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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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






I’m Stupid. That’s Why I’m Here!

I’m stupid.  That’s why I’m here! face-40056_640

If you are a tutor, I’m sure you have heard this comment.

In over twenty years of tutoring, I have never found this comment to be true.  While it is true that many parents seek out a tutor when Sally or Johnny is having a problem at school, tutoring is not only for those with a delay or challenge.  Not only that, but the students who do have some academic difficulties are quite smart in other ways!  Now – let’s not be wearing rose-coloured glasses.  Sometimes their behaviour might bring us to that no-no word “stupid.”  (By the way, it is a good word at times.  Take note, Word Police!) The occasional stupid action or statement (I’ve made many myself.) does not make a stupid person.

Last week, another student made the claim that he is only here at tutoring because he is stupid.

Now, he likes sports and knows quite a lot about them, so I asked him if he would not bother with a coach when he is a professional ________________________.

“No!” he claimed and looked at me as if I were crazy. “Even the best players have coaches.”

“Yes, in fact the very best athletes often seek out several coaches – and the best coaches, depending on their sport,” I pointed out.

In fact, there are plenty of analogies with sport.  If the coach gets frustrated with you, do you give up the sport?

If the coach gives you some new approaches and drills to try, do you throw your hands up and quit?

How often do you do the same drill over and over and over and over….?  (Have you done the same with your algebra?)

A tutor is an educational coach.  He or she can help you reach your academic goals.

I have helped lots of students who are behind, but I have also helped many students who are straight “A” students or those who have mixed results.  In fact, most of the techniques that work for a student with issues will work just as well for an excellent student.

Taking good notes, for example, will help the “A” student stay an “A” student and it will help the “D” student improve.  (Or the IEP “B” student working three grades below age/grade level begin to catch up.)

Using a reading program rather than “blind reading” will help any student – even a PhD candidate!

Learning to listen more effectively….  Well, you get my point.

While there are strategies that are more specific to a particular problem, the common study skills are just that – common to all.

(Unfortunately, their use is not as common as they should be.)

Let me recap in a different way. mistake-2344150_640

You are not stupid!  (Although, let’s be honest – all of us do stupid things from time to time.)

You can make change – perhaps with a little help.

You can work to achieve YOUR very best results.

A tutor can help you get those results.

Calling yourself stupid is either something you’ve picked up from others, a cry for help, or a way of giving up.

Don’t give up!  I know that you can reach a lot further than even you can see at the moment.  We don’t know our strengths until we try our very best.

  • Did someone tell you that you can’t read, so you need someone to read for you?
  • Did someone tell you that you can’t write, so you need someone to write for you?
  • Did someone tell you that you will never be able to do math without a calculator?
  • Did someone tell you that you are stupid?

Well, tell them all to (careful now!) have another look at you once you have taken control of your own education.

Don’t use any of these claims as an “out” so that you don’t have to work hard.  Take up the reigns and get moving forward for yourself.  Picture 21

Website: www.tutoringcentral

This week’s video: Yes you can!


That Horrible “A” Student! I Hate Him.

That Horrible “A” Student!  I Hate Her. 

How does he do it?

She is always on the top!

He just knows the answers!

She never has to study.

I hear these comments from students all the time. If you are a parent or teacher, I’m sure you do as well.ladybug-158326_640

It’s a modified case of “the grass is greener on the other side.”

Those “A” students simply have it easier.

But, they don’t!

I have met several of these students who “don’t have to study” or “just know the answer” except they actually do study; and, by their own admission, they often don’t already know the answers.

They had to work!

Sometimes it’s mom and dad who lay down the law and make sure that there is a set time every day for homework – often more than the recommended amount of time.

Sometimes the student himself or herself takes the initiative and applies solid study skills and strategies.

You aren’t crazy!normal_crazy_mean_dog

Well, I can’t guarantee that without having met you, but you aren’t crazy on this point.  Many of these “A” students don’t want others to know that they spend time studying and practising.  Some of them will go out of their way to conceal such “horrible” aka GREAT habits.

Students don’t always want to admit that they care about school or their studies.  They often want to “fit it” and agree with fellow students who complain and whine about assignments, teachers, etc.

Other times, they want it to seem like they are simply geniuses and the answers fall from the sky like rain.  Wouldn’t it feel good if you could pretend to your friend that you simply KNOW the answers with little or no effort?


This week’s video:  Horrible “A” Students. I Hate Them!

So don’t be fooled.

Those “A” students don’t have it as easy as you think.

Having said this, once a student begins down the road of being an “A” student he or she will find learning faster and easier.  Just as with any skill, practising and discovering new strategies will make you better and more efficient.

The network of knowledge becomes wider, deeper, and richer.  In other words, the more you know – the more you will know because you will begin to make connections that build your knowledge structure.  This, in part, is what those “A” students are doing.

Once these habits, strategies, and networks are in place sometimes it does seem like magic even to the “A” student.  Someone asks them, “How do you know that?” “I don’t know how I know.  I just do.”

After that conversation, who could blame you for thinking that it is magic, luck, or genes?

Sometimes they study without even knowing that they are studying. If they have a keen interest in a particular subject they are probably reading every book and article they can find because they love it.  They are watching videos, television programs, and movies about the subject.  They are talking to others about it.

Then, “I didn’t study” is not quite accurate, although they might not feel like they have been studying.  Still, they are getting all the same benefits.

They are reading and re-reading.  Each article or book will review and add to their foundation of knowledge.  They will be reciting by talking to others who love the same topic.  So they are questioning, reading, reciting, and reviewing.  Remember the SQ3R Method I wrote about last week?

They are doing it automatically.

What can you do to become one of the horrible “A” students? Creativity Idea Inspiration Light Lightbulb Bulb

It’s easy.  Well, relatively easy to get started at least.

Give up the idea that “others” have it easy, and there is nothing you can do.  That is simply not true.

Start building your network of knowledge using tried and true learning strategies.

It would not hurt to “get interested.” Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it – but generally, with a little effort, you can find a key to begin liking – dare I say loving – a subject.

Approach every course with a positive attitude and a desire to gain something from it.  Try to make as many connections as you can, both within and between subjects, particularly to things you are interested in.  (Who does this historical figure remind me of in my own family?) This will help you retain more information and again increase your overall interest level.

Don’t be afraid to read, read, and read!

Don’t be afraid to spend time on your efforts.  Looking to do the minimum will never get you to the top.

Remember – Yes you can!

Do you need help to get there?  I would love to help you along the way as your personal educational coach.LTLTutoring_eighth_gueAUG16-01