Organized Home = Learning Conducive Environment

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At Maryland Teacher Tutors, we know that it can feel nearly impossible to keep a home clean and organized when children are involved. Heck, it’s hard to keep a clean and organized home when children aren’t involved! Nevertheless, there are ways to keep some order in your home. And there are definitely things that you can do in your home to create an environment that is conducive to learning. We partnered with Mary Cate Claudias from Charm City Organizers to leave you with some tips!

Purge or temporarily put away everything unnecessary. Once you get started, you’ll see how easy this becomes over time. Having less means less to clean up! Rotate toys, electronics, and books so only a few are out at a time.  By purging your home from unnecessary things, your home becomes less cluttered, which helps to eliminate distractions when it’s time for reading or homework.

Create easy-to-maintain systems for you and your kids. Closet systems have come a long way and if you have the space to create lower rails and drawers that they can reach, putting things away can involve them in a positive way. PS… it also means they can more easily pull it all out – so supervision is good here! Cube and bin storage for books, electronics, and toys are a necessity. Away with the gigantic toy bin or box! You could even have cubes and bins specifically for educational resources so your kids know exactly where to go when it’s time for learning!

Get them involved. Kids like to be part of things. And they should learn this valuable life skill early. It can be fun. Make a game or song out of it for younger kids. Who can put the most pieces away the fastest? Find everything red, find everything orange, etc.  And don’t forget those positive rewards people! For older kids, assigning chores is a fantastic idea. This involves them in the process of giving the home some order, which also encourages order in their school binders and class notebooks.

At the end of the day, a home free of clutter encourages a mind that has less distractions. And a mind that has less distractions is a mind that can focus on studying, completing assignments, and being academically engaged. So, go forth and organize! Your child’s brain will thank you for it!

Does My Child Need Extra Help?

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Parents often wonder how to tell if their child may need extra help. Though every child is different, and every age is different, here are a few tips that may indicate a need for help:

·      Sudden discomfort – your once happy and content student is suddenly anxious talking about school. It isn’t just the shift in discussion where you feel like you’re pulling teeth trying to figure out what happened in school that day now that you have a middle schooler; your child actually becomes uncomfortable discussing school.

o   For some children this could manifest as actual physical discomfort, such as fidgeting or avoiding eye contact.

o   For others, it could be avoidance, such as an immediate and deliberate change of subject.

o   For a few, this could manifest as irritation or aggression. Some students are having such a hard time that they get upset even discussing things that are school-related.

·       Grade decline – it is perfectly normal to have off-days and topics that just don’t click. A bad test grade or two is not always the best indicator that help is needed (could be sleep related, something outside of school, etc.) But, a steady decline in a class grade or grades should be a sign that something is wrong. If your child has dropped a letter grade or more and doesn’t seem to be on the upswing, it may be time to look into some outside assistance

·      Key words – really listen to your child and their attitude when discussing school. What may once have been “fine” may now be “really hard.” Some students drop hints about not knowing what they’re doing, or not wanting to raise their hand because they feel their question is “stupid.” These small additions to your conversations are signals your child is sending to communicate their struggle

·      Trust your gut – you are their parent. You know them best. If you think something is wrong and they need help, then you are probably right. Have an open conversation with them and see where they are and how they feel 

Note: remember that you are the parent. Even us teachers get frustrated because we understand the content our own children are learning, but for some reason just cannot help or tutor them. This is normal. A tutor is a professional who can come in and play a very particular role in your child’s life. They develop a different relationship of respect and communication with your child.


Understanding Interims

    This time of year, many parents have received their child’s interim, or progress report, and the teacher’s notes that come with it.  Many schools offer these mid-semester reports in order to communicate with parents, allow the student to make any necessary behavioral or academic adjustments, and to ensure that each child is set up to be as successful as possible.  

     You don’t want to miss this opportunity to connect with your child’s instructors and understanding their interims will give you an inside look into their performance. Whether your child experiences anxiety about receiving grades or is indifferent about it altogether, interims can be an extremely helpful tool for you and your student. Progress reports are usually issued halfway through the grading period and outline your child’s schedule and their grades thus far. These progress reports often include notes from teachers about how your child is behaving in class and whether there are any issues that need to be addressed. Receiving these grades and behavioral notes in the middle of the grading period allows your student to make necessary adjustments. For example, teachers may notice that your son’s grades are lower in classes where he sits further back and encourage him to schedule an eye exam.  Your daughter may have no problem with her math assignments at home, but struggles to focus when in class surrounded by her friends. Some kids may still be adjusting, like 9th graders who aren't used to the workload of a high school student. Nevertheless, by October, you should have a solid idea about where your child stands.  Progress reports allow teachers to pinpoint any difficulties that your child might be experiencing and connect with you to discuss them.

     If your child often tells you, “nothing happened at school” or “we didn’t learn anything”, it can be difficult to know how things are really going.  Interims are a great resource for parents who aren’t getting much information from their children. Teachers often spend even more time with your children than you do, so having open communication between you will often make for a much more successful student. Read the instructor’s notes carefully and keep them in mind to re-address during the next meeting.

     Parents should also look at what rubric their child’s interim grades are based upon. Grading systems vary all over the country and a poor grade doesn’t always mean that your child doesn’t grasp the material. Does your child have a D in a class based off of three grades, or off of thirty? If one bombed test is affecting his or her grade significantly, that is less worrisome than an entire test category showing up in the red. If/when a concern arises, work with your child and his or her teacher to create a plan that addresses the issue.  There is still time for students to bring up their interim grades, but before you know it, the holidays will be here, and report cards will be arriving.

     As educators, we strongly encourage parents to take advantage of parent-teacher conferences after interims have been distributed.  We understand how overwhelming schedules are, but a short meeting with your child’s teacher could greatly benefit him. If you cannot be present for the assigned day, reach out to the teacher and work out another option (whether it's after school or before school, or even via phone). These are a huge opportunity to get a window into your child's classroom and an idea of how they’re doing outside of the home. You may be looking at a simple fix to bring some of those grades up!

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