Monthly Archives: October 2013

Teaching Responsibility: How To Help Your Student To Take Charge

“If you don’t have confidence, you’ll always find a way not to win.” – Carl Lewis


Teaching your students to take responsibility for their learning and their actions is a great way to empower them and to motivate them. Being responsible isn’t something that comes naturally to most students and part of the reason for this is that those areas of the brain which deal with responsibility (frontal cortex) continue to grow and develop well into their early twenties. You can help them to take ownership of their actions and to think things through before acting with these simple techniques.

Instilling Confidence
The first step in taking responsibility is for your students to believe that they are capable of making the right choices and of taking the lead. Start with baby steps; ask them how they are going to deal with a situation like an upcoming test or looking after a younger sibling.

Listen to their plan and discuss things that could go wrong and how to deal with possible problems. It’s best here to allow your student to come up with their own solutions; don’t be too prescriptive as to what they should do. Allowing them to formulate their own plans inspires confidence and giving them more responsibility shows that you have confidence in their abilities.

Dealing With Failure
As students take on more responsibility with their studies and in other aspects of their lives, it’s inevitable that some glitches will occur. When this happens, try to remain calm and reflect on their actions, and the consequences of those actions.

When discussing failures, ask open ended-questions to allow students to arrive at their own conclusions. Taking responsibility means taking ownership of actions and consequences both good and bad. If you give your students responsibility, but keep taking the issue back or interfering, it will take them longer to assume responsibility.

Developing Responsibility At Home
Pets, chores and independence should be gradually introduced when your students are ready for them. As they learn to be responsible for all aspects of their lives, they will naturally assume responsibility for their academics too.

If you find yourself nagging them to do the things they know that they are responsible for, allowing them to fail occasionally and to deal with the consequences may inspire greater responsibility in the future.

Assuming Academic Responsibility
When students are struggling with academics, it may be time to set some goals that are realistic. Decide together on goals that for short term improvement and long-term achievement. Then set out a plan to accomplish those goals.

Get a tutor for students who have fallen behind, set a study schedule and suggest ways in which you can monitor their progress. Be involved, but don’t dictate; remember that they must be responsible for their own academic progress if they are really going to succeed.

Reward their successes with more freedom and responsibility and be patient and supportive when they fail.

Note: Originally published 10/28/2013 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog


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How To Come Up With A Great Science Fair Idea

A successful science fair project can do wonders for your child’s self-esteem, grade point averages and can even catapult them to stardom in the way that it has for some of our young entrepreneurs. The biggest hurdle for science fair projects is coming up with an original idea. Once you have your idea, you will follow the scientific method for determining the outcome.

What Is The Scientific Method?
A good place to start is to examine the scientific method itself so you can understand where you’re headed.

Step 1: Based on something you have observed, formulate your question.
Step 2: Predict the answer you think most likely and formulate this as a hypothesis.
Step 3: Create an experiment that will show whether your answer (hypothesis) is true or false.
Step 4: Analyse the results of your experiment and decide if your hypothesis is valid or invalid.

Let’s look at an example: If I observe that the plants in my room grow better than plants in the rest of the house, I can ask the question: “Why do the plants in my room grow better than the plants in other rooms of my house?”

I then formulate an answer or hypothesis: “The plants in my room grow better because I play music in my room.”

Now you design an experiment to test your hypothesis. This will involve two plants who have exactly the same growing conditions where one is exposed to music while the other one is not. You will record their growth rates over the stipulated period.

Analysis of the data should lead you to confirm or reject your hypothesis.

If you have time, you can do further experimentation. For example, you can test whether different kinds of music have different effects on plants.

Formulating a hypothesis

Once you understand the scientific method, you can see how easy it is to ask questions about anything in the world around you. Start by thinking about your favorite hobbies and interests; is there a question you can ask about these? You will be spending a lot of time with your science fair project, so it may as well be about something you like.

Look online: Sure, we know that you want an original idea, but looking at other science fair projects can really inspire you. Perhaps you will look at the experiment above and decide to test whether tap water or boiled water will help plants to grow better, or maybe you will want to test whether yelling at plants or complimenting them has an effect on their growth. You can take an existing experiment and put your own spin on it.

Start thinking about your science fair project now so that you have tons of time to come up with a great idea. Remember that science fair projects are only as great as the original question. Here are some resources that offer ideas for science fair projects. Use these to get inspiration for your original science fair project idea.

Science Buddies

Science Bob

Science Kids



All Science Fair Projects

Note: Originally published 10/28/2013 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog

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Healthy Kids Equal Healthy Communities: Community Initiatives That Start With Kids

One of our readers recently contacted us and said:

I’m Jacqui Barrie the marketing assistant for I wanted to reach out to you and share this article with you, I think it’s something that you and your followers would enjoy and benefit from.  I’d appreciate it if you would share it with your fan base via your blog.

In reading the article titled “Healthy Kids Equal Healthy Communities:  Community Initiatives That Start With Kids” we agree that many of our readers would appreciate the article in it’s entirety. Thank you Ms. Barrie.

With American cities struggling in the face of violent crime, drug activity and financial hardship, it’s not always easy to maintain an optimistic view of the future. Rebuilding strong, vibrant communities starts at the ground level, with strong efforts to protect the children who will become future community leaders. These community initiatives and others like them can be found in cities across the United States. They affect positive change in neighborhoods all over the country. The problem is that they may be under-utilized, often due to low community awareness. Funding for non-profit initiatives can also be hard to come by, as residents choose to instead invest in the private sector. Finding or starting programs that target the youngest and most vulnerable members of the population is an investment in the future of your community.
Facilitating Strong Family Bonds
Strong kids start with strong families. In today’s busy world, there never seems to be enough time to spend fostering strong bonds with kids. Thankfully, there is an emerging trend supporting community efforts to bolster familial support systems. Helping parents and kids learn to communicate more effectively is one area in which these programs can make a real difference. Learning to speak your kids’ language isn’t always easy, especially during the difficult adolescent years. With the help of counselors and outreach programs, however, you can put an end to problems within the familial unit. These programs can be particularly effective when it comes to single-parent households.
Boosting Academic Power
In order for a child to bring his expertise back to his community as an adult, he needs to first learn viable and marketable skills. Investing in commerce provides a great short-term resource for communities, but investing in the kids who will spur the economy of the future is an even better option. Supporting locally-based programs that help kids excel in school gives them the boost they need to succeed as adults. Remember that the at-risk youth of today hold the potential to be the business leaders of the next decades. With the right guidance and plenty of academic support, these kids can achieve greatness. When at-risk kids are left to founder in the public system without support, their future may be decidedly bleaker. Programs that offer after-school tutoring, bolster literacy skills and emphasize the importance of a great education can make all the difference to a struggling child. Preparation programs that give preschoolers a head start on their academic careers can also be a strong source of long-term community growth and prosperity.
Meeting Vital Low-Income Needs
A child that’s hungry or whose basic needs are not being met simply does not have the tools she needs to succeed. Outreach programs and community initiatives that offer a much-needed helping hand to kids in poverty are among the most important in any neighborhood. Children’s museums in cities like Indianapolis have had great success with low-income internship programs that help poverty-stricken kids explore the arts and sciences. The Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s programs help kids in low-income areas across the nation gain access to early education programs and meal subsidies. Kids who participate are able to get a head start in school, while their parents gain affordable, dependable childcare that allows them to pursue employment. When these families are able to rest assured that their basic needs are met, kids can flourish and prosper. Bringing that prosperity back to the community helps to strengthen the city and everyone involved benefits greatly.
Instilling Community Pride
Caring kids with a sense of civic responsibility and community pride are the backbone of any neighborhood. Organizations that support these values help those kids become the adult force behind the community in later years. Programs like the Connecting With Kids initiative in Edina, Minnesota stand as a testament to the power of the model. Connecting With Kids was established in 1998 with the aim of investing in their children for a better future. For three consecutive years, the city has been named one of the America’s Promise Alliance’s 100 Best Communities for Young People. The strong network of partnerships, including the Connecting with Kids program, a solid public school system and the Edina Community foundation earned their spot on this prestigious list. By investing in their children, the people of Edina have been able to attract robust commerce, build a solid infrastructure and encourage community growth. Adults looking for a way to affect positive change in their own communities can rest assured that an investment in initiatives that target kids is a sound one, indeed.

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Monday “Think About It”

Do you feel welcome at your child’s school?

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

Happy 1st Birthday to the Alexander Central School District’s “Outdoor Classroom!”  With learning stations, that include everything from  a music and movement station and a bird watching station to a sand/dirt digging station  and adventure platform station,  it is housed in the school’s previously established nature study area.   As the only certified outdoor classroom in the area, let me toast some of its many attributes!

  1. It is a vision come to life! Born out of one veteran’s teacher’s desire to re-root children in outdoor play, nature, and learning, a community  came together and helped the school win a $50,000 “Pepsi Refresh Your World” grant. Thank you, Ellie Jinks, veteran elementary school educator, for your vision and for the Alexander Central School System community for making it happen!
  2. It is returning children to their natural space-the great outdoors.  Its existence helps turn the tide on what Richard Louv, best selling author of Last Child in the Woods,  coined nature deficit disorder.  Children are again experiencing a relationship with nature.
  3. It is helping children further succeed in the school setting, as studies show that children who learn in an environment that incorporates nature have better success than children who do not.
  4. It is combating the childhood obesity epidemic that our nation is experiencing.  Studies find that  regularly experiencing nature can help prevent childhood obesity.
  5. For many parents who are shaking their heads at the Common Core Standards rigidity and lamenting the loss of regular recess for our children, it is literal and figurative natural antidote.
  6. It is a great way to counter balance the saturation point many children have reached with too much technology in their lives.

As I raise my milk carton to the AOC, thank you for being an inspiration in Western New York education and to school systems everywhere!

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Monday “Think About It”

Is your child being challenged enough at school?

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

Soon I will have to tell them. When we get the call, they will need to know.  A beloved uncle of ours is actively dying.

So I sit and ponder, how do I best explain this to our children?  Death is hard for adults to handle, how do I help my children cope with it? Our children know their uncle is very sick and that yes, sometimes people die from cancer.  We all just thought there would be more time.  This has just been so quick!  The quickness is ultimately a blessing in disguise.

This is what I know and this is what some research has told me. Our children need to know when it occurs.  What we tell them, is largely determined by their age.  Up until five or six, children are very concrete in their thinking.— Thus, the facts and a simple explanation for our youngest girl.  Our two year-old will never know our uncle, the way girls do.  It saddens me that he will hear about him thru stories, as opposed to memories he can recall of his own.  May his little self bring joy and comfort to those around him in these sad days.

Our oldest may have a fuller explanation.   She is nine years old. Of the children, she has known her great uncle the longest.  She has a greater understanding that death is final and death happens to all of us,  and to all creatures in nature.   For younger children, this isn’t necessarily the case. They may think their grandma, grandfather, or other loved will come back.  Going back to explanations, they say never to refer to your loved one as having gone to sleep; that she has gone away; or has been taken home.  This is confusing and potentially scary to the child.  Children need the facts.  They also need to fully be able to voice their feelings and thoughts on the matter, in an extremely supportive way.  Some children will be more articulate with this, while others will not.

Death is an inevitable part of life. When someone dies, children may become scared about dying or having mommy or daddy die.  While children need to know death is inevitable, they need to need to know they  have their full lives ahead of them and most people don’t die until they are very old.

All cultures have traditions and rituals regarding death. The experts say that if faith beliefs are a part of your life, this needs to be incorporated into your explanation.  If your children attend the funeral, you are to explain what they may see.  Some people will be crying and upset during the funeral, while other people will not. The experts say this decision is a personal one for each family, and also somewhat based on age.  It is also based on what role the person who died had in your child’s life and what you think your child can handle seeing.  Mommy and daddy also need to be able to grieve sufficiently and not be distracted by keeping their children quiet or still.

While death is inevitable and the experts (such as WebMD and Kidshealth) all weigh in on how to hand the issue, I am still grappling with how to do this right. Right now, I am waiting for the actual event to occur.  I turn to my faith for guidance.  I grieve and try to be strong for my aunt and my cousin who are going through this terrible time.  I will do these things, so our children can, too….


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