Archives for category: Uncategorized

More important than getting the right backpack, planner or supplies for this school year is giving as much responsibility as possible to your children for schoolwork and school related tasks. Doesn’t it sound ridiculous for parents to be dragging teens out of their beds so they will get to school on time? And what about taking lunch to school for a fifth grader who left it at home for the seventh time or nagging an eighth grader to start her homework?

School is ultimately your children’s responsibility. Parents should not make it theirs. If they do, they are taking away the opportunity for children to learn to meet their obligations. This is an important part of their achieving success in school and later on in life.

Recently, we were listening to a talk show that was asking callers for their opinions on a sign a local school had in the office saying that “no lunches, money, homework, or other items would be delivered to students in their classrooms.” Surprisingly, a number of callers thought this was patently unfair and were more than willing to take these items to school. And some even said that they made trips frequently to take forgotten items to school. We ask: When will these children learn to take responsibility for themselves? How they will handle college or a job? Are these parents really helping their children?

Just imagine how carefree your life as a parent will be, the more responsibility your children have for their schoolwork and school-related tasks. Also, think of how capable they will feel and how their self-esteem will build and build.

Obviously, more is involved than just giving your children responsibility. A first grader will need to be shown the best way to get assignments to and from school.  The fifth grader may need help in developing a system to get lunches and gym clothes to school. And the teen who won’t suddenly hop up when the alarm goes off may need a piercing alarm set away from his bed. Plus, parents need to be wise and hand off responsibilities that are appropriate for their children’s ages. For example, a seventh grader should be able to handle almost all homework responsibilities.

Amazingly, teaching your child to handle these school responsibilities may be a whole lot easier than you think. Just start when they are young. Sure you are going to have to help them learn to tackle their homework and getting what is needed for school in their backpacks. But at the same time, if you praise them for any responsibilities, large or small, that they take, they will gain ownership of these responsibilities.  And awful as this may sound to some parents, letting children suffer the consequences of failing to be responsible can definitely awaken in them  the need to be responsible.

thank-a-teacherTeachers should really be appreciated every day your children are in school. Just the same, there is one special week each year that is designated for honoring teachers and recognizing the lasting contributions they make to our children’s lives. It is always the first week in May. This is a great time to go online and use social media to recognize how special your children’s teachers are. You can use the hashtag #ThankATeacher when sharing.

President Obama has given his thanks to his fifth-grade teacher at Punahou School in Hawaii. Besides saying that he credited his education to this teacher as much as he would any institution of higher learner, he also posted his class picture.

There are many ways that you can say “Thank You” online. You can post a picture of yourself or your child with a favorite teacher, past or present. Or you can post a message saying why a teacher was special to you or your child.

If appreciating what a teacher has done for your child or children through social media is not your thing, you or your children can write a note of appreciation to that teacher. And of course, it is possible to give gifts to these special teachers.

Giving gifts to teachers is complicated. How much should you spend? What would the teacher like? The folks at the EdTech startup Front Row Education, Inc. decided to ask K-8 teachers what they prefer to receive from their students, including telling some of their favorite and weirdest gifts. The number one gift was a personalized thank you card, followed by a gift card and a homemade craft. The teachers were not very excited about receiving physical gifts (coffee mugs, picture frames or homemade food.)

The teachers also listed some of the weirdest gifts that they have ever received. We do not advise showing your appreciation by giving them any of these weird gifts:

  1. “An empty Gatorade bottle with a gecko inside”
  2. “Fake poo”
  3. “A nose hair trimmer”
  4. “A live bug.”
  5. “A picture of a Christmas tree in a frame”
  6. “A tee shirt with my photo transferred onto it”
  7. “Enchiladas”
  8. “Matching pajamas with a student”
  9. “On my 50th birthday – 50 rolls of toilet paper”
  10. “Toilet brush set”




Parents may think that they are building their children’s confidence and motivation to learn when they praise them. This simply is not always true. Some praise can actually be damaging and turn children away from learning. Think of what the following well-intentioned messages may say to children.

  • You always ace every math test.
  • You’re the best student in your class.
  • You didn’t study and still got an A. You are so smart.

Do these messages really support learning, or can they be counterproductive? What happens if a child does not ace the next math test, is bested by another student or stops studying because he or she thinks it is not necessary. Will the child feel like a failure because he or she is not living up to the praise that you voiced so freely? Will the child possibly disengage from learning? It all depends on the child’s viewpoint of himself or herself. Not succeeding at a task may make children who have been lavishly praised for being smart begin to think they are dumb.

The children who will ultimately succeed are those who believe that they can actually become stronger academically through effort and trying different strategies to handle challenging work. When parents send messages of praise like the following, their children will be strong and able to handle the setbacks that inevitably will occur:

  • We are proud of how you persist when faced with challenging work.
  • You were wise to try several strategies to solve that math problem.
  • We are pleased to see your focus on academics.

sat-vs-act-testThere’s a lot of stress involved in applying to college. One of the biggest ones is deciding which admission test to take – the SAT or ACT. Colleges will accept either one. Students need to choose the test that they are likely to do better on. Obviously, the higher a student can score, the better the chance of getting into more colleges, especially highly selective ones.

Deciding between the SAT and ACT was easier in the past as the two tests were quite different. Now, it is not so easy. The new redesigned SAT looks a lot more like the ACT, and both are covering much of the same material.

Then there is a third possibility: do students even need to take these tests? There is a mini-trend of some colleges and universities not using the SAT or ACT in the admission process. Believe it or not more than 850 schools are test optional or test flexible in making admission decisions about substantial numbers of applicants who are recent high school graduates. A list of these schools can be found on the website. Some are exempting students who meet grade-point or class rank criteria. Before skipping the SAT or ACT, students should definitely contact the schools to which they are applying to make sure that they do not need to take either test. They may find out that taking one of these tests is necessary to get financial aid, especially merit aid.

Most high school students are still likely to take either the SAT or the ACT. Deciding between them cannot be resolved with a coin toss. Students need to take one or more practice tests. If they do considerably better on one test, that one should probably be their choice. If their scores are about the same on both tests, they should base their decision on the format and test content they prefer. Students can find free sample tests on both the SAT and ACT websites.

Students can find help in deciding which test to take from their high school counselors. They may also find help from independent college counselors who can guide them through the admission process. David Kim of C2Education gave me insight into how students can find the college admission test that is right for them. Visit the C2website to find out more about the services that independent college counselors, like David, offer.

You just can’t deny it! Your children need to master math in school. It’s not just so they can get good grades, but also to prepare them for careers in just about every field – especially those in technology.
Unfortunately, many of you may have hated math in school and if you are not careful may pass this view onto your children or even give them the idea that math is an impossibly difficult subject.
Whether you are a math lover or hater, you truly need to involve your children in mathematical activities from the time they are toddlers. This is when the stage is set for an interest in math, and it’s so easy to do. Start your child down the road to mathematical logic by having them sort laundry into piles according to ownership. Give your child pots and pans and encourage them to place smaller containers inside larger ones, and they will be learning to order things. On our website ( you will find loads more appropriate activities by searching for “sorting,” “ordering,” and “set counting.”
It is mindboggling how many things parents can do to use different settings in their homes to encourage an early interest in math. Blocks of different sizes and Legos™ and Dominoes let your children have fun as they are really learning mathematical concepts. Then there are all the games from “Shutes and Ladders™ to Yahtzee™ that encourage the use of numbers.
Math educators encourage the idea of parents presenting age-appropriate puzzles at the dinner table. Just go online and you will be inundated with suggestions. For rather silly riddles and puzzles, go to our website and search for “Riddles and Puzzles.”
As your children get older, find the book Secrets of Mental Math by Arthur Benjamin and Michael Shermer that will teach your children tricks that seem to magically enable them to solve many math problems in their heads.
If you bring math into your children’s lives from grocery shopping trips to allowances to distance traveled on trips, they will learn to reason and problem solve and be ready to move into today’s age of numbers.

Nan ran.
Nan ran and ran.
Nan ran to Dan.

Dan ran.
Dan ran and ran.
Dan ran to Jan.

Your children are young – not yet in school or just entering kindergarten or first grade. They are absolutely determined to learn to read. You want to help them, but how can you teach them to read and make it fun at the same time? Dear Teacher (Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts) have the answer in our Skinny Book Word Family Reader app. The app has 42 stories that use rhyming words that have the same ending sound but a different beginning sound. The app starts out simply with three __an family stories about Nan, Dan, a man and a van. Once they have read these stories, your children will play a game that will ensure that they can really read the story words. After the first nine stories, there is a game for each of the remaining stories. And imagine this, when your children have completed all 42 stories and played the games many times, they will actually be able to read more than 200 words.

Two very special features of this app are that your children can enjoy these stories without constant help from you as they can listen to them being read whenever they wish. Plus at the same time, they will be acquiring a basic knowledge of phonics.

The start of the first story is at the top of this blog. Note how easy it will be for children to read. And right away, they will learn the consonant sounds  d,j, n, r along with the very basic sight words and and to. You can get our Skinny Book Word Family ap by going to our website or the iTunes store.

Picture Peg & MargeThanks for coming to chat with us through the Dear Teacher blog. There is so much that we need to share to ensure that your children receive the very best education. It’s definitely a challenge today with overcrowded classrooms, stressed teachers and absolutely no money for anything beyond the very basics. We look forward to working with you on ways that will help your children succeed in school.

We also encourage you to visit our website for loads of helpful information about getting the best possible education for your children. You’ll find the answers to more than 1,000 questions that parents have asked us about getting their children through school successfully. Plus, there are loads of free educational activities as well as ways to build your children’s skills. There’s even a checklist that will let you easily determine your children’s reading levels. We could go on and on about what is on our Dear Teacher website so please make it a habit to visit it frequently as new material is always arriving from the best Internet websites to helpful advice from expert educators.