Tools For Learning

Inspiration for Parents & Educators

End The Homework Nightmare In Five Easy Steps

Even in the most well-functioning families under ideal circumstances, homework can be one of the biggest contributors to a parent-child crisis. If you are like most parents, you feel a mixture of emotions about the homework challenge. Some of them are positive, but many of them are unpleasant. You can turn those negative feelings into positive ones by following the 5 Steps To End The Homework Nightmare.

1. Adapt the Home Physical Environment
Choose an appropriate place free of distractions (pets, video games, TV, friends, etc.).
Develop a routine. Set a regular homework time and stick to it.
Supply a homework survival kit (sharpened pencils, pens, markers, crayons, ruler, scissors, etc.).
Put up a “DO NOT DISTURB Sign – no kidding!!!! The visual cue emphasizes the seriousness and importance of the task at hand.

2. Identify Tasks That Your Child Can Do Independently
Choose the easiest assignment first. It will build confidence and set the tone for the homework session.
Use assoociation techniques. Address nonmastered skills by associating the material with something that is already known. (e.g. If you can spell book, spell cook. Just change the first letter. 2 thousand pounds = one ton. A compact car weighs about 2 thousand pounds.)
Set goals for homework completion. Use a clock or a timer to help kids develop a sense of timeliness for required tasks.

3. Give Direction And Guidance For More Difficult Tasks
Separate text from graphics. Start with the graphics. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Reverse roles. You become the student. The child becomes the teacher. When your child explains the concept and gives details to you, it is one of the best ways to fortify his learning.

4. Accept responses As Genuine Effort
We all don’t function on full capacity 24/7. Your kid, who appears to be lazy, may be just plain tired from a busy day at school. Poor handwriting may be the result of not having proper lines on the paper, or perhaps there’s not enough space for the answer, or the writing is too large for the space provided.
Express affirmation for diligence. If your young one is tired or frustrated by the length of the assignment, you could offer to read alternate paragraphs. Your child may also do the even numbered assignments in math or spelling, and you could help with the odd numbered ones. If you ever happen to use this approach, it is in the best for all concerned that you mention your child’s frustration level to the length of the assignment when doing homework with his teacher. Perhaps the skill needs to be modified or retaught.

5. Focus On The Goal Of The Assignment
Keep in mind the focus of the assignment. Do not let poor skills in reading, spelling, or math interfere with the intended goal of the lesson and homework assignment. By telling your child an unknown word or numeral, you are permitting your youngster to gain knowledge and locate an answer rather than teaching reading mechanics. In this way, you are fosterong a possible liking for social studies, math, or science rather than a dislike for reading.

Share Button
No Comments »

Finding The Perfect Preschool

Deciding on a preschool for your child is an important decision requiring a lot of thought and research. You want your child’s first experience in school to be a positive one filled with enthusiasm and happy memories. There are several factors to keep in mind as you make your decision. Among the first, should be the location of the school. Do you want something close to home or work? How far are you willing to drive?

Another consideration is the school’s reputation. Do you have any friends who send their children to the school or who know any of the staff? Talk to them while doing your research and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions.

Before calling the school, make a list of questions that are important to you, such as student to teacher ratio, the staff’s credentials, what types of activities the kids engage in, and what is the level of progression from year to year. Also, be sure to ask if the school is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), a sign that the school is trustworthy and reliable.

Take a tour of the school and observe the class where your child will be attending. During the visit, notice how the teachers interact with the young ones in their charge, their demeanor toward each other, and their overall peronality.

Finally, note the students themselves. If they are happy in their surroundings and you feel comfortale, it just may be the perfect preschool for your precious child.

Share Button
No Comments »

A Parent’s Prayer

When you’re down and all else fails, and you need a little encouragement along the way, hopefully, this personal reflection will offer the guidance you seek.

A Parent’s Prayer

What a awesome job I have
to love, nuture, and guide!
Please, Lord, hear my plea;
throughtout the day be by my side.
Let me be the best parent that I can be.
Open their minds and hearts
that they may always see
the best in themselves and others, I pray.
Give me the strength to do
what I should each day.
Keep these precious ones in my charge
always safe from harm and to you,near.
Assist me to teach them right from wrong
without anxiety or fear.
Oh Lord, guide me now, to give them
the benefit of the best start.
Help them grow healthy and happy.
Then, I’ll know I’ve done my part.

– Mary Ann Smialek

Share Button
No Comments »

When Kids Are Disrespectful – 7 Easy Steps

When kids are disrespectful try these 7 Easy Steps

1. Calm down before you respond. Give your child time to cool off, too.

2. Say: “It hurts me when you speak to me that way. We need to talk things over. Let me know when you’re ready.”

3. Listen, really listen, to what your young one has to say. Keep the communication lines open and accessible. Be open to the ideas voiced by your child, and by all means, explain yours.

4. Look for underlying causes for the behavior. This step is important. Try to get to the root of the problem.

5. Give a big hug to reassure your young one. Say that you want things to change, that you love him/her, but in no uncertain terms, that you do not like the actions that were presented.

6. Make a plan with your child to avert this type of negative behavior in the future. Present Alternatives – a very important step! Consider how “we” can solve the problem together. Ask the question: “How do we keep from hurting one another?”

7. Lay out some ground rules and consequences, if needed, when rules are broken.

In the future, when a disagreement arises, remember you are the boss but you can be flexible and listen to what your child has to say without interrupting. Stay cool, calm, and collected, and promote this rationality in your young one. At all cost, avoid reacting defensively. In using long explanations, you’ll loose your child’s attention. Avoid the mistake of trying to get your young one to understand, or convince him/her that you are being “fair”. It is a waste of time! Your young one is just not there yet – in that place – in his/her development to fully appreciate what you are trying to say and do. Children can’t even imagine yet that the actions you are taking are in their best interest. Remember to keep your concerns short and sweet, and your dealings with your young one will change dramatically over time. There will be some setbacks. Be patient. Stay on course. You’ll be glad that you did!

Share Button
No Comments »

You are The Boss! 6 Tips to Clear Boundaries

Do yourself and your kids a favor. Establish firm, clear, boundaries that leave no doubt you are in control. Kids need limits. Learn to say: “I love you, that’s why I sometimes say ‘no’.” First, know what you want from your children. Let your thoughts, words, actions express this knowledge.

6 Tips To Clear Boundaries

* Strengthen your relationship with your kids by always telling the truth and standing by it.

* Use challenging situations to make you even more confident and stronger.

* Expect the best for your kids. Don’t give into their wants and desires. Focus on their needs. Do give them choices. This strategy is quite powerful.

* Teach self-discipline and patience by encouraging your young ones to stop, breathe, and assess their circumstances before reacting to difficult situations. This will help them become aware of how their actions may affect others.

* Guide your kids to develop the courage to see the world through their own eyes instead of yours or others.

* Support them to respect and understand their differences by example in modeling tolerant behaviors.

Share Button
No Comments »

Discipline Without Tears! 6 Easy Steps

wpid-Discpline375.jpgFor kids who are in need of some behavior interventions, consider this proactive approach that has its’ basis in a ‘win-win” philosophy. The focus is that for everyone concerned, needs are met and all feel valued. This positive method to correct inappropriate behavior is effective because it is grounded in the belief that kids resist being controlled. In trying to just “control” your kids, you use an inordinate amount of time and energy. This type of reactive restraint takes away their opportunities to develop confidence, responsibility, and self-control. Using the strategies of the 6 Easy Steps will help prevent most discipline problems before they occur. Each step has an encouraging impact on your kids’ behavior, and lets them know that you have their best interests in mind.

Step #1 Separate Kids From The Action
Separating your youngster from the action is basic if you are to effectively handle negative behavior without attacking their worth. Say to your child: “I love you, but I don’t like you hitting your sister.” Many times you think you send clear messages to your kids but you really don’t. In some cases they just weren’t listening, or maybe they didn’t process your directions in the manner you thought they should. In some situations, you may need to set new limits, options, or sometimes even consequences. “Clean up your room after you finish your homework.” or “Take the trash out before dinner.” Perhaps some motivation may help your young one to action. “When you’re finshed feeding the dog, we’ll go out for ice cream.” Use what ever rewards that will work for your kids. If you’re not sure, ask them, they’ll be sure to tell you.

Step #2 Give Positive Reinforcement
Keep in mind that positive feedback is best used to maintain and reinforce desired existing behavior. Give recognition in straightforward terms.”As soon as you finish your lunch, we’ll watch a video.” A promise is much more respectful and pleasant to hear, and is much more likely to get a positive response from kids than making a threat, no matter what the situation may be.

Recognize your young one’s appropriate behavior. It neither depends on your approval, nor does it establish a value judgement. It simply describes the child’s behavior. Recognition statements help connect the behavior to how it pays off for them. “Your chores are done, now you may go out to play.” Recognition focuses on the task itself and its’ benefit to the child – and not you!

Step #3 Motivate By Giving Choices
Motivation is important because kids choose options based on what will fulfill their needs at a given time. Having choices often generates cooperation and commitment when threats and bribes haven’t worked. Ask your child to select the sequence of the chores to be done. It’s her choice which task she wants to complete first. Give no more than 2 directives at one time, especially for younger children. You don’t want to overwhelm and confuse them. Keep your requests simple.

Step #4 Connect Choices With Outcomes
Consequences teach more than words. As long as they are made clear and ahead of time they are very effetive in establishing appropriate behavior. They are in your kids best interests to allow them to occur. Following through on clear limits and options is a good positive reinforcement strategy. An important consideration is to set limits for kids according to their age and personality. If you haven’t made any changes in your rules for awhile, now may be a great opportunityto do so. Have you ever heard of the “write” rule? If your older kids don’t take rules seriously, try putting them on paper. Include the rules and what happens if they are disobeyed. “Put your bike and skateboard in the garage when you come in for the evening. They will not be returned to you for 3 days if they’re left outside overnight.”

Step #5 Develop A Work Ethic In Your Kids
Give your kids small jobs to perform, not only the care of their own possessions, but also things that serve the entire family. Even very young children can put their clothes away, get the mail, or set the table. These kinds of responsibilities give them a feeling of independence as well as a sense of their own worth. Help your young ones understand that for the rest of their lives they will be expected to perform some tasks that are neither enjoyable nor self-fulfilling. They must be taught that significant achievement is almost always the result of hard work. This idea may just be the single most important element in the dynamic growth of your kids at home, in school, and in the Information Age World.

Step #6 Set a Good Example
As a parent, you have the rsponsibility to act in such a way that your young ones can look up to you and learn from your actions. Of course, you need to instruct and guide them with your advice, but receiving the right instruction will make little or no difference at all to kids who see their parents doing the very things they have warned them against doing. Children understand, sometimes better than adults, that “actions do speak louder then words.” Good behavior begins at home! Be a Good Example!

Share Button
No Comments »

Cranky Kid? 6 Great Ways to Deal!

Like adults, kids want to be understood but trying to communicate their needs can make them feel frustrated, cranky, and unhappy. Here’s how you can help.

1. Make Eye Contact
Getting your child’s attention in a calm manner is the first step. My daughter-in-law is a master at this and it works well for her everytime. If your young one is not paying attention to you, she’s unlikely to listen to what you say, or to change her behavior.

2. Keep It Simple
Just like adults, kids who are angry and frustrated get caught up in their own thoughts and feelings, which make them physically and emotionally less able to listen to reason. So save the detailed discussion you’d like to have for another time. Limit your message in the heat of the moment to just a few words. perhaps, just use one word if your child is under two years old. Deliver a clear and concise message that is easily understood and always be consistent.

3. Find Out What’s Wrong
It’s normal for little kids to be sad, frustrated, tired, hurting, or some combunation of these conditions. Rather than focusing or simply trying to stop the undesired behavior, start by finding out what’s wrong. This approach can pay dividends in the heat of the moment, as well as long term. Encourage your child to use her words about why she is unhappy. My daughrt-in-law uses such prompts: “Ask for help.” or “Use your words.” She even taught my granddaughter the gestures in sign language for the words: please, help, and thank you to use if her words don’t always surface first in a frustrating situation. Using this approach puts you in the best position to help you solve the problem. Showing respect for your young one’s feelings will help her feel loved and may encourage her to do the same to you and others.

4.Acknowledge Your Child’s Feelings
One way to calm a very young child who doesn’t have the language skills to express her feelings, is to mimic her body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. Using simple words or very short phrases express in words what you think she is feeling, and match her body language. It can calm her down to know she’s being understood. She may even be so fascinated by what you’re doing that she forgets what she is upset about. I’ve used this strategy with my granddaughter who is now two years old and it worked each time when she was upset about something. Try it. You’ll be surprised about the positive results you’ll experience.

5. Reward Good behavior, Not Bad
The time to bring out a favorite snack or treat is not when your child is misbehaving. Even very young children learn that their actions have consequences. Some kids act out because thay want more attention from their parents; if that sounds like your child schedule extra play time and time to be together – just the two of you. When she misbehaves and the situation escalates, a short time out (a few minutes away from you) might be just the incentive she needs to change her negative behavior into being more positive.

6. Master the Time Out
It may be heart wrenching to walk away from a crying child but many child behavior experts advise that, when used correctly, a time out can be an effective and kind way to let your child know that she has done something wrong. Not all behavior deserves a time out, so decide in advance which behaviors make the time out list, and let your young one know what they are. When a time out is needed, calmly settle the child in a safe place, and stand nearby, but don’t interact with her. Keep the time out short – start with a minute or two – and when the time out is up be sure to reconnect with her with a hug and to re-enforce good behavior when you see it.

Share Button
No Comments »

Activities to Stimulate the Eight Types of Intelligence

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory emphasizes the rich diversity of ways in which kids show their gifts within and between the intelligences. According to Gardner, individuals don’t have one fixed intelligence but at least eight distinct ones that can be developed over time. These eight kinds of intelligence are listed with some pertinent activities to stimulate each type of intelligence.

Verbal/Linguistic – the ability to be at ease with reading and writing skills

Play word games or language oriented ones (Scrabble, Spill and Spell) or crossword puzzles. Choose a favorite movie or TV program and write a aequel or tell what you think will happen in the next episode or in next year’s series.

Logical/Mathatical – the ability to reason deductively or inductively and to recognize and manipulate abstract patterns and relationships.

Select a project requiring you to follow directions. Assemble a model car, follow a recipe and bake cookies, download a software program on the computer

Visual/Spatial – the ability to visualize shapes in three dimensions

Express yourself! Share ideas, opinions, and feelings with different media: magic markers, oil paints, play dough, pottery, and ceramics. Plan a scavenger hunt with friends. Draw a secret map with many details and the location of the treasure for all players. Wtite a play and perform it with the help of family and friends. Write a book and illustrate it.

Intrapersonal/Interpersonal – the ability to understand yourself, and be aware of your inner feelings, intentions, and short term and long term goals/strong>

Keep a journal. Record key events from your day. Express your feelings about the events. Reflect on them. Evaluate your thinking strategies and patterns you use in different situations. Develop alternate plans for any given situation.

Interpersonal/Social – the ability to get along well with others and to work with them effectively

Try to guess what others are thinking and feeling. Use your intuition! Experiment with supposing an individual’s profession, background, or talents just by observing non-verbal cues:dress, accent, gestures.

Bodily/Kinesthetic – the ability that involves the body to solve problems, create products, and convey ideas and emotions/strong>

Express your mood by various activities: dance, jog, or perform a pantomine. Try role-playing to express an idea or opinion of feeling. Play a game of Charades.

Naturalistic – the ability to recognize and classify numerous speies – the flora and fauna – of an individual’s environment

Research topics of great interest: cloud formations, mountains, volcanoes, or whales.

According to Gardner, the question should be “How Are My Kids Smart?” not “How Smart Are My Kids?” His ideas focus on the fact that the eight types of intelligences can be developed and nutured. His premise is not meant to be a way of “pigeoninholing” kids into set categories. For students to develop these eight intelligences, parents and teachers need to perceive kids as having a combination of these intelligences and being capable of growing in all of them.

As a parent, you must never loose sight of the fact that each of your children, no matter how they are special, must have an environment where they can thrive and succeed.The eight intelligences must be nutured. Just as students must be taught the alphabet, how to sound out and make words, and how to read and write, they must also be taught such things as how to use an active imagination, how to do a graphic presentation, and how to see relationships between different objects in space. Give your kids the opportunities and the support needed to exercise and practice using all of their intelligences at home.

As a parent, you know very well that there’s much more to life than school. You are aware that life success doesn’t always rely on grade point averages. Some kids have trouble seeing beyond what happens in school. You can help your young ones gain perspective, and even a little self-esteem boost by guiding them toward those activities that play to their strengths, and offers more continued opportunities for success now and in the future.

Share Button
No Comments »

How Are My Kids Smart?

How smart are my kids? Let’s rethink this age old question. The question should be: How are my kids smart?

Every child is special in some way. Intelligence is not a single dimensional, unchanging, easy measurable quality. We don’t always look at enough variables in determining exactly what our kids need and exactly how they are unique. The intelligent quotient (IQ) score used by school psychologists measures only two (verbal and math) of the eight types of intelligence identified by Howard Gardner, a Harvard psychologist and researcher.

The essence of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory (MI) Theory is to respect the many differences among children, the multiple variations in the ways that they learn, and the numerous ways in which they can leave a mark on the world. In his theory, Dr. Gardner seeks to broaden the scope of human potential beyond the confines of the IQ score. He suggests that intelligence has more to do with a capacity for solving problems and creating products and services in a context rich and naturalistic setting.

Key Points of the MI Theory

1. Each child possess all eight intelligences: (Verbal/Linguistic, Logical/Mathmatical, Visual/Spatial, Intrpersonal/Introspective, Interpersonal/Social,Bodily/Kinesthetic, Musical/Rhythmic, Naturalist).
2. Most children can develop each of the eight intelligences to an adequate level of competency given appropriate encouragement, enrichment, and instruction.
3. The eight intelligences usually work together.
4. There are many ways to be intelligent within each category.

Some proponents of the MI Theory proposed a spiritual or religious intelligence as a possible additional type. Gardner did not want to commit to a spiritual intelligence, but suggested an “existential” intelligence may be a useful construct. The hypothesis of an existential intelligence has been further explored by educational researchers.

MI Theory emphasizes the rich diversity of ways in which children show their gifts within and between the inteligences. What about the other six intelligences not routinely measured by psychologists? According to Gardener, individuals don’t have one fixed intelligence but a least eight distinct ones that can be developed over time.

Next blog post:Activities to stimulate each type of intelligence.

Share Button
No Comments »

Reasons For Inappropriate Behavior Part 2

Are Your Kids Get-Even Seekers?

Usually kids who seek revenge, after losing a power struggle with their parents, want to get even with them. They may say or do something that is both hurtful and harmful. Get-Even Seekers may be rude in word and action, often times, they say untrue things about either or both parents. The result may be an ongoing “war” between them and you if left unchecked.

Parent Strategies for Get-Even Seekers

* Refuse to comment or argue
* Simply ignore the incident
* Talk with your kids when everyone is calm
* Engage in another activity

Are Your Kids Giving-Up Seekers?

Sometimes, children give up trying when something is hard for them, such as schoolwork or sports. It is usually an area in which kids feel unable to succeed. When kids get super frustrated and give up, parents feel like giving up also. When this happens, the kids’ goals are met: the parents have verbally and/or non verbally have agreed to expect little or nothing from their kids.

Strategies for Giving-Up Seekers

* Be careful not to pity your kids
* Encourage your kids with your words and actions
* Go to their sports’ events and say: “WOW! What a great catch! I knew you could do it.” or “Good effort” I’m so proud of you for hanging in there.”
* Comment positively on kids’ school activities and homework. You may consider saying: “Your paragraph and illustration are the best ever! or ” I really enjoyed reading your story and really think the picture you drew was perfect!”

For children who are in need of some behavior interventions, your focus should be that your needs and theirs are considered. When ythis happens, all concerned feel valued. This proactive approach is effective because it is grounded in the belief that kids resist be controlled. In trying just to “control” your precious ones, you expend and inordinate time and energy. This type of reactive control takes away their opportunities to develop confidence, responsibility, and self control.

Share Button
No Comments »