Monthly Archives: December 2013

Five New Year’s Resolutions Every Parent Should Consider


Your 2014 resolutions don’t just have to focus on dieting and exercise; you can set valuable intentions for your parenting too.  Your resolutions for the coming year shouldn’t be vague promises to ‘spend more time with the kids’, but attainable, realistic goals for improving the emotional and academic support you are able to provide.  The key is in the daily routines; small changes here can really lead to big improvements in your family life.

Listen

Take time each day to really listen to your students.  When they have problems academically or socially, ask them for explanations and listen attentively.  If your student is shy or going through a phase where communication is tough, don’t give up or become frustrated. Continue to ask open-ended questions even if all you get is a shrug or an “I don’t know.”  It’s important to keep channels of communication open at all times and to listen without judging.

Stay The Course

When it comes to getting a couple of more minutes of computer time, or moving back curfews, children have better negotiating skills than politicians.  It can be tough to stay the course when you are being nagged and hounded, but it’s important to set firm boundaries.

If you’re not sure about the ‘No’, then put off the answer with “I will have to think about it”.  If you have said no, then stick to your guns.

Take Better Care Of You

I call this the ‘oxygen mask’ principle. In an airplane, adults must put their own oxygen masks on before attending to their children and you need to take care of your own needs in other situations too.  You can’t be a great parent if you are stressed out or unhealthy. Take the time out you need to keep functioning optimally.  Whether that means an occasional night out, exercising more, taking a day off or enabling your children to be more independent, do what you need to in order to maintain your composure.

Be Constructive

Empty threats and blanket criticism can be the result of understandable frustration on the behalf of parents but a constructive, non-judgmental response will often help to solve the situation.  For example, if your student is having trouble academically and has a poor attitude towards studying, parents become frustrated.  Their frustration is borne from a genuine concern for their child’s future, but continuous arguments and criticism won’t solve the problem.

Instead, speaking with tutors, teachers and the student in a constructive, supportive atmosphere can help to create a game plan to improvement that suits both parents and students and results in positive academic gains.

Have Fun

Laughter really is the best medicine and a family that has fun together will form tighter bonds.  Take time out to enjoy yourselves and have fun with your kids. Do enjoyable activities individually with your children and together as a family.  Ask your students what they want to do as participating in planning is more likely to result in participation in the activity.

This year, set yourself really attainable goals that work on your everyday habits. For example, if your resolution is to spend more time with your children and to be a better listener, then start a tradition of spending Sunday afternoons doing something together.  You could take each child to a movie, shopping, or out for a meal.  One-on-one time will really help to give you the space to listen and communicate.

Setting attainable, realistic changes that are tangible will mean that you are more likely to succeed.  Small steps in the right direction result in small victories that are a real encouragement to keeping your resolutions past Valentine’s day.

Note: adapted from a post originally published 12/30/2013 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog

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Monday “Think About It”


Have the Federal government guided educational initiatives like ‘No Child Left Behind’ or ‘Race to the Top’ improved or hindered education in America?  The initiatives certainly have changed many aspects but change is not always an advancement.

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Filed under Education, Education Reform

New Years – Conversation Starters


So the end of our calendar year is upon us again. We have made another orbit around the sun and many cultures find this time of the year to be a time to reflect on the past, plan for the future and generally hope for more prosperity. It is also a great time to talk with and listen to your children about their thoughts about their year and what they hope for in the coming year.

Of course starting a meaningful conversation beyond ‘what do you want for dinner’, ‘do you have any homework…is it done?’ and/or ‘did you pick-up your toys?’ with a child or teen can seem a harrowing task. Below you will find a few conversation starters you might try the next couple of days. Remember you might be surprised by the response but you should try not to be negative nor judgemental. Should that surprise (which can actually be good) happen, a positive way to understand the response better is to ask ‘can you tell me more about that?’ or ‘what makes that important to you?’. Digging a bit deeper just might bring a smile to your face and warmth to you heart.

New Years Conversation Starters

  • What word describes the last year for you?
  • What word do you think will describe the next year?
  • What is your educational goal for this year?
  • What are you most proud of in the past year?
  • If you had the power to change something in the past year what would it be? Why?
  • What was the best advice you had last year?
  • What you do in the new year that will help make the world a better place to live?
  • Did anything inspire you last year?
  • What was your favorite memory of last year?
  • What is one thing you really want to do in the coming year?

For a nice set of 220 free questions you can print on index cards visit the Balancing Beauty and Bedlam website.

Happy New Year!

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


Twas a few nights before 2014 when all through the house

Not a child was stirring, not even our two year-old who likes to get up during the night still, and crawl around like a mouse.

 My children’s’ favorite dress up clothes were hung, no make that crumpled on the ground without a care. 

In hopes that mermaids, fairies, knights, princesses, princes, and the odd pop star would soon be there.

             

Daddy in his earplugs and I the complete sap

Had just settled down for some grown up time and a chat.

 

When out on our lawn there arose such a clatter

I sprang from my armchair to see what the heck was a matter.

 

Away to the window, I bolted like a flash

Sprung up the window and wanted to dash

 

When what to my sleep deprived eyes should appear.

Something that any parents in their right mind would fear.

 

The children were stirring, not inside but out

Bellowing bad boy band songs; looking like Elton John in the 70’s, and dancing no doubt.

 

Yelling nine year-old, six year-old, and two year-old, please stop!

If you continue, there will be a call to the cops

When does school resume, I say, it has been a long break

We don’t know how much commotion; pleas for inside voices, even when outside, we can take!

 

While your breaks are good, your time in school is also a pleasure.

Two weeks off has given us measure.

 

The sight of your school buses and the normal routine, we will treasure.

From our house of Elton John’s to yours, Happy Holidays and Happy 2014!

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Filed under Education, My Experiences, Parenting

Tips On Choosing A School


If you are moving in the New Year, you’ll want to find the perfect school for your kids before you settle on a neighbourhood to relocate to. There are a number of ways that you can go about investigating your schooling options.

Start by visiting GreatSchools which gives the location and general description of each school as well as a rating out of ten. GreatSchools will give you information on the principal and teachers of the schools in your new area. The site offers directions to the school as well as a listing of homes for sale in the neighbourhood.

For a more objective review, consult the school’s annual report card. These can be found on the state’s education department website and will give you a more accurate view of the school’s performance.

Once you have chosen a couple of schools to choose from, ask each one for a school handbook. This will give you all the information you need about each school. Some schools allow you to sit in classrooms or take a walk around the grounds to get a better feel for the atmosphere and the facilities on offer. Not all schools will allow this, so check with the school secretary before you arrive.

Things to consider when selecting a school for your K-12 student include:

  • School culture; do the principals of the school culture fit in with those you teach at home? Ensure that the school has an established system to deal with social and emotional issues such as peer pressure or bullying.
  • Social aspects; will your child fit in socially with the other students that attend the school? Does the school have a warm, inviting atmosphere?
  • Are there too many students in each class? Lower student numbers mean that your child will receive more personal attention from teachers. Optimum numbers are 17 per class or less.
  • Is the curriculum balanced? This should mean that students get the opportunity for academic, sporting and creative pursuits.
  • What facilities does the school offer? Sports, lab, computer, library and other facilities are essential for the development of a well-rounded individual.
  • Consider the commute; if you have already selected a home, make sure that your travel time is minimized to reduce stress and save time.

Ask questions; make a list of all the questions you and your children would like to ask prior to visiting the school. This will help you to gather all the information you need to make the best choice for your children.  Talk to other parents in the area and remember to check the other schooling options that may be available in the area.

Involve your children in the decision making process so that they feel empowered and excited about their new school.  Changing schools can be a difficult and intimidating process for younger students, so take your children along on the school tour so that they feel confident and are familiar with the school before they start their first day.

Note: Adapted from a post originally published 12/30/2011 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog

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Laughter Is …


It is a commonly accepted wisdom that laughter is the best medicine.  Researchers in a variety of fields including Economics, Psychology, Business, and of course medical sciences have all looked at laughter/humor and generally find scientific support for the ability of laughter to help us humans heal or deal with pain.

Not sure if science supports it, but I also believe that humor is a great way for children to learn and families to ‘talk’.  This was evident this past Christmas for our household as we sat down to brunch, lit our advent candles, said a prayer of thanks and did our holiday poppers (aka. Christmas Crackers).  These were great poppers with great paper crowns, little toys and a joke which we each read out loud.  This helped keep the mood festive and the conversation flowing despite the weight of my step-fathers recently confirmed terminal illness that will probably take his physical being from us in a few weeks.

The popper jokes were a perfect ‘happy pill’ for me and I thought I’d share them here and hope they bring you a bit of joy and conversation.

Q. How do snails keep their shells shiny?

A. They use snail varnish

 

Q. What do you get if you cross a stereo with a refrigerator?

A. Cool Music

 

Q. Where should a dressmaker build her house?

A. On the outskirts

 

Q. What has a bed but does not sleep, and a mouth but does not speak?

A. A river

 

Seasons Greetings!

P.S.  In referencing and linking for this post I came across this joke that was officially selected as the funniest joke in the United Kingdom and it will stimulate much spontaneous laughter.

A woman gets on a bus with her baby. The bus driver says: “That’s the ugliest baby that I’ve ever seen. Ugh!” The woman goes to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her: “The driver just insulted me!” The man says: “You go right up there and tell him off—go ahead, I’ll hold your monkey for you.”

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Filed under Health, Improved Learning, Parenting

Setting Screen Time Limits for Students


It is holiday break and part of the inactivity problem adding to the childhood obesity problem is the lack of physical activity.  Computers, Smart Phones, TV and video games all reduce the amount of physical activity.  While some ‘screen time’ is good it needs to be balanced with other activities, but just how much screen time is too much?  As students are increasingly obsessed with screen time, parents need to set limits on how much TV and online time their students are allocated.  Allowing unfettered access to the online world may cause students to live lives that are too sedentary and may also affect their mental, physical andsocial development.

Why Limit Screen Time?
While allowing your students to spend as much time as they like watching TV or online does keep them quiet and happy, it can also have negative effects on their health and behavior. The sedentary lifestyle encouraged by time online can lead to childhood obesity and an increased incidence of diabetes.

Too much screen time can lead to irregular sleeping patterns.  This, in turn, can lead to attention deficits, poor academic performance and weight gain.

According to the May Clinic: “Elementary students who spend more than two hours a day watching TV or using a computer are more likely to have emotional, social and attention problems.  Exposure to video games is also linked with an increased risk of attention problems in children. Watching excessive amounts of TV at age 4 is linked with bullying at ages 6 through 11.”

Children under 3 should not be watching TV or playing with phones or tablets.  According to the BBC: “Dr Aric Sigman is warning that screens “may produce” an increased level of dopamine in children’s brains.  He suggests this could lead to a dependency on screen media when they are older.”

In France, TV shows aimed at an audience younger than 3 are banned to protect younger children from too much exposure.

According to a study by Public Health in England, children who spend most of their time in front of a screen have a lower self-esteem and are more prone to emotional problems.

How To Limit Screen Time
If you think your student is spending too much time online, limit their access to the internet to just a couple of hours a day. It’s important that you discuss with them why they should limit screen time and the rules around accessing the internet and watching TV.

Don’t eat in front of the TV, but take meal times to connect as a family. Be a good example by unplugging regularly yourself.

Be more active as a family. Plan activities that get your family moving and out of the house.

Don’t leave the TV on in the background as this will prove to be distracting. Move TVs and computers from bedrooms into common areas.

Not only is it important to limit screen time, it’s also important to keep tabs on what your student is being exposed to online. You can enforce screen time limitations by programming phones, computers and tablets to switch off after the designated time allowances have been reached.

Note: adapted from a post originally published 11/18/2013 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog

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