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!!