Back to School

(Updated 8/5/16)

It is difficult to believe that September is rapidly approaching! Soon the lazy days of summer will be a distant memory. Our job now, as parents, is to prepare our children for their transition back to school. This transition is harder for some children than others. Starting the process early, by easing back into several fall routines, helps prepare your child and yourself.  Here are a few suggestions that are helpful in combating fall/school anxiety and stress.

  1. Have a solid bedtime routine – Children do best when they know what to expect and what is expected of them.  Summer bedtimes are generally later than the child’s fall bedtime.  Start the bedtime routine a little earlier each night.  Set up bath time, reading together and bed time now, so that by the beginning of school, regular bedtimes are re-established. Of course, your child’s bedtime is a personal decision and one that will be reflective of their age. Just remember that when your child is negotiating for more awake time, a sleepy child cannot learn to their full potential.
  2. General evening routine– Empower children to play a part in making their life and yours a little easier.  Let them help choose and set out their clothes for the following day.  To build independence children should pack their own backpacks with a parent check. Doing more at night will ensure a more relaxing and less stressful morning.  It’s always better for everyone to start the day with the right attitude and a smile.
  3. Develop a morning routine – Wake your child with enough time to eat a healthy breakfast.  Discuss healthy food choices and let your child help comprise the shopping list for their breakfast, lunch and snack items.  Also review the school menu, ensuring that if your child buys lunch, there is something they will eat and  enjoy.  You do not want your child to be distracted by hunger during the school day. An older child can begin displaying more independence in the morning.  Set or have them set their alarm clock. Encourage them to get themselves out of bed, washed, dressed and ready for breakfast. Of course, verbal reminders to move the process along will be necessary.
  4. Celebrate the beginning of school – Make the start of school an exciting time, rather than a dreaded one.  Buying new clothes is always fun!  Also, let your child select their own backpack and participate in buying school supplies when possible.  A little get together for friends, who were out of sight this summer, is a great way to get reacquainted. It relieves some social stress for the upcoming first day of school.
  5. Talk– School for your child may not have always been a positive experience.  Remind your child that this is a new year and lots of good things are about to happen.  Let them know you have confidence that they will always do their best and you are proud of them!! Make sure they know that their teachers are there to help them! Always remain positive when talking to your child about their teacher, school etc., even if you do not always feel that way.  Children will react negatively if you do.
  6. If possible, meet your child’s teachers – All teachers receive reports about their incoming students, but whenever possible, meeting your child’s teacher in advance relieves your anxiety. Take this opportunity to discuss your child’s likes and dislikes, any health issues/needs, best method of communication and any other pertinent information.

Taking a deep breath and implementing a few easy steps, will help you and your child get off to the new school year with the perfect attitude.

Wishing you and your children a great year! !! Enjoy all the wonderful learning adventures that await!!!

If you are unable to implement all of these strategies, prioritize the steps to make it work you.  For additional support on developing schedules and routines in your home please email Danielle Meyer at DEMTutoring@gmail.com. Tutors can provide an unbiased and professional approach to routine development in the home.

Happy Fall!

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Avoid the ‘summer slide’

School is out for summer!!!

The school year is drawing to an end and ‘lazy’ days of summer are closing in on us. While it is essential for kids to enjoy an opportunity to relax and experience unstructured days, it is important to remember that the “summer slide” is an inevitable reality. Finding a balance, by infusing learning opportunities into play, can help prevent, or at least lessen “the slide”. Following are some suggestions to keep your child on track so they will be confident and ready for the fall.

  • Visit your local library. This is a FREE way to beat the heat. While there, check out the opportunity to join a book club, enjoy story time and of course, pick up some new summer reading books.
  • Remember to encourage your child to read something every day. Opportunities to read are all around us. Have your child read the menu at the pool snack bar or the rules at the park. They can even read comic strips, something that they never have time for during the busy school year. Of course if you are lucky enough to have a child who loves to read classic novels, too much encouragement is probably not required. Just make sure a new book is always available.
  • Develop weekly summer themes. This is something you and your child can do together. Incorporate reading, writing, and math activities around these themes to keep things interesting and exciting for your child. Reading Rockets has a variety of themes and activities you can chose from.
  • How about taking a virtual field trip? Take a trip to Hershey ‘s Chocolate Factory, the Louvre, Climb Mt. Everest or go all the way to Outer Space from the comfort and convenience of your own home. Encourage your child to research the location you plan to visit and watch their field trip. They can even create their own travel guide.
  • Take a family excursion. There are many fun and educational destinations in and around the tri-state are that are in driving distance. Visit a museum, a seaport or a park. Select a place the whole family can enjoy, regardless of age.
  • Listen to audio books on the car ride there. Each child can have their own set of headphones so they can listen to age appropriate books, or find a book the entire family can enjoy, pausing for discussions or questions as you listen.
  • Taking a break with technology is something all kids enjoy. How about these apps – Words with Friends, Brain Pop, or even Math Doodles to encourage reluctant kids to learn during their summer vacation.
  • Have your child keep their writing skills sharp by sending letters to pen pals, keeping a summer journal, or creating a summer bucket list. Help them make a photo collage of a favorite activity or trip and then write captions. If your child likes to cook or bake, have then make their own recipe cards/book. Younger children can bring sidewalk chalk outside and practice writing number, letters or drawing shapes etc.
  • Playing board games is a great way to have fun while learning. Monopoly, Apples to Apples, Boggle, Scattergories, Robot Turtles Game, Jenga, Telestrations and Clue are just some of the games that work on skills such as math, logic, patience, strategy, vocabulary building etc. Fractus Learning has an article that breaks down the benefits of these popular board games.
  • Create a word jar to develop vocabulary. Make it a goal to practice new words each day and incorporate them into your conversations. You can have a contest to see who uses the most “word jar” words on a daily basis.

It’s important to keep in mind, that although your child has a summer break, you may not. It is understandable that it may be difficult to find the time to work/play with your child during these months. Just remember that learning can and should happen as part of their daily routine and many of these activities can be done around your work schedule.

Your goal is to help your child to continue to lean and grow during the summer months. You want them to feel confident when they return to school in the fall. You want them to be ready to take on all the wonderful learning that awaits them from the very first day back at school. Hey, who knows….Maybe the “slide” is not inevitable after all!!!

Embrace and enjoy the summer.

 

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Sensory Behaviors

Great article written by a Pediatric OT to discuss 10 sensory ‘red flag’ behaviors. Check it out! Sensory Warning Signs

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Standardized Testing

How to prepare for testing…

It is elementary and middle school testing time! A long few weeks for many children and their families! Here are a few suggestions to help ease the anxiety in the home and to help your child go into testing as relaxed and confident as possible:

Standardized Testing Coping Strategies

Before the Test:

  • Ensure you have a positive environment (lights are appropriate, organized, calm, no TV, computer or cell phone)
  • Take a short study break to engage in a loved activity (ex: drawing, listening to music, dancing…)
  • Create a calming mantra for yourself (ex: I can do this or I have this…)
  • Believe in your ability to do well
  • Generate after test celebration ideas with friends and family
  • Get plenty of practice with test timing and pacing strategies
  • Look critically at questions you have gotten wrong and understand why to not make the same mistake again
  • Set a study schedule and routine (ex: Every day when I get home from school I will eat a snack and study 20 vocabulary words…)
  • Parents: Understand your child’s anxiety around test taking and do not place great pressure on them for a specific score
  • Parents: Select the test morning menu together and make a special “brain breakfast” (ex: omelette with fresh veggies, yogurt and granola…)

DAY OF THE TEST:

  • Don’t forget to sleep
  • Eat your brain breakfast before leaving for the test… you will need the energy!
  • Lots of anxiety: do some jumping jacks, take a short walk, listen to calming music

During the test:

  • Use new pencils that you selected yourself (something special)
  • Take a deep breathe
  • Recite calming mantra
  • Continue to believe in your ability to do well

After the test:

  • Celebrate!

 

 

 

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The Arts & Math

Interesting article posted by the Washington Post about a new way to reach students and teach math: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/teachers-are-using-theater-and-dance-to-teach-math–and-its-working/2016/02/22/61f8dc0c-d68b-11e5-b195-2e29a4e13425_story.html

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Kindergarten Readiness

Kindergarten has evolved over the last several years.   Half days and naptime are essentially a thing of the past. With these changes, many parents are concerned about how to prepare their child for the first day of Kindergarten and the academic challenges ahead. Keep in mind that many of your child’s prerequisite skills have already been developed through play, nursery school and an enriched home environment.

Here are some additional steps you can take to further develop those skills and to make sure that your child’s first big step will be a successful one.

Fine Motor Skills:

Building your child’s hand strength is an important step to prepare them for writing, cutting and pasting activities.

  • When your child is engaged in a writing/coloring activity, always provide different size pencils, markers and crayons. Try to encourage an age appropriate tripod (3 finger) grip. This allows the child to write more efficiently and will increase their endurance.
  • Have manipulatives like Play-Doh and kinetic sand available for them to manipulate and build hand strength.
  • Have them string large and small beads and build with different Lego shapes and sizes. Encourage them to follow patterns and sequences. This will help build eye hand coordination as well.
  • Let your child use scissors to cut along lines on paper, cardboard and even chunks of play-doh. It may be surprising, but cutting is a skill they are expected to have already acquired upon entering Kindergarten.

Letter Recognition:

  • Have your child identify all 26 letters of the alphabet in both upper and lower case forms. Place magnets on the fridge in random order. See if your child can point to the letters as you name them and then ask your child to name the letters as you point to them. Have him/her organize the letters alphabetically. See if they can separate vowels from consonants. Have them find the letters to spell their own name.
  • Make them aware of letters and words all around them by playing “I spy”. Today we are searching for the letter ‘S’. Let’s see if we can find 10 words that have an ‘S’ in them during our trip today.

Reading:

  • Most of us exposed our children to reading when they were infants. We understood that literacy skills start early, as a young child is able to identify the front cover of a book, as well as the back cover and the pages. Now it’s time to familiarize your child with the authors and illustrators of their favorite books, explaining what those words mean.
  • When you read to your child, provide a model by pointing to the words so your child will learn to read from the left to the right and from the top to the bottom.
  • Nursery rhymes and Dr. Seuss books are especially wonderful because they teach rhyming in a fun way. Rhyming is an essential skill for reading, spelling and writing in later grades. You can make reading an interactive activity by leaving out words and letting your child fill in the rhyming words or phrases.   They feel like they are already reading along with you. They may even like to “read” to a younger sibling

Writing:

  • Have your child practice writing his/her name by copying your model. Then remove the model and have your child write his/her name independently. Begin with all uppercase letters and then move to the initial uppercase, followed by lowercase.
  • Practice writing letters of the alphabet, again presenting a model and then removing the model when your child is ready. Keep in mind, it is best to teach your child the proper letter formation right from the beginning!
  • Use different textures to make the writing experience multi-sensory and more fun! Write with shaving cream, use sandpaper or little carpet scraps. A white board and dry erase markers help pass the time on a long car ride. A sponge square and a chalkboard is also a fun way to practice letter formation.

Math: 

  • Practice counting aloud with your child as you go about your day. Count the number of plates you need to set the table. How many cheerios are left on his/her plate? Use math words like “more” and “less” or “most” and “least” when you are making comparisons. During screen time use some hands on math apps.
  • Look for numbers in your daily life – what number is your house? Can you find the number 7 in the grocery store? Let’s count out 4 apples. Use the numbers all around us so to teach counting and number recognition.
  • Don’t forget to work on shapes, colors and size too. Most children already recognize shapes, colors and sizes independently, but help them generalize those skills by finding different shapes embedded in other objects.   Reinforce colors by asking your child to be specific in a request, “would you like the little blue ball or the big red ball?”

Classroom Behavior: Becoming a member of the classroom community is not always an easy step for children.   According to kindergarten teacher, Julie Cappuccilli, it is important that “students be able to take turns, share, and work in a cooperative environment”.   Here are some additional steps you can take to help make the kindergarten transition easier.

  • Practice building reading stamina and attention to task by reading longer stories and eventually increasing to chapter books. Some suggested titles can be found here: http://www.daddyread.com/earlyElem.html
  • Increase the number of multi-step directions you expect your child to follow through games such as ‘Simon Says’ and by performing multi-step tasks around your house.   This will also facilitate independence e.g., “After you eat breakfast, please bring your plate to the sink, and wipe your face and hands.”
  • Provide your child with social opportunities with peers.   Take your child to playgrounds, play-groups or classes. Use real life situations to discuss problem solving strategies, to find ways to deal with frustrations and to learn what it means to compromise. Help them to find the words to let a peer know that they hurt their feelings.

Remember, every child is different and every child develops at their own pace. Your child’s Kindergarten teacher understands that not every child will enter their classroom with the same set of skills. If your child does not have all of the skills outlined above, before he/she walks through the school doors, do not fret! With the guidance from their teachers and your continued support, these skills will emerge in their own time. Remember that your child is a butterfly.   She/he will develop at his/her own time with his/her own special qualities and strengths and you will always be there to guide them along their journey.

 

  • Danielle Meyer, Founder DEM Tutoring

www.demtutoring.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Private v. Public School

I am currently in the middle of a placement discussion with a family. The public school no longer feels they can service the child adequately. The family is not understanding why they are not able to meet his needs. Particularly since no official diagnosis has been made. http://www.northjersey.com/news/133343638_Private_schools_call_their_success_hard_to_replicate.html?c=y&page=1
How can public schools evolve to meet a variety of student needs and testing demands? Is it possible? This may be a jumping off point to the needed education reform our country needs… particularly with special education. Would you send your child to a private school for $88,000/year to help better their education? Who should pay this bill?

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