Here are a few tips of the trade for smooth sailing all school year long:

• Make a schedule a few weeks before the school year starts. Whenever possible, practice this new bedtime and school day routine so it is not such a change once the school bus arrives at your door.

• Make learning a part of the every day. Pick a word each morning and hunt for it in the dictionary, then add it to a word bank. Or start dinner time conversations with questions that allow each family member to freely express their opinions on the topic.

• Set new goals for each child by starting a journal where they can write down these personal dreams and their successes as they work towards them.

• Organize each family member with their own color coded calendar. Have them be responsible for marking all upcoming events in their favorite color on the calendar. Then you can tell at a glance who needs to be where and when.

• Work on time-management skills by helping each child make a list of their responsibility in a loose-leaf notebook where they can estimate how long each task will take to complete. Break down longer projects, such as term reports or science experiments, into manageable chunks. Soon the child will understand just how long certain tasks require to be finished successfully.

• Since each child learns new material differently know their personal work style. Set up times, places, and short breaks that benefit each individual learner. There is not one perfect formula that fits everyone.

• Get involved in your child’s learning. This does NOT mean doing the work for them nor does it mean that you must be at their side the for the entire homework session. It does mean taking the time and the interest in their work; checking answers, and being available for questions.

• When you believe that your child’s homework doesn’t resemble any you have ever seen before, help them by going to any one of a number of great on-line sites designed to get your child the help they need. A few great sites include:, and

Q: When does my child need academic assistance from a professional tutor?

A: Generally speaking, if your child is struggling with their regularly assigned class work or appears to have difficulties reading, it might be time to seek extra help; but not before officially meeting with your child’s teacher. Ask, in writing, to conference with the class room teacher as soon as academic distress is apparent. Signs might include: homework struggles, excuses for not completing assignments, low grades, and all around frustration with school work. When meeting with the teacher, ask what she can suggest to help your child keep on track. Is there a list of things she is doing while the child is in school and are there recommendations she can suggest for you to complete at home?

Having proceeded through these preliminary steps and still the child needs more help than the school or your family can provide it is time to seek the aid of a professional.

Some schools might recommend a person who has worked with children of the district and with whom the school has a rapport. If not, get recommendations from other parents who have hired outside help. Be sure to check the references for each applicant, even if from a learning group or center that work with students on a full-time basis.

Other questions to pose include: will the program be a small group or an individualized program? Will there be pre-testing/post-testing administered? Who provides the textbooks and enrichment materials to be used during the lessons? Will the parents be active participants in the process? Will the tutor communicate with the classroom teacher at anytime during the program? Address all concerns before signing on with a tutor and if after a month, if the fit is not just right, do not be fearful to move on and find a tutor better suited to your child’s educational needs.

Tutoring prices can vary in cost from around $40 per session to over $150 depending on the area and the expertise of the instructor. If you have contracted a specialist with an advanced certification expect to pay on the higher end of the scale.

A difference in the child’s academic performance should be noted within about a month of regular lessons; especially if the lessons are weekly and the skills taught are practiced consistently. Grades generally rise within one marking period with the continued work of the academic team, but it is primarily the child’s efforts and increased self-esteem that allow strides to occur. Knowing you have taken the necessary steps to allow your child to succeed can be the best gift a parent can give a child. It can translate into a lifetime of difference!

Q: The school wants to test my child. What does that mean?

A: Testing begins even before your child heads to their first formal day of school. From their Kindergarten screening, to yearly standardized exams, children are tested to determine “tracking” for placement, curriculum quality, or to detect leaning disabilities in individual students. Testing does serve a purpose but it can be misunderstood.

Tests vary in their design and areas of specialty. The five basic exams include: achievement tests (designed to measure what a child has already mastered); developmental screening tests (which measure rates of development within the normal range); diagnostic tests (screening devise for possible mental or physical delays); intelligence tests (measuring thinking skills); and readiness tests (screens to access what new skills can be learned).

Since security is tight for most exams, fear of the unknown make the testing request an uncomfortable situation for both the parent and the child. Play down the event! See it as only an opportunity to glean more information about your child and how they learn.

Some tests are given to entire grade levels and others are administered by a school psychologist or a trained teacher and the child in a one-on-one testing environment. Since each test format is different, testing can take between 20 minutes to over an hour and a half depending on the child, their performance during the exam, and scheduling.

Since there continues to be much debate surrounding test accuracy and results, it is best to use the final scores as benchmarks, not absolute truths. Remember this when considering any exam result since each is just one piece of the puzzle. After you receive as many pieces to your child’s educational puzzle, follow up. Find out the child’s personal strengths and weaknesses, learning style, and continue to work as a team with your child’s teachers to create a positive academic experience for years to come!

In the end, remember that learning is a life-long process. Be positive, be creative, and be an active part of your child’s learning team!


Copyright © 2006, Karen M. Pettrone-Keber. Web Design by CreatriX Development