Tools For Learning

Inspiration for Parents & Educators

What To Do? My Child Hates School!

At some point every parent hears the phrase: “I hate school! Sometimes it comes at the end

of a frustrating day, or a bad week. If, however, your child’s dislike for school is becoming

chronic or causing him or her to fall behind, you need to figure out what is at the root of the




Did you have a fight with someone? Did the teacher say something that upset you?

Did you get a bad grade on a test? Are you having trounle at the bus stop or on the bus?

Are you having a hard time with one of your subjects?





If your child has difficulty making friends, you can boost needed social skills  by role playing

various senarios that can help your child to approach peers in a more confident way.



If your child isn’t willing to talk or can’t articulate why he/she hates school,  the teacher may be able to shed some

light on the subject.



Ask about distractions: Can you see the board clearly? Can you hear the teacher? Are you sitting in the back of the

classroom? Keep probing until you are satisfied that the problem is not physical.



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Morning Tips For Parents

wpid-Discpline750.jpgUse these tried and true methods that I have collected over the years from parents who

want to get their kids off to a great start! Just found similar tips and strategies from


1. Pre-pick clothes

I can personally vouch for this super tip. It really does cut out all the indecision, moaning

groaning, and arguements on school days. This simplifies getting dressed in the mornings.

2. Make wake-up time easier.

Get everyone their own alarm clock- no matter how young your kids are. Teach them to set them.

This helps deflect any annoyance that may be felt away from the parent to the inanimate

alarm clock.

3. Centralize papers

Establish a central location for your kids to place permission slips, homework, tests, and

and any other important papers. Stacking trays or any type of file folders work well for this

purpose.  Use them like a mailbox. Kids deposit papers there when they get home and get their mail

when they leave for school in the morning.

These are my top 3 tips to make your kids’ mornings go a bit smoother. What other great tips can you offer and share? I’m sure they will be greatly appreciated! Thank You!

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Believe In Yourself

Mary AnnKnow who you are. Know what your unique strengths and gifts are, then be it, and do it. Great provoking thoughts by Brian Johnson @Philo_Notes and and Services. But where do we go from here? I believe the lesson here in simple language is uncomplicated and quite understandable: BELIEVE IN YOUSELF!

Faith in your abilities is the fountainhead of your peace and happiness.You want to be steadfast and make the right decisions, but you sometimes grow weary. You can’t do it alone. You were not meant too. What is important for you to realize is that others, and external events don’t ever have the power to hold you back, and keep your dreams at a distance. If you believe otherwise, you are undoubtedly very unhappy.

There is no one or anything that can steal your joy, ever! Start now by accepting, but not liking, the negative circumstances in your life. Before you can change anything, you have to recognize that what you have or don’t have. what you’re experiencing, or lacking is the way it is for NOW. If you accept the fact that you have some unpleasant things, people, and circumstances in your life, they cease to have power over you.

When you accept but not necessarily like what’s going on in your life, you are ready to accept blessings. YES, BLESSINGS! They often sometimes come by the way of an idea on how to improve your situation, an ad on TV, a sign in a store, or the support of a co-worker, or family member or close friend who offers advice.You only have to seek them out. Blessings are available to you when you accept what is, rather than resist the negativity around you. When you accept the circumstances in your life, and create the action plans for modifications, then you can finally move forward on the path to more joy and peace in your life.

Many Blessings To You now and forever! You deserve them!

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Values? What Are Mine Really??

Happiness521While perusing the social media sites yesterday, I came upon @Soulseeds’ words of wisdom: Focus on what you can do now, be, see, do, and live your highest values.  These thought provoking words and wake up call are surely “loaded” with layers. What do you value? What are your highest values? What do you cherish and hold priceless in your life?  Are you living them? Have you prioritized them?

Is self-care on your list? To take care of yourself in a nurturing way focuses on the connection of your mind, body and spirit for needed balance in your life. It can involve taking time to reflect on your busy day, redecorating a room, practicing yoga, training for a marathon, or reading a great novel. In essence, all acts of self kindness have a single thread in common: they’re for you, and for you alone, for your health, well-being, and enjoyment.

During times of great stres, the activities that bring you fulfillment keep you from unnecessary negativity.To put it simply, when you engage in activities that are liberating and enjoyable – going for a run, laughing with friends, having a drink with a co-worker, or listening to your favorite music – they not only help you to feel better but make you feel more alive.

Think of things that just simply would lessen your load: sipping a hot cup of coffee with your boss or co-worker, enjoying a glass of wine in the evening with your partner, receiving and giving love, or working out. When you work smarter rather than harder, good things come to you in sometimes unimaginable ways. Give a gift to yourself of something that gives both stress release and some great motivation when your schedule gets overly demanding. In a nutshell: Take care of yourself! Remember: “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” so says the plaque hanging on the wall in my kitchen!



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Your Best Life Now

Change Your Life I came accross a tweet alerting me to a great blog post from 30 Positive Things You Can Do to Change Your Life Kudos to the author, Lindsay Davis! While I agree with the inspiration and worth of the 30 things listed, my take and experience on how to change your life for the better is much shorter, extremely reflective and necessary to jump start the whole process of enjoying your best life now.

If you’re lonely, you’re stuck in a toxic relationship, you’re full of resentment and hate for the people who have hurt you, you’re cheating on your partner or vice versa, you’re selling your soul at work, or you feel spiritually bankrupt, no amount of alcohol, food, gym visits, 12-step programs, or vitamins and herbal supplements will help you turn your life around. What you really need is radical self-care! Radical self-care involves things like setting boundaries, living in alignment with your truth, surrounding yourself with love and a sense of connection, and spending time doing what you love.

Answer these questions truthfully, monitor and adjust your current situation, and then write your own RX to change your life for the better. You know beter than anyone what you personally need to have your best life now.

*What  things can I incorporate into my schedule in order to take care of myself?

*What are the ways I seek support of others to lessen the stressors in my life?

*These are the ways I slow down and relax and reduce the stressors in my life?

*What is my passion that I would like to spend more time on?

*What am I thankful for?

*What will I gain from claiming my innate power?

*What is my action plan to change my life for the better?

*What are my long term goals? What are my short tern goals?

If you’re interested in learning more to attain your BEST life now, you’ll find more help and support in my book: Life Lessons For Educators: Your Best Life Now.  Don’t be “thrown off” by the title. We are all educators no matter what our job title or  lot in life. This book provides a timely master plan to lead you through today’s difficult times. It charts out a journey that doesn’t cost you any money, and will provide you with a priceless opportunity to live a happy life even in stressful times. Many blessings to you!


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ASK Dr. Smialek

Q: I’m a divorced father and my kids don’t live with me. How can I stay involved in their home and school life?

A: Be creative! Look for ways to let your kids know that you care about what’s going on in their lives. Email or texting is a great way of staying in touch and getting updates. You can discuss  what’s happening in their lives, what their plans are, and some of the things they are concerned about. Whenever possible attend their school  functions. Kids espeially like it when their dads volunteer in their classroom or school. Always remember you can make a real difference in your children’s lives!


Q: My daughter doesn’t take rules seriously. What can I do?

A. Putting rules in writing and their consequences if they are disobeyed is a powerful strategy for your child to be mindful of appropriate behavior. Be brief and positive as you author a contract. Example: “Do not disturb Mom when she is on the phone. If you do, computer time will be shortened.” Then sign it, along with your daughter. Post it in a place where it can be easily seen and refered to often. It works!


Q: When my son makes a mistake, I am often tempted to respond negatively with criticism. What is a good response in this type of situation?

A: A great response when you son makes a mistake is one that focuses on solutions. Example: “You forgot to bring your science book home again. Before you leave school, please check your backpack for it tomorrow. We still have some time to finish your science project.” This is a more positive comment rather than, “I can’t beleive you forgot your science book again!”


ASK Dr. Smialek if you would like an answer to a question concerning your child’s success at home or school.

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Falling Behind With a Learning Disability???

Does your chid have uneven skills – performing well in some areas, struggling in others? Success in one area shows he has the intelligence and maturity to read, but he might have a learning disability that prevents him from recognizing word sounds and linking them to letters.

Can she decode grade level texts as well as simple, coherent sentences? In the primary grades a child should be reading on her own, as well as writing about what she has read, using accurate spelling. If her progress in acquiring these basic skills is slow, she lacks strategies for reading new words, or she stumbles when confronted with multi-syllable words, you need to find out if this is because of a learning disability.

Does he mispronounce long, unfamiliar words? His speech should be fluent. A child who hesitates often peppering his speech with “ums” and pauses or struggles to retrieve words or respond when asked a question, is sending important clues about a possible learning disability.

Does he rely heavily on memorization instead of learning new skills? By third grade, your child should be able to summarize the meaning of a new paragraph she just read, as well as predict what will happen next in the story.

Is her handwriting messy, even though she can type rapidly on a keyboard? Mishappen, wobbling handwriting can be a sign that your child is not hearing the sounds of a word correctly, and therefore unanable to write them down.

Does he avoid reading for pleasure? and when he does, does he find it exhausting and laborious? This, also, could be a sign of a learning disability.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, WHAT DO YOU DO NOW?

First, schedule a conference with your child’s teacher, the school support staff, and your pediatrician to get their perspectives on whether your child indeed has a learning disability together, you can decide if your child should be formally evaluated  for a learning disabilty or if other steps can be taken first – perhaps moving him to a smaller class, switching teaching/learning styles, or scheduling one-on-one tutoring or some time in a resource room.

Don’t Be Shy About Asking Questions Is your child’s progress in the normal range? Why is he having all this trouble? Should you contact a specialist (neurologist, a speech and language expert) ? Trust your gut! If you’re not getting the answers you need, find someone who can give them to you.

Meanwhile, at home:

Help Your Child Flourish: She needs to know that you love her, no matter what, so put her weaknesses into perspective for her. Teach to her strengths. Empathize with her frustration (remind her of some of your own school difficulties), and reassure her that you’re confident she will learn how to deal with it all.

Focus on What He Does Well: Does he love to paint or play baseball? Make sure he has many opportunities to pursue and succeed in those activities. Let him hear you tell grandma how well he played in his last game. Prominently display his trophies, ribbons, and or awards and good reports.

Start a Folder of letters, emails, and any material related to your child’s education. Include school reports as well as medical exams and reports.

Collect Samples Of Your Child’s School Work that illustrate his strengths as well as his weaknesses.

Keep a Diary of your observations about your child’s difficulties in and out of a school.

Help Her Set Up a Work Area at home as well as the materials she needs to study and complete homework assignments.

Show Him How To Organize His Backpack and how to use a homework plan book for assignments

Co-ordinate With Teachers so you can practice at home the skills she learns at school.

Above all be patient and persevere in all your good intentions. That’s the real secret to success!

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3 Steps to Building Kids’ Motivation

STEP 1: Love and Trust

The desire to become motivated comes early in life. What goes on in your child’s early childhood in interpersonal relationships strongly affects his motivation later on in life. Young kids develop love and trust through caring that is given to them. It’s so much easier for them to learn to talk, walk, read, and write if they feel someone really cares about them. Kids grow from trusting you and others in their life to trusting themselves. They move rapidly from dependence as infants to interdependence as toddlers, and then to independence as they grow older. This independence and a strong desire for self-assertion are part of the necessary groundwork for motivation. When children begin school, most are at a stage of development where they really want to achieve. They desire real goals, even if they are short term ones.  They want to compete, and know where they stand with others. Very few first graders are reluctant learners. The real problem of motivation comes later.

These are exmples of the ways I build love and trust in my kids:

STEP 2: Imitation

Out of imitation grows self-identification. Self-identifiation is trying to be like others. Kids’ most important identifications are with their parents first, their grandparents, their teachers, and other significant people in their lives. Imitation is needed to motivate behavior during the growing up years. Having only models that are successful or, conversely, who always seem to fail is a deterrent to developing a healthy balance for motivation.

These are the ways my kids imitate the things I say and do:

STEP 3: Competence

This step to building motivation is competence in specific areas of physical, intellectual, social, and emotional functioning. What does competency do? Kids who conquer the first grade reader are motivated to read other books. If they learn to play T-Ball without too much difficulty and feel good about their accomplishments, they will attempt to do even better  and try new things. Success and failure tend to become patterns. If failure is experienced often, kids begin to see themselves as not likely to succeed. Some may even find many excuses to stop trying; others may act out, or regularly misbehave. Fostering healthy motivation depends upon a foundation of love, acceptance, trust, and care. Dependence becomes independence, and then eventually independence becomes competence. Encourage your kids to be individuals, separate in their own right, yet willing and able to seek help when needed, loosening family ties enough to allow for some outside experience. Provide many and varied opportunities for them to develop proficiency and skills in the pursuits of their own choosing, of course with your unwavering guidance. Find exemplary models for them – that’s the secret!

These are the areas in which my kids are competent:

These are some ways I can build my kids’ competence at home:

These are some ways I can build my kids’ competence in school:

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Take Care of Yourself!

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! I’m sure you don’t hear those words so often as a parent. There is so much information out there about how to take care of your children, but not so much about how to take of yourself. Your job as a parent is the most important job in the world to love, nuture, and guide your children. While it is an awesome role, many times it is not a joyous one. It is often filled with over loaded schedules, self-doubt, and mixed messages. Today, we are all “caught up” in a face paced, ever changing society, and your own needs are often lost in the shuffle. If this is the case in your own parenthood journey it’s time now to change things up a bit.

From this time on, be consciously aware that you have everything within you to have the life you want and deserve.  I’m sure that you can think of several stumbling blocks to getting started to free up some time for yourself, and establish a more harmonious home environment. If you genuinely feel in your heart that you really have no time for yourself, try to lessen, or better yet eliminate your least liked chore from your to-do-list!!!!

 I gave up ironing many years ago…. a chore I hated with a passion. I had to make plans to make this work, though. I gave things away that were made of cotton and linen. From then on I only bought wrinke free clothes, and never fully dried the clothes that came out of the dryer. I put them on hangers and hung them on my kitchen cabinets until they were dry. This all seems so simple and questionable, but in my case it worked! It really did! It freed up some very valuable time  for me and  my family. I successfully eliminated my least favorite chore and you can too! Think about it. What can you give up to free up some quality time first for yourself, and your family? Experiment with it! Let me know how it works for you. Maybe we can offer some great ideas to other moms and dads in need of taking better care of themselves by freeing themselves of at least one thing on their to-do-list.

You’ll soon come to realize that making the effort and carving out some extra time for yourself is most important to your overall well-being. How powerful it is to do even the simplest things you love, instead of just thinking or talking about them. If you do this, you will come to understand that you are worth the effort and the time you take for the activities that make you, truly you. Your world really won’t fall apart if you shake it up a bit!

P.S. I have a framed picture in my kitchen with the inscription: “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”  It reminds me that I should take care of me first, so that I’m prepared to fully and lovingly take care of my family.  What a great reminder!


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Gratitude – Really A Choice?

Why show gratitude? Is it just the right thing to do, or does it have some other intrinsic value? Being thankful and demonstrating sincere gratitude takes energy and thought. Having an attitude of of gratitude requires conscious effort. Practicing gratitude has a permanent effect on you and your children. When you express thankfullness, you not only impact the receiver, you also receive benefits as the giver.

Gratitude is really a choice. It doesn’t depend on curcumstances, genetics, or something that you don’t have any control over. It actually becomes an attitude that you can choose that makes life better for you and your kids. When things go badly, gratitude enables you to get over these situations, and come to realize that they are just temporary. Everyone hits rough spots. Some parents seem to survive great storms. These trials are sent in order to rekindle faith and love, and keep them from feeling hopeless.

Each day you are given a new chance to make necessary changes in your life. There is always hope of experiencing happiness. If the only prayer you ever said was “THANK YOU“, that would absolutely be enough! By maintaining an attitude of gratitude each day, you cultivate the habit of appreciating what you already have, instead of dwelling on what you don’t have. You will experience more peace and contentment because your outlook begins on a positive note. You will also be better able to handle any challenges if you have an appreciative mindset.

A great step to help you get started and bring the power of gratitude into your life is keep a Thankful Journal! End the downward spiral you may be on by counting your blessings. Many wonderful things happen to you each and every day. They often times go unrecognized because you live at speed instead of depth. The daily inventory of what’s good and wholesome in your life will help you acknowledge the blessings that already enrich your life. Don’t minimize this strategy! It could be the very catalyst to break the “woe is me” cycle, and finally set you free. It will put the happenings of your life with all the ups and downs into perspective.

Notice the smile on a person’s face when you say a sincere ThankYou! It will be sure to warm your heart…..

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