Building Confidence

December 12, 2013


Just recently I was speaking with one of our teachers who was working with a student  struggling in math.  The child understands the concepts and processes of math.  To her credit, she has a solid foundation in math except for one little thing…she never memorized her subtraction facts so she relies on her fingers when subtracting.    She is so embarrassed to use her fingers as her calculator she hides her hands under the table so no one else can see her. This, in turn, makes the process of “quick math” really slow.  As one can imagine, when the “mad math minute” comes (how many math problems can you do in one minute), she completely panics and tries any method she can to come up with to answer quickly.

As our teacher was analyzing the situation and talking through the steps to solving math problems with her, the child simply said, “I just can’t do subtraction.”  She had become so overwhelmed  in this one area she had shut down and refused to believe she could do it.  Over their last few tutoring sessions, our teacher brought subtraction back down to a level where the child was successful, even enticing her by writing silly phrases on the top of her math fact pages.  I am not sure what you mean by the silly phrases.  Perhaps an example here? Sometimes things just need to be brought back down to a level where a child can regain their confidence in order to succeed.

“My child’s confidence is suffering,” is the most common thing I hear parents say when they are seeking outside help for their child.  Here are a few things we can do to facilitate and promote confidence in our children:

  1. Set the child up to succeed.  Take a step or two back.  They can’t subtract double digits, but they can subtract single digits.  Start with the single digits where they can be successful.  Build a more stable foundation and add to it a little bit at a time.
  2. Help them lose the label.  My student’s label was, “I can’t subtract.”  She lost that label when she realized she CAN subtract numbers!  Tell the child when they have made progress!
  3. Give them responsibility.  Every child feels success and confidence when they complete a task.  After a child has completed their assignment, give them an opportunity to check it.  Self-checking is a great tool for children!  They can correct their own mistakes without someone else doing it for them.
  4. Encourage them to express their feelings.  Let them know it is okay to get frustrated or celebrate a victory.  Allow them to take ownership of their feelings.
  5. Be positive! Cheer on their small steps.


Parent Teacher Conference Day Questions

October 12, 2013

Ready, Set, Go… have 20 minutes of undivided attention from your child’s teacher to discuss  academic progress.  After the teacher has shared your child’s work and  assessments,  use this list of questions to  find out even more
about your child’s school experience:

  1.  Is my child is working to the best of his abilities?  This question allows the teacher to share what she sees in the classroom.  You may observe something completely different at home.  My middle son was described by his teacher to a tee…a little impulsive (okay, maybe a lot) and quick to finish his work; however, she also noted he tends to push himself, especially in math.  Who knew?
  2. What is an acceptable amount of time for homework?  We all have heard the guidelines, and to be honest, if it is taking more than two hours for your 3rd grader to finish his homework, PLEASE tell the teacher.  Ask her if there are acceptable modifications.  For example, can he do the odd problems once we hit a certain time, or can he type the spelling sentences on the computer?
  3. What type of learner  is my child?  This is a very helpful and important question.  If you have a visual learner and you are always trying to explain something to him with no visual cues it can cause major conflict and confusion at home.   One student I work with is a very verbal learner and when teaching him concepts I relate it to a story.  I do this because he remembers stories and it helps him when he needs to recall information.
  4. You mentioned he is struggling with addition facts.  How can I help him at home?  Teachers have LOTS of great tricks up their sleeves.  We love to share these with parents.  By the way, Math War is my all-time favorite game for reviewing math facts. (You should add information for obtaining Math War…people will want to find it! Is it a game?  An app?  A book?)
  5. How are you preparing my child to study? Take a test?  This is important because you want to follow through with study skills.  Study skills are historically a difficult concept for everyone, not just children and need to be practiced and reinforced at home.
  6. Do you provide  differentiated lessons and instruction for the variety of learners in the class?  Not every child learns the same.  You want to make sure your child’s learning style is being catered (I would say supported instead of catered) during the school day.  For example, does she follow verbal directions with visual cues, does she use manipulatives to demonstrate mathematic concepts?
  7. What supports do you recommend to help with remediation? Teachers are an excellent source to suggest enhancements your child’s education, like a specific program, tutor, app or computer software. 
  8. What is the most effective way for me to communicate with you?  All my children’s teachers are big e-mailers (whew!).  I like the written documentation of email, but some teachers prefer a phone call.
  9. Who are my child’s friends?  The social part of school is a huge part of your child’s day.  Social circles can play a key role in your child’s happiness.

Asking questions like these at your parent teacher conference will give you better insight into your child’s education.



Twas The First Day of School

August 26, 2013

Twas the morning of the first day of school, when all through the halls

not a creature was stirring not even the baseballs.

The chairs were snug by each desk with care,

in hopes that the school buses soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

while visions of homework danced in their heads;

And the teachers were smiling and laughing with thoughts of sweet faces on their way,

when the children had suddenly just arrived at school for the day.

When out near the flagpole there arose such a clatter,

the children ran from the bus to see what was the matter.

Away to door they flew like a flash,

tore open the door and threw up their hands with a gasp.

Moms and dads were high up above with a glittery glow

this gave a luster of shimmer to the sidewalk below.

When what to the children’s wondering ears should they hear,

but a cheer so loud with a laugh oh so dear.

With a little old wisdom so tried and so true,

the children knew in a moment it must be their parents in the view.

More happy than the children in summer, the parents all came down,

they whistled and shouted, and said in a voice that could be heard around town:

Now Math Facts!

Now Chapter Books!

Now Recess and Lunch!

On, Library!

On, flashcards!

On, art and music!

To the classroom you go!

To the desk you will sit too!

Now go to school! Go to school! Go to school ’cause it is cool!

This is dedicated to all the moms and dads out there who are as excited as I am to get their children back to school.  I craved the structure that the school year brings.  I have one child who is not quite as excited as I am about school starting next week.  If you have a child like mine, you can ease his back to school jitters with a few simple remedies:

  • Schedule a play date with a friend from his class (or in my case a time to ‘hang out’).
  • Notify the school/teacher/counselor about any family changes.
  • Discuss what he has missed about school, and why he’s looking forward to returning to school (or not returning to school).
  • Be positive about the new school year and point out all the positives that you think he experience during the year.
  • It’s important to not stress him about by talking about it too much (especially for the tweens and preteens).
  • Make time for some last-minute summer fun!

Here’s to a great 2013-2014 school year!

Tools to create!

July 8, 2013

I am the first to admit that I love the hot weather and the summer time, but  all the sun and fun can become brutal even for a sun worshiper like me!   As the temperature rises, the kids tend to spend more time inside and boy do they get bored quick!  Sometimes I wonder why I even have toys at my house because what keeps my kids entertained more than anything else are the ‘creation’ boxes in my teacher closets.  These boxes are filled with lots of fun things for open-ended projects.  Large-scale robots, hundreds of paper airplanes, paintings, and collages fill the floor of my basement on many hot or rainy days.

I have people ask me all the time, what is in your creation boxes? I have the obvious things:  construction paper, glue, markers, broken crayons (much better for little hands), scissors, paints, play-doh, stickers, stamps and pipe cleaners.  Some of my favorite special things are:  hole punchers (especially ones that make a special shape), colored painters tape, toothbrush (great for spraying paint), eye droppers (perfect for little or sometimes big glops of paint), stapler, wiki sticks, paper plates, aluminum foil, yarn (I have been tangled in more than one spider web over the past few years), toothpicks (awesome in play-doh and with making marshmallow buildings), q-tips (best paint brush around), bingo blotters (something about these things kids LOVE), colored glue (add a few drops of food coloring to the glue), push pins to make small holes for letter stencils or dotting the outline of a picture (supervised activity and not for small children) and recyclable materials like empty paper towel rolls, brown bags, bottle tops and magazines.

If you are looking to soak up a few hours one day this summer, offer a few of these items from your own box, sit back and and watch your children create!

Read Aloud Facts for ALL Ages

June 6, 2013

Summer vacation is in full swing at my house.  This morning as I was heading to work and the kids were headed to camp and the pool, I gave the “talk.”  You know the one about how each day this summer we are going to read for 30 minutes, do three journal entries a week and work on math facts.  (This is the same talk that goes in one ear and out the other as they are planning their daily adventures.)  Everyone got excited about a new twist to our summer reading logs!  At my house this summer along with silent reading, we are going to read aloud for three of the 30 minute sessions a week. Reading aloud to children is one of the most important things you can do to ensure their future success.  We all know the importance of reading to infants and toddlers, but organizations such as Read Aloud America preach the benefits of reading aloud to children young and old.   The benefits are so profound, and since a majority of a child’s intelligence potential is formed before they are six year old kids, experts recommend reading aloud to your child as soon as he or she is born and continuing indefinitely. Here are the reasons we have decided to read aloud to this summer…and maybe you should read aloud to your children too:

1.  Having children actively involved in the process of reading can immensely foster a lifelong love of reading.

2.  Studies show that parents who read to their children tend to become better readers and perform better in school.

3.  Reading aloud can increase language and speech development.

4.  Children build a larger vocabulary base.

5.  Reading aloud can teach children how to pronounce new words.

6.  Reading to older children helps them understand grammar and correct sentence structure.

7.  Children learn to become more expressive readers with more fluid speed and fluency.

8.  Families can use reading time to bond with one another.

9.  Being read to builds a child’s listening skills.

10.  Fostering a sense of curiosity, creativity and imagination are all developed while being read to.

I hope you will join my family as we read aloud this summer!

Summer Learning Loss Facts

May 14, 2013

Summertime!  Pool, camps, baseball games, chasing fireflies, lazy summer days, right?  Well, not so fast!  There is a very real issue that constantly plagues our children during  lazy summer days.  Summer slide,  the loss of academic skills and knowledge over the course of summer vacation.

This past fall I received a phone call from a panicked mom.  Her son had spent a lot of time at the river, pool, play dates and vacation, but no time reading, practicing math facts, journal writing or even playing educational games on the iPad.  This ‘downtime’ caused him to regress significantly in all areas.  His teachers were already sounding the alarm that he was much further behind than his classmates.   He spent most of his second year catching up with his peers.

Summer Slide touches children from all socioeconomic levels.  It affects children in ALL grade levels and ALL subject matters.  Here are some facts:

  • Over 100 years of research reveal that students score lower on standardized tests at the end of the summer vacation than they do at the beginning of the summer unless their summer is enriched with educational opportunities.
  • According to a study by John Hopkins University, mathematical computation skills account for approximately 2 1/2 months of grade level equivalency loss.
  • In the same study by John Hopkins University, researchers found reading varies across socio-economic status. Low income students generally lose about two months of reading achievement over the summer.
  • Most recently studies have found that by the end of elementary school, children who did not participate in educational enrichment opportunities over the summer were as much as two and half years behind their peers who were challenged academically over the summer.  As a result, the graduation rate of those students who did not participate in summer educational enrichment declined.
  • Children who are at high risk for obesity also get hit with the summer slide. They tend to gain weight during summer vacation.
  • Summer time is consistently labeled by parents as the most challenging time to ensure productive educational opportunities for their children.
  • Summer slide is noticed as early as the summer between Kindergarten and 1st grade.

Just like adults, children need opportunities to learn and practice skills.  The three month summer break that is quickly approaching is not the time to stop!  Be proactive this summer and fill some days with outings to the park, library and museum, and provide ample time for reading.  Enroll your children in camps and programs that ignite their creative juices and stimulate their brains like the ones offered by Little Scholars ( are excellent ways to make sure your child is engaged in activities that are rich with educational content.

Little Scholars Kids Council

April 8, 2013

019On March 22nd, we inducted the first set of children into our Little Scholars Kids Council.  The Little Scholars Kids Council was developed six months ago to help us design programs that reflected the interests and recommendations of children. The mission of the council is for us to learn what type of after school classes and summer camps the children would be excited about taking, what types of activities work during the classes (and the ones that did not work so great) and to hear their opinions about learning (they have some really strong opinions too).

Our first set of Kid Council members are four very impressive boys from the 4th grade at St. Christopher’s School.  Nash Steed,Taylor Jefferson, Jake Ramsey and Aiden Riedy were a wealth of information and had such amazing ideas!  We are thrilled to call them our a part of the Little Scholars team.

Nash, Taylor, Jake and Aiden were instrumental designing lessons and curriculum for our new class offerings in the Fall 2013.  Our new programs will include:


If you would like to learn why Nash, Taylor, Jake and Aiden had such a great time,  call Little Scholars at (804)447-4095 to sign your school up for our Fall Enrichment classes.