Life is like a Box of…

Pralinen

Tests.

Thought I was gonna say ‘chocolate’, huh? Well, that too. But in the world of academia, life is very much dependent on testing.

We Make Our Students Take a lot of Tests

On average, US students take 113 tests from PreK-12th Grade. Add undergrad, grad school, and professional development to that number and I can’t even begin to tell you what it would be. Maybe 312? 559?

All I know, as a person who struggles with testing, is that whatever the number might calculate out to be, is one too many for me.

Test Anxiety & The Fear of the ‘What If’

Sometimes, I’m plagued with moments of self-doubt as little naysayer voices whisper in my student loan debit-ridden ear, “How did you get this far with your anxiety over tests?” In fact, that little voice reared its ugly head again just this past week, as took my final test for my credentialing.

Ahhhh, will the anxiousness ever just go away?!

What to Do about It

When my students face the same fear, I ask them to talk about it, make a contingency plan, define what they know, set realistic study goals, and change their mindset from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I will’:

1. Talk About the Fear & The Reality of the Fear : I ask my students to tell me about the ‘what if’ scenarios: What if I get an F on this test? What if I have to retake the class? What if I fail 4th grade? We then go through each thought and discuss the reality of that possibility.

2. Make a Contingency Plan: The likelihood of the fear coming true is usually slim but just in case, we make a contingency plan: If I fail this test, I will have ask for a retake. If I fail this class, I will have to take a course in the summer.  Okay. So we can see that if the fear comes true, although it will delay our timeline, it’s not the end of world. There is another path.

3. Define What You Know: After there’s less emotion attached to each fear and a realistic contingency plan in place, I ask my students to tell me what they know about the test. See, often our fears stem from the unknown. If I can get my students (and myself!) to articulate the known factors about the test, then that gives us a clear starting point to begin working on confidence and trust in their own abilities.

4. Set Realistic Study Goals: Studying for 12 hours a day/7 days a week is not realistic. I’ve come to realize, through my own experience, that it’s really not about studying more that gets the passing score. Your brain is a muscle and it gets tired and needs to rest too. So, let’s help the muscle by giving ourselves timely brain breaks. This means mapping out a realistic time management study schedule that allows the student to do fun things, family things, and friend things as well as study.

5. Change Your Mindset: This is too hard! I can’t do this! I’ll never get it! I try to help my students realize that every time we feed these negative messages to ourselves, we are training our brain to believe it. That’s something I recently learned when I had my very first hypnotherapy session for my own test anxiety. The more we tell ourselves we’re not good enough, the more we begin to believe that it’s true. So if we continue to tell ourselves ‘we’ll never pass this test’, then we may experience a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When we change the message, we can change our mindset. You are already good enough. Period.

Keep up with the latest blogs, thoughts and resources. Follow us on Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube

Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

Higher Education May Earn Your Child Middle Class Status, If It’s Still Around

majoring in debtIn light of President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address, I thought it appropriate to touch upon his proposal to do away with the 529 Higher Education Tax Free Savings Plan and replace it with comprehensive college cost reform, including making community college free. There are mixed feelings surrounding this idea but I for one agree that saddling our new grads with obscene amounts of student loan debt takes a toll not only on our young professionals but also on the economy, particularly the Middle Class.

Since the mid-1960’s, Baby Boomers began earning college degrees in droves for a fraction of the cost of their children, due to federal subsidies fueled by a national push to ensure college for all. Although a noble idea, there were so many students earning their Bachelor’s degrees that over time the four-year college achievement was watered down –some now consider it a mere extension of high school. But to work your way up to or maintain middle class status, it seems that you still must go to college.

To further discuss the impact a requisite college diploma has on America’s Middle Class and the future of such education necessities for our children, is Johanna Campbell, M.A. in Applied English Linguistics.

Every Parent Just Wants the Best for their Kid

As I am not a parent, I will avoid speaking as one.  Instead, I will tell you what I hear from my parents: their desire is always for their kids to have more, be more, do more than they did.

Perhaps this sounds familiar.  Perhaps it is true.  It’s certainly apparent that the desire comes from a place of love, because love is the only thing daft enough in this world for someone to slave away at a life of toil for someone else to reap the rewards.

Of course I jest.  A bit.  But there’s an undercurrent going on here, an economical phenomenon that at some point will implode from lack of sustainability.

The Stakes Keep Getting Higher

Most Americans self-classify as middle class.  This has been a category to which most Americans have assigned themselves for decades.  Distinction within the broad spectrum ranges from “lower middle” to “upper middle”, but the basic tenants remain the same: at the end of bill-paying, there’s enough left in the coffers to throw at retirement, plan a vacation, and still buy a latte.  Christie L. Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project, a research and advocacy group, says she considers “middle class to be people who can live comfortably on what they earn, can pay their bills, [and] can set aside something to save.”

Thus was she quoted in a January 26 article in the New York Times.  It used to be that movement within the classes was predominantly upward.  Now, apparently, middle class shrinkage is due to movement in quite the opposite direction.

Higher Education May Get You to Middle Class

It’s interesting to consider what role education has played in this retrogression.  Most middle-class adults, the article claims, reached their status through higher education.  Arguably, in a sea of economic swings moving ever-backward, forward mobility is happening.  Socioeconomic standing can improve because academics take focus.  How interesting that such ever-shrinking ground still has room to welcome more.  All that need happen is personal transfiguration, requiring nothing more than education.  But how can one accomplish this?  One is taught to pursue it.

Questioning Our Teachings – What’s Most Important?

Children don’t miss much.  They pay attention to the lessons adults don’t always know they’re teaching.  What is your curriculum focused around?  Spending time where it matters most?  Teaching kids the hard work behind the latest gadget and the newest gizmo?  Encouraging them in the education that it took – that it takes – to buy the stuff?  Really, what are we teaching our children?  What are we teaching them?  Because I assure you, they’re learning the lessons.  Every adult I know, including myself, carries the teachings of childhood that parents didn’t know they were imparting.

Education is what you put into it.  What you learn is what you work for, and what you work for is what’s important to you. It all comes full circle.

Guest Blogger Bio: Johanna Campbell, M.A. in Applied English Linguistics

The most recent addition to the IHS editing staff, Johanna Campbell brings over a decade of writing and editing experience to the team.  She has worked as an education consultant in the oil and gas industry for over seven years.  She previously taught at the University of Houston, where she also received her Master’s in Applied English Linguistics.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services.  Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

Emotional Academics

sad We don’t often hear a lot of discussion on how emotions play into academic success or defeat but the two go hand in hand. Children are just learning the ins and outs of how to appropriately deal with their feelings — how to self-regulate– but adults struggle with this too. For example, work productivity is directly affected by how motivated we are that day, and our motivation hinges on how good or bad we happen to feel. We’re all on a steep learning curve when it comes to understanding the causal relationship between emotions, productivity, and its direct effect on our students academic success.

Here are some Social-Emotional Learning pieces that I consider when working with my students:

  • To Serve the Whole Student, We Must Acknowledge Our Students Emotions. Then we have to go one step further to teach them how to appropriately deal with their excitement, anger, frustration, happiness, or sadness.
  • Find an Age-Appropriate Tool to Help Your Students Learn to Identify their Feelings and Self-Regulate Accordingly. A Feelings Wheel or Thought Box are two great resources that I use all the time with my students and their families.
  • A Simple “How was your day?” often does the Trick.  This seemingly innocuous question opens the door to conversation about how they are feeling. Then, make their “Feelings Baseline” your baseline for the lesson.
  • Everybody is Entitled to a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. And that’s ok! Even the most together adult has a horrible day once in a while. Instead of dwelling on the terribleness of it all, we have to use that time to (1) acknowledge, (2) deal appropriately, (3) gain trust through empathy, and (4) reassess your expectations for that day’s lesson.

By working with both typical and atypical developing students, I’ve learned (and am still learning on a daily basis) how to adjust my expectations based on how my students deal with their emotions. Do they bottle it up inside until it blows? Do they cry at the drop of a hat? Do they know how to recognize and identify what they are feeling?

The goal, of course, is to find that sweet spot: the point where I’m teaching a student to self-regulate through independent study while also challenging them to increase their own expectations.

Academics are about more than just working towards an A. It’s how we teach our students to appropriately deal with the myriad of emotions that come with this challenge that is of most importance.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services.  Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

Standardized Testing Limits Potential

test The education world, like any other industry, goes through phases. The importance placed on standardized testing is just one of the phases but it’s been a tough one for educators, parents, and students alike. With the “No Child Left Behind Act” teaching to the test became the norm. “Common Core” is our public education’s response to too much testing and not enough learning.

We’ve Created a System that Requires Us to Measure a Person’s Potential In & Out of the Classroom

Common Core’s true underlying focus is a belief that we all learn differently and that we should promote those learning styles. In fact, the progressive and developmental education movements believe we should be teaching to a child’s strengths rather than their weaknesses. This makes sense because as adults we all learn to compensate for our weaknesses and choose careers that play to our strengths.

Standardized objective tests are not a true indicator of potential. They simply measure where a child stands in relation to his peers at that moment in time. However, the system we’ve created, both in and out of the classroom, requires us to measure a person’s abilities.

A Student’s Self-Worth Hinges on Where they Score on the Scale of Perceived Success

We use these tests to define if and where a student will go to college, what type of job they are most suited for, and how stnd deviationmany public services and how much funding a child will receive. By default, we are defining how much learning potential our students have by how well they take a test. When we continue to define a person by an objective standard we slowly chip away at their uniqueness, which leads to defining ourselves by how well we fit in with the crowd. Our self-worth now hinges on where we fall on that scale of perceived success.

The SCERTS Models Teaches the Foundational Skills to Get that Job & Keep that Job

The reality of life after school is that a person is not measured by how well they do on an exam but rather how well they (a) perform the task, and (b) connect with those around them. EQ is more important than IQ. Simply said, if people like you they want to work with you.

The SCERTS Model is based on the belief that Social Communication, Emotional Regulation, and putting in place a Support System to implement those tools maximizes a student’s learning potential. It’s not a test; it’s a way of life.

Traditionally designed for children on the Autism Spectrum, SCERTS can be used for any child because it teaches how to effectively communicate with one another, which should be the foundation of our learning model. Skills such as Functional Spontaneous Communication, Social Interaction in Various Settings, Teaching of Play Skills, Instruction Leading to Generalization and Maintenance of Cognitive Goals, Positive Approaches to Address Problem Behaviors, and Functional Academic Skills are important for every child at the crux of a developmental period.

Furthermore, these skills can be used in multidisciplinary, crossover home and school environments to provide our children with a foundational communication skill set that will not only allow them to get that job doing what they love but keep that job.

Less Emphasis on Testing = More Emphasis on Cultivating Great “Changers of the World”

I realize that our education system will probably never eliminate standardized testing, but my hope is that we place much less emphasis on its scores. Every child is different. Every child learns differently. We cannot expect to cultivate great thinkers, innovators and “Changers of the World” if we continue to define our children by a number. The more we come to accept this truism, the more chances we give each of our children to achieve real success.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student by combining Academic, Behavior, and Advocacy support. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

Be a Student of the Universe: Applied Learning

applied learningApplied Learning. You’ve likely heard the phrase floating around the education world for a while now. Life Hacks and School Hacks are some other prominent ideas making their way to the mainstream. These new terms of art give us a peek inside the new ways forging precedent for using your education as a stepping stone rather than an end goal.

And we should prepare our students for this new reality. For so many families the end goal is getting their kid to college. I caution families that a college degree alone should not be the ultimate goal. Rather, college gives a student a foundational skill set. What they do with that skill set, however, is not something college can teach.

Apply your conventional education to an unconventional path

I recently read an article directed towards law students and new grads–people, like myself, who had intentionally chosen a conventional path to obtain stability, that is until the Great Recession of 2008 happened and stability went out the window. It was appropriately titled “Employment After Law School: The Cold Truth“. And boy was it on point!

After reading, I realized that I had already done what the article suggested– taken my traditional law degree and applied it in a new way to a new industry. What I had blindly done out of survival became the core of my success. I had found a way to merge my passion for advocacy with my love of education. I had, indeed, applied my text-book learning to the real world.

How did I do it?

I graduated law school in 2010 and no one was hiring. So I decided to create my own path to success, which began by taking a chance on a Working-Holiday visa overseas in New Zealand and canvassing Auckland for a firm in my field of interest. I found one that was happy to have an American come on board for a bit and I gained valuable international legal experience and made some life-long friends in the process. Thanks QCL!

When I came back to the US in 2011, the economy was getting better but still in flux and the legal world was still trying to find its way. I hemmed and hawed at what to do. After all, I was in significant student loan debt and, although I had a great analytical and writing skill set, I couldn’t figure out how to apply it to an industry outside of law.

So I fell back on my “before-law-school” skills: Psychology, Nannying, and Tutoring. I was really good at working with kids of all ages struggling in school. As I would sit with these students helping them with their homework, I realized there was a lot more going on here: a learning difference, behavior challenge, social skills need, or family dynamic concern. I started putting my law school research skills to use and found that what these kids most likely qualified for was an IEP, which would provide learning and therapeutic services at school and funding through the state. My sister, who is a Speech Pathologist and never has to worry about not having a job, encouraged me to pursue my digging with the caveat that schools don’t like to give away money and it will be an uphill battle. My legal brain was excited. Maybe I could even use some of my Client Counseling and Alternative Dispute Resolution skills.

I began walking parents through the difficult and emotional process of how to receive state funds and advocating on their behalf at SST’s, IEP’s, and appeals. My legal skills gave me a leg up and I finally felt that my law education was being put to good use.

Three years after I graduated from law school, I formalized my new endeavor in the education law world and Founded Terry Tutors: One Comprehensive Support Service for Struggling Students. I am proud to be an Education Advocate for Special Needs and owner of my own small business.

After law school, it was scary out there because the stability that I had sought no longer existed. I had to create my own job, but I couldn’t have done it successfully without my foundational legal skill set.

The Takeaway

The traditional, individualistic path is slowly being replaced by a collaborative one. Things have changed, and we have to create a new tradition, one that requires us to take our foundational skill set achieved through conventional means and apply it towards new industries. For our students, they are living in a time of unlimited information by way of the internet. They are exposed to creative thought on a new level, in a way that we, as adults, did not grow up knowing.

I believe this will allow our students to forge ahead and pioneer their own educational and career pathways at a younger age. But they still need us. Our students need the teachers and parents in their lives to foster this desire to engineer their own careers. It is our job to give them the foundations of successful schooling by tapping into their potential early on. If we pledge to do so, our students will not feel stifled by their choices but, rather, excited by their possibilities.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student by combining Academic, Behavior, and Advocacy support. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

How to Be a Court Jester in a World Full of Kings

t600-court-jester-kayeThe Court Jester, often thought of only as the silly witted man, is actually the smartest guy in the room because he sits at the foot of the all-powerful monarch but is never subject to the guillotine. By observing, he learns to placate, shroud honesty in humor, and, most of all, he learns to survive.

We can all learn a thing or two from this “lowly” figure, especially for anyone who works with or has kids who struggle with social skills. Conventional schooling often dismisses the importance of learning how to maneuver through social situations in favor of academics and conformity. For those of us who have already passed the test of formal education, we know that it will actually be those social skills which will take us further in life than all of the A’s we have ever received. The kids who learn early on how to placate and shroud honesty in humor are the ones who learn to survive the corridors of the corporate world.

Shawn Achor, Positive Psychology Researcher and Harvard Professor who taught “The Happiness Course”, explains that 75% of success is based on how we process the world and 25% of success is based on our intellect. How we perceive our situation through a lens of our choosing dictates our choice to be happy. Interestingly, those in relationship based cultures with Attachment-Based Learning as the foundation of their education, tend to be happier because they view their benchmark of happiness against their social community. Much along the same lines, I find that for kids who are struggling in school things can turn around rather quickly when they find their social group– when they are accepted. Peer support seems to be the antidote to loneliness, isolation, and depression, which if left unattended can lead to real harm of self and of others.

However, in our American educational system we struggle with placing value on the important life lessons that social skills teach us because we are not a relationship based culture. For example, it’s a negative thing to call a kid a class clown. Really, when we break it down, a class clown is just a student who is longing to be accepted and who will use all the cards in their back pocket to find a friend.  That’s why comedians are actually observationalists by trade. They are the Court Jesters of our time. They possess the unique ability to read people and this saves them from the guillotine of social isolation.

So when your kid is struggling in school, perhaps it’s not the academics that should be the first thing we fix. Instead, let’s look socially–let’s look at what kinds of friends or lack of friends your child has at school. Because it only takes one friend to change a person’s perception of themselves and their surroundings and costs nothing but time. Most importantly, it will teach them about navigating this world where mastering social skills rule in the King’s Court.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student, combining Academic Support, Behavior Support, and Education Advocacy to bridge the gap between home and school in order to serve the whole student. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

 

When to Conform and When to Follow the Herd

conformityThe balance of school teeters on the seesaw of conformity versus independence. Up until high school, all we want to do is conform. After we graduate, all we want to do is find our own path. This constant push and pull between independent thinking and social herding is what makes taking a risk to do things our own way that much more challenging. Yes, following the herd is easier and some would say even safer. Deviating from the flock is much more difficult and a little scary because now you have to rely on your own discretion.

In your academic life, then, when is is okay to take a chance and do your own thing? (Click to view our video on this topic)

Let’s look at the example of writing a boring 20 page research paper on a topic you know nothing about and aren’t that interested in. Your teacher has given you specific guidelines, including format, page requirement, due date, and discussion points. There seem to be limited things you have control over. So where is the risk? However, what you do have control over may surprise you: (1) the research you use to evidence your findings, (2) how you structure your analysis, and (3) word choice. Ah ha! Word choice– it’s a bigger deal than you may think, and one that will separate your paper from the “herd”. Sophisticated language, voice, writing for your audience — all these creative elements add up to what makes your writing–your take on a subject matter– unique. Your ability to express yourself in language, both written and verbal, is the foundation of strong communication, convincing arguments, and leadership. If you choose, school can be a place where you go out on that limb and make a bold choice to be different, even in the strictest of circumstances.

The flip side of this argument is laden with the fear of persecution: “Will I get a bad a grade for going against the grain? I can’t afford to fail this class! What if my teacher just doesn’t get it?”. With great risk, comes great reward. With no risk, comes complacency. It is of course up to you, but I encourage my students to take a chance (no matter how small) and write just a little bit differently than the person sitting in the next row. Why? Because school is not meant to be purely academic; there is a life lesson to be learned here too.

So the next time you have a writing assignment that looks as if it will be end of you, remember that even where there seems to be limited creative control you still have the opportunity to embrace the challenge by taking a chance.

LIKE US & SUBSCRIBE for New Terry Tutors Tips Every Tuesday!

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

A Little Confidence Goes A Long Way

confidenceIt doesn’t cost any money to teach your kids the value of investing in themselves. What do I mean by that? Confidence. The key word to change. I don’t think I truly found my confidence until I was well into adulthood. Looking back, I passed up a lot of opportunities because I failed to muster up the courage to take the leap, go out on a limb, and try something new.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I traveled the world and learned all kinds of important skills (and life lessons) but there was still this nagging voice inside that said, “Hold on. Wait a second. You need to work a little harder and smarter to get to that next level. You haven’t earned it yet.” The good news about being internally motivated, however, is that I did end up working harder and smarter than my peers in many arenas and was, therefore, able to succeed on a different level. The bad news is that this little voice didn’t ever really stop, even though I had finally achieved my goal.

Confidence is the key that unlocks the magical thing that sets you apart from the rest. When I first meet a student, their confidence is often non-existent. They have failed a test or class, been sent to the principal’s office so many times the secretary knows them by name, or were erroneously labeled and unfairly stigmatized to the point that their confidence is barely hovering above their self-respect. It is then my task to help each of my students and their families pick apart the reasons why they failed the test, were sent to the principal’s office, or were unfairly labeled. By guiding them through this laborious but logical process, the students and their parents slowly begin to realize mistakes made (by themselves and others) along the way. Once we get to the root of these issues, it’s just a matter of time before the student will begin to rebuild their often forgotten self-esteem, self-respect, and confidence.

All the educational books and specialists will tell you the same thing: the core of a well-rounded, prepared, and teachable student is confidence. It’s less about grades and more about taking the time to get to the real issues underneath the anxiety, anger, and angst. I see this time and time again in my Tutoring Practice. A frantic call from a parent over an academic concern leads to the realization that it’s really something more than their son or daughter’s lack of comprehension during the English exam. Making the time to truly listen (without judgment) to your struggling student will reveal a deeper need for internal validation, which can only come from positive praise by the ones they love the most: You!

So take the time to make the time and call me if you’re in need of backup! I’m standing by to assist in your quest to help your child realize their very best.

SUBSCRIBE for new posts every Family Friday!

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

Earning Success Through Good Old-Fashioned Hard Work

hardwork There’s no substitute for good old-fashioned hard work. No matter which way you slice it, there’s no magical program or process that will finish your homework or think up the next great idea. These have to come from you.

Generation X, Y, and Z, however, have been labeled entitled, spoiled, and the everyone-gets-a-trophy generation, where hard work is secondary to creativity and inclusion. As we’re finding out, though, we need a healthy dose of both to create success, as an individual and within our society as a whole.

No where is this more apparent than at school, which seems to swing to and from extremes. These days, school is either full of hours of homework a night leaving little if any time for creative outlets or school’s primary focus is making sure there is an inclusive environment where individual creativity is recognized. How to mix these two important factions of our educational system into a rainbow of positive but earned success is the $64,000 question.

Helping children understand the importance of hard work and that earned success doesn’t come easy is a viewpoint I encourage the children and families I work with to incorporate into their parent/child discussions. Here are a few tips on how to help your child develop a strong sense of self while learning the value of earned success:

1. Ask & Answer: Encourage children from a young age to ask the hard questions about themselves and others, and when they do, actively listen and answer with age-appropriate but honest responses. By doing so, you’ll begin to instill in them a love of knowledge and feed their inquisitive nature. Finding out the why of something creates life-long learners.

2. Make Mistakes: Learning from ones mistakes is the foundation of working towards greatness. We can’t expect our children to rise to the level of earned success if they never know the opposite feeling of failure;  failure, contrary to popular belief, is not a bad thing. That word is too often thrown around as a negative, when really it’s just another way of understanding how to get up after you fall. We are all going to fall throughout life and it’s important to begin helping our kids realize you can get back up, with even more gusto!

3. Stick with It: Most new things that we try are difficult at first. The question is: does your child want to keep trying that thing. For example, when I was kid my mom made me play the violin. There were several points where I wanted to quit but she wouldn’t let me. So I stuck with it (albeit, not without protest). 10 years later I was pretty good and even made it into the college orchestra. Now, I never played symphony hall or went on to be a famous musician but I stuck with it. In the face of adversity, we are challenged to take a path that may be more difficult than we anticipated. It may or may not pay off financially but it always be rewarded as a lesson in tenacity.

4. Welcome Challenges & Competition: Competition is healthy when it’s done right. There shouldn’t be any parents yelling from the stands, “Hey, your kid sucks!”, but kids should know where they stand in relation to their peers. We already do this, we just don’t like to talk about it. A prime example– grades. A child who is great in math gets an A; we praise him. The same child gets a C in English; we do not praise him. Grades are our school’s way of measuring a child against his peers, and this theme continues to run throughout higher education and careers. Challenging yourself to move from a C to a B in English is healthy self-competition. We need to encourage a child’s desire to do better and move farther down the path of their own success, one step at a time.

5. Just Do It: Whining, stalling, and making excuses for a child’s inaction is only teaching them how to get out of hard work. When I first started my tutoring business, I placed ads in the local colleges. In addition to the wonderful, hard-working students I took on I got a few calls asking me to write their essays or take their tests for them. My response: No. What I really wanted to say to them: How did you make it this far without doing your own work? Maybe I should ask their parents.

All in all, hard work is not for the faint of heart. It’s not a perfect end-game and we’re not going to know every answer. There will be struggles but struggling can be productive. It’s when we don’t let our kids learn how to get of those jams that we fail to equip them with the tools to learn and earn success through dedication, tenacity, and good old-fashioned hard work.

SUBSCRIBE for new posts every Family Friday!

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

Raising American Children with a European Lifestyle– Can It Be Done?

us-v-euAmericans are often negatively labeled as workaholics. Some of us see this as a positive though– we are the Little Engines That Could… chugging along, working longer and harder than anyone else to get to the top and prove to ourselves and the world that we can succeed. That’s the premise of the American Dream: a small potatoes person can come to this great country, work like a dog, and become a success story. I, too, adhere to this rationale so I found myself taking offense when a parent explained that he wanted to raise his American children with a European-type lifestyle. It sounds great in theory but in reality can you really live a European lifestyle within the confines of American culture?

This parent’s rationale was predicated upon the fact that Europeans have a greater well-balanced life: they take siestas; they have a shorter work week and longer vacation time; they value good food, good company, and good conversation; they relax! In general, Americans struggle with finding balance and contentment in the little things.  We define ourselves by our jobs. In Europe, they define themselves by their interests. Europeans are taught at a young age to appreciate the small moments in life, whereas American children are taught at a young age to attempt to do everything to the best of their ability, which can create mini stress-filled versions of their parents. In general, family comes first in Europe and second in America.

Knowing the above, I, too, would naturally lean towards adopting a European relaxed mentality except for one important fact– I live in America. As such, the external factors and influences of school, friends, and culture hold greater weight in the debate. After the age of four there are no siestas built into our days, our 40+ hour work-week and two-week vacation time is the norm, and a two-parent income lends itself to less time with family and more time at work.

Essentially, America’s cultural attitudes permeate our family dynamic and trickle down to how our children are raised, whether we like it or not. Like European culture, our culture, too, defines who we are as a community, as a nation. We can and should bring our various viewpoints to the dinner table, teaching our children about other cultures, religions, and beliefs. Until we collectively create an American cultural shift, however, our children must acclimate (somewhat) to the lifestyle choices around them in order to remain socially conscious. We could stand to adopt some European attributes though, such as instilling more of a work-life balance and teaching our kids to savor the finite moments of good food, good friends, and good conversation. That, as well as a nation-wide month-long vacation, is a cultural shift I’d like to see more of too.

SUBSCRIBE for new posts every Family Friday!

Christine Terry, B.A., J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com