Monthly Archives: June 2011

Internet Safety (Not Again!!!!)

Internet safety is hardly a new topic up for discussion. However, as the internet and social networking sites become ever more ingrained into our society, it sometimes seems that internet safety falls by the wayside. Internet safety isn’t just about avoiding predators anymore. It’s also about protecting the image that your online presence suggests about you. This online presence can be viewed by potential bosses, college professors, political opponents, and other important and influential people. To protect your child’s online image, have a discussion with them about what privacy settings they have on their Twitter or Facebook. Have a discussion about what kinds of pictures are appropriate to post, and what kinds of things it’s appropriate to say on social media sites. The fallout from inappropriate online behavior doesn’t just stay online, and children need to be made aware of that.

The following are some safety tips for you and your child when using the internet, with a special focus on social networking.

  • Never post anything online that you wouldn’t feel comfortable with your boss/parents/other figures of authority seeing. This means everything from your latest tweet to your Facebook profile picture.
  • Put your privacy settings as high as they can go. At the very least, make sure that if people search you on Facebook they can only see your name and profile picture. You wouldn’t let a stranger into your house if you didn’t know them, so don’t give online strangers access to extremely personal information that could be used in a negative manner!
  • Even if you do have privacy settings, you still need to be conscious of what you’re posting.
  • Make sure you know everyone you’re friends with on Facebook. Just because someone is a friend of a friend of a friend doesn’t mean that they’re you’re friend. You can be judged on the people you’re friends with on Facebook, so be smart!
  • If something feels uncomfortable online, don’t get involved!
As one final safety tip for parents, watch out for your child accessing random chat websites, such as Chat Roulette or omegle. These sites connect your child to complete strangers, often in extremely inappropriate ways, through either text or video chat. The best thing parents can do is have honest discussions with their children about online behaviors and the way it can impact them. The internet is a great way to connect with others, but needs to be used safely!

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What You Say, How You Say It, and What You Do Afterwards

One of the great microcosms for parenting styles is a child’s sporting event. There are the parents who sit placidly in the bleachers, cheering when appropriate at an indoor volume level. There are the parents who treat the game like a social event, paying the game minimal attention and focusing on the parents around them for entertainment. Then, there are the parents who are foaming at the mouth, throwing themselves against the fence, screaming at the referee, coaches, other people’s children, and their own child. And, of course, there are the absent parents. This is not meant to be a judgment against any parenting style. In fact, one individual can encompass all of these various personas within a season, depending on the day. For me, these different parenting personas can be carried over into everyday parenting situations. There’s the cheerleader, the laissez-faire parent, the over-involved guardian, and the absent parent.

Watching parents at sporting events is just as fun as watching the event itself! (Image Credit:

For academic support, which of these personas is the most effective? The answer is difficult to arrive at. There are times when the absent parent may be the most effective, and others when the over-involved guardian may prove invaluable. It all depends on the situation; everything from the subject matter involved to the child in question. A child who struggles in science may need the laissez-faire parent to leave him alone so he can work through his homework in peace. The child who excels in math may need the over-involved guardian to make sure that her homework is being completed and handed in.

Homework help or hinderance? (Image Credit:

These parenting styles become even more important when a child needs help on homework. What kinds of encouragement techniques should be used? Figuring out which technique to use can be difficult. Let’s look at some of the terms parents (and educators) use when encouraging a child and evaluate their efficacy.

 “I know you can do this.”

This phrase becomes a challenge to the student. It may be used to great success, encouraging a student who lacks confidence but has the ability. The confidence this statement implies, the idea that the adult knows that the child can complete a difficult problem, can be empowering. “Yes,” the child may think, “I can do this!” However, it can also backfire. In cases when a child genuinely does not know the answer, and the challenge cannot be met, he or she may shut down entirely or argue against the statement. “No, I can’t do this! I don’t know how! It’s too hard!” The best way to use this statement is when a student is stuck on a problem you truly believe he or she can solve. However, it should be followed by the adult taking the time to break down the problem in a way that the child can build up the pieces of information he or she definitely knows into a solution for the larger problem. For example, on a complex math problem, the parent should break down functions the child knows how to do, such as multiplication, before focusing on harder concepts, such as graphing. The supplemental breakdown that follows this statement keeps it from becoming a dismissal of the child’s concerns about his or her success on a problem, while still being a vote of confidence in his or her abilities.

“We just solved a problem like this!”

“Yeah,” your child may respond, “but I still don’t understand!” Or maybe, “oh, yeah! I remember now!” For this phrase, tone of voice is especially important. Do you sound exasperated, or do you sound encouraging? If you sound exasperated, you’re saying that your child is stupid for not immediately picking up on the similarities. It says that you’re tired of working on problems that it’s obvious your child cannot solve. If you sound encouraging, you’re saying that it was hard, certainly, but that your child already did something like it and can do it again. It’s a reminder that it isn’t impossible.

“This is easy!”

Easy is a loaded word. If your child is just frustrated at the amount of work to do, pointing out that something is easy to complete may be encouraging. However if your child is genuinely struggling with something, this may be the end of working for the evening. Few things are as frustrating to a child who is genuinely struggling as being told that the work he or she can’t grasp is easy. “Then I must be stupid!” the child thinks, and shuts down entirely. Before saying something is easy, make sure the entire situation is assessed properly, or else you may have World War III on your hands.

 “Let’s figure this out together.”

Cooperation is usually good, especially when a child has reached his or her breaking point on an assignment or problem. Make sure, however, that you truly work it out together and don’t just finish it for your child, as the only thing the child learns from that experience is that giving up is the key to getting someone else to do difficult tasks. Truly engage your child in figuring out what’s going on by making him or her break down the issue with you and find answers to the smaller pieces. This statement acknowledges that a problem is difficult without saying it’s impossible for the student to complete.

 “This is really tough!”

Honesty really is the best policy, and acknowledging that something is difficult even for an adult can be helpful. Sometimes, people just want someone else to recognize that the work they are doing is challenging. However, some children who struggle may feel that this means the work is entirely impossible for them if their parents even think it’s difficult. Acknowledge the difficulty, but then move past it with your child to the best of both your abilities. Show your child that even difficult tasks can be overcome with enough work.

No matter what you actually say, make sure you watch the tone in which you say it and focus on the actions you take after saying it. That way, everyone feels successful at the completion of a task.

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Creating Global Citizens Part One

For the next few Tuesdays, we here at Tutor Doctor WNY will be focusing on ways that you can help your children to become better global citizens through appreciation of cultural differences. The summer is a great time to focus on expanding your child’s awareness of the world in a way that school’s are not always able to achieve. Before we delve in to this week’s topic, let’s focus on what it means to be a global citizen, and why that moniker is more important than ever.

Help your child explore the world and gain global citizenship! (Image Credit:

To be a global citizen refers to the identity people must adopt in a time with increasing numbers of connections that criss-cross Earth without respect for the boundaries of distance or of invisible borders. Improved technologies, ranging from Skype to faster airplanes, have made the world a more unified place, in which no country can stand in isolation. The impact of this globalization is especially evident in business, where corporations are international brands and operate branches on nearly every continent. Making sure that your child is prepared to enter a world where encountering cultural difference is a daily occurrence can seem difficult, especially if you live in a rural area. After all, children who attend school in a more urban district are more likely to be exposed to cultural differences through their peer groups. To help bolster your own child’s knowledge of other cultures and their comfort and flexibility when dealing with alternative world views, which is beneficial no matter what career they enter, there are many fun and educational options to pursue. For this week’s topic, we’ll be looking at food.

Food from foreign cuisines doesn't have to be gross! (Image Credit:

One commonality that every living being on the planet shares is that they consume food. While there may be a McDonald’s in every country on Earth, that doesn’t mean that all people eat or enjoy the same dishes. Taking a break from your family’s normal cuisine to integrate cultural dishes from Poland, Japan, India, or Brazil expands your child’s idea of what constitutes good food. Imagine your child at a business dinner in a foreign country rejecting a dish because it “smells weird” or “tastes funny”. There’s a difference between legitimate eating restrictions or limitations (such as gluten-free, vegetarian/vegan, and lactose intolerant), and disrespect.

Falafel brings the Middle East to your tastebuds! (Image Credit:

Eating new ethnic foods can also spark your child’s curiosity. Why do they eat reindeer in Sweden but not in the United States? Questions like this can spark discussions about where food comes from, and a lesson in geography. Make your mealtime a discussion about the food you’re eating. Where did the peas in the samosa come from? What kinds of spices are different in Indian food than in traditional American food? To make the experience even more rich, involve your child in the process of creating the food if you’re eating at home, or in researching and ordering the food if you’re going to eat out.


Proper etiquette for other cultures is another lesson children can learn! (Image Credit:

So what are you waiting for? Try a new cuisine tonight, and help your child become a global citizen!



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Danger Can Be…Educational?

There’s a reason that one of the first words  babies learn is “no”. No is a safe word, a word that keeps people out of trouble. “No, don’t touch that hot stove!” “No, we don’t run in the middle of the road when a car is coming!” “No, you don’t hit!” “No, we don’t spit out our food in public!” No is the word that holds the social fabric together. No is a word that keeps people alive. Understandably, we hear a lot of “no” in a day.

So when I first saw Gever Tulley and Julie Spiegler’s book 50 Dangerous Things (you should let your children do), I thought it was a joke. The book cover has a picture of a beehive, a slingshot, a child wielding a spear, and a campfire. It looks like a how-to guide for Lord of the Flies mayhem. A guaranteed trip tot he emergency room. A potential lawsuit. There are good reasons for parents to restrict the things that their children do. As my own mother used to tell me, “If I didn’t care I’d let you do whatever you wanted!” What Tulley argues, however, is that dangerous things are part of life and are actually really cool, as long as you know how to manage them.

Lawsuits and hospital visits and fire, oh my! How much danger is too much?

Among Tulley’s suggestions for things you should let your child do (with proper supervision!) are licking a battery to taste electricity, whittling, driving a car, and cooking a hot dog in a dishwasher. But is their any real benefit to giving your child the opportunity to try something dangerous? There very well may be. By allowing kids to try new things, we spark their creativity. The question of “what would happen if I licked a battery” is tested, and an answer is found. This is the foundation to all learning: the building of curiosity. As college admissions counselor Eugene S. Wilson once said, “Only the curious will learn and only the resolute will overcome the obstacles to learning.” Give your child’s curiosity a chance to flourish, and try something new with them. Some of the best childhood memories I have involve times when danger was involved, like building and firing a homemade potato gun or throwing an entire dried-out Christmas tree on a bonfire. I truly believe that while these things were cool, they also taught me to follow through on my curiosities rather than just allowing them to fade away.

So while Tulley’s activities may not strike a chord with you, the message all parents can take away from the book is that children should be given chances to explore, and these explorations can become family events.

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Saturday Arts and Education

For many parents, summer vacation is a difficult time to manage child care, much less worry about their child’s continuing education. However, the summer months offer a great opportunity to parents to integrate education in the arts into their child’s education. Many schools have cut back on programs in the fine arts to save on money in this fiscal crisis, limiting everything from art classes to theater. However, the fine arts have many valuable lessons to offer, and parents can easily supplement this area of learning with the many cultural events that occur all throughout Western New York. In recognition of the important role fine arts education plays in the life and learning of children, Tutor Doctor WNY will dedicate Saturdays to the intersection of the arts and education. In this feature, we hope to give you ideas of how to engage your child with the arts. Taking a child to a museum, concert, or play is one thing, but truly maximizing the experience to become a teachable moment is another. As always, we at Tutor Doctor WNY would love to hear from you regarding your own experiences with your children and the arts, or to hear your ideas for weekly topics.

For our first feature, we wanted to look at what we feel are some of the many benefits of exposing your child to the fine arts.

1.) Exposure to the fine arts encourages your own child to be creative. Seeing what others have done doesn’t have to be limiting. By exposing your child to many different kinds of music, theatrical performances, and pieces of art, you teach them that thinking outside the box is something valuable. Your child will be encouraged to take risks in their own creative ventures, and will reap the rewards of being a free-thinker!

Exposure to the fine arts sparks your own child's creativity! (Image Credit:

2.) The fine arts provide children a glimpse of other viewpoints. Whether it’s the perspective of someone of a different ethnic background, age, gender, or sexual orientation, the fine arts broaden the way you view the world. In an increasingly global society, it is more important than ever that students are able to cross boundaries and be true citizens of the world.

Boundaries? What boundaries? (Image Credit:

3.) The fine arts appeal to multiple intelligences. For children who are not verbal or auditory learners  traditional classroom learning may prove difficult. The more tactile nature of watching a play being performed or being able to touch a sculpture can help children embrace their different learning styles.

Who said the fine arts always have to be fancy? (Image Credit:

4.) As Pablo Picasso once said, “art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” The fine arts incorporate elements of learning that are important enough to be included on standardized testing, but beyond that they are simply enjoyable. The fine arts provide an escape and a chance to identify with something other than yourself.

Ideally, learning should be enjoyable. So get out there and enjoy learning with your family this weekend!

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Maximizing Computer Time

Today’s children are more technology savvy than the previous generation. Many of today’s students grew up using computers and the internet, something which their parents probably did not. According to a University of Michigan study, children spend approximately 5 hours a week online. But according to a study done by, teens spend an average of 31 hours online. While it is important for children to spend time outside and unplugged over the summer, the reality is that they will continue to want time on the computer. For younger children, you can help to make their time on the computer more productive by having them play free educational online games that help them develop and strengthen academic skills in almost any subject area.

The Greek philosopher Plato once warned, “Do not…keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play.” Contemporary American author Diane Ackerman echoed this sentiment, saying, “Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.” Playing games can help learning, and these educational websites make sure that the games your child is playing are specifically geared towards skill development. So what are you waiting for? Fire up the computer for some educational playtime!

Computer time can be fun and educational! (Image Credit:

This website offers excellent educational games in addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, integers, decimals, money, fractions, time, geography, and language arts. Children can choose to play in a single-player format, compete against others, or cooperate as part of a team. The players children play against are anonymous, unless they choose to set up a game where they play against their friends via a pre-established password. These games don’t just encourage regurgitation of the facts, but are a way students can apply their knowledge and increase their rate and accuracy in a fun context.

This site offers students the option to choose games that are organized by grade level, ranging from Kindergarten through eighth grade. Some of the games are better than others, but they offer quite a bit of specificity, which could be used as a helpful study tool for a unit or just to keep up on knowledge over the summer.

Typing, geography, math, and social studies are just some of the categories addressed by this website. The games are single player, but competition is introduced through computer players. Overall, the games are fun, although some categories offer stronger offerings than others.

With thousands of potential games to challenge players of any age, gamequarium offers a unique rating system to help you choose the best games in any given category. These skill-builders really focus in on a skill and help your child strengthen a skill through practice.

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Changing Education Paradigms with Sir Ken Robinson

Being part of a company that focuses on educational support services, the state of education in America today is always of interest to me. How does our current education system work for children? What can help America to become stronger in the global community we now live in? One voice in the education community that is always bringing up fresh ideas and ways of viewing education is Sir Ken Robinson. In the following video, Robinson’s practical and innovative views on education are laid out through both listening to his speech and watching his points being illustrated by an artist. If you care about education in America today, take the time to watch and enjoy this video.

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