Category Archives for "Make School Make Sense"

Does your child need homework?

The short answer is it depends!

Here’s why.

Homework is useful if it helps your child review what has been taught in class, if it is a way of checking that lessons have been learned.  Then, provided the teacher checks the homework, he or she can adjust how and what they teach in the next lesson. This type of homework should be short and to the point.  Then, if your child has understood what has been taught he or she should be able to finish it in a few minutes.  No stress!

So if your child has homework that helps her practice what she has learned then homework is useful and as we all know, practice makes perfect!

Homework is useless if it tries to teach your child something he or she has not been taught how to do. When this happens children, and parents, get stressed and upset. Parents end up trying to show their children what to do – and they ways they do this might conflict with how the teacher says the work has to be done. Result – total confusion and frustration.

Does your child need this type of homework? I suggest that he or she really doesn’t need homework if all is it going to do is cause emotional upheaval.

But I hear your cries go up – What about the child’s learning?  What about the child’s progress?  How will my child progress if he or she does not do extra work?

Well, let’s get something clear -there is no proof that doing homework increases a child’s learning or his ability to learn.  In Finland – a country with excellent educational outcomes –I have read that teachers are forbidden to give students homework. Forbidden!!!

Teachers assume that children will work hard during school time and that they will use after school time to extend their interests, play sports, meet and talk to each other.  Now I am not sure how well this is working in this age of digital addiction but it has certainly worked so far.  Parents are expected to help their children develop life skills and are not expected to have to help with homework.

Ah, wouldn’t that be nice?  No homework, no stress, no late nights worrying about what the next school day will bring.

Teachers would be happy to not give homework, as long as they can get through what has to be taught during the day.  They tell me they give homework because parents ask for it, parents not kids.  And why do parents ask for homework – two reasons, they want to know what their child is doing in class and they want to keep their child busy in the evenings.

These are not good reasons.  There are better ways to discover what your child is learning and to keep them occupied each evening.

So, does your child need homework? You decide.

Want help with the homework hassle?  Download these 5 tips now.

and take the stress out of homework.




What to do when your child hates school!


When your child tells you that he hates going to school – take him seriously!  Don’t offer platitudes such as , “Oh, it will be OK next week”, or ” Things will get better” because your child is pretty sure they wont. “I hate school”, is a cry for help. A serious cry for help. A cry that cannot be ignored or brushed off.  A cry that needs care and attention the moment the words come out of the child’s mouth.

So what do you do when your child tells you that she ‘hates school’ or ‘hates her teacher’ or ‘hates homework’?

Work through these seven steps to find out how to solve the situation.

1. Take your child’s comments seriously

Don’t ignore, or brush off, your child’s comments even if you think that your child is just going through ‘a phase’.  Hate is an emotional word and one that most children only use when they have nowhere else to turn.  Your child might think that he or she hates school but in reality there is something else that your child hates, something that he or she finds hard to think about let alone talk about.

2. Get past the words

Your child doesn’t hate school.  He or she hates something about their experience in school and they only way they can express their feelings is by using strong statements.   Don’t tell your child that he or she doesn’t hate school – keep that to yourself – or you risk losing their trust.  Go along with your child’s statement until you can discover what caused it.

3. Ask the right questions

Now to the tricky part.  You have accepted that your child has strong feelings about school/their teacher/their work but now you need to discover why he or she has these feelings.  You need to get to the truth behind your child’s statement.  This has to be done carefully by asking the type of questions that will help your child understand his feelings and you understand what is causing them.  Start by saying how sorry you are that your child feels that way and perhaps it would help if he talked about it.  Had anything happened that annoyed him?  Did he get into trouble at school?  Is he being bullied? Is he struggling to do the work?  What has the teacher done to make him feel that way?  Ask questions that provide you with information

4. Don’t judge

Don’t comment on any of the answers.  Accept what your child is telling you without judging the right or wrong of the situation.  You can use questions to gently help your child better understand what has happened to cause this outburst but do not judge any of your child’s actions or those of others.  Listen and try to make sense of what has taken place.

5. Discuss options

When you know why your child is upset you can start to move towards solutions.  These solutions should come from a discussion with your child about what might be possible.  At this stage your child might dismiss these options as unworkable but persevere and offer several options until you can both agree on what needs doing. This step may take some time and you may not be happy with the result.  You may end up having to do something that you really don’t want to do. Measure your discomfort against that of your child’s and make the best choices.

6. Follow through

Now that you have a possible solution, one that you have discussed with your child and that you have both agreed to, it is time to follow through.  If you do not take action your child will lose trust in you and in your ability to provide the support he needs.  Don’t wait.  Start providing the support your child needs as soon as possible.  And set a date to review progress, to check if the problem has been adequately solved.  No one gets everything right on the first try so be prepared to…

7. …re assess the situation

Has what you tried worked? Has the problem been completely solved? or is there something more that needs doing?  Now is the time to evaluate your success.  Whatever happens do not give up on your child.  He or she has cried out for help – make sure that help is forthcoming!

If you want to learn more about how to help your child make sense of school download this pdf

Make School Make Sense

and register for my live webinar on September 28th, at 6PM Pacific ..

What you need to know about combined classes

Combined classes, split grade classes, integrated classes – there are many names but they are all variations on the same theme – diversity in the classroom.

Classrooms are by their very nature places of diversity.  Students learn in different ways, at different speeds and at different levels.  Every teacher knows this.  But sometimes – and it seems to me to be increasing – schools increase the diversity in a class by mixing two – or more – grade levels (combined class or split class) and by including students with specific learning needs.

Before I write more you need to know that I once taught a class that included students from Grades 5, 6 and 7 – and I loved it!  More about why later.

If your child has been placed in one of these classes – DON’T PANIC!  Everything will be fine  as long as you follow some simple rules.

First, why do schools have combined classes?  There are two reasons.

  1.  Organization.  There are not enough students of a certain grade to create a class (or extra class) for that grade alone.  There are not enough teachers to teach extra classes with only a few students – basic economics.  So schools put two or more grades together to create one class.
  2. Philosophy. Some teachers believe that, because children learn in different ways a Grade 4 student might be ready to learn at a Grade 5 level or that a Grade 5 student might benefit from being with Grade 4 students.

There is nothing wrong with either of these reasons for creating combined classes.  Often the number of students in combined classes is lower than in regular classes.

The problem – and the opportunity – is that students in combined classes need to be taught in a different way.  Teachers have to cover two curricula and while this is possible it means that students have to be placed into relevant groups so that the work can be done.  A teacher might be teaching one group Grade 5 math while another group is is completing a writing assignment or teaching the whole class how to structure an essay but expecting different levels of understanding from different groups.

Notice  I said ‘groups’ not grade levels.  A child could be in an advanced group for math and a regular group for writing – depending on the child’s skill level.  This is what I love about combined classes – students can work at their own level and either catch up on work they have missed or move ahead when they are ready.

But these classes need a teacher who is happy working with groups and who understands children’s needs. They need a teacher with good classroom management skills and the ability to resect each student for his or her abilities.  Combined classes only work when teachers are able to do this.

Now we come to what you need to do to ensure your child benefits from such a class.

First – be happy that your child is in a combined class.  He or she will have more opportunities for learning.

Next – find out how the teacher is going to manage the classroom.  Is he or she happy with group work?  What types of groups will be made, how often will each group get direct teaching?  These are questions you may be able to ask at the Meet the Teacher session.

Then – ask the school why children are in mixed classes.  If it is purely because of organization you need to take special care to ensure your child gets a good education.  If it is based on school philosophy the chances are that the whole school is behind this way of doing things and that teachers will be mutually supportive.  You can rest easy if that is the case.

So, lots to think about and I haven’t even discussed integration of students with special needs.  That will have to wait for another post.

Questions or concerns?  Let me know and i will do what I can to answer them.

Don’t forget the free download –

5 Homework Rules

where you will learn how to end the homework hassle (more info on this topic next month)

And go to to register for the free MasterMind and learn more about combined classes.


7 tips to make “Meet the Teacher” work for you

Your child has a new teacher.  This can change many things about your child’s learning.  The new teacher may have a very different teaching style from the last teacher, different class rules, expectations around homework, and a new way of delivering the curriculum.

Your child will need to adjust to this ‘new normal’ in order to make the best of the new school year. It can be difficult to do this.  Some children lose many weeks of learning because they are struggling to make these adjustments.

You need to help.   But how can you help when you don’t know your child’s new teacher or how he or she will be working with your child?

Go to ‘Meet the Teacher’ night.  (Teachers call it Meet the Creature’ but we won’t comment on that!).   Attending this important meeting is not enough, you need to know how to get the information that is going to help you give your child the support he or she needs.

Here are tips on how to make that happen.

 1. Understand the purpose of the meeting.

This is a ‘get to know you’ meeting not a time to go into detail about your child’s learning issues.  You may only have a few minutes to connect with the teacher – make them count.

2.  Take a photo of your child.

The teacher may not know which student you ‘belong’ to.  I have had several conversations with parents only to realize that I was talking about the wrong child!   Having a photo of your child really helps.

3.  Decide what the teacher needs to know about your child.

Does your child have a specific learning need? A special interest? A sibling in the school?  Letting the teacher know this will help him or her connect to your child.  Keep it short.  Only one sentence please not a whole dissertation. If the teacher wants to know more she can follow up later.

4.  Know what you want to know.

What burning question do you have about the upcoming school year?  Do you want to know how your child’s progress will be assessed?  What the expectations are around homework? What the teacher would like you to do to help her or your child?  Choose one question and go with it.  If you have more ask to schedule a time when you can get them answered.

5. Remember and respect other parents

These meeting tend to be short, do not take up too much of the teacher’s time. Respect the fact that other parents will want to talk to the teacher too.  (And that they will have good questions to ask if they follow my blog!)

6. Thank the teachers for their time

A quick ‘thanks’ as you are leaving goes  along way to building a good relationship.  These meetings are over and above what teachers do on a regular basis. Please acknowledge that.

7.  Don’t give up

These meetings are short and sweet (we hope!) but cannot answer all your questions.   Don’t assume that this is the last meeting you will need to schedule – you need more information and will need to take the time to do this.  Don’t give up.  Your child needs your support.

Want more tips on how to work with the school so that your child gets the best teachers can offer?   Download my free tips here.

and help your child get a wonderful start to the new school year.


5 ways to make the new school year stress free

Here are 5 ways you can take the stress out of ‘back to school’ and get a great start on the school year.

  1. The practicalities

You know all about these.  The media is full of things you can buy for the new school year – but you don’t have to buy them!  Yes, children may need a few new clothes, after all they have probably grown during the summer, but don’t go overboard, only buy what is absolutely necessary.

Your child will need school supplies, pens, binders, new school bag etc. At this time of year you can find good deals on these.

Put together some food ideas too.  What can you buy in that will make preparing school lunches easy and quick to prepare?

2.  Establish Routines 

Now is the time to re-establish family routines.  These include regular bedtimes, meal times, homework times as well as the routine of getting out the door in the morning!  having a ‘ready for school routine is one way of preventing the stress that can happen over breakfast!

And don’t forget YOUR routines.  What arrangements can you make that will make life easier for you?

3.  Understand different roles

This is important as understanding people’s roles in helping children make a success if school can prevent stress building up and causing problems.

Your role is the ‘set the scene’ for learning so that your child can benefit from what the teacher is teaching.

The teacher’s role is to teach your child – a task that is made much easier when you have set the scene.

The school’s role is to keep your child safe and to provide as many learning opportunities as possible.

Your child’s role is to do his of her best work and to tell you when he or she is struggling to understand homework assignments.

Don’t get them mixed up!  That leads to stress all around.

4. Get a handle on expectations

Knowing what everyone’s expectations for the new school year are takes away the frustration of not knowing what to do.


What expectations does the teacher have around homework?  What help does he or she expect you to give your child?  Does he or she expect you to provide information when your child finds homework too hard or too easy?

Knowing these expectations takes most of the hassle out of homework time.

School behaviour

Does the school have a policy on dress? Lateness? Absenteeism? Communication with parents?  Does the school expect you to volunteer or to go on  field trips?

You amy already know this – but it might be a good idea to check.

Your expectations

What do you expect from the school, the teacher and your child? What are you going to do if these expectations are not met?  How can you communicate with the school and your child’s teacher?

Do you need to modify your expectations in light of what the school expects?

Your child’s expectations

Talk to your child.  What does he or she expect the new school year to bring?  Do you need to help him or her modify these expectations?  How are you going to do that?

If your expectations and your chid’s expectations do not match the year could be more stress than it needs to be.

5. Open Lines of communication

Knowing how you, your child’s teacher and your child are going to communicate is probably the biggest tip of all.  Discover how to contact your child’s teacher (ask them about the best way to do this).  How and  when do letters get sent from the school?  How can you know what your child is learning in class?

Most of all set aside time each day to talk with your child about their feelings, their work, and any concerns they may have.  Don’t let small difficulties become major problems.  opening lines of communication can prevent that happening.

Quick review.

Make the new school year stress free by handling the practicalities, establishing routines, understanding everyone’s role and their expectations and by keeping lines of communication open at all times.

Believe me, everyone wants a stress free year.  These five tips will help you make it happen.

If, despite these tips, the year starts to get stressful contact me and we can sort it out.



Make the next school year the best ever!

A new school year is just around the corner.   Anticipation is high.  Stress levels are rising. You will soon be wanting answers to questions such as – What teacher will my child get?  Will she be able to do the work? How can I help make it a successful? How can I take the stress out of homework?

All good questions needing answering.  And here I am to answer them!

  • I can’t tell you which teacher your child will get – but I can tell you how to make any teacher the best teacher for your child.
  • I can’t tell you whether your child will be able to do the schoolwork – but I can tell you how give your child the skills that make learning easy.

And I can tell you how you can ensure your child has the best year ever, without homework issues and with less stress than you ever thought possible.

How can I promise this?  Because there is one secret that holds the key to your child’s success – and I can tell you where to get it.

Before I do that you need some context.

When you are not feeling well and you want to feel better you go to doctor who diagnoses the problem and tells you how to get healthy again.  You learn they type of support you need.

When you want to help your child learn you need a way to find the type of support that is going to make that happen.  You need a way of diagnosing your child’s learning needs.

If you guess what medicine will make you healthy or you guess what support will help your child needs … well, we all know what guessing can lead to.  You may take the wrong medicine and end up sicker than before.  and your child may get the type of support that makes learning more difficult.

So, the secret to making the next school year the best ever is to stop guessing what support your child needs and start discovering what support will make a difference.

I know, no one is telling you how you can do this.  No one is giving you the information and advice you need to make next year fantastic – until now!

Check out , take the free easy diagnostic assessment and discover how you can make next year, and every year after that,  the year your child truly shines.

It is easy – and it works. What more can you ask for?



Ready for school?: 5 ways you can ensure your child’s success.

So, are you ready?  Is your child ready for the new school year?  Oh, I am not asking about new clothes or  school supplies or having a few last days of family fun. I am asking about something much more important than those back to school preparations, I am asking if you are ready to make the next school year the best your child has ever had.  I am asking if you are ready to help your child enjoy learning, reach his or her full learning potential and get great grades.

So, are you ready to help your child have a year full of success and happiness?

Let’s be honest.  Most parents don’t even understand what I am asking.  Why should they be the ones responsible for their child’s success?  Surely that is the job of the teacher?

Yes, teachers have to do a good job of teaching your child but research states that up to 80% of your child’s success in school depends on you – on how you support your child at home!  And providing back to school support goes way beyond buying school supplies and new clothes.

Here are four ways you can guarantee your child has a wonderful school year.

  1. Set high expectations.

Parent’s expectations are the main indicator of school success.  Having high expectations doesn’t mean that you have to expect your child to get A’s on every assignment. here is what you need to expect –

That your child will do his best and that the school will provide all the help your child needs.

You may be disappointed at times.  Your child may not always do his or her best work and the school may not provide all your child needs.  But if you start off the year with these expectations you will be ready to act when things go wrong.

2.  Make sure your child knows how to learn.

Too often teachers, and parents, expect children to learn when they don’t have the skills they need to be able to learn.  Kids struggle to do the best they can but learning becomes hard work and many children call it quits.  They start to think that they are stupid and begin to lose confidence in their abilities. If you are concerned that your bright child is lazy or just not trying it may be because he doesn’t have the skills that allow him to learn.

3.  Work with the school.

You don’t have to volunteer to help with every school outing but you do need to keep in touch with your child’s teacher so that you know what is happening in class and what the expectations are around your child’s learning. (There is that word – expectations – again!).

Then, if things are not going well, if you think your child is not learning what he is expected to learn, you can inform the teacher and ask for extra help for your child.  Teachers want all children to do well but it can be difficult to keep track of every student.

5.   Provide extra support when your child needs it.

Schools can’t do it all!  Sometimes students need extra support that the school cannot provide.  If your child needs extra support to master a subject or just to catch up on missed lessons you may need to hire a tutor.  The key to hiring the best tutor for your child is to find one that teaches the way your child likes to learn.  When you know how your child likes to learn you can hire a tutor that is going to help your child learn quickly and easily.  You save money and your child feels good about learning.

So, are you ready?  Do you expect your child to do well, know that he has the skills he needs to learn, are prepared to work with the school and to provide extra support the necessary?  If you answered ‘yes’ to all these then I congratulate you – you are ready to give your child the best year of his school life.  If you weren’t able to answer ‘yes’ to them all then you have some work to do.  You have to discover more about how your child learns and how you can provide support that works.

If you want to be able to say ‘yes’ to being ready for the new school year I am ready to give you any help and advice you may need.  Schedule a call and we can talk!




Why Report Cards Are Like Mexican Traffic Lights

It is report card time here in North America.  Students are wondering about the grades they will get and maybe dreading what you will say to them when you see them.  But before you take your chid’s report card too seriously there is something you should know.

There are many different kinds of report cards. Many use letter grades, others use comments, some use both. Although there are many differences between them the share one enormous similarity.

All report cards are like Mexican traffic lights!

If you are Mexican please forgive me for what I am  about to write – even though it was  Mexican friend who told me this.   Mexican traffic lights are ‘advisory’.  Drivers take them as an indication that they should stop or to slow down.  If you have ever driven in Mexico City you will know what I am talking about.   The traffic moves quickly and you can never be sure that cars will stop for red lights.

So how are report cards like Mexican Traffic lights?

All report cards are advisory.  They are not set in stone.  The grades you see are merely advice about how well your child is doing in a subject.

There is no consistency between the grades your child is given.  One teacher might give a child an A where another teacher would give a B or even a C.  That is why when your child changes teachers his or her grades may suddenly go up or go down. Not because your child has worked harder or not done the work but because what one teacher considers A work another teacher considers it a B.

So how do teachers decide what grade a child will get?  That depends on the teacher.  Some teachers go by test results, some go by homework scores, others assess project work.  But few teachers only use the marks a student gets during the year.  Most teachers mix in thoughts about the student’s attitude to learning, the amount of effort he or she has put into their work, the progress they have made since the last report card.

Is this fair? No, but it is the way it is.  That is why you MUST remember that report cards are advisory only.

When you look at your child’s report card think about Mexican traffic lights!


Successful school year? Now is the time to make sure it happens

Time to evaluate your child's progress

Time to evaluate your child’s progress

It is only the end of March but already schools are thinking about next year – which kids are going to go where, which kids will pass the year with honours, who will need extra help.  There is not a lot of time left to make sure that your child gets the Grades he or she is capable of getting and ends the year on a good note.

If you have any concerns about your child’s education now is an excellent time to take action to get them dealt with.  Schools are beginning to wind up the school year, yes I know it is early but it is just the way it is, and as soon as the Easter holidays are over the pressure on teaching drops off.  This allows you time to meet teachers , talk to them about your concerns and get them dealt with.

You should have received your child’s second report card and had a meeting with the teacher so you will have a good idea of how your child is doing.  Read the report card carefully!  Read between the lines and think about what is not there as much as what is.

It is never too late to help your child get the support he or she needs – but NOW is the best time to make sure that your child’s school year has been a success.

Don’t forget – I am more than happy to talk to you about your concerns and to give you advice on how to help your child.  Use the buttons on this site to schedule a free call.  Don’t wait, please don’t wait.  Your child needs your support now.

The #1 Secret to Avoiding Homework Hassle

The Homework Hassle

The Homework Hassle

Do you help your child do his homework?  Most parents do.

Do you get frustrated when things don’t seem to work out?  Most parents do.

Do you confuse your child rather than helping make things clear?  Most parents do.

Do you think homework is a hassle?  Most parents… well you get the picture.

The #1 secret to avoiding the homework hassle is to understand your role in helping kids learn.  YOU ARE NOT YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOLTEACHER!  You cannot be expected to teach your child the same way his teacher does.  First, you are probably not trained to teach and even if you are you will be trying to help your child in ways that differ from the ways he learned in class.

Poor kids – they appreciate your help but they often feel more confused and upset than ever.

This is what you do.

You provide a safe, timely space for your child to do his homework. You stay close enough to offer help if needed – but he help you offer is encouragement and understanding of your child’s efforts.

If your child has difficulty with homework – TELL HIS TEACHER!!!  It is the teacher’s job to make sure that he understands and can do his work.

Don’t confuse your role with the role of the teacher – that way no one wins.