How Can I Help My Child Succeed? The Long Haul!

Be prepared for the long haul.

Learning is a process, and children (adults, too) don’t all learn at the same rate.

In fact, children don’t even mature at the same rate or grow at the same rate physically, so why would we expect them to learn at the same rate?  Why do we think all ten year old’s are ready for the same math or language learning at exactly the same time? It does not make sense.

Your child might excel in one area and be behind in others.

Your child might be behind in all areas.

Your child might excel in one grade and fall behind in another.

Enough of that.  You get the picture.

The point is that you love your child, and he or she needs your support at any stage and throughout any challenge.  This support needs to be unconditional love but also, at times, a tough love.  You have to be the adult in the relationship because there will be occasions when “I don’t want to” just isn’t an option. Even democracy has limits and rules!

Never give up!

I never give up on my students, so you should definitely never give up.  Oh, believe me – some of my students wish I would give up; but, over the long haul, many of them have thanked me for making them stay on track even when they fought back. 5653340435_e5b7118536_m

No doubt, you will face trying times when you have explained the same concept for the one hundredth time (more than likely what seems like…) and your child looks at you as if he or she has never heard about this concept in his or her life!

Take a deep breath (or ten) and try to think of an alternative way to explain or walk more slowly through each step.

Use the internet to help you.  For example, there are lots of videos that might have a unique way of explaining the material.  Each person has a different learning point and access doors, so alternatives can be helpful.

WARNING – Blatant plug coming here:

Hiring a tutor is a great way to help ameliorate some of these issues.  An independent tutor will often have more tools at his or her disposal. Thinking outside the box is often necessary when you tutor a wide variety of learners and you are not restricted by a bureaucracy.  You can focus on that particular student and his or her own unique learning style.

Your child might have a slow pace that keeps him or her behind others at the same age or grade level.  Don’t panic.  Take a proactive approach, and help your child take a proactive approach as well to make change.  The important point is to keep moving forward.  Despite what you might have heard, this is NOT a horse race!

On several occasions, I have seen a student suddenly blossom.

Anecdote warning!

One young student of mine did not read anything beyond his name (first name only – three letters long) and a very few memorized words until he was nearly eleven years old! The so-called “window” should have been closed; however, I am a firm believer that our brains are receiving information even when we are not always fully engaged or able.  The instruction he received must have been making connections because he suddenly started to read.  He found out that books have a lot to offer; and, before you know it, he was reading more and more – and not basic learners, but stories only a little below his age level.  Yes, he read slowly and needed lots of help at first, but he was reading!  It wasn’t long before his pace improved as well.

Other students I have seen have not made quite the same dramatic improvements, but many have suddenly boosted their performance after a long plateau.  Parents sometimes think it is a miracle.  It is not a miracle; it is staying the course and never giving up.

Cautionary note:

The plateau (or plateaus) should not be left dormant.  Keep the information coming and the practice schedule on track.  Remember that sometimes change comes suddenly in a burst, but in reality all that “drip, drip, drip” of information was working and making connections in the brain at some level all along the way.

Never give up.

What if your child is never going to be an A+ student? school-2

So what.  That is not important.  Lots of students who don’t reach the A’s or even B’s manage to do amazing things in the world and in their lives – but not if they don’t try. You should still encourage your children to do as much as possible – reach for their highest achievement.  Just because they won’t be the top student does not mean that you or they should give up or coast.  They don’t know what they can do until they try.  The don’t know how high they can get unless they reach for it.  They don’t even know for sure that the A is impossible!

Prepare yourself for the long haul with your children, and never give up.  Don’t despair.  Keep helping them work toward their goals and instill in them the desire to keep trying.

You might be pleasantly surprised with the outcome even if it isn’t exactly as you initially imagined!

I know you can do it. And I know your child can as well. If you need help, please get in touch.  Tutoring Central blog


Video: The Long Haul


How Can I Help My Child Succeed? Don’t Be Too Helpful!

Yes, there is such a thing as being too helpful.

Don’t be too helpful!

When you are sitting with your children and helping with homework, try to be more Socratic.philosophy-2603284_640

Ask questions.

Wait for answers.  Sometimes, you might need to wait for a long time – but that’s okay.

Lead them to the right path if possible with questions or suggestions or comments, but let them explore and discover more. Yes, you will need to watch or listen to them going in the wrong direction sometimes, but let that run itself out for a while to see if they capture some of the essence.

Of course, there are times when you need to “walk them” all the way through and maybe even show them the final answer – or an example of a suitable final answer.  Most of the time, however, you will want them to arrive at the answers through their own explorations.

Discovering how to find appropriate answers by making mistakes, falling down, getting up (metaphorically at least), and trying again helps learners remember the procedures -if for no other reason than they don’t want to have to go through all the missteps again.)

If you give them the answer all of the time or show them the steps for every question, then they will never remember for long.

Anecdote warning! stop sign

Here is an example.  Theo’s mom came to me and exclaimed that her son knew how to complete the fractions questions perfectly when doing them at home; however, he always scored terribly on the quizzes at school.  She was convinced that he had some sort of block when it came to tests or quizzes.  Now, this is a possibility, but I have found that the “block” is usually caused by a lack of knowledge.

Once I started working with Theo, it was clear that he had no idea which steps to use in each case.  At home, mom was constantly providing reminders, “Now multiply the numerator by the same number.”  “Add the numerators.”  “Oh, no, no – don’t add the denominators – only the numerators.”  Etc.

The poor boy had never managed to get all the way through one question on his own!

If your child can’t do a few questions from step 1 to step 10 on his or her own, then he or she does not know the material.  This applies to any subject.

If mom or dad or a poorly informed tutor is providing hints or answers when preparing for a science test or history exam, then the learner does not fully know the information yet.

Of course, using hints and leading questions as mentioned before can be helpful during the learning process. Just make sure that your child can complete questions independently at the end of this process. gold_question_mark

This is also a teacher’s job and a tutor’s job.  It is NOT to give answers.  It is to teach learners how to get answers!

Everyone wants to be helpful, but the truth is you are not being helpful if you don’t let your children struggle to make their own discoveries.  They need to do the work to get the best reward.

As a parent (or teacher or tutor) is it difficult to watch your children squirm and struggle?


Parenting is a difficult task; however, by being tough and helping only when needed, you will be giving your children the very best assistance.

So, pull back once in a while.  Remember the Learning Space?  Perhaps leave that space to your child sometimes. See if Johnny or Ingrid can complete the task on his or her own.  Let them fail occasionally, and use that failure as a lesson moving forward.  What went wrong?  How can the approach be improved?  What was missing from the final answer?

We learn so much from our mistakes as long as we keep working to change the path.

I know you can do it.  I have faith in you and your children.

For more help, check out the website or sign up for some lessons. Resize of photo_50494_20110720


Video:  Don’t Be Too Helpful!

Topic Sentences – Location, Location, Location!

Topic Sentences – Location, Location, Location!

At the beginning.

In blogs, videos, and my courses, I have often mentioned that the topic sentence of a sunrise-1756274_640paragraph should be at the beginning of the paragraph – often the first sentence.

While this is true in many cases, it does not HAVE to be the first sentence of a paragraph.  When writing essays for grade school or secondary school, teachers generally expect the topic sentence of body paragraphs to come at the beginning. The concluding paragraph has a restated or modified thesis statement at the beginning, and this serves as its topic sentence. Of course, the introductory paragraph is a bit of an exception.  It often starts with a “grabber” and/or focus statement, and the thesis statement (serving as the overarching topic sentence) comes at the end of the paragraph.

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For most stand-alone paragraph writing exercises in school, the expectation is for a topic sentence at or near the very beginning of the paragraph as well.


Having said all that, topic sentences can come at any point within a paragraph – even in academic writing at times.

At the end.

You can place the central idea at the end after several supporting sentences that have end-812226_640made the case for your argument or point of view. This can be especially useful in argument paragraphs because it leads the reader to your conclusion drawing them in with your amazing proofs and supports.

You knew you were amazing, right?  Of course.

Placing the topic sentence at the end of your paragraph can be effective in expository paragraphs as well. Leaving the central idea until the end can have a dramatic effect that attracts the reader to keep reading.

Of course, even if your topic sentence or central idea is withheld until the end of the paragraph, you still need to ensure that you have unity and coherence.  All the supports that come before the topic sentence need to be relevant and transition from one to another in order for the whole package to have the desired impact on the reader.  Remember that you have to “lead” them to your central idea and convince them with your message.

Nowhere – and everywhere.

Even more bizarre!

Some paragraphs don’t have the central idea explicitly stated at all! nowhere

This is often the case with narrative writing (relating a sequence of events) and sometimes descriptive writing.  This is especially true in fiction writing where many academic rules are “stretched” or broken.  You can imply the central idea with descriptions, action, dialogue, and so on. This is not to say that you never use topic sentences in fiction, but one topic sentence might serve several paragraphs rather than just one.  The continuity is important and, frankly, trying to generate a new topic sentence in the midst of a “flow” of description does not always make sense.

There you have it.  Topic sentences are not as stable as you thought.  They can move around from place to place.  Sometimes there are a couple of introductory sentences before a topic sentence as well.  Generally, I wouldn’t say the topic sentence comes in the middle of a paragraph, but it can be within it.

Still, for most academic writing, I recommend sticking to having the topic sentence at the beginning of most paragraphs.  It will serve you well.

When writing fiction, you have more freedom – but keep in mind that you still need to help the reader find your central idea using whatever techniques you choose.

Do you want to write more?  Do you want to improve your writing? Contact me, and I will set up a personal program for you. reading-86070_1920


This week’s video: Topic Sentences

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Steps to Working Out a Math Problem – or Steps to Loving Math!

Remember that you do not need to hate math! 

Taking a proactive approach, you can conquer any math question. shield-108065_640

Below are several steps to get you on the right path. 

Steps to Working Out a Math Problem

  1.  What does the question ask me to do? 
  2. Are there any further directions for the question? (Look above, to the left, to the right)
  3. Are there any practice examples that show the steps?
  4. Do I have notes about this particular section? 
  5. What do I already know about this math section? (Take the time to re-learn the parts you have forgotten.  For example, if you need to divide fractions for part of the question, and you have forgotten how to do this, go back and re-teach yourself.) 
  6. Try different methods to solve the problem – don’t be afraid to turn the problem around and look at it from different angles. 
  7. Break the problem down into separate units. (I.e., What do I need to do first – second – etc.?) 
  8. If you are using a calculator, record the steps as you go.  (It is very frustrating to start back at step 1 when something goes wrong with step 5!) 
  9. Check to see if your answer “makes sense.” (Is the number reasonable or is it too large or too small?  Does your answer meet the requirements of the problem?) 

In step 8, I mentioned a calculator, and using one is fine (if you are permitted to), but trycalculator-2391810_640 to keep doing a few questions long-hand as well.  It uses the brain differently for basic skills.  You will gain a much stronger understanding of “how” the math works.  Of course there are complex calculations for which the calculator is required. 

Always “think” about the math.  Often people see math as strictly numbers and forget that those symbols and operations have a purpose in real life! 

You might simply need a total for a grocery list. 

You might need to calculate whether or not you can afford a new car or how long it will take to pay off the mortgage under various scenarios. 

Of course, if you are an engineer or architect – or want to be – there are all kinds of mathematical calculations that will determine outcomes for your next bridge or building. 

Math is used in so many careers and so many “real-life” situations that it should not be seen as mere numbers. 

Do not fear math any more.  Jump in, follow the steps above, and keep at it.  

I know you can master the skills you need. 

As always, if you need help, I am available. 



This week’s video:  Steps to Loving Math!

Make the Most of Your Homework Time & Reduce the Pain.

I get a lot of questions from my in-person students and on Quora about how to make the most of homework time and how to reduce the pain!

Some students are interested in getting better grades and are willing to do almost anything to get them.

Others are interested in reducing the pain and want something easy to make that happen.

These two goals are not as disparate as they might seem at first glance.

If you use good study skills and develop habits that will serve you well, then the pain is mitigated and the learning can truly begin.  magic

Sometimes, students are not happy with my answers because there is no magic.  In other words, there is  not a secret “trick” that you can do that will suddenly make homework as fun as pony rides (assuming you have no morbid fear of ponies) and that will insert you with the intelligence quotient of an Einstein.


The tips are basic.  Most of them have been known for thousands of years!  What!  Even when the Internet didn’t exist – or smart phones – or apps – or herbs and vitamins to boost the brain?  YES!

Simple is often still the best route.  Some of the additional benefits of technology can help (or hurt) and maybe (big maybe) some vitamins and herbs can boost your brain – but you still need the foundation.

The tips are basic.

They work!

BE QUIET!       emoticon-25532_640

Sorry, I got carried away there.  But really, find a quiet location, if possible.  It is much easier to focus when distractions are reduced.  Turn off the T.V. – no smartphone (no dumb phone either) – no music* – no internet chat – no Sloppy Joes over your textbook / keyboard –  etc. Focus on one task.

                        * Music can be used to block out other annoying sounds, but is should be at a level that does not interfere with your focus – preferably without lyrics so that you don’t start singing along!

Read.  Read, and read, and read ….  I cannot stress enough how important it is to read as much as you can, and re-read for more comprehension.  You never capture everything on the first read of a substantial text.  You need to look over it several times. Read supplemental material as well.  Go beyond the minimum!

Write.  Write out notes.  Draw diagrams, create charts, pictures, graphs – anything that will help you remember.  Write on flashcards – especially useful for terms & definitions, but they can be used for all kinds of study.  Write a journal. Really?  Yes, writing down your thoughts can help you review your day and your network of knowledge.  so keep on writing, preferably handwriting.  Writing or printing by hand engages different parts of your brain.  People – and yes even young people – retain more information when they have physically written out notes compared to typing them.

Study.  I don’t mean look over your notes once, or three times, or one-hundred times.  I mean study.  Close the book, look away from the screen, stop listening to the lecture recording, and ask yourself if you can answer questions without looking or listening.  If you don’t know the answers without reading them in front of you, then you don’t know the material!  Self-testing (or you can use a buddy) is one of the best methods (not to mention the most overlooked and underused method) to prepare yourself.  Don’t cheat yourself by thinking that you know something without ever testing this hypothesis.

Be kind to yourself.  Reward yourself when you have done a good job.  Recognize the value of working hard but also the value in working smart.  Make sure you get a good night’s sleep.cup-1010909_640  Catnaps are good, too, if they are brief.  (Catnaps might be a misnomer.  Don’t sleep like your cat for sixteen hours a day!)  Make sure you eat healthy meals – small and numerous is best to keep your body (brain is included) performing at a steady rate.  Don’t let yourself off the hook!  Wait – I thought you said to be kind to yourself?  Yes, sometimes kindness = toughness.  You need to be honest with yourself – no cheating – no lapsing on scheduled homework time – no excuses.  The reward you get later is the kindness component.

Making the most of homework time:

If you are focused and using solid study strategies during your homework time, you will retain far more information; gain more knowledge; and do better on quizzes, tests, and exams.  You will be working smart which is at least as important as working hard.

Reducing the pain:

If you are focused and using solid study strategies during your homework time, you will begin to find the material is learned faster and better.  You might even be studying for less time and getting more out of it – reducing the “pain.”   You know the value of your efforts, so the pain factor starts to become less noticeable even during the sessions.

These are very broad strokes on how to make the most of homework time AND reduce the pain.

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Of course, for a more personal touch – check out the website, and contact me.  I can set up personalized programs that will help you, or your child, reach your goals. Boy books



Video:  Make the Most of Your Homework Time & Reduce the Pain






You Be the Teacher – You Be the Student!

You Be the Teacher – You Be the Student!


You can be both a teacher and a learner at any age, and you can do so at the same time.

What do I mean by this?

When you are trying to learn something, put yourself into the teacher’s role.  Pretend that you are teaching yourself.  Alternatively, you can pretend that you are teaching an learn-1996845_640imaginary classmate.  (Suggestion – pick someone you like!)

Use this method during your homework sessions to help you remember information.

This method is not only good for retaining information, but it will also help you learn how to explain concepts, plots for stories, themes, terms, etc.  When the test or exam, or even a pop quiz, arrives, you will have already had practice explaining in your own words – and you will remember!

Teaching others – even imaginary others – is a great gift to you.

You have probably already had this experience.

Have you ever taught a child, parent, sibling, or friend how to ride a bike, play a board game or video game, read, dance, play a sport and so on.  child-558798_640

I bet you have.

Remember that teaching (or learning) is not all about academic subjects.  In fact, you have many learning experiences long before you ever get to school.  Parents, grandparents, siblings, and other family members are your first “teachers.”  They help to get you sitting up, to turn babbling into single words, to stand, and to walk.  Many of the things you learned before you went to school were also learned – at least in part – with you being your own teacher.  Practice, practice, correction, practice, practice, tweaking a bit, practice, practice – mastery!  (Of course, the practice, corrections, and tweaking usually go on much longer.) There is a lot of trial and error learning going on right from the very beginning of your life.

You have probably taught yourself many things since then, particularly anything that you are very interested in doing.

The fact that you might not be completely enthralled with learning algebra, or history, or science, does not negate the fact that you can be your own teacher during practice sessions. Giving yourself permission to take over both roles will enhance the learning experience, make it much more interesting, help you remember, and may even make you a little more understanding and empathetic toward the classroom teacher who is trying to help you gain the knowledge.

So, give it a try during your next homework session.  Be the one to answer the questions as always, but try being the one who asks the questions as well.  Practice being the one who encourages you to learn, who directs you to the right pages, who points out the important bits, even the one who is stern when you go astray.


I know you will be increasing your learning by a substantial amount!

If you need more encouragement or direction, I am always willing to help.julia-raasch-143428


Or – if you want to get started right away:  Sign up here!

This weeks Video: You Be the Teacher – You Be the Student

15 Questions to Ask When Looking for a Tutor

15 Questions to Ask When Looking for a Tutor


1.      What do you tutor?

There is no sense in having a long conversation if the tutor does not teach the subject you need.

2.    Where do you tutor?

Some tutors travel to the client’s home, some tutors meet in a neutral location, and some tutors have the client come to them.

Don’t forget online tutoring! 

Many tutors will use a combination of one of the methods above with online tutoring or do all of their teaching online.

If you have any issues with the location of the lessons, ask the tutor why he or she chooses to teach in this way.  You might be surprised that a method will work for you even though you never thought about it.

3.   How long is each tutoring session? How often do you meet with the student?eder-pozo-perez-32852

4.   What is your availability?

If the tutor does not have any spots available or nothing that will accommodate your schedule, then you can decide to continue on with the conversation or not.  It might still be a great idea to get to know the tutor for future reference.

5.   What are your qualifications, certifications or credentials?

While qualifications are important, there are a wide variety of qualifications. Is the tutor able to express himself or herself well in describing his or her strengths? It is more important that the tutor feels comfortable with the teaching process than his or her having a PhD.

6.   How long have you been tutoring?

Again, this should not be the only deciding factor.  Someone new to tutoring would not have a lot of experience, but she or he might still be an excellent tutor.  Of course, one with lots of experience has probably dealt with many different learning styles and has gone well beyond the lessons learned from textbooks or teacher’s college into the real world of teaching and learning.

7.   Can you tell me a little bit about your teaching philosophy?shield-108065_640

Get to know the tutor by discussing education overall and his or her feelings and thoughts about the importance of learning.  This gives both of you a chance to speak more freely and get to know one another.  You can often begin to get a “feel” that this is the right fit. If a tutor cannot clearly express himself or herself about teaching and students, it might be time to look a little further.

8.   Have you worked before with students who have learning challenges?

This question would not apply to everyone, but many parents are looking for a tutor to handle an identified student.  Even without a formal identification, a student might have issues with attention, dyslexia, or other learning challenges that require remediation.  A tutor who has worked with these kinds of issues will have tools and strategies to help.

9.  How do you assess students?

What kind of tools does the tutor use to discover a student’s current abilities and challenges? How will these tools be used to generate a useful program? Is the tutor willing and able to incorporate results from other assessments?

10.  How do you design the student’s program?

Will the program be flexible or static?  Will the program be homework support only, or will the program be solely based on the tutoring materials?  Of course, flexible programs might include a homework support component as well as lessons to strengthen a student’s foundation.

11 .  What kind of reporting do you provide?

You might discuss the kind and amount of contact available between reports as well.

12.   How can I help in the learning process?

Are there things that I can do at home to help improve the results?

13.  How much do you charge per session?piggy-2889042_640

Please, do not hire a tutor solely based on price!  This is such a bad idea, but something a lot of people do.  Cheap is not always the best choice – particularly when we are talking about developing someone’s brain and helping them gain the skills they will need for the rest of their lives.

14.   Are there any other additional fees for materials, phone calls, assessments, extra homework practice, etc.?

A tutor should always be up-front about the cost of tutoring.  Unfortunately, sometimes there are a lot of hidden fees.   You should be fair as well.  If a tutor is providing a lot of extra practice, she or he has to prepare the materials, read over and mark the answers, and include all of this in their reporting method.  Doing the extra work might need to be rewarded.

15.   What is the policy for cancellations and make-up sessions?

Keep in mind that pedagogically the student should be consistent and available for his or her sessions or to make them up as soon as possible.  To be fair, this also makes sense for the tutor from a business perspective.  Your goal and the tutor’s goal should be to achieve as many sessions as possible on the right day and time.

These questions will get you started.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to find a tutor that will work with you or your child’s particular challenges and goals in mind.  julia-raasch-143428Look for a tutor who won’t simply “plug-in” your child to a program designed for all. Learning is not the same for everyone, so the program for your child should not be identical to the one for thousands more!


This week’s video:  Questions to Ask When Looking for a Tutor