Fun Summer Learning – Indoor Games

Fun Summer Learning and Indoor Games


There are thousands of games to play – far too many to discuss here, although I will mention a few.  Don’t limit yourself! All games have at least a few teachable moments.

Note:  I used the name “indoor games” simply to contrast with “sports” which I am not writing about today.  Of course, you can play these games almost anywhere.  Also, most of the card games and board games are available as video versions, too.

Try to choose games your children will enjoy and then find ways to incorporate learning without limiting the “fun” element.  There is no need for “drills” (unless your children tend to like drills!).

Not all games have the same intellectual challenge, of course.  The games you play will be determined, in part at least, by your children’s age and/or current skill level.  Introduce new, different, or more challenging games as they mature.  There is no need to start with something complicated.  In fact, there are always times when we might enjoy playing something less challenging even when we do have the ability.Board_games,_card_games_are_all_fun_at_VSP_(7490672204)


There are very useful lessons to learn around the actual playing of games.  For example, learning how to lose graciously.  This is not to be outdone by learning how to win graciously.  Take the time to each your children that game playing is not a personal judgement of value.  The real value is in connecting with others, having fun, and learning a few new things.  Having learned this with game playing, they might begin to understand how this works even in the academic world.  Your “results” are not “you.” (Ironically, taking that pressure off usually results in much higher marks.)

Patience and taking turns are obvious game-playing lessons.  Don’t underestimate the value of the social part of game playing.

Allow your children to teach you a few tricks.  One of the best ways to learn is to teach others.  Not only do we retain a lot more once we have taught another, but we will engage more and want to do even more. Hey, and you will be the cool parent who knows the “Easter egg”,” method, or shortcut.

Spending time together, talking, recounting stories, relating to other activities that may or may not be related to the game, all of these are important developmental and learning points.


For math skills, games such as Cribbage or Monopoly are great choices.

Many card games have a math component – especially adding or patterning.  Crazy eights, Go Fish, Euchre, Uno.

Board games involve counting (sometimes adding), patterns, making logical decisions or choices, even spelling!  Scrabble, Snakes & Ladders, Trains, Chess, Checkers, Equate, Bingo, and lots more.

Math Games PBS KIDS

Cool Math Games


Reading directions to any game can be helpful.  You might even be surprised when your children read the directions to you.  I know many people who have been playing a game for years without realizing that they are not following the directions!  (Of course, it is up to you whether or not you prefer your version of the game.) Reading directions helps you learn how to play, but you can also check back from time to time to see if there are any additional plays or allowable moves that have not been tried.

Look for reading opportunities on blogs or sites that provide commentary, reviews, or approaches to playing.  These can be very interesting – not to mention helpful.

For younger children, there are lots of online games as well.  Here are some reading games from PBS.

Reading games PBS KIDS


Have your children start their own blog, writing reviews of games, telling stories of particularly great (or not so great) instances while playing. They can create rating lists,3470437230_8763467515_q include graphics, look for links or other material to incorporate.  In other words, they can practise a lot of the same academic skills required in school without feeling like they are in school!

Video Games

Video games have plenty of learning opportunities.  Many have story lines or the opportunity to create things like entire cities, farms, civilizations, etc.  You often get to create your own characters, too! Take some time to discuss all of the interesting artifacts, methods, and potential goals.

Many of the same learning opportunities mentioned above relate to video game playing, too. Reading about the game, writing about the game, practising math skills, etc.

I am definitely not a video games expert by any stretch of the imagination.  I have provide a link to some kids games that should do the trick, however.

Best Games for Kids

Above all, have fun!

Remember that learning is all about fun. It will enlarge your world.

If you want some help in this regard, please get in touch.Tutoring Central blog


Video: Fun Summer Learning – Indoor Games

Fun Summer Learning – Cooking!

First of all, you can have fun learning anything; however, cooking is a great way to learn many lessons.

Yes, he said, “cooking!”

Letting your children cook with you is a fantastic way to teach all kinds of lessons including reading, writing, and math – not to mention how to fend for themselves later in life. (Don’t underestimate the value of this.  Many adults eat fast food and poor diets because they never learned to boil an egg.)

Yes, boys should be in the kitchen, too.  I was a professional cook for fourteen years, so no problem.  baking-1951256_640


You can read recipes together either in books or online.  Looking for foods and recipes to try can be exciting for everyone.  Having a hand in the process is a great way to get children to try different foods.

As I mentioned with the reading recipe – ah, I mean reading blog done last time, (Fun Summer Learning – Read) you can share the reading in a variety of ways, depending on the child’s age and ability.


Copying recipes from the Internet, a magazine, or other source provides a way to practise printing or writing.  Using recipe cards and organizing them by meals and/or alphabetically offers more learning opportunities.  Your children can create their own personal binder or box of recipes.

You could start a blog of your own and have the children add photos and text, or they could each do a blog for themselves.  They could write about the recipe giving information about how easy (or difficult) it was to make.  They could write about the taste and the experience of making the meal, etc.  Children are naturally curious, but they also love to teach others, so this can be a gateway into expanding their horizons.


Obviously, there are math lessons to be learned when cooking.  Your children can learn about measuring and weighing.  You can have fun adjusting a recipe.  For example, you might want only half the amount.  This gives you the opportunity to work on division and/or fractions. You might want to double or triple a recipe, so multiplication skills Measuring_Jarare practised.   There are lessons around temperature and timing as well.

Related concepts include learning to follow a sequence, following directions, and ordering steps logically.

Additionally, your children will learn to express themselves orally as you discuss food, recipes, how to follow the directions, and so on. This part of learning is just as important as the more recognizable reading, writing, and math skills.  Being able to express opinions, ask questions, and orally manipulate information will go a long way to helping them stay engaged and motivated to learn even more.


Yes!  Mistakes will be made.  Sometimes a recipe won’t work at all.  Sometimes the result is edible, but – “let’s not try that one again!”  Most of the time, the result won’t match the beautiful (often photo-shopped) picture. That’s fine.  You will have more successes than failures, and we learn a lot from mistakes.  Teach your children how to laugh, move past the errors, and use the mistake as a learning platform for the next attempt.

Have fun with it!  Remember learning should be enjoyable.

Look below for some affiliate links to beginner cooking courses!

Summer tutoring lessons are a great way to improve as well.  Let’s get started on the learning path together.


Tutoring Central blog

Your Path to Learning!

This weeks video: Cooking!





Cooking courses

Pizza Cooking at Home

Cooking Lessons for Dad

Dad is Cooking

Indian Cooking

Cook Like a Wok Star

Cook the Best Eggs

Thai Cooking Class

Japanese Cooking Class

Fun Summer Learning – Read!

 How Can I Help My Child?


One of the most important activities you can do with your child at any time is to read.
Summer is an excellent time to begin (or add to) your reading schedule. You can take a book almost anywhere and e-readers let you carry thousands of books with you. Once downloaded, you don’t even need a Wi-Fi connection.
Reading a variety of materials can connect you to a whole new world either in fiction or a “new-to-you” nonfiction topic. Of course, start by choosing material that is interesting to your child. That is the best jumping board into increasing reading level, reading speed, and reading breadth in the long run.
Once someone finds the joy of reading and begins to see all the benefits, he or she will start expanding the horizons.boy reading

1.   Read to your child.

2.   Let your child read (or “read” *) to you.

3.   Share reading – especially great with plays or stories that contain a lot of dialogue.

4.   Model reading by reading to yourself.

There is nothing better than sitting together in a room and quietly enjoying your individual books.

* Sometimes “reading” means flipping the pages and learning how to scan from left to right without actually reading.  Sometimes “reading” means a lot of adult intervention to help move the story along.  The important bit is that you are beginning the process to become a true reader. 

Talk about the book or reading material.

This works no matter what method of reading you use because decoding and saying the words is only one piece of the true reading process.

Caution:  When talking about a story or text, don’t make it into a quiz or “test” situation.  Let the discussion be more organic and enjoyable.

Talk about plot (the events).
For example, how do the events relate to real life or current events?

Talk about characters.
For example what do you think about the protagonist?

Does the antagonist remind you of anyone?

Ask what would you have done in a given situation.

As you read, make predictions about what might happen next.

Ask about a character’s motive.

Talk about what the characters might be feeling.two-boys-3396713_640
Above all have fun!
Learning is all about fun. Not only do we learn more, but we retain the information better, when we enjoy the process.

Note:  I realize that with some children reading can be a chore. Don’t worry; keep at it. Sometimes you have to endure a little struggle and less fun until you get to the ‘goods.” Stay positive and enthusiastic about reading, and you will be surprised long term.

There are loads of resources online to find suitable reading material, but here are a few.

Middle School Book Lists

Children’s Choices Reading List

Popular High School Reading List

Required Reading in High School

Teen Book Lists

As always, I am here to help.  If you would like a little extra learning practice over the long summer months, please get in touch.Tutoring Central blog



This week’s video:  Summer Tutoring! How Can I Help My Child?

Jump Into Online Tutoring – It Works!

Find a tutor

This sounds obvious enough.  You can find lots of tutors online these days.  Look for a tutor that will be a good fit for you or your child.  When you find a potential candidate, check out his or her website, videos, blogs, etc.  This will get you a feel for the tutor’s style. Of course, you want a tutor who has knowledge in your area of interest.  However, finding a good fit goes beyond subject matter.  You need to chat and make sure that the tutor’s personality and approach make you feel comfortable.

Get in touch

Allow time to chat with the tutor online.  If you are going to sign up for online tutoring, you might as well practise “working” online.  There are many excellent platforms that allow tutors, parents, and students to see and hear one another almost as if they are in the same room!  Skype, Zoom, and BitPaper work really well.  (All free to use!)

Be understanding and patient.  You will want the tutor to schedule you at a time that works for you but also for him or her, so that nobody is rushed or unprepared for the chat.  Every tutor is different, but I provide a minimum 30 minute free information meeting.  (They are so much fun, we often run over.)

This is a perfect time to see how you can interact online through one or more of the programs that the tutor uses.  For example, I show my potential clients that they can write, type, draw, share documents & videos, and share screens while we have our meeting.  Of course, we can see each other through the cameras and talk just as if we were in the same room.  It is truly amazing.

Small clip showing a tiny bit of the online abilities.

Ask away!  evan-dennis-75563

Ask your prepared questions.  Look for a tutor who is able to answer your questions to your satisfaction.  A tutor who tells you exactly what he or she is able to do and what he or she is not able to do is far more valuable than one who simply “advertises.”  Everyone has limits.  Also, tutors cannot guarantee a specific improvement, although they can provide you with common results or even examples of stellar results that occur occasionally.  Don’t forget to ask about how lessons are delivered? What times are available? How are the lessons packaged?  Is there a minimum number of lessons required? What is the cancellation policy?

Not all ABC’s and 123’s

I have touched on this before.  Learning is not only about the abc’s and the 123’s. You want an educational coach that can relate to the student and that can motivate, encourage, and help the student reach his or her goals.  Of course, if you are looking for a writing tutor or reading tutor, you want someone knowledgeable in these areas, but he or she also needs to be able to speak well enough to engage the student.  He or she needs to have a rapport and, in my opinion, a sense of humour.

Patience is essential.  For over twenty years I have tutored all kinds of students and patience cannot be overrated.  Everyone learns differently.  A tutor needs to take the time to know the student and gear the teaching style and methods to the individual, focusing on using the student’s strengths to conquer his or her weaknesses and construct a more solid foundation.

Do you feel comfortable?  children-593313_640

Sign up.  Commit to a number of lessons. Don’t be afraid to get started.  It is often this step that “trips up” the process.  Like anything new, it is a bit scary – but the rewards are amazing!

First lesson

Don’t be late!  Try to make sure that you have the time correct – particularly if you and the tutor are in different time zones.  (Of course, the tutor should aim to make this clear as well.)  Please, respect the tutor’s time.  Consistency is key for learning also, so try to make all scheduled lessons or reschedule within the same week if possible.  The first lesson is exciting, but it can be frustrating, too.  The technology is great, but it is not perfect.  Allow for a few glitches and a little learning curve to get everything right.  Smile. Enjoy.  Your tutor will help walk you through any technical issues, but there is nothing wrong with you helping each other.  The first lesson should leave you feeling comfortable, and it should provide a good start to your online tutoring experience.

Commit to the program

The first lesson is not the whole program!  Don’t expect it to suffice.  Be consistent by attending all lessons.  Be prepared.  If you are supposed to be doing something outside of the face-to-face lessons, make sure you have completed (or at least attempted) all tasks.  Write down any questions, so you don’t forget them.  Turn off or reduce all distractions.  If the instructor is talking to you, the session should not be interrupted constantly by irrelevant texts, calls, or other open programs.  Focus on the lesson.  After all, that’s why you signed on!

Here is a recap:

1.   Find a tutor – research

2.  Get in touch – have an online meeting

3.   Ask questions

4.   Feel comfortable? Register for lessons (plan for a reasonable number)

5.  Enjoy the first lesson – relax, get used to the technology

6.   Commit to the program – be consistent & prepared

The best point of all is that you have options that never existed before.  Take advantage of them.

Need more help, please feel free to get in touch.

Tutoring Central blog


VideoJump Into Online Tutoring – It Works!

Don’t Let Sentence Fragments Weaken You!

Don’t let sentence fragments weaken you!

Well – don’t let them weaken your writing which is an extension of you at least.

Last week I wrote about run-on sentences. A sentence fragment is basically the opposite of a run-on sentence.  You will want to avoid both of them in your formal writing.

(Friendly letters, texts, and even fiction writing follow different conventions, but there are still times you might want to be careful in these writings as well.)

A sentence fragment is a piece of a sentence rather than a full sentence.  bull-1791672_640

For example, you might have the subject for a sentence:

“The raging bull with fierce, glowing eyes.”

This is not a sentence because there is no predicate.  We don’t know what happens!

You might have the opposite problem with only a predicate and no subject:

“Charged down the chute and nearly trampled the farmers at the bottom.”

This is not a sentence because there is a predicate but no subject.

       Not sure about terms like subject and predicate?  Click here for a discount on  my Basic English Writing course.  Only $10 US!

I am sure you have already realized that these two fragments or “pieces” of sentences could be combined to create a full sentence:

“The raging bull with fierce, glowing eyes charged down the chute and nearly trampled the farmers at the bottom.”  2013_0420Collection0584

Here is a different example:

“Her mother who lives in Toronto.”

Again we have a subject but no predicate, although it looks like there might be one.  The clause “who lives in Toronto” adds information, but does not answer what happens.  Use an appositive to finish the sentence: “Her mother, who lives in Toronto, goes to the theatre every week without fail.”  Alternatively, you could remove the word “who” and have a full sentence: “Her mother lives in Toronto.”

You must be aware of appositives and subordinating words that can turn a full sentence into a fragment.

“Although the raging rock stars had plenty of time. ”

Without the word “although” this would be a complete sentence: “The raging rock stars had plenty of time.”

Another example:  cheyenne-wyoming-high-school_800

“Whenever all the children from Wyoming High School sang.”

This looks like a sentence, but it is a sentence fragment.  What happened whenever the children sang?  We don’t know.  We need a predicate to tell us.

Beyond following grammar rules and proofreading your sentences for subjects and predicates, you can use the following method to help you “weed out” fragments.

While proofreading your written work, (yes, you must!) ask yourself if the sentence makes sense by itself.  In other words, if you were to say the sentence aloud to someone, would he or she understand what you mean?  Would he or she feel that the thought is complete?

“Despite the torrential rain.”

If someone said this to me, I would wait for a moment (maybe he or she is thinking) and then ask, “What about the rain?”

“Jumped over the fence, ran down the muddy slope, and fell face-first into the ditch.”

Who did?  What did?  (Oh, by the way, the sentence fragment above is not a run-on sentence; however, many students might think that it is.  Look back to the run-on sentences blog and video to see why.)

More Tips

When proofreading, read slowly – out loud if possible. 2747581103_5f59f889d6_q

Another trick is to read from the bottom up.  Read your last sentence then second last, etc.  This forces you to pay closer attention to the individual sentences because your brain is not automatically “filling in” missing words or correcting errors that are on the page.  We often “read” what we think we wrote, or what we meant to write, rather than what we actually put on the page or on the computer screen.

Have a friend, colleague, mother, father, sister, brother, etc. read your work.  Fresh eyes can often catch errors you missed.

Speaking of “fresh eyes,” walk away from your writing for a few hours or a day and then look back with a refreshed mind.  You might be surprised what you find!

Always watch out for run-on sentences and sentence fragments as part of your proofreading and editing process.

Watch the video for more ideas:  Sentence Fragments

Check out the website:

Register for the FREE Student Survival Guide – How to Become an A+ Student

small Student Survival Cover


Run-on Sentences Ahhhh!

Run-on Sentences Ahhhh!  emotions-2167461_640

When you proofread and edit your work…


Yes, you should always proofread and edit your work. Do not be afraid of putting a little extra effort in.  It will pay off in the long run.

Let’s try that again, shall we?

When you proofread and edit your work, watch for run-on sentences, and make the necessary corrections.

A run-on sentence is basically two or more sentences written as if they were one.

” Once upon a time, there was an evil tutor named Ron he always asked us to proofread and edit our work even when we thought our sentences and spelling were perfect he is so mean.”

The sentence above should actually be three sentences instead of one.  Look for subjects and predicates and any connections.  (If you are not sure about subjects and predicates, check out my Basic English Writing course.)

For example, this sentence is a run-on:  “Susan loves to dance she loves the movementbalance-3223319_640 she is so graceful.”  (There are three separate subjects and predicates incorrectly joined.)

Here is a possible correction: “Susan loves to dance because she loves the movement, and she is so graceful.”

You can see that it is still one sentence. The subordinating word “because” and the coordinating conjunction “and” with a comma correct the problems in the first version.

Many students think that a run-on sentence is simply a long sentence.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Some very long sentences are not run-on sentences.  If the phrases and clauses are joined correctly and all well related, then there is no problem with being long.

Also, a short sentence can be a run-on sentence.

For example:  “He fell down he cried.”  This short sentence is a run-on.

Here are four solutions:  “He fell down.  He cried.”cry-2764843_640

“He fell down, and he cried.”

“He fell down and cried.”

“He fell down; he cried.”

(Most teachers don’t like joining independent clauses with a semicolon, so I recommend avoiding this method, although it is technically correct if the clauses are very short and closely related.)

Note that my sentence within parenthesis is fairly long, but it is not a run-on!

A full sentence should be one complete thought.  Of course, you can have many adjectives, adverbs, and even clauses and phrases that add interest to your sentence. They must, however, be incorporated correctly.

When proofreading your work, watch for run-on sentences, and use one of these methods to edit:

  1. Separate the independent clauses (sentences) with end punctuation.
  2. Use a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) to join them.
  3. Use a conjunctive adverb such as “however” or “therefore” to join them.
  4. Use a subordinating word such as “although’ or “because” to make one of the clauses dependent.
  5. Rewrite the sentence so that one independent clause (sentence) is turned into a phrase, adjective, or adverb.  (Note example above could become:  “He fell down crying.”)

Need more help?

Contact me to set up some personal programs for you or your child.

Don’t forget the Basic English Writing course.  Register, and you will receive discounts for several of my other courses, too! Tutoring Central blog



This week’s video:  Run-on Sentences

How Can I Help My Child Succeed? Note-taking.

Despite what you might have heard, taking notes is still in fashion!

Help your children take notes from the beginning, and they will benefit throughout their academic career.

Even with today’s technology, note-taking continues to be one of the best methods for learning and retaining information.

There are several reasons for this.


Taking notes keeps you engaged with the material longer.  If you really want to learn something and really want to remember something – what do you do?  You rehearse it.  clockYou say that phone number over and over to yourself until you’ve got it; or you connect the numbers to some image to help you recall.  In any case, you spend more time with the information.  Note-taking does the same.


Taking notes requires you to abbreviate the information and, if done correctly, consolidate the ideas in your own words.  This gives you practice answering potential questions before they are even asked.  If you have only read the material and done nothing with it, you will likely have a more difficult time writing a paragraph answer or essay answer to a major question.  Even short answer questions might pose a problem.  Many times students have told me something along this line, “I know the answer, but I just don’t know how to say it.”  (Or write it)  Note-taking eliminates this problem!  You will know how to say it or write it because you have already taken the time to practise this. (Bye the way, if you don’t know how to say it or write it – then you don’t know it.  Sorry.)


There seems to be fairly clear evidence that the kinesthetic action of writing or printing notes on a piece of paper wires the brain differently.  It helps you remember!  Taking a writingpen or pencil and writing notes forces you to slow down, think about what you are writing, and network your knowledge as you try to be concise.  If you look at this carefully, you will recognize something amazing – these points are exactly the same points called learning – taking a broad view, gathering lots of information, looking for connections within and between bits of information, summarizing the findings and drawing conclusions, and writing them down for future reference.

It is the writing that most students don’t like.  It seems like so much work.   Remember what I mentioned in the last blog. (The Agenda)  Doing the “leg-work” really helps in the long run.  You will end up saving time; but, more importantly, you will have gained much more from the learning experience.  Oh, and raise your grades if that seems important.  (Hint – it is, although not the most important in my opinion.  Focus on the leg-work and your grades will rise anyway.  However, the most important factor is that you will learn more!)

Taking notes the old-fashioned way with a pen or pencil and a notebook or binder full of paper is the best method in my opinion.  Ask your child to give it a try.  Help him or her see that it really isn’t all that difficult.   Using a good reading system helps.  Have a look here:  Reading for Speed & Comprehension.

Having said this, there are lots of programs for taking notes, and they can be useful particularly for some students who have very weak printing / writing skills.  (I would encourage you to help your child develop those skills separately, however.  Don’t give up – especially if they are under 12 years old! Even old dogs can learn new tricks.  New brain research has proven this.)evernote

OneNote and Evernote come to mind.

If you use one of these programs, you still need to “do something” with your notes.  At the very least, type them out yourself.  I would still recommend handwriting / printing some answers during your self-testing sessions to help you prepare for quizzes, tests, and exams.  You can wholesale copy and paste information into these programs, but did you learn anything from that?  Be brutal with yourself and make sure that you read the material, rehearse the material in some way, and that you are able to manipulate the information to answer questions in your own words.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  I have seen students who spend a lot of time gathering information for an assignment, storing all these amazing documents on their Google Drive, but they have no idea what is actually there.  They have only read the titles or seen the pictures – copy/paste; copy/paste; copy/paste!  Fun – maybe, but a waste of precious time.  Read the material, make executive decisions, and then choose only the most relevant for your assignment or unit.  Once pasted, you will still need to work with the material.  That is the goal.  So my point is that technology can be a very helpful tool, but it does not replace your brain or the necessity to play around with the mad scientistinformation and familiarize yourself with it inside and out.  If it helps, think of yourself as the mad scientist who is manipulating things to make new discoveries.

Take notes in class from teacher lectures.

Take notes from your textbook. (Yes, this includes math.)

Take notes from blogs.

Take notes from videos, podcasts, and movies.

Take notes from short stories, novels, and plays.

Don’t worry.  You will get better with practice.  Find techniques that work for you.  There are many methods for taking notes.  I used some of the recommended styles but adjusted them considerably for my own purposes.  My notes might not make any sense to anyone else – but they don’t need to.  They made perfect sense to me, and I can look back to notes I took thirty years ago, and they still make sense.   That point is important.  If you choose to use abbreviations or symbols, make sure you will remember them!  If you can’t read your notes in a couple of months before the exam, that’s a problem.   Once you learn a few symbols, you can write more quickly in a kind of shorthand and get all the relevant information you need.  But remember, you don’t want to note everything anyway.  You want to synthesize the information.

Learn to have fun taking notes.  Remember it is YOUR education.  Wow – what a gift it will be.

For more tips or personalized programs, check out the website. 

Better yet, get in touch.


Website:      Free Student Survival Guide.

Video:  How Can I Help My Child Succeed? Note-taking.

How Can I Help My Child Succeed? The Agenda!

How can I help my child succeed? 

I hear that a lot. For this reason, I decided to do a short series of blogs and videos on this specific topic. Last week, I wrote about The Learning Space.  This week, I am writing about The Agenda.

The Agenda – Student Planner – Calendar – Diary …

Whatever you prefer to call it, this little book can be an enormous help.

Students often debate with me about the value of using an agenda.  Often they think it is a waste of time.  In fact, you will find that students of all ages tend to think that most “leg-work” is a waste of time. funny-2029437_640

Yet, doing some of the preliminary work actually saves time in the long-run.  Of course, the additional benefit is that you retain more information as well, get the assignments done on time, and have the luxury of adding value to your work!

Far too many times a student has forgotten that her or his major assignment was due in two days, or worse, the next day.

“Why didn’t you write it in your agenda?” I ask.

“Because I figured the teacher would keep reminding me,” or “I never do that,” or “I have a good memory….usually.”  You can imagine the multiple other answers that I’ve heard over twenty plus years.  I am sure you have heard some yourself; or, dare I say, used some yourself.  Shhh.

Please, use an agenda!

Electronic versions are fine, but you have to make sure that you have access to them when you need them – at any location.  Does the school allow you to access your cell phone during class?  Will you have your computer with you on the bus?  Whichever device you use, make sure that you can get to it at all necessary locations. The electronic versions have lots of bells and whistles; however, make sure you don’t waste time highlighting, setting alarms, formatting, and so on when none of this will actually help you in any way.

I love book-form agendas.  They are inexpensive, and you can carry them anywhere.  Making changes in a book is so easy.  Yes, I have tried the electronic versions, and setting up the calendar takes longer than in my book, and making changes is a real pain.  I quickly went back to the book.  Oh, and my book never crashes!

When using an agenda, be sure to help your child fill in the missing bits.  For example, if a task is coming due on October 15th, what day(s) will the research be done?  What day will he or she write the rough draft?  When will the editing and final draft be completed?  Just putting in the due date is not sufficient.

The agenda should be used to track non-academic activities, too.  Family plans, sports, birthdays, tutoring sessions, etc.  In this way, your child won’t be surprised by events that could interfere with his or her academic performance.

It is a good idea to write in nightly homework time even if the student is generally good at sticking to the stated time.  Block that time off, and place a check mark beside every block that is successfully done.  In this way, students are giving themselves a “pat on the back” for a job well done and motivating themselves to maintain an excellent track record.  Speaking of which, this helps them to monitor how consistent they are in studying. Remember that being pro-active and taking on responsibility for YOUR education is essential to reach your highest achievement level. school-2

The agenda or student planner – aptly named – is the ultimate plan.  Having a plan motivates you to execute.  Without a plan, often study times, due dates, test papers, and so on fall by the wayside – especially as the term, semester, or year progresses.

Having a plan helps students stay calm.  While they might not love, or even like, every assignment, at least they will not panic at the last minute. Over the years, I have seen many students who thought they were just naturally nervous find strength in having a plan and sticking to it.

Knowing is better than not knowing.

If you have a good agenda or planner, use it effectively and always.

If you don’t have a planner, go get one today!  Okay, maybe tomorrow – but no later.

Here are a few options: agenda 2

Student Planner: Weekly Academic Organizer

Student Planner: Stop Talking and Start Doing 

Student Planner 2017-2018 (Academic Year)

Let me know how you make out.  If you have any questions, please – ask away.

Also, don’t forget how useful an academic coach can be!

Web site:

This week’s videoThe Dreaded Agenda!

How Can I Help My Child Succeed? The Learning Space.

All parents would like to see their child succeed in school – and in life, of course.

Having said this, sometimes they don’t know how to help Johnny or Sally with their homework or with school in general.

(Don’t panic, this tip will work with all other names as well!)

I have decided to write a series of blogs (and make videos) to help parents discover ways to help their child or children.

I must warn you that these tips are not magical or “rocket science,” so if you have no problems dealing with your children and their homework, this might not be the series of blog posts for you.

However, I have had many parents call over the 20+ years of my tutoring, and they are really struggling.  Some of these parents are teachers, too!  At first glance, this might seem odd, but remember that at home they are just “mom” and “dad.”  The relationship with your child is not the same as with your students.  There are so many emotional hurdles when your boy or girl is having academic challenges; so, no matter who you are, you are faced with many of the same issues.

This week, I am focusing on The Learning Space.Homework_(4015200817)

In your home, you need to find a learning space – a quiet place where studying can be done without interruption.


I hear that all the time.  (As far as I can tell, I am not crazy.) I do understand that this can be a tall order for many.  Still, when one really wants to achieve something, it is amazing what can be done.

Look for a corner in a bedroom, or the dining room, or the basement perhaps.  You don’t need an entire room.

Have  a desk or table in this location and a comfortable but firm chair that encourages sitting up.  Having a solid writing surface is important.  Lying down on the bed and writing upside down is not recommended – although I know this happens a lot.  The chair needs to be comfortable but not too comfortable (note bed above).  If everything is conducive to sleep, guess what happens.   Good posture, believe it or not, can not only help the body, but it can help the mind as well. (Remember in my earlier posts that I have reminded everyone that the brain is, in fact, part of the body!) You probably have a perfectly good table or desk you can use right now, but I have provided affiliate links that can help as well.

Modern No Tools Student Desk    student desk

Provide good lighting.  With the proper lighting, students don’t become sleepy as fast.  You know yourself that if you are reading – even a very interesting book – in dim light your eyes will begin to droop.  Imagine trying to focus on geography or science in poor lighting.

If possible, have some shelves or drawers to keep all the basic study tools: pens, pencils, dictionary, math set, rulers, etc.  It makes it a lot easier and more efficient if the student does not have to spend half of his or her homework time finding things.  If you don’t have room for shelves or drawers, a basket might suffice that can slide underneath or a set that sits beside the desk. (It can even be stored in a closet or elsewhere when not in use.)  I know you can be inventive!

Storage unit

HomCom Standing Storage Unit.




One more note about music.  There is a lot of debate about whether or not music helps or hinders a student’s performance.  In my experience, at least 90% are hindered by it – mostly because it really isn’t being used to assist but rather to avoid.  If your child is singing along to the lyrics or can’t hear when the smoke detector goes off because of the volume of music – there is a problem.  Music at very low levels, preferably without lyrics, can be useful.  It can provide a kind of “white noise” that blocks other more distracting noises, particularly from outside. (Because I know that you have already handled the inside noises within your control.)   You can also use devices to provide white noise or simply turn on a fan that gently burrs in the background. Of course these are used to help people go to sleep, so you will have to judge what sounds block the background noise but don’t make you sleepy! Back to where we started, make sure that the location can be quiet.  If it is not always quiet there, make a plan such as, “Nobody goes into the living room during homework time except to do homework.”  Other children, dogs, pet crocodiles, and – yes – even annoying parents need to respect the quiet time.  Turn off the television, the music, the jackhammer (construction will need to happen later), and all other distractions.

White noise

White Noise Machine, Portable Sound Machine with Timer, 9 Natural Soothing Relaxation Sleep Therapy System.



Have fun setting up your child’s learning space!

Get your son or daughter involved in the creation of a good learning area.  In this way he or she will feel ownership of the space and the learning that is going to happen there.  You might be surprised at what a difference this can make.

Students who feel that they have some control over their environment and their learning will put a lot more effort into it compared to those who feel “put upon” and not part of the whole process.

Let me know how you make out in setting up your learning space.  I am always interested to hear from you.

Watch for more blogs and videos here about how you can help your child succeed in school.  Next week, it is all about the agenda.

Web site:

This week’s video:  The Learning Space.