Homework overload. This is an all too common occurrence in many homes. Exhausted kids spending too much time on homework – or doing everything but homework. And stressed out parents who just want it done. There are many debates over homework (how much is too much, how long should it take, is it even necessary), but the harsh reality is that it’s still assigned in 99% of schools and needs to be done.
The following tips can help to create a positive atmosphere around homework and encourage your child to stay focused during homework time.
A positive aspect of homework is that it keeps parents connected to what their children are learning in school. Take advantage of the opportunity of getting a sneak peak into your child's school day and help your child to make real life connections to whatever topics they are learning about. Learning about measuring? Get out your measuring spoons and let them help make dinner. Learning about stars? Take a few moments before bedtime to look into the sky and discuss the constellations. More connections to real life = deeper learning.
SAT vs. ACT: which test is a better fit for your student?
The SAT and ACT generally test the same types of content. Both ACT and SAT scores are used for college admissions and merit-based scholarships. The biggest differences between the tests are that the ACT has a Science Test, and there’s one SAT Math Section for which you cannot use a calculator.
Some students find that the ACT caters to their strengths more so than the SAT, and vice versa. Need a quick side-by-side comparison of the tests? Check out our SAT vs. ACT Comparison Chart.
What is the ISEE?
The ISEE is the Independent School Entrance Exam. It is a test required as part of the application to many independent schools and is administered by the ERB (Educational Records Bureau).
How much does it “count?”
The test is one factor in the school’s admissions process, but some schools will weigh it more heavily than others. Improving one’s performance on the ISEE can only help a student. In fact, quality preparation for the test can help not only with school admissions, but also with a student’s overall academic progress.
How do students take the test?
Students must register to take the test on the ERB website. The test is offered at schools across the country, and there are numerous options in the Baltimore area, especially during the most common testing months of October-January. An electronic version is offered at Prometric Testing Centers, which offers greater flexibility with date and time and allows all testers to type the essay. The electronic test costs $185, compared to $105 for the paper version (with on-time mail or online registration and no extra services).
The ISEE may be taken once per testing window: Fall (Aug.-Nov.), Winter (Dec.-March), and Spring/Summer (April-July). If a student wants to have the option of taking the test more than once but still have time to prepare, the best month to take it is November, with the option of a retake in December or early January. The November test dates fill fast, so it’s important to register early! Since most schools require the test to be completed by January for the normal admissions cycle, most students do not take it during the Spring/Summer season.
What is the format of the ISEE test?
The ISEE offers four different tests:
Primary (Grades 2-4), Lower (Grades 5-6), Middle (Grades 7-8) and Upper (Grades 9-12). Students taking the Primary exam will be tested on Auditory Comprehension (grade 2 only), Reading, Math and a Writing Sample (untimed). Students taking the Lower, Middle and Upper exams will be tested on Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Mathematics Achievement, Reading Comprehension and a 30-minute essay.
What makes the ISEE challenging?
Many students (and their parents) find that they score lower on the ISEE than they score on their school’s grade-level tests. Here are the main reasons:
How can a student prepare for the ISEE?
The Educational Records Bureau and many schools say that ISEE preparation is not necessary, and the ERB releases only one practice test for each level (available in the “What to Expect Guides“). In reality, however, most students do practice and prepare for the test. ISEE tutoring can be useful for several reasons:
Total Tutoring Services has many highly qualified tutors who are experienced in teaching the ISEE and can help students prepare for the test. Through practice and preparation, the challenge of the ISEE can be turned into a valuable learning opportunity.
Summers are meant for sticky, drippy popsicles, running through sprinklers, camping in the woods, and lazy afternoons of reading on the lawn. But they’re also a perfect time for learning.
Meaningful learning doesn’t necessarily mean your child needs to attend summer school or spend all day hunched over a book. There are all sorts of fun and creative ways that you can keep your child’s mind active. Many of these methods make learning fun so that your child won’t even realize that he or she is learning!
Take Advantage of Teachable Moments
Keeping your children engaged in learning doesn’t have to be forced, nor does it have to take up a lot of their time or yours. If you’ve got a trip to a baseball game planned, spend some time with your child calculating batting averages or slugging percentages to keep mathematics on their mind. Cook with your child at home to learn to follow directions and measure fractions, adjust recipes for portions, etc. Take a trip to the zoo and have your child read the animal descriptions aloud to you to keep their reading skills fresh.
Encourage your child to create a journal about their summer adventures. Draw pictures or add photographs and then write a few sentences together about each one. Bind the book together and you have a treasure that you can read together over and over again.
Headed out to dinner? Have your child calculate the tip. Ask him or her to assist in making a budget for grocery shopping. Any little bit makes a difference, and each of these activities will help in maintaining your child’s current skill level in math and reading. What’s more, demonstrating that the skills they learn in school have actual applicability to real life will make their learning that much more valuable and meaningful.
With a little bit of effort, your child can enjoy the leisure and pace of summer and still uphold a summer learning routine. There are opportunities to learn something new and fuel curiosities all around you.
With the fourth quarter beginning and spring getting into full swing, many students and families begin to think about the end of the school year. High school seniors aren't the only ones who experience "senioritis". Elementary school students can also begin to shut down and dial back their efforts towards the end of the school year. Here are a few tips to help your student finish the school year strong.
It’s time to take stock of end-of-the year assignments and to see what is due and when. Help your student make a schedule to stay on top of term papers, tests and reading assignments. At this time of year, binders can become full and cumbersome. Desks and lockers can be cluttered with old projects and notes, creating an organizational nightmare. Help your student go through his or her workspace, binders, and notebooks, clearing out information that is no longer needed. Organize current files and projects and then create an end-of-the-year timetable and set milestones for class work and commitments. This de-cluttering effort will help your child stay focused and more productive.
Continue Reinforcing Routines
This is an important time of year to hold strong with family routines including time for studying, recreation, family meals and sleep. Children thrive on consistency and definitive boundaries and they find comfort in knowing the expectations and routines of the family.
Incorporate Play into Your Day
Even as adults, sunny days make it tempting to take a little longer lunch break or cut out of work just a little early. However, as a kid, staring out the window or daydreaming about recess won’t get them anywhere. Make sure your students get the outdoor time they need after the bell rings. Ensuring they get their daily dose of fun in the sun after school means that they won't feel like they're missing out as much between 9 to 3.
Keep a Family Calendar
Springtime can be a very busy time of year with testing, sports and extracurricular activities, not to mention the distractions of the warmer weather. Kids, as well as adults, have a hard time remembering everything that they have to do. A family calendar can be a great way to keep everyone on the same page with schedules, practices and upcoming assignments.
Find Excitement in Every Day
Rather than viewing this phase as the "final countdown," continue to encourage enthusiasm in each and every day. Whether it's anticipation over a field trip, a surprise note in their lunchbox, or a classmate's birthday, make sure that they have something to look forward to every day as they head off to school.
Organizational skills do not come naturally; they are a learned ability that can help your students in their academic and personal lives. With large class sizes and demanding curricula, most teachers barely have enough time to teach coursework, let alone study skills.
If your child is forgetting to do homework or assignments or failing to turn things in, their grades could seriously be impacted. Not being able to prioritize tasks and organize activities means they don’t leave enough time to study or do their assignments. When this happens, bad grades and a feeling of being overwhelmed can cause damage to confidence and self-esteem.
Roadmap to success
One of the biggest problems for students is simply forgetting upcoming tests, assignments and homework. Providing your child with a planner or agenda book can be the first step to helping them stay on top of their work. Encourage your student to write down assignments the MOMENT they hear they teacher assign them. When there is no homework, write “None” so that every class has something under it’s name and you can be sure that you have kept track of everything. Help your student to set weekly goals and discuss together ways in which they can achieve their goals each week.
One of the biggest obstacles to being organized is an inability to prioritize. If your child is falling behind, evaluate their after-school activities to see if they aren’t overloaded. If social or extra-mural activities are taking up study time, it may be time to reconsider.
Another important aspect is to say no to social interactions during study time. This means no texting or calling during times marked off for studying. Students don’t always have to say ‘no’ to social invitations, but they must learn to say ‘not now’.
The right environment
Creating an organized, quiet, well-lit and comfortable study area is imperative. If you want your student to be focused and to make the most of their study time, then provide them with a space that is free from distractions, noisy siblings and TV. If your home cannot accommodate this space, consider the library, a neighbor’s house or even a quiet coffee shop.
Get a tutor
At Total Tutoring Services we realize that sometimes a student needs more than just tutoring in one particular subject. Every day we hear from students and parents about late/lost assignments, inefficient study habits, and “I thought I was ready for the test.” Working with students on improving their academic skills is at the core of what we do. Simply providing content-based tutoring for a subject may not directly address the real problems holding a student back. Our goal for every student is to teach him the skills necessary for success on his own.
Key areas of academic skills coaching include:
Our academic coaches teach kids and teens to plan, prioritize and organize efficiently and effectively. They prepare students for success not only academically, but for life!
This past week Total Tutoring Services was featured on the CBS Baltimore Ask an Expert Series to share some advice to parents on how to get their child ready for Kindergarten. With the start of the school year right around the corner, many families will be sending their little ones off for the first time. Here are some handy tricks and tools to help your kindergartners -- and you -- get ready for the school year.
CBS Baltimore Ask An Expert
Read With Your Child
Reading with your child is hands down the most important activity you can do to help your child develop language and reading skills. Set aside a special time each day to read together. Read your child’s favorite books and rhymes over and over. Read favorites from your childhood, too. Talk to your child about the characters and the story. Let your child take more control by turning pages, pointing to the title of the book, and retelling some favorite parts of familiar stories. Visit your local library and let your child choose their own books. Then go home, snuggle up, and help your child develop a love of reading.
Build Early Math Skills
Opportunities to teach our children basic math skills are all around us! As you go through the day count the buttons on your child’s clothing as they get dressed, count how many times they can bounce a ball and count the stairs when heading up to bed. Point out numbers in print on a speed limit sign as you drive down the road or let them help you read the prices at the grocery story. Cook together and have your child help you measure ingredients. Play a board game and count the dots on the dice and the spaces you need to move. Math can be made “real” and meaningful just by pointing it out in the world around you.
Build Fine Motor Skills
Give your child crayons and paper often. Let them write letters, draw pictures or even just scribble. Drawing straight lines, curvy lines and shapes will help them to strengthen their hand muscles for writing letters and words later. Let them explore with a variety of writing options (colored pencils, crayons, markers, paint). Introduce them to scissors and let them cut up play dough, magazines, straws and yarn. You will end up with a house full of confetti along with a happy child who is more confident in his or her cutting abilities.
It’s so easy as parents to take responsibility for our children’s many, many things. There is often so much of it and kids tend to be slower and it’s easier to just do it for them. However, in Kindergarten they are going to be responsible for their own belongings and materials. Start early by teaching your child how to put away things when they are done playing with them at home. Encourage them to clean up their toys, put lids back on markers and crayons in the box. Encourage your children to take responsibility for their actions. Set the bar high, they will surprise you with what they can do.
Foster Independence and Self-Care Skills
Imagine a classroom full of 20+ kindergarteners all needing help with their zippers, buttons, snaps, tucking shirts in, tying shoe laces, opening lunches, emptying folders, etc. Welcome to the world of the Kindergarten teacher. As parents, you can do your part by teaching your child valuable self-care skills. Don’t assume that they can do something on their own just because you have always done it. Allow them to dress themselves. Practice managing all those buttons, zippers and snaps both on their clothing and on their jackets. At lunchtime give them the opportunity to practice opening containers, wrappers, bottles and juice boxes. Practice hand washing, nose blowing and coughing into their elbow. Practice, practice, practice! Your child’s teacher will love you for it.