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Tackling Academic Challenges: Tip #2–Decide on an Action Plan

Tip #2 — Help them decide on an action plan.
Once you know what the real deal is, you can then help them develop a plan and strategy to cope with their issues. Perhaps they need to stay after school or get a tutor. Maybe they need to hang with a different circle of friends or they need help getting organized. Whatever the case may be, we as parents can do more than just help with tonight’s homework; we can help set in motion strategies they will use in school and in life.

At times we may feel that we want it more than they do. I have been there more than once. It is here that we have to be prepared to implement short-term solutions toward long-term goals. It can be difficult to help a child think beyond next week. But as we talk with our kids and help cultivate their interests and strengths, we help them see that they are in the driver’s seat of their own future.






Tackling Academic Challenges: Tip#1–Identify the Problem

The school is starting to wind down and in a few months students will begin their summer break.  Your child may have had a shaky foundation through the school year.  Though you may have done all the right stuff and put all the tools in place for success, your child may still be facing academic challenges. 


Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll touch on a few areas for you to focus on that can help your child finish up the year more equipped and with greater confidence. The first one is:



1.  Identify the problem  Though this may seem simple enough, it may not be as easy to identify the true root of your child’s academic challenges. There may be struggles with motivation that get interpreted as laziness. There may peer issues that lead to feeling pressured all day. Or it may be that your child is truly struggling with comprehension or concentration issues. Do they need glasses? Are they unorganized? There are many reasons that they may not be doing well.  Be a Sherlock and find out. Keep watch for things that may indicate a learning issue, peer pressure or physical problem.


A few years ago, my son’s grades plummeted. He kept telling us he was tired and we urged him to get more sleep and work harder.  Teachers thought he was just slacking off as well. Later we found out he had mono so he needed tons of rest and it explained why he was not doing well.


So let’s keep digging until we truly come to the reason why our kids are struggling. There may be issues that need our attention and we need to be prepared to unearth the root of the problem so that they can get on top of things and finish well.

Three Words They Hate to Hear

“How was school?” Now I’m not sure when that happens exactly.  But one year along the way in their educational journey–we ask it and they hate it!  So what’s a mom to do?  I want to find out how their school day went.  So I think to come at it from another angle.  “What did you learn today?” They hate that even more–bad move Nancy Drew!  Ok–so let’s put our heads together.  We’re sharp, intelligent women!  How hard can it be to unearth from a child how his or her school day went?  Pretty hard–if they don’t feel like talking or telling us or both!

Here’s my attempt at cracking the code of teenage silence and getting inside the heads of my high schoolers–I confess–I use humor and I do my best to not ask questions when they first get home but confess again that I don’t always succeed.

I try to save questions like, “Do you have any homework?” till after they’ve had time to get in the front door, eat something and relax for a few minutes.  The more space I give and the more accessible I am, the greater the potential there is for them to open up and talk when they’re ready.  They’d probably prefer if I just text them instead!! Not likely! It’s just a thought–can’t wait to hear yours!  Wishing you a great school year!!



Back to School-Back to Reality


 It’s been almost two months since I returned from Israel.  It has taken almost all of that time to get back in the swing of things.  Though I stay in constant touch with friends and “family” there through email, skype and facebook–it’ not quite the same as being there. 

So why am I telling you all of this? To remind us both that our idea of back to reality is radically different from our kids’ idea of back to reality.  If you’re kids are like mine the minute I begin to wax on with, “When I was a kid…” I usually get groans and negative reactions.  I have yet to hear my kids say, “Tell us more mom, we love stories about your life a hundred years ago!”  And so I try to remind myself that back to school for my kids looks nothing like back to school did for me.

For starters, they have many more pressures on them then we did back in the day.  The expectations socially and academically trump ours and we, as parents, need to be sensitive to their transition as they return to friends, homework and the school environment.  We need to even be more in tune if they are starting a new school, especially if they have arrived from another place–whether across town or across the world.

Two things I want to do to the best of my ability–

1.  Be there.  Even when I can’t be physically there, I want to be available by phone so that they feel they can touch base with me at any time.  We can’t underestimate the anchor we are for our kids especially when things get a bit turbulent.

2.  Just listen.  I will do my best to not make any comparisons or connections about what it was like back then even though I may have  been through similar things and think I know how it feels.  They need their story, journey and experiences to be uniquely theirs.  

So, here’s to another school year!  They seem to be zooming past me at an ever increasing speed.  Before I know it, they will have all graduated and reality will take on a whole new meaning.  For now, I join you in another year of early rising, lunch money, permission slips, school pictures, homework, and all that comes with being a mom of school-aged kids.

All the best for a great year,

Donna Duffy   


Summer Learning Lost or Found?

Whether you call it summer brain drain or learning loss–the lazy, hazy days of summer often become an academic dead zone for our kids.  Even those destined for weeks of summer school may not be experiencing true learning.  What can we do to ensure some kind of educational connection through months of rest and relaxation? 

Reading and journaling are certainly a start but experience still may be the best teacher.  Is it possible that study skills can be learned from life skills that don’t feel like learning at all?  I find that the minute I say the words “life lesson”, I can be sure to encounter a tug-of-wills with my kids.  So I’ll do my best to banish such teachable moment lingo and jump right into the moment instead.  I’m open to suggestions and looking forward to hearing how you make sure the summer is not lost when is comes to learning.