Students Need “Hope and Joy” Message

It goes without saying that all of us have been negatively impacted by the Covid virus and the media and political firestorm that has ignited as a result of the virus.

Some of us have lost jobs or have had businesses shut down, some of us are isolated and unable to connect with others, some of us have heightened anxiety based on what we have seen on the news, and others of us are simply exhausted and tired of the conflicting data and contradictions.  As adults, we understand that life can be difficult, and we are gifted with various coping mechanisms that allow us to endure and persevere.  We can disconnect ourselves from the news and social media, and we have lived long enough to realize that this too shall pass with time.

Our students, on the other hand, have a more limited perspective and fewer coping skills.  They have been inundated over the past five months with fear-mongering on social media, cancelations of school and sports, confusing and contradictory mandates from all sorts of adults, and anxiety within their own homes.  If we as adults feel as though we have lost some control of our lives through this hysteria, we need to take a moment and step into the shoes of our students to realize how dizzying daily life has become.

With our youngest child going into grade 8, we do not have ‘littles’ in our home anymore.  But my heart goes out to the kindergarten or first grade student who may struggle with the first day of school because it is a big step in a little person’s life.  If we add anxiety and fear related to the Covid virus to this process, some students will be overwhelmed and shut down.

As the new school year approaches, parents, school teachers / administrators and politicians need to be cognitive of the mental and emotional well-being of our students, while at the same time keeping them physically safe.

Most of the local school districts have announced their re-opening plans, and all of those plans include the widest possible array of safety measures.  These measures are important and necessary, but how parents, teachers / school officials, and politicians present these ‘changes’ to the students will make all the difference in whether or not our students make a healthy transition to the new reality.

This messaging certainly begins at home.  In spite of the anxiety or pressures we as parents may be dealing with during this frustrating time, we must shield our students to the extent that we are able.  As every living human on the planet is now intimately familiar with the Covid virus, less information may be better than more information moving forward.  As all students in Wisconsin will be required to wear a mask for the first month of school, try to make it a fun, new experience for your younger students.  Spend the extra money on a personalized mask, or wear masks around the house while playing together.  Let your student know that there is no danger to them if they do contract the virus, but they are wearing the mask to keep older adults like grandma and grandpa safe.  If you are upset that your student is required to wear a mask, do not share that with your child as at this point, Governor Evers’ mandate requires it.

We have noticed on many school district press releases that much discussion will be had with students reviewing the daily safety requirements and impressing upon them the importance of following the new guidelines.  As most students need to hear new information a number of times before it sinks in, this strategy definitely makes sense.  However, the tone with which this message is shared with the students can assist our students to thrive in spite of the chaos, or, on the other hand, can heighten anxiety and cause them to recoil further within themselves.  Apocalyptic death sermons are not an appropriate strategy to cajole students into following the new directives.  Smiling faces (behind the masks), positive reinforcement, and a ‘let’s work together to keep everyone safe’ attitude will keep our students safe physically and healthy emotionally and mentally.

At this point in the lifecycle of the virus drama, our students need joyful hearts and hope that life will get back to normal sooner than later.  We as adults need that as well.

What Did our Kids Really Learn?

Since the schools began shutting down in March and shifting to an on-line format, there has been much discussion and debate regarding how to effectively teach students remotely.

School administrators and teachers had several large hurdles to overcome, including the abruptness of the change, technology challenges, and a huge disparity of support / learning environments within the student homes.  As a result of those factors, and in spite of the best efforts of teachers and parents alike, most would agree that student learning was significantly hampered for the last three months of the school year when compared to in-classroom learning.  Most educators would agree that in-person teaching and learning is the most effective as it utilizes the dynamics of personal relationships and human emotion to develop a student’s true potential.  Let us hope and pray that our leaders allow us to return to this style of education when school begins again in the fall.

If we acknowledge that our students did not gain as much ‘book learning’ this quarter as they should have, we also need to acknowledge that they learned many ‘real world’ lessons that will serve them well.

The first and most important lesson that our students learned is that life is about relationships and being present to one another.  No matter how far technology advances or how simple and easy a Zoom meeting becomes, nothing substitutes for a hand on the shoulder from a teacher, or a pat on the back from a coach, or a poke in the ribs from a friend, or a grandma’s hugs.  People are the most important.  We are at our best when our lives are spent with others and for others.

Students may have also learned that school isn’t so bad after all.  During our remote tutoring sessions here at Life Tools Tutoring, many of our students are sharing with us that they miss their traditional school day; they miss their friends, they miss the structure of the day, they miss the sense of purpose that the school day provides, and they miss the creative teaching techniques that in-person teaching allows.  Academics can become very one-dimensional when all of the learning is done on-line, and a bored student sometimes loses interest.

Life can be hard sometimes, and we are not always in control of what happens next.  For most adults, this message has been learned through many hardships, challenges, and disappointments.  We understand that we are not always in control and that sometimes bad things happen to good people and there is no explaining it.

With parents’ assistance, our young people can learn that even though challenges and difficulties in life will arise, they need to put on courage and continue to move forward.

They may not be able to control every aspect of their lives, but they can control how they react to those events and the attitude they bring to those around them.

And remind your student that they are blessed to live in the United States of America with all of the freedom and responsibilities that come with that privilege.  Let them know that most people throughout all of human history, including most of the current population of the planet had/have no freedom except those bestowed on them by tyrants or oppressive governments.  Our ability to move about as we wish and to make our own choices without the fear of imprisonment or death is very unique in the context of human history.  Sometimes freedom can be best taught when some of those freedoms are taken from us for a time.

Although most young people are high-energy and are usually looking for their next adventure, perhaps our kids now realize that we do not have to be chasing from one activity to another 24 / 7 in order to live a happy, fulfilled life.  Quiet time is ok.  Dinner with the family on a regular basis creates bonds that will last a lifetime.  The simple things in life are often the best, and they can be missed if we are moving too fast.

As the safer-at-home order winds down, talk to your kids about their experience.  Perhaps they learned much more than we realized.

The Bright Side of ‘Remote Learning’

As about a month has passed since the schools were shut down in our area, most parents and students have grudgingly made the transition to digital learning.  That transition has been challenging for some and downright miserable for others.  In some cases, families were not equipped with the proper technology (hardware, software, or internet), or technology know-how, to make on-line learning manageable.  In other cases, parents who are considered ‘essential workers’ were required to continue working outside of the home, leaving little time for them to assist their children with homework.  For other parents who were traditionally ‘hands-off’ regarding their student’s academic journey, they have been forced to engage in a world that is very unfamiliar to them.

As an aside, many teachers and school districts have done an outstanding job in walking parents and students through the technology fog and in providing ‘remote hot-spots’ for internet access, etc.  As our Life Tools Tutoring tutors have transitioned (temporarily at least) to on-line tutoring, we have been awed and gratified by the tireless and very personal approach that teachers and school districts have taken to this change.  Their collective response was quick, professional, and, as important, robust in regard to workload and content.  A shout-out to those teachers – keep up the great work!

Now that most of us have this remote learning thing more or less under control, and our students have fallen into a routine of sorts, is it possible to make this challenging time an opportunity for our students and our families?  The answer is a resounding ‘YES’ if you are open to taking that journey.

At Life Tools Tutoring, we believe that all parents should be involved in their student’s academic journey.  That does not mean that all students (specifically middle school and high school students) need to be micromanaged by their parents.  It does mean, however, that parents be engaged in the details and walk with their student on their academic path.  With the schooling taking place in your home, now is that opportunity.  What, exactly, is my middle-school student learning in math class?  If I see her struggling, can I find additional on-line resources to provide review or repetition of those concepts?  Do I feel that my student’s teacher has gone off the ‘new-math’ deep end?  Maybe take some time and investigate the new math strategies to learn how they work and what the value is to those strategies.  Or, after having investigated those strategies, you feel that a more traditional approach would be more useful, reach out to your teacher or you school administration and share your thoughts.  You do have a voice in your student’s curriculum.  At the very least, learning the new math strategies together could be a bonding opportunity for you and your student.

If your student is asked to read an article for English / Language Arts or Social Studies, read the article along with your student to learn what your student is being exposed to.  Prompt your student to investigate all sides of a particular societal issue or period in history and help him to develop a unique opinion based on facts and historical perspective, versus emotion or knee-jerk.  Bring those discussions to the dinner-table (we can actually eat dinner together as a family!) and see where they go.  Or ask your student what about history intrigues them; if war is the topic, there are countless documentaries available on-line that do an outstanding job of sharing the history while recounting the very personal tales of courage and sacrifice.  Turn off the video games and ‘America’s Got Talent’ and sit with your child.  Learning world history and/or our country’s history is time well-spent and provides our young people with a much-needed perspective.  Or, better yet, find a book on the topic and read it together.  Now is a perfect opportunity for your entire family to discover the joy and wonder of reading.

And your young-person’s curriculum does not need to be limited by what the school sends home.  Teach your kids how to cook or bake; let them experiment with different spices or recipes; ask them to double the batch and have them work out the math on the ‘½ teaspoons’ and ‘¾ cups’.  If fishing is your thing, have your student construct a home-made booklet of ‘Common Fish in Wisconsin’, complete with pictures and a short description.  Prep your fishing gear for the upcoming season with your children and take the time to teach them how to tie a hook or why some baits are more effective than others depending on the time of the year.  As God is no longer included in public school curriculum, maybe now is a chance to rediscover your faith, along with your children, or to pass along the beliefs and traditions that you were taught as a young person.  Utilize the website of your local place of worship or connect with like-minded friends and family as resources on that journey.

Spend some time outside every day if possible.  As planting season is upon us, involve your students in the planning process and let them have a say in what vegetables make the cut.  Plant the seeds in a seed tray in your house so you can watch the growing process day-by-day.  Your student will learn patience as well as an appreciation for the wonder of nature.  Take the family on a bike ride or encourage your middle-schooler to run a mile every day and then increase the distance as they feel comfortable.  Or, simply let your family know that everyone needs to spend at least one hour per day outside and let everyone use their own imagination and creativity to occupy that hour.

Education begins at home.  As parents, we all know this to be true, but often the busyness of life gets in the way of that responsibility.  Now is our opportunity to reclaim the role.  Now is our opportunity to be truly present to our children and intentional in how we are shaping them.  You may even look back at this difficult time with gratitude.

By: Beth Voet

Parenting Tips: Tools to Assist Your Struggling Student

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Seeing your child struggle can be one of the most painful experiences a parent could go through.

Life Tools Tutoring has a few tips for parents and caretakers on how to help a student who may be struggling:
  • If your student is struggling in a particular subject or with school in general, they will more than likely take their frustrations out on you. Have a conversation with your student so that your student knows you are both on the same team. Together you are going to take control of (math/reading/etc.).
  • If your student struggles in math, you are not allowed to say, “I always hated math too,” or “I was never any good at math either”. Education begins at home, so your challenge is to dig in and learn what your student is learning so you can help. If that is not possible, find someone who can.
  • Success in school comes with confidence. Confidence comes with success. Work hard with your student to get the homework correct and study hard for the quizzes/tests. Good grades on the first few assignments and tests can quickly build your student’s confidence.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Don’t be afraid to require your own ‘homework’ for your student. Practicing math facts 15 minutes each night, 30 minutes of required reading, or extra worksheets from your student’s teacher will also help to build your student’s confidence.
  • Make study time a fun time to be together. If you are grumpy while you are studying with your student, or if homework time is rushed, your student will have a negative attitude toward school work.
  • Require your student to stay organized and hold them accountable. Nothing takes the wind out of a struggling student’s sails like a zero on a missing homework assignment or a test that they forgot was coming.
  • Try to be positive at all times. Even if your student is not making the progress you had hoped, keep your expectations high and speak positively about your student’s abilities and potential.

 

Parenting Tips: Transitioning into the new school year

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The new school year is underway but it’s not too late to assess the transition and to make any needed adjustments.

Life Tools Tutoring has a few tips for parents and caretakers on how to help promote a successful school year:
  • Make sure your student is getting enough sleep. Sleep is critical for success with school work and success socially.  Elementary school students should be getting 10 – 12 hours per night, middle school students 9 – 11 and high school students 8 – 10.
  • If your school does not require that your student fill out an assignment notebook (agenda) every night, buy one for your student and require that it be filled out. Making a written list is a great way to teach your student accountability and responsibility.
  • Set aside consistent study times if possible. For example, the house is quiet and your students are studying or reading from 6:30 to 7:30 pm Monday through Thursday.
  • Get involved in your students’ studies. That does NOT mean do their homework for them, but it does mean familiarizing yourself with their coursework, teachers, and extra-curriculars.
  • Make the school week fun. A special pancake breakfast, cookies at the end of the school day, or ‘movie night’ when the homework is done are a few ideas on how to add excitement to the regular routine!

 

10 Ways to Reduce Single-Parent Stress

“One of every four American children today lives in a single-parent home. And though the circumstances may vary (some parents are divorced, others are widowed, and others are single parents by choice), the reality is that solo parenting is often stressful, demanding, and hectic. If you are a single mom or dad, there are 10 things you can do to help minimize the stress in your life — and bring back the joy of parenting.”

Read more here…

Strong Kids

Parenting Tricks and Tips from Life Tools Tutoring!

Today’s Tip: Strong Kids.

Life is tough. Although the specifics of the struggles vary from person to person, suffering, disappointment and loss are very much a part of the human condition. And as much as we, as parents, want to shield our children from those struggles throughout their lives, they will experience those challenges.

So, instead of investing huge amounts of time and resources in insulating our student from “real life”, our time would be better spent on forming strong students with strong characters. Here are a few suggestions that we have gathered from outstanding parents who have raised very strong children…

1. Let your student experience some of life’s disappointments. If he took third place in the tournament, celebrate with him, but don’t go buy him a trophy and pretend he won first place. Third place is great, and if he and his teammates work harder next year, they may just win first place.

2. Service. When we teach our students that the entire universe revolves around them, they come to expect everyone’s attention and constant assistance. Then, when it comes time for them to step out into the real world, life smacks them in nose. Bring them (don’t send them) on regular service opportunities where they can learn that the greatest fulfillment in life comes from giving to others.

3. Make them work. Chores around the house, a part-time job, or mowing lawn for grandma are just a few examples. Students that do not know how to work turn into adults who do not know how to work. Adults that do not know how to work will not reach their full potential and will have major regrets.

4. Discipline. If you haven’t already noticed, sometimes young people make bad choices. Use the safety of your home to give your student a small taste of how the world will punish them if they make bad choices as an adult. If they are late coming home, take away the car for a week. (If they are late to work on a regular basis, they will be fired). If they choose not to put their laundry in the basket, make them do their own laundry. (If they expect others to pick up after them, their marriage may not survive)

Strong kids will make strong adults who will move mountains. Start today!