Tackling Academic Challenges: Tip #3-Be their compass

Tip 3–Be their compass

As we continue looking at tackling our kids academic challenges, we know that it’s not enough to just get the ball rolling and walk away. This is the time to monitor progress by checking the school homework site, staying in touch with teachers and counselors, and remaining vigilant about helping our kids stay on top of the school work brought home everyday.

This is also a time to assist them as they learn more about themselves-the way they learn, the topics that interest them, the gifts and talents they’ve been given and what they might be able to do with all of it. It’s important to encourage them so that they see that even subjects and activities that might not seem to have any relevance today actually prepare them for their future, promote their mental development as well as help them gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the world around them.

As parents, we know all to well how important it is to cheer our kids on if they may have drifted a bit or reel them back in if they seem to have totally lost their way.  We need to be their compass and offer them guidance and direction.  Our input is so vital to their academic progress and success. 



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.

Organization–Mom, where’s my stuff?

“Mom, where’s my…?”  If I (Donna) had just one dollar for every time my three kids have asked me this question, I’d been set!  They think that I’m their personal GPS for all of their stuff and too often I actually know where things are–not because I put them there but because as a mom with eyes in the back of my head, I just know where they are!! I have a funny feeling that I’m among friends!


ENOUGH!!! I’m not doing them any favors. They need to keep track of their own stuff.  Sadly, I’ve been an enabler as I assist them in depending on me to snuff out their stuff!!


My favorite book on this subject is perfect for kids!  It’s called “Where’s My Stuff?” And can be found with the other great Organizational Books for Students in our bookstore by just clicking the link!


Here are a few things I’m learning about keeping track of my own stuff as I help them learn to keep track of theirs:

1.  Do you love it?  When my family was preparing to move back from the Middle East eight years ago, I was slightly overwhelmed by the thought of having to pack up 18 years worth of stuff.  My mother gave me great advice.  She told me to look at each thing I was sure of and ask myself if I loved it.  If the answer was yes, pack it.  If no, let it go!  That’s the best advice I’ve heard to help me jettison the junk!


Help your kids decide what they really love and what is just cluttering their environment and taking up space.


2.  Where does it live? While we’re tapping the sage advice of my mother, Rita, let me tell you that we had six kids in our house and you wouldn’t have known it.  Go to put down a book, a backpack, your shoes, whatever and you’d hear, “That doesn’t live there!”  Now I’ll admit I don’t run my ship as tightly as my mom did but the fact still remains that when you know where something lives and you put it back there EVERY time, then guess what happens?  You got it! Its right there when you need it next time.


Help your kids find the best place for things to live; where they’re sure to find what they’re looking for next time.


3.  Corral it?  As a right brained person, I have never been one to neatly organize my paper into files, to only touch paper once, to alphabetize and organize things immediately.  No!  I am a pile person not a file person.  And there are probably more people out there like me than I realize.  But I know where everything is because it’s corralled in bins or baskets and I can put my hand on things readily by knowing which bin they live in.


Help your kids to keep things corralled and it can help them when they have to retrieve important papers, assignments, forms and permission slips. Having an in/out system may be useful so that they will always know where to find what they’re looking for.


4.  Categories–such as…  School stuff: things like books, backpack, locker, lunch money, and homework, projects, and gym/sports clothes.  Personal stuff: clothes, toys and toiletries depending on the age and the gender.  Computer stuff: files, assignments, games, email. The list goes on and on.


Breaking areas of our lives into categories or domains helps a ton when trying to keep things organized.  Think of your home and the various categories you have to keep track of.  Now imagine your child trying to keep track of their categories/domains.  What are they?  


Help your kids get their stuff organized into domains and it will help streamline thinking and save time. 


5.  POST-ITS!  I am notorious for using sticky notes upside-down across the top of my papers. And the brighter the sticky note the better. Then when I’m routing through papers, I can see the post-it sticking out from the top of the paper and find what I’m looking for in a flash!  I just use the same wording per subject on each note and then I can corral all of the papers together under that subject or domain.


Help your kids use color to identify papers that will help them as they learn to think in categories and domains.  They will be able to find things more quickly as they develop a system for how they organize their own stuff.


Kids need to learn how to keep track of their own belongings and to organize them into manageable categories.  This is a life skill that will help your child for years to come.


You might want to get a copy of “Where’s My Stuff?”  Just click on the link to see that and other Organizational Books for Students  And give us a call if we can help to get your child organized!!

Organization–Time is on your side!

Time management–is there really such a thing?  Can we manage time or do we need to manage ourselves with the time that we have? 

Understanding time and our ability to make the most of our best hours is still something we struggle with as adults.  It should comes as no surprise to us then that kids might find it challenging as well.

Check out these great Organizational Books for Students! They are packed with excellent strategies and ideas for helping kids get organized.

In the meantime, here are a just few tips to help your kids make better use of their time:  

1.  Have a plan and routine that works for them not just you.

  • Understanding your child’s learning style and best hours of the day will help you as you think through a plan and make the most of the hours between afterschool and bedtime.   

2.  Help them see the big picture and then break things down into manageable chunks.

  • Whether doing homework, working on a project or cleaning their rooms, kids can feel overwhelmed by the size of the project and the time left on the clock to complete it.
  • Breaking it down into smaller, more manageable tasks makes it seem like something it’s something they can accomplish.   

3.  Encourage them to make a checklist and cross things off as they go so they can see the progress being made.

  • Teaching kids to make lists is an essential tool they’ll use throughout life.  
  •  Teaching them to prioritize the list is even better so that they can get the tough stuff out of the way first!  

4.  Use a timer. 

  • I have to admit that I find this to be one of my most helpful little tools.  I set the timer for 30 minutes and then do my best to beat the clock!  
  • I have found this to be so helpful for kids to see that they can actually get things done before the timer goes off.

 5.  Make them a part of a solution.

  • Even young children love when their opinion counts.  “What do you think?”  It’s a great question to ask kids because then they can come up with the how and the why and learn to decide on a plan of action and a strategy.


They say that time stand still for no one.  I think that’s fairly accurate, at least the last time I checked my watch.  Teaching our kids the value of time–their time–and how they use it will help them to make the most of it while at school and later when they have to make those choices on their own–time.

Remember to take a look at these Organizational Books for Students?  And don’t hesitate to give us a call if we can be of assistance.

Organization–Can’t get it out of my head!

  • Does your child study for hours and then go blank and forgot everything needed for the test?
  • Does your child stare at a blank piece of paper not knowing where to start or what to write?
  • Does your child hear the teacher tell the class the assignment during the day but then forgets what the homework is for tonight?
  • Does your child take homework to school (you saw it go into the backpack!) but somehow it disappears into a black hole between the house, the bus and the classroom?
  • Does your child sit and seemingly absorb what’s being said or read but when asked for the recap finds it difficult to tell you what was just heard or read?


Did you answer yes to one, some or all of these questions above?  Then your child may be having trouble with organizing thoughts when it’s time to repeat and recount what should have been learned.


Here are a few ideas that can help keep kids on track as they need to organize their thoughts for homework, tests, projects, oral reports and presentations—


  • Take notes—Jotting down thoughts will act as place holders to jog your child’s memory later.
  • Use a day planner or agenda–Everything in the same place everyday makes sure assignments aren’t lost in space.
  • Use a central calendar—Helps you keep track of what’s coming up so you can remind your child of upcoming deadlines and due dates.
  • Chunk out what needs to be done— How do you eat and elephant?  One bite at a time!
  • Use graphic organizers, checklists and to-do lists–These tools are invaluable for helping keep thoughts and ideas in their rightful place.
  • Use colorful sticky notes and folders to keep track of assignments—Color can help identify subjects and assignments as well as urgency and importance.
  • Let them tell you their organizational strategy—Let your child show you the best way for them to keep track of what they need to remember and if they can’t do it, help them figure out a strategy and approach that fits their learning style and preference.
  • Cut the clutter—Help them streamline things by clearing out the clutter that may be taking up residence in their backpack, folders or head.
  • Get moving–Sometimes it helps for students to walk around while they’re thinking and memorizing.
  • Say it out loud–It also can be helpful for them to talk out what they’re thinking.  A tape recorder or voice recorder may also be helpful to capture their thoughts and then they hit rewind and write them down. 

The same sense of overwhelm when taking information IN can happen when students need to get information OUT.  It may be garbled up in their heads and they have a hard time deciding which thing they need to do first, how to keep track of everything and still stay connected to their friends while getting good grades.  The word PRESSURE comes to mind and it’s not hard to imagine why sometimes kids just can’t pull it all together.

Need a hand helping get your child organized?  Check out these great Organizational Books for Students that are packed with excellent ideas and strategies to help get your child on track.

Organization–Taking it all in!

Organization–sometimes just the sound of it can make our heads spin!  If that’s how we react then how do our kids feel?  Overwhelmed–just like we do!


When I think of kids and all that comes into their heads in a single day, it’s no surprise that they feel completely buried by the onslaught of homework, projects, assignments and tests.  If they don’t have a system that helps them take their information in, then how can they expect to remember it?


There may be barriers that inhibit the uptake of information.  Distractions like noise, activity and their surroundings can be extrinsic hurdles that have to be overcome.  Thoughts, concerns, worries, fears and just too much brain clutter can be intrinsic inhibitors that block the way kids absorb information. 


Even if they take it in, how effective are they at remembering what they heard or saw.  Is true learning taking place if info is going in but not staying there?  I think that is a question and challenge for us all.


Here are a few ideas to help your kids organize the information they are meant to take IN

  1. Write it down–master calendar, agenda, post-it notes
  2. Develop a system and routine–time, color, highlighters
  3. Teach them to say it out loud–even is they have to say it to themselves 
  4. Gather organizational tools and supplies that  they like and will use 


Helping our kids organize the information they take it is essential for true learning to take place.  Too often they read it (homework), repeat it (tests) and forget it (what they heard or should have learned).


Donna Goldberg, author of the Organized Student, reminds us that school focuses on helping kids with reading and math more than with organization.


As parents, we have to help our kids bridge those organizational gaps.  Sometimes we can do that ourselves, sometimes we need help with that.  Either way, we need to be mindful that our kids will not automatically be organized anymore than we are. It takes effort and follow-up.


As you think about how your child processes information that is being taken it, look for the possible inhibitors.  Talk to your child about what might be getting in the way of organization and help set up systems that will help clear the pathway so that true learning can take place.


Need help getting your child organized?  We have several books that we have found very helpful as we meet with students.  Follow the link to check out our recommended Organizational Books for Students


If you’d like us to help, we’re happy to meet with your child and get things organized.  We all know that this is a skill that goes beyond the classroom.  Helping your child get organized is a skill that will be invaluable for a lifetime.  Give us a call and we will help get your child on track.

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!!



In the Homestretch

If you’re kids are like mine, they reluctantly pulled themselves back to reality as they headed back to school after Spring Break.  Now they only have several weeks left and yet another school year will be behind them.  How will they wrap up the year?  As the weather changes and our kids find it harder to sit tight and ride out the remainder of the year,  we have to do all we can to help them finish well.  A few suggestions…

  • Ask–if they have assignments on the deck, tests coming up or projects that may be due.
  • Encourage–them to do their best and hang in there since the finish line is just up ahead.
  • Assist–them with what they may need to complete their tasks and stay on track.
  • Engage–them in conversation about how they are doing and help them stay motivated.
  • Allow–some break time so that they are refreshed and can focus on the tasks at hand.
  • Enjoy–the rest of the school year–summer will be here soon enough.
  • REMEMBER–what is was like to be their age and to hear the warm weather and outdoors calling your name.

Helping our kids finish well and keep their priorities straight will benefit them as they close out the school year and as they prepare for the real world just up ahead.  With you in the homestretch!



Developing Thinkers

Our children have come to look for easy answers and a quick-fix approach, not only to their school work, but life situations as well.  Helping our kids develop as thinkers is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.  If they can think and learn then they can succeed.  They will be able to not only make their way in the world but make their mark on the world.  Here are a few helpful tips to help us along in the process.

1.  Problem solve together 

2.  Think outside the box   

3.  Brainstorm and mind map the situation  

4.  Write a different ending  

5.  Foster an environment of learning and creativity  

6.  Keep it Positive  

7.  Encourage and commend their input   

Click on the link below to hear the Educational Audio Tip:

 Developing Thinkers