Creating Helpful Routines​

The beginning of the school year is a great time to create new routines and systems to ensure a smooth morning and evening flow. To that end, I’ve asked Sarah Thompson of Clean Slate Vermont to offer her best tips. As a home organizer, Sarah helps busy families transform chaos into calm. Her biggest advice? Observe and tweak. Sarah recommends that parents observe their children’s behaviors, examine what problematic behavior might be about, and then tweak their approach. “It’s up to the parents to figure out what their kid is trying to tell them,” she said. For instance, you may want your child to get up at a certain time, but that might not match what they need. Think about how much time you’re giving your child to transition from sleep to breakfast to leaving the house. They might need more time in the morning. “Some kids need to get up earlier. That one change can take out the stress of the morning,” she said. The same theory applies at bed time. “Almost everyone puts their kids to bed later than they should,” she said. “Parents are afraid if they put their kids to bed early, they’ll wake up early. But they won’t.” She also suggests creating time in the evening that acts as prep for the next day. Spend 15 minutes talking about the upcoming day: what do your kids need for school? What time will you need to leave the house? Pull together any special items needed for the day. This time can even be spent laying out clothes, or getting boots, hats, and mittens ready by the door so leaving in the morning goes more quickly. The most important piece for both the morning and the evening is that the routine repeats daily.“The same thing should happen every night, the same schedule, the same order,” she said.The beginning of the school year is a perfect time to try new routines and rhythms and make tweaks as necessary. If you feel like you could use a hand making those adjustments, I highly recommend Sarah as someone who can guide you. Wishing you a fantastic beginning to the school year!​

Create A Homework Spot

It is already back-to-school time this week for some students, and being in Vermont, where students have about three weeks left of summer, it seems so early! To help all my students prepare for starting a new school year, today I wanted to talk about creating a homework spot. There are some key components to a successful homework spot: 1. Keep it as distraction-free as possible. This means that a spot in a high-traffic area is not a good choice. While many families instinctively choose the dining room table or kitchen counter as a homework spot, this can lead to many distractions, including snacking, other family members' conversations, younger siblings, pets, televisions, radios, and screens. Instead, choose a space off to the side where you can put a small table and a chair. Or, put a desk or table in your child's room. Ask your child where they would feel the most comfortable. Of course, there are caveats: I know many parents choose a family space rather than their child's room because they want to monitor their child to make sure homework is getting done. If that makes more sense for your family, make sure you turn off the TV or radio, keep conversations to a minimum, and take other steps to help ensure a calm, quiet space for homework. This may take some adjusting for everyone, but especially for ADHD students, or other students who struggle with focus, creating this kind of space can be a game changer. 2. Start the routine on day one to get used to this spot. If you set up a homework space before school starts, and then remind your child to use it every day after school, using that spot will become a habit. 3. Gather the appropriate supplies. Students often need a pencil with a good eraser for doing homework. For older students, lined paper, blank paper, a highlighter, and note cards are all good supplies to keep in stock. They may also need a spot with good wifi or a solid internet connection and a plug so they can work on their laptop, if they have one, for online assignments. If you have a home printer, make sure you stock up on paper and ink. 4. Make it comfortable. Is the lighting good? Is the chair relatively comfortable? Is there a fan nearby if it is hot or a blanket they can use if it is cold? If they feel comfortable, they are more likely to do their work. Wishing you a successful start to this new school year!​

Now Recognized By AOGPE​

I'm thrilled to announce that I have gained a level of certification to teach Orton-Gillingham, the approach I use with my dyslexic students (and others as well). After 70 hours of coursework through the Stern Center for Language and Learning, 100 hours of supervision, and a long application process, I’m Orton-Gillingham trained at the Associate level by the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators! This really sets me apart as an expert in helping kids with dyslexia. I have now taught close to 400 hours of O-G instruction and I have witnessed time and again how powerful it is for students who struggle with reading. If you'd like to learn more about this particular approach, which is the gold standard for dyslexia instruction, you can check out this blog I wrote about it.  ​

Myths and Truths About Dyslexia​

Although dyslexia is the most common learning difference (it affects 20% of the population), there are still prevalent myths about what it is and how it affects children. Here are some things to know about dyslexia. Dyslexia is not just when a student reverses their letters when they write and read. While some students with dyslexia do exhibit this trait, so do a lot of young children. It is not an automatic sign of dyslexia. However, if it still occurs beyond first grade, it would be wise to get your child evaluated. It's not about effort. As I mentioned in a recent blog, if a student isn't doing something, it's often because they don't know how or it is truly difficult for them. If you have a reluctant reader in the house, check to see if they also exhibit the common signs of dyslexia. Talk with their teacher to find out their precise struggles with reading. If you suspect they might have dyslexia, it is time to get an evaluation. The sooner a student is diagnosed, the sooner you can put in place interventions to close their reading gap. The minds of dyslexics are wired differently. Therefore, they need a structured, multi-sensory approach to reading instruction, like the Orton-Gillingham approach I use. Many teachers, and even some reading specialists and special educators, are still not trained in this style of reading instruction, and therefore do not use it in the classroom. Students with dyslexia need this type of intervention to help them learn how to read, spell, and write effectively. Highly intelligent people can have dyslexia. While outwardly, dyslexic students may perform poorly at school, this is not a reflection of their intelligence. Often, dyslexic students are quite creative and excel at problem solving. Many entrepreneurs, actors, artists, and inventors are dyslexic. All dyslexics are not the same. Dyslexia exists on a spectrum and some students struggle with it more than others. Add in the fact that dyslexia often comes with other learning differences like ADHD, and can also be paired with mental struggles like anxiety and depression, and the picture looks different for each dyslexic child.  If you'd like to learn more about dyslexia, here are some excellent resources: Understanding DyslexiaYale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity FAQUnderstanding the Myths Around Reading and Dyslexia         

Tests Aren’t Everything​

Recently, a friend sent me this blog, written for On Being, by Quaker elder and educator Parker Palmer. In it, he writes: "There are lots of things wrong with our national mania for high-stakes standardized testing in the public schools. One of the worst is the way it makes some kids feel like 'losers' when they are very young. It’s a tragedy that’s reached epidemic proportions in the U.S., and it’s going to cost this country dearly before it’s over." I couldn't agree more. Test scores only show a fraction of what makes up a student, and I remind my students of that all the time. A group of principals made a point to lift up their students by sending them a message about how test scores only show a fraction of students' beautiful selves. Click through to Palmer's blog to read the message. You might want to read it to your child before school starts to remind them that they contain multitudes beyond what their score on a test might say. ​

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