Monthly Archives: August 2011

Too Many Picassos


The fact that most kids really enjoy creating art is a good thing. Whether the results are masterpieces worthy of the Louvre or slightly-less acclaimed abstracts that may end up in the local thrift store, the act of creation is what’s important. However, the sheer amount of art projects produced can be overwhelming. I have an aunt who tells her children that the “Art Fairy” took their artwork away at the end of the day when really it was being secretly recycled. As the school year begins, you’ll be seeing a lot of art, so here are some ideas of how to use it!

Is this a Van Gogh or garbage? Well, nobody said art was objective! (Image Credit:http://whatmykidsartsays.blogspot.com)

Make it Gallery-Worthy

To give credit where credit is due, this first idea comes from my own mom. She chose some of her favorite pieces that we produced and gave them the gallery treatment, putting them into frames and hanging them along our stairwell. That way, you’ll feel a little less guilty about getting rid of other pieces. You’ll be showing your child you appreciate their art enough to frame it, and you’ll also get some great pictures for your wall! A win-win situation!

Give it Away

A lot of family members enjoy getting original art from your little Monet, but to make it extra-special, why not try having it put on another object? A coffee mug for Grandma or a T-shirt for Aunt Susan might be just the way to go for a few special pieces your child creates. After making the new object, you can either save the original or recycle it to make space for future projects.

Beam Me Up!

Keeping physical copies of all artwork can consume a lot of space. To help save room and memories, why not try preserving your children’s artwork digitally? Whether you scan the pieces in or take pictures, you can put together an album that highlights artwork without taking up physical space. Or, if you still want a physical copy, go to a photo website where you can make a photo book and put your child’s art into it for a great conversation starter and memento.

What are some other ideas you have for preserving children’s artwork?

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Curing Homesickness


By now, many schools, colleges, and universities have started up, and that means that some children have traveled away from home to pursue their studies. Whether your child is attending a boarding school or university, homesickness is a very probable ailment. The first time I ever spent away from home was at a one-week summer horseback riding camp, and the first two days were impossibly miserable. By day three, I finally shook off my blues and managed to enjoy myself before going home. The next time I was away from home when I decided to attend college two hours east. The drive down I felt tense, but the tears didn’t start until I was finally in my dorm room, which I initially attributed to the fact that my roommate took the better half of the room but were really just the first symptom of homesickness.

Now, four years later, I’m preparing for graduate school, and moving over 1,000 miles from home to do it. Yesterday, I opened the door to my first grown-up girl apartment, and fought back tears the entire time I unpacked. Was moving this far from home the right decision? Did I make it too lightly? Am I prepared to handle living by myself? I was so nervous, upset, and uptight that I couldn’t enjoy the new city I’ll be calling home for a year.

Nothing that is worth having comes easily, and the process of moving away from home, no matter how near or far, can be extremely difficult. So here are a few things I’ve found have worked for me in the past, from that first painful sleepover to studying abroad overseas. Hopefully they’ll help both of us cope as the school year winds up.

Make it Familiar

There are enough strange, new, and exciting things to get used to when moving away from home, so bringing things that remind you or your child of home isn’t a bad thing. By having familiar objects around that make you feel more comfortable, you can ease some of the homesickness burden. One of the easiest ways to bring familiarity to an unfamiliar place, which is also easily packed, is by bringing lots of pictures of family, friends, and even familiar places. For younger students, just taping photos up on the wall in a collage is a great idea. For older students, who may have their own grown-up apartment, try shopping around for frames.

Looking Forward

Having something to look forward to makes almost any situation feel better. By having events that you can anticipate, homesickness may fade away faster. Knowing that family will be coming down for Friends and Family Weekend in four weeks or being picked up for Thanksgiving makes the time spent away from home seem less endless. Of course you’ll meet new people and have great new experiences, but at first you’ll crave the familiarity of home and the people you love there, and having pre-planned time to spend with them posted on the calendar can make the time fly by faster until you feel better.

Get Out

It may seem easy to sit around and mope when you miss home. While it may not be as easy to get up and participate in your new surroundings, it will make you feel a lot better in the long run. Get out of your room and try doing things on your own. Before you know it, you’ll be making new friends because you decided to take the risk and get out. The first week at college I avoided doing anything, but by the second week I was throwing myself into every possible event. I joined clubs, went to guest lectures, and worked out at the gym. Pretty soon, I started recognizing people at different events, and was making friends. The more I got out, the less homesick I felt.

Talk It Out

In between all the getting out, stay in touch with home. It’s easier than ever to keep the home fires burning. I was a total Skype addict when I studied abroad, and I’m already planning my Skype-capades once my new apartment gets internet on Monday. I love being able to see loved ones from home and friends I’ve made throughout the years, and homesickness is almost impossible when you have your brother making goofy faces at you for half-an-hour. This suggestion does require a word of caution, however. Too much of a good thing, be it Skype or cellphone calls or even postcards, can distract you from the potential your new situation offers. Don’t spend every waking minute glued to your technology so that you can be in touch with everyone at home. What would be the point of going away in the first place? Balance your communication home with new experiences in your new home.

Gooooooooal!

One of the things I’m looking forward to about living alone and in a new place is getting the opportunity to work on things I wouldn’t at home. Set some goals for the time you’re spending away from home! Sure, school and school work will take a lot of your time. When you have downtime on a Tuesday night and nothing is going on, take some me-time and improve on a skill. Do you want to learn to speak French? Take advantage of your freedom and do it! You’re free to reinvent yourself in a new place, so why not do things you’ve always wanted? Besides, achieving goals makes most people feel better!

Add a Twist

So you’re craving New York pizza and all the pizzerias around don’t know what they’re doing. Combine a taste of home with the new by inviting people over for a legit taste of New York. Whether it’s eating food, watching a movie, or doing an activity you miss from home, inviting the new people you’ve met will make it less depressing and more fun.

As a final caution, seek professional help if your homesickness is spiraling way out of control into depression or extreme anxiety. There’s a difference between homesickness and depression, and you need to be aware of the difference. Hopefully your time away from home will be rewarding, and overcoming your homesickness will not be as difficult as you may think it will be right now.

 

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Manic Monday Balancing Act


Part of what makes a manic day crazier is the amount of running around contemporary families have to do. In between soccer practices, history tutoring sessions, marching band rehearsal, and the other extra-curricular activities that today’s students are involved in, the average parent’s evening is not full of rest and relaxation, but the chauffeur shuffle. Every parent wants the best for their child, and participating in extra activities outside of school is a great educational experience. However, with the school year just gearing up, why not try streamlining some ¬†after school activities?

Finding the perfect balance can be difficult, but you'll be happier when you do! (Image Credit:http://www.thebahamasweekly.com/publish/sports/Nassau_Nastics_Gear_Up_For_Gymfest_printer.shtml)

To keep your evenings from being eaten up by driving, first go through all the activities family members are involved in and figure out what the major priorities are. Sure, Timmy may like to spend Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons playing intramural basketball at the school, but if it really interferes with your schedule, why not try limiting it to one or two times a week? Find the activities that can be reduced in times per week, or can be shifted to another night. If Tuesdays are really crazy, maybe your partner can shift his or her gym night to Wednesdays to ease the burden.

When you’ve streamlined your activities as much as possible, start looking for help. Find a neighbor (or, preferably, neighbors) that has a pick-up at the same location, and take turns making the run. By making compromises and arrangements that make evenings easier, you can spend less time running around and more time relaxing.

 

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It Ain’t Easy Being New


Being the new kid ain’t easy. Whether you’re moving into a huge school district where nobody will even notice that you’re new except you or into a tiny school district, where everyone and their second cousin twice removed will know you’re new, it can be a challenging experience to acclimate to a new environment. Even if you’re just changing school buildings within the same district, it can be a difficult adjustment! So here are a few tips to ease the transition of newness so that you can get back to actually learning (and, okay, making some new friends too).

Well, we didn't exactly mean the New Kids on the Block! (Image Credit:http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20174022,00.html)

Scout it Out

You never walk into unfamiliar territory totally blind if you’re a master strategist. So why would you enter a new school without knowledge of its layout? Knowing how to get from your locker to your chorus lesson can help ease some of the first-day jitters. Try calling your school counselor before school starts and asking if you could come in for a quick tour. If someone isn’t available to guide you around, ask if they have a map of the building available to help you. Now, rather than spending your first day asking everyone if they know where Mr. Vanetti’s health class is, you can walk confidently in the right direction. As a bonus, if you see someone else looking lost, you can offer up your knowledge of the school (or your map!). Who knows? You might even become friends.

If you’re going to be the new kid and not have to switch classes, a tour can still be helpful. Knowing where the gym, nurse’s office, and the best water fountains are still can’t hurt, and that little bit of familiarity can go a long way.

Rules, Rules, Rules

Another good thing to do before the first day is to find out what the school rules are. I’m not saying you have to memorize the school code of conduct, but it’s good to know the major things that could impact you on your first day, like the dress code. It’s always a little bit stressful to be caught breaking a rule, even if you didn’t know you were doing it, so by asking the school counselor for a list of any rules you’ll be saving yourself a lot of headaches later.

All My Bags Are Packed, I’m Ready to Go

The night before starting at a new school, make sure that everything is in its place. Spend some of the time you’re awake with the jitters doing something productive instead, which might make sleeping easier anyway! Make sure you have the materials for every class you’ll be taking, and that they’re clearly labeled! Have extra writing utensils readily available, as you may not want to have your first impression as the kid who can never find a pen. Have your backpack sitting by the door ready for you to grab the next morning for an easy time out the door.

Hi, My Name Is…

Even if you already know some people at your new school, this is an opportunity to meet a lot of new people. Don’t close yourself off from this experience. One of the things I wish I had known in high school is that a lot of how people perceive you has to do with how you perceive yourself. If you think you’re not cool enough to hang out with the star football player, then he’s definitely going to think you’re not cool enough. But if you have confidence and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone, a lot of people will respect that and respond well to it. So get your winning smile ready and introduce yourself, and be ¬†ready to answer potential questions about yourself.

This goes double for teachers. Don’t necessarily bombard them on your first day in the classroom, but make sure that by the end of the first week you’ve made an effort to say hello and introduce yourself outside of the roll call. Chances are, this will make a positive impression on the teacher.

Ummmmm…

Be prepared for potential stand-in-front-of-the-class-and-introduce-yourself situations. Know something interesting about yourself and something you did over your summer vacation ready so that you can breezily answer. Some teachers do this just to the new kids, but others have everyone participate. Either way, you’ll be ready with a few quick answers so that the experience can be quick and painless.

Be Who You Want to Be

The best part of a new school is that you can totally reinvent yourself. Were you super quiet in your last school and never participated? You can turn over a new leaf without anyone’s judgment! Be outgoing, try out for the marching band, do whatever it is that you were too scared to do at your old school! This is a chance for you to explore parts of yourself without judgment or consequences, so why not?

If you have some more great tips for new kids, or were once a new kid yourself and want to share your experiences, please let us know! We’d love to hear from you!

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Considerations Before Tutoring


So, you’ve decided that tutoring is right for you or your child. Now, there are a few more things to think about before you take the plunge.

Timing is Everything

One of the best things a tutor can offer is structure. By setting up regular tutor appointments, you’ll be sure to keep up with the work you need to be doing, and you get guidance while doing it! However, you need to decide how much time you can dedicate to the subject and tutoring. Ideally, you’ll need at least two hours with the tutor per session, as any less than that will fly by and note be as effective. When considering how often to meet with a tutor, you need to think about the long-term of your goal. If you want to get a higher score on the ASVAB exam, and the exam you want to take is in ten weeks, you’ll probably want to meet with a tutor at least two times a week to get the most out of tutoring. If you’re trying to do better in a college French class, maybe once a week is all it will take. A good rule of thumb is that the more short-term your goal is, the more condensed tutoring you’ll need.

Where, Oh Where?

At Tutor Doctor WNY, we feel strongly that tutoring goes best when it’s in a place where you feel comfortable, not in a large tutoring center. Whether you want your tutoring to happen at your kitchen table or at the library down the street, we offer lots of flexibility for location based on your preferences. Think about where you like to do work when considering where tutoring should take place. While you may love sitting at your kitchen table, will you be too distracted by other family members making snacks? You may enjoy the library, but does the Tuesday night knitting circle get a little too boisterous? You need to find a place that works for you, and will allow you and the tutor to make the most of your time together.

The Ideal Tutor

The relationship between tutor and student is very important. A good relationship means that you’ll work well together, working to accomplish a common goal. A bad relationship can sabotage your goal and set you back. At Tutor Doctor WNY, our tutors come from all walks of life. Whether you would work best with a certified teacher or with a retired engineer to ace your calculus course, we take the match between student and tutor very seriously. Considering that you’ll be working one-on-one with this person, you want to make sure you are compatible and that the tutor is able to really cater to your learning style.

But My Dog Ate It…

Bear in mind, your tutor is probably going to give you extra assignments to help boost your knowledge. Sure, the tutor will definitely be willing and able to help you with homework you may already have for a class, but he or she will also want to give you supplemental materials to help you master difficult concepts. If you’re receiving tutoring for an exam, you’ll have to make time to complete the worksheets the tutor will give you. Tutoring isn’t a magic solution if the student doesn’t put forth the necessary time and effort.

So Tell Me What You Want

A tutor is not a mind reader. Before beginning tutoring, you should have some idea in mind of the goals you’re looking to accomplish. The tutor can help you pinpoint areas that need work to help you accomplish that goal, but if you have no clear goal in mind the tutoring won’t be as useful. For example, you may want to improve the score you got on your SATs, and you know you scored low in the math section. The tutor may also be able to help you not only with the math skills you’ll need for the SAT, but can also provide test-taking tips in general, such as how to take a test or how to master test anxiety. By having clear and open communication with your tutor, you may reap even more benefits from the tutoring than you even expected!

Hopefully some of these tips will help your tutoring process a little bit easier! Remember, we at Tutor Doctor WNY would love to hear from you, so please feel free to contact us for a free tutoring consultation to help you start the school year off right!

 

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You Might Need a Tutor When…


Before deciding to begin a tutoring program, there are many things that should be considered. First, let’s look at the signs that your child may benefit from tutoring.

Decrease in Grades

If your child normally does very well in math class, but is suddenly bringing home Ds and Cs, you may want to consider tutoring. If your child struggled the previous year, this may be an early sign that tutoring should be investigated.

Difficulty with Homework

Although it may seem like simple laziness or stubbornness, there may be something else lurking behind your child’s refusal to complete homework assignments. If your child is struggling but unwilling to admit it, you need to have a conversation about what exactly is going on. Tutors can help provide more structure to completing homework, but they aren’t necessarily the end-all-be-all cure to laziness.

Disinterest in School

If your student doesn’t show an interest in school subjects that used to be interesting, it may indicate that there are underlying issues. Talk to your student; it may simply be that your child has found new interests, or it could be a greater underlying issue.

Desire to do Better

If your child claims to want to do better in school, and starts putting forth the work independently, your child could greatly benefit from a tutor. Together, your child and the tutor can work to accomplish his or her goals. The tutor provides the support your child may need.

Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at the things you should consider when you are looking for a tutor. Remember, Tutor Doctor WNY would love to help you as you work towards your educational goals. You can call us for a free educational consultation any time!

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