Category Archives for "Work with the school"

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 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.


The Ultimate Guide to a Successful ‘Meet the Teacher’ Experience.

OK, so you have survived the first week of back to school now it is time to make the ‘Meet the Teacher’ meeting a success.

This meeting is normal set up during the first few weeks of the school year and, as the name suggests, it is a time for you to meet the person your child will be working with during the following 40 weeks or so.

It is an important meeting.   But it is easy to get wrong.  It is easy to come away from the meeting wondering what it was all about, why you were there, and what good it did you or your child.

And that is a shame, because, properly handled, this meeting helps set up your relationship with your child’s teacher and provides you with an understanding of what your child will be doing during the year.  So here is my guide to making the most of the ‘Meet the Teacher’ event that your school will be having.


 Notice the title – it is MEET the teacher, not GRILL the teacher!

You are there to get to know each other, to put names to faces, to look at the classroom and to get a feel for the kind of situation your child will be in.

You are not there to ask detailed questions about child’s learning or about what work your child should be doing at home, you are there to lay the groundwork to an important relationship – the relationship between home and school.

Put a face to a name.

You would be surprised at how difficult it can be for a teacher to match a child to a parent.  You might think that your child looks exactly like you but the teacher might not see the resemblance.  I have known – and I have been guilty of doing this myself – teachers go through a whole parent meeting and have no idea which child they are talking about.  This is especially true in High School where teachers meet hundreds of students and can find it very difficult to put a face to a name.

Take a recent photograph of your child with you when you go to this meeting.  Hold it in your hand as you talk to the teacher.  That way you can be sure that she is talking about YOUR child!

Be on time

I know, this can be difficult but teachers have many parents to talk to and won’t be able to wait if you are not there when you are expected to be there.  If you can’t make it, phone the school and leave a message.  You may even ask for another time to meet the teacher.

Ask about expectations around homework.

This is a biggie and getting this information can save you a whole lot of heartache later in the year.  Does the teacher give homework? How much homework does she expect a child to do each night? What kind of homework will your child be getting?  If your child is expected to do project work how are you exceed to help?  What happens if homework is not handed in on time?  Will homework grades count for the final grades? and, most importantly, Can you contact the teacher if you have concerns about your child and homework?

This leads into the next item on your agenda…

Confirm contact details.

The school office will have details of your address and phone number but you might also want the teacher to let you know if your child is having difficulty in class.  Tell the teacher that you would be happy to have this information and give her your phone number or another way she can contact you.

By doing this you have opened the door to the communication process and invited the teacher to step in and help you help your child.

If these details change make sure the teacher knows about the changes.

Ask what your commitment to your child’s education should be.

Does the teacher want you to help with homework? Check homework? Report problems? Provide extra support? or is he happy to let you decide what to do?   Perhaps you are expected to read with your child every night, or help him or her learn spellings for a test, or provide materials for project work.  You need to know.

Let the teacher know what you think her commitment should be.

Ask her to keep you informed about your child’s progress.  Report cards are not the best way to make this happen – perhaps she sends out monthly newsletters?  Remind the teacher that you will always be happy yo hear from her and that if there are any problems in class you want to be the first to know about them.

Then say ‘Thanks, nice to meet you!” and leave.


This is a lot to get through in the few minutes you will have to meet your child’s new teacher but if you approach these meetings with an agenda in mind you will get the information you need and the teacher will be grateful that you are using the time well.

Teachers can be scary but we are not all the ‘creatures’ some of you think we are!


The Truth About Back to School

It’s that time again and you are probably being bombarded with advice about how to prepare for the big day.  Most of the advice is good – so I don’t need to repeat it here – but, just for a moment let us go beyond all the information and advice and take a look at ‘Back to School’ from different perspectives.

  1. Back to School – Teachers

Your child’s first day of school is the last day of a teacher’s preparation for the new school year.  Most teachers have been in school for a week already, getting books prepared, sorting out files, having meeting, making sure resources are in place and working out how to fit students into the right class.

For Vice Principal the time has been even more hectic.  They have the responsibility of working out the timetabling for the whole school.  No easy job.  So the first day of Back to School for your child is something of a relief for teachers.  Preparations are complete and the year can begin.

Teachers are ready.

2.  Back to School – Students

Most students are very happy to be back in school.  They may complain and they may be nervous about the upcoming school year but like the rhythm and regularity of the school days.  They look forward to seeing new friends and reconnecting with old ones.  But Back to School time is also a time of great uncertainty.  What will the new teacher be like? Will I be able to do the work? What if I hate my new classroom?  What homework will I get and will I be able to do it? – all questions that are in the back of your child’s mind right now. Even the coolest kid harbours some trepidation about the new school year.

Students are nervous.

3. Back to School – Parents

So where do you fit into this picture?  You have probably been busy rushing round getting last minute supplies, being hassled by your child for the latest gear that he  cannot live without and been getting ready for the new routine that the school year brings.  All busy work.

But deep in your heart you are worried about the new school year.  Will he pass or fail?  Will she be happy or miserable?  Will the teacher understand your child’s needs?  Will your child make the right friends? and What can you do to make this year the best ever for your child?

Parents are worried.

The truth, the whole truth, about Back to School is that however much teachers prepare, however much students question, and however much you worry none of it really matters in the end.

Preparation is necessary but not sufficient.

After the first week or two all the teacher preparation will have changed, the student questions will have been answered BUT  your worries will not have gone away.

The only way to avoid worrying about your child’s success is know what you can do to ensure that it happens.  You need answers to your questions.  You need to know who to ask and how to ask them.

The truth about Back to School is that only you can ensure your child has a good year. Only you have the power to make good things happen for your child.

Scary, but as my mother said “It’s easy when you know how”.

back to School preparation is not enough. If you want your child to have a great year you need to know how to provide support that makes a difference.


How to Choose the Best School for Your Child.

Kids need more than slates and crayons!

Kids need more than slates and crayons!

Every parent wants their child to go to the best school in the neighbourhood and I am often asked which one I would recommend.

The answer is simple.

The best school of any child is one where the teachers teach the way the child learns best!

Some children learn best in a structured environment and for them a school with traditional approach would work well.  Others prefer a more open, creative way of learning and these students would do well in a school with that kind of approach to teaching.

It all depends on how the child likes to learn, on the child’s learning style.

That is why one of the ways to help children make sense of school (the second way you can support their learning) is to CONSIDER  how your child learns.

(The 3 C’s of helping children make sense of school are  Consider, Consult, Communicate)

When you know how your child learns best yo can choose the school that teaches in a way your child will appreciate.

Will your child learn best in a traditional, structured learning environment or a school with a more liberal easy going approach?

Does your child like science subjects or are arts something he really enjoys?

Is there chance for your child to play sports, or music, or learn about citizenship?

Only when you CONSIDER your child’s leaning style can you answer the question – “What is the best school for my child?”     And the answer will be different for every child.

So, the best school?………Well, it all depends………

Check out my Good to Great program if you want to discover how your child learns best and how you can make school make sense.

3 Ways To Ensure Children Get The Education They Deserve

Is your child getting the best from school?

Is your child getting the best from school?

I am sure that you have heard the saying, ‘it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease’.   Well, in schools, it is the committed parent whose child gets the best education!

I know that it shouldn’t work that way – all children should get the education they need and deserve – but it does.  After 35 years in the classroom I have seen countless occasions where parental involvement made a difference to  children’s schooling.

But there are ways parents can do this effectively rather than turning the teacher off and making life difficult for a child.   Yes, unfortunately it does happen and I know that many parents shy away from getting involved with their child’s teacher because they fear their child will be stigmatized.

Here are three simple ways that you can – and must –  get involved with your child’s school to ensure that your child gets the best that the school can offer.

1.  Communicate

Too often children fall in the cracks between school and home.  Communication is the answer.  You need to know what your child is doing in school and the teacher needs to know what you are doing at home.  Report cards and parent-teacher conferences are not enough.  Find ways to communicate on a regular basis with your child’s teacher and expect him or her to do the same for you.

2. Consider

This is  harder to do but oh so important!   Kids learn in many different ways.  Teachers teach in a limited number of ways.  If the way your child is being taught does not match the way he or she learns best schoolwork will become a struggle.  Discover how your child learns  and how the teacher teaches so you can provide strategies that help your child adapt his learning.  ( My Good to Great Program helps you do this!)

3. Consult

Learn about the support systems that are available for parents.  Each school should have an organization dedicated to giving parents support.  Get involved and find out exactly how that group can support you and your child.  And, if you have concerns about how your child is being taught consult this organization to discover what you can do to change the situation.

These are the three C’s of working with a school so that your child s=gets the best the school can offer.



What a difference a day makes!


I can read now!

I can read now!

Do you remember this song….?

“What a difference a day makes
Twenty-four little hours
Brought the sun and the flowers
Where there used to be rain”

The song is about falling in love but 24 hours (or only a little longer) can  change rain into sunshine and flowers for children who are struggling to learn.

Jenny is a bright Grade 3 student but she was only reading at Grade 1 level.  She hated reading.  She did whatever she could to avoid it.

No child should hate reading – something had to be done.

An assessment of her learning  showed she was a visual learner who had been taught to read using phonics and was trying to  read by sounding out every word.    No wonder reading was difficult for her.

When she was introduced to a visual approach to learning to read – (looking at the words and the shapes they made) reading began to make sense.

Jenny soared.  In three weeks her reading level went from  Grade 1 to Grade 3!!

Ok – this didn’t happen in 24 hours – but increasing reading level by two whole grades in just three weeks, well, that is even more impressive than falling in love.

I can’t help you fall in love but I can help you make a difference in your child’s learning life.




Essential summer planning


Happy kids

Happy kids

Summer is here – time to forget about school and have fun.  But before you do that I want you to spend five minutes reviewing the last school year.


Because only when you know what your child did last year can you plan for a summer of fun AND  learning.  And to achieve that you need to know what support your child needs.

Was your child’s report card all that you expected?  Take five minutes to review the year and to think of three things that you would like to see changed.

It could be something to do with homework – does it take too long or not long enough?  Is your child always rushing to meet a deadline?  Does your child do his or her best work?

It could be an issue with a particular subject – – does your child need catch-up? Or to be taught in a different way?

It could be something about your child’s school – what class will he or she be in next year?  What will be taught?  How can you give your child  ahead start on the year?

Try to pinpoint where things could be better, then schedule a call with me to discuss your concerns and get some answers.

Summer is a great time – but don’t waste it!


A crisis in education – and it affects your child!


I read recently that in Ontario thousands of kids are on the wait list for assessment to determine what support they need in school.


Even when they have been assessed, resources are spread thin and many children will not get the support they need.

Waiting two or three years for an assessment is as useless as many children will be so far behind that they will never catch up.

What can parents do?  How can they ensure their child gets the support that he or she needs, and get it NOW?

Don’t wait until your child’s learning difficulty has become  a learning problem.  Try one of my programs and get the advice and help you need immediately.  Your child deserves it.

Sorry – but I get really upset when i read that children and parents are having to wait years to get a learning assessment.  That is why I created my own – ones that parents can use now to help children learn.



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