest? hardest?" Then go from there in leading them in deciding time order and time frames for study.
Set up a nice place, have water and snacks and believe it or not mints!
More later on setting up and reminding students and teachers of any accommodations for testing.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

First step, first Blog

Hello out there! I'm so excited to begin blogging and get some thoughts out there related to kids and school and the challenges we all face as parents. From thinking about what could make school a more positive experience for struggling students, to making home a landing place where our children can feel supported in their challenges and recognized for their successes. If you have a school age child you know the challenges out there. Lets connect. Stop back and check out what's here. There may be something that hits home for you or someone you know. This is going to be a great journey!!