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Great apps to help your children learn to code

Coding, the art of writing in computer language, is essentially the backbone of all technology today. From the apps on your cell phone to the headlights in your car, everything is designed and controlled by programming code. Considering that technology is a vital part of modern society, it’s no surprise that educational professionals are recommending kids start learning these skills early. Learning to code is similar a learning a second language, and it is easier to acquire if exposed to at a young age. A whopping 71% of all new STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) jobs are in the computing field! There is no better time to prepare for the future. Here are some great apps that focus on coding for kids!

Tynker is a fun app that makes coding approachable for all ages. Using colorful characters, fun minigames, and treasure collecting, students are given interesting coding-based challenges they must solve to progress. Tynker also works with interlocking blocks of code, so students can easily learn popular languages like JavaScript and Python. What’s also really cool about Tynker is that it shows students some of the real-life applications of code. Minecraft, an incredibly popular building block based adventure, is one of the most played video games in the world right now. Tynker allows students to create their own custom modifications to Minecraft, allowing them to make custom character skins, objects, and more! By doing this, students are able to directly see how coding is implemented in real world scenarios – in this case, video game programming!

Kodable is also a very cool visual-based app that teaches kids JavaScript, a great entry-level language. Kids direct cute characters along maze-shaped paths, collecting coins along the way, all while learning syntax and variables. Kodable is perfect for younger students (K-5), and their programs are even recommended for kids as young as kindergarten level. JavaScript is a fundamental programming language used in nearly all website design, so it’s definitely a great place to start!

CodeCombat almost feels like a video game, but it’s a fantastic code teaching app for all ages! Students are able to play levels and make changes to the code, allowing them to see the results in real-time. CodeCombat is a lot of fun for older students, and the creators can boast over 5 million players. The app is also available in many different languages – the service is so popular, it has already been translated into over 50 languages!

Daisy the Dinosaur is the perfect way to introduce code to young children. Best for ages 5 to 7, Daisy the Dinosaur allows kids to move Daisy using basic commands to learn the fundamentals of coding. Another great feature of this app is the split-screen setup – kids do all the coding on the top screen, and immediately see the results of their work on the bottom screen, causing Daisy to perform an action. This app is also completely free, so it’s a great starting point!

Coding skills are required to learn any programming language, and there is no better time to introduce your kids to these concepts. Technology is increasing rapidly, and we rely more and more on it every day. From the next smartphone to self-driving cars, coding will be responsible for many of the technological advancements of tomorrow. The future generation of programmers will be the kids that start learning code now, so don’t delay!

Local Family Enrollments (Nov-2017)

School / Student grade / Tutoring Program Focus

Robert Gray MS, 8, Math
Sellwood MS, 7, Writing, Math
Llewellyn ES, 2, Reading Fluency, Writing Development
Lincoln HS, 10, Algebra II
PCC Sylvania, English 195, Philosphy 201, AS,
Portland Adventist Academy, 9, ESL, Study Skills
Lake Oswego HS, 10, Pre-calculus
St. Mary’s Academy, 11, Algebra 2
Grant HS, 11, Physics
Portland Jewish Academy, 4, Reading Comp., Writing
Cedarwood K-8, 6, Math, Test-Taking Skills
Cathedral School K-8, 3, Reading, Spelling
Lake Oswego HS, 11, Study Skills, Algebra II
Wilson HS, 11, Biology
Clackamas HS, Alg 2, Writing, Gov’t
Rock Creek MS, 8, Math, Writing
Wilson HS, 11, Algebra 2, Organ. Skill dev’t
Lakeridge HS, 9, Geometry

Why your kids should consider volunteer work

Volunteer work is a great way of giving back to your community, and also helps to foster a sense of personal self-accomplishment! Helping others actually has some surprising benefits that may not immediately come to mind when we think of volunteer work! Here are some great reasons to consider volunteering in your community.

Volunteering helps your community and the people around you. This is probably the most obvious benefit, and undoubtedly the main goal of what volunteer work is meant to accomplish! There are many forms of volunteer work out there, depending on what you are personally invested in. On a local scale, many choose to volunteer in soup kitchens during the holidays to ensure everyone has access to a hot meal. Others may choose to participate in “can drives” to create food and care packages for less fortunate families. Larger organizations often focus on even bigger projects – for example, Habitat for Humanity works to build affordable homes for low-income families. Volunteers are directly responsible for building these homes, and you can be a part of it too!

Volunteering is good for your health. Believe it or not, volunteer work is seriously beneficial to your personal health, both mentally and physically. Volunteers feel a sense of pride and accomplishment from knowing their actions directly helped another in need. Researchers have proven this by examining brain activity and hormone levels in volunteers; helping others makes us feel happy, and volunteer work can even be a great way to combat anxiety or depression. Volunteers often report an increase in their self-confidence as well. It’s a known fact that altruistic behavior – the practice of selfless concern for the well-being of others – helps us to build self-esteem, positive attitudes, and a sense of purpose in our communities. Multiple studies have also shown that volunteers reap physical health benefits as well – lowering your risk of heart disease, decreasing high blood pressure, and improved cognitive skills, just to name a few!

Volunteering looks great on college applications. Volunteer work is a fantastic way to give yourself the extra “edge” on college applications. Extra-curricular activities are always a plus for college applications, and many schools weigh volunteer work very highly when making admission decisions. Many prestigious universities – including UC Berkeley, Dartmouth College, Johns Hopkins University, Carnegie Mellon University, and plenty others – consider volunteer work to be an important factor when evaluating a prospective student’s qualifications. In fact, in a survey of admission officers from 32 of the top universities, 70% said they preferred to see a student that focused on a specific volunteer mission. Of those same officers, a whopping 92% said they were more impressed with a student that spent four years volunteering at a consistent organization. In other words, by choosing a cause you are passionate about and doing consistent volunteer work at an organization that addresses these issues, you can give yourself a serious edge over other applicants.

There’s really no reason not to volunteer – between the numerous health benefits, investments in community pride, and professional advantages, volunteering is an activity everyone should consider participating in!

Great Educational Apps for All Ages

At Tutor Doctor, we think technology is awesome! When it comes to “apps”, people often think of social media, entertainment, or email. Believe it or not, there are actually a ton of great educational apps that help make the learning process fun and engaging! Here are three of our top picks, which are great for students of all ages.

  1. Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a fantastic app that offers a multitude of online classes, which include (but are not limited to) math, science, computing, arts, humanities, and test prep. The best part is that Khan Academy is completely free! You can use this app on any platform, whether you’re at home on a computer or on-the-go using your phone. Younger students are given an assessment test that effectively places them at the right grade and difficulty level. By employing educational videos and practice problems, Khan Academy has proven to be a viable option for “outside the classroom” education. In fact, Khan Academy is now backed by the US Department of Education, so we highly recommend taking advantage of this free app!

  1. Duolingo

Duolingo is one of the best language-learning apps out there. Using fun educational games and visual aids, Duolingo makes learning a foreign language easy and accessible to students of all ages. Duolingo offers a huge array of languages to choose from, including Spanish, French, German, and Italian. Duolingo packs a huge amount of content into a small app – 23 languages and 68 courses are currently offered. Plus, it’s completely free! The creators of Duolingo say that 34 hours in the app is equitable to a semester of class at school, so if you’re looking for a convenient way to learn foreign language on your own time, Duolingo may be a great option for you!

  1. Udacity

Udacity is a best for older ages, including high school and college level students that want to learn and pursue new career paths. Udacity offers courses from highly in-demand industries, often in technology. There are some very cool classes on Udacity – Web and App Design, Virtual Reality Development, Self Driving Car Technologies, and Artificial Intelligence – just to name a few! In fact, Udacity offers “nanodegrees” in these field-specific areas. Although you can expect to spend $2000 USD for a full set of nanodegree courses, Udacity is so confident in the program that they back up their services with a job guarantee: if you can’t find a job upon graduation, they will pay for your tuition. For students interested in entering modern career paths and working with technology, Udacity is a great place to start!


Apps are an awesome way to learn! Although it can be tempting to check out that new cat video someone just sent you, we recommend checking out some of these great educational resources next time you have some free time. We think you will be impressed at how these apps utilize and take advantage of technology to make learning more fun and engaging. There are tons of other great learning apps out there, so don’t hesitate to browse your app store and challenge your mind!

Tips to Help Tackle Cyberbullying

“Trolls,” as they are known on social media, can be described as this generation’s new bullies. However, unlike traditional bullies, social media trolls often have the advantage of remaining completely anonymous – and as a result, have little risk of repercussions. Social media can be a great platform that helps people all over the world to stay connected, but it’s important to keep an eye on what your kids are being exposed to. If you discover that your child is being bullied by a troll, here’s a few tips that may help:

Remind them that social media is not real life. Although this may seem rather obvious, a reality check is always a good thing. The New York Times recently highlighted a study that documented the average teen clocking in 9 hours per day using some form of online media. With so much exposure, it can be easy for kids to blur these lines and take the harassment personally.

Report the behavior. Every major social media site takes trolling and cyberbullying very seriously and provides a corresponding form to report it. Several social media websites are implementing keyword filters to help block abuse. When you report trolling, you are helping these networks to improve their prevention tools.

Let them know they aren’t the only one going through this. Unfortunately, bullying is widespread. One in three students experience traditional bullying, and a whopping 34% report being exposed to cyberbullying in their lifetime.

Try not to downplay how serious this is to them. Although it can be difficult to understand why kids are so affected by what people (usually strangers) say to them on the internet, it’s important to take these issues as seriously as they do. Very sadly, there has been a substantial increase in cyberbullying-related teen suicides over the last few years. Bullying is bullying, regardless of the delivery, and trolls can be just as hurtful.

Tell them not to engage. The best thing to do is to immediately block the troll and ignore them. As with most bullies, trolls are hoping to get a reaction from their targets. By responding, you are essentially “feeding the flames.” In general, trolls will move on if they don’t get a response. If the troll refuses give up, continue to not engage and report the user.

If it gets bad, report it to the police. If at any point personal information is distributed or the harassment begins to involve threats of violence or stalking behavior, call the police immediately. Until recently, there were no laws addressing cyberbullying. Now, however, it is considered an extremely serious crime that can result in a felony charge, or even jailtime.

Explain to them why people bully to begin with. Ultimately, it’s important to explain to your kids that bullies only do what they do because they themselves are unhappy. Kids that are bullies generally have low self-esteem and feelings of powerlessness. This behavior directly drives their hostility towards others that don’t have these same feelings.

As we mentioned earlier, social media can be a great way to keep in touch with people, and studies have shown that these platforms even help encourage learning by providing students with access to a vast amount of knowledge and information. However, it’s important to keep an eye on what your kids are being exposed to on social media – and watch out for trolls!

Balancing Sports and Academics

At Tutor Doctor, we love sports! School athletics are not only great for one’s health, but can also give students a serious advantage when applying for colleges. Being involved in student athletics looks great on any college application, and there are numerous scholarships available to students that participate in sports. However, sometimes balancing sports and academics can be difficult! If you are a student that finds it challenging to manage time, here are three simple tips to help stay on track!

  1. Make a schedule to stay organized.

Keeping a planner or agenda is a great way to manage your time. Teachers provide syllabuses at the beginning of the school year outlining important due dates and exams. In addition, sports practices and games are generally predetermined as well. We recommend comparing your schedules and making an agenda ahead of time in order to plan accordingly. For example, if you know you have basketball practice on Tuesday and Thursday and a biology test on Friday, plan to use Monday and Wednesday evenings to study!

  1. Remember that sports are meant to aid your academic success, not hinder it.

Believe it or not, school athletics are meant to help you excel! In fact, statistically speaking, students that participate in team sports are more likely to have higher grade point averages. In addition, students involved in sports have a more positive attitude towards school and are generally higher achievers. If you find school athletics are hurting your academic progress, it’s important to start planning more effectively. Sports are meant to help your education, not hinder it!

  1. Remind yourself of the importance of academics.

It is important to remind yourself that your education ultimately should come first. The true purpose of school sports is to help build valuable team-playing and time management skills that compliment your academic success (and your college applications)! Regardless of how skilled a student may be at a given sport, all schools have a minimum GPA requirement. Usually, a student is required to have a C average (minimum 2.0 GPA) to even be eligible for school athletics.

Although we’ve all heard the incredible stories about talented high school athletes being drafted into college or pro teams, the fact is this rarely happens. According to the NCAA, only 7% of students that play sports in high school will move on to NCAA athletics. Considering these competitive figures, a student that has succeeded in school sports in addition to having good grades will undoubtedly appear more impressive on any college application.

School athletics are a great way to build valuable time management and social skills that students can apply for the rest of their professional lives. However, it can be difficult to balance sports with academics. School spirit is a great thing, and we know how passionate many students are about sports! Just remember – sports are meant to be an addendum to your education, and academics should always take priority.

We are experts in executive functioning and time management skills. If you need help planning your schedule, don’t hesitate to contact us!

Should I Take the ACT or SAT?

At Tutor Doctor, we know choosing between the ACT and the SAT can be a difficult decision! When it comes down to it, students should take the test best suited to their needs. Here are three important questions that you may want to ask yourself before registering for one of these challenging exams!

1. What are my college choices?
In general, this is the biggest factor in deciding which test is right for you. Some schools are “test flexible,” meaning that the applicant can submit scores from just one test. Other schools may require specific tests for all applicants. The best thing to do is to check what test your college of choice requires!

2. What are my academic strengths?
Students that are strong in mathematics may find the ACT preferable. Although both exams test high level math concepts (like algebra), the ACT is known to have a wider array of questions and significantly more geometry and trigonometry problems. In addition, whereas the SAT provides mathematical formulas for test takers, the ACT does not (meaning you have to memorize them). The good news is that a calculator is allowed on the entire ACT math section. On the SAT, a portion of the math section is strictly “no calculator.”

Another important difference between these two tests is that the ACT has a science section, whereas the SAT does not. Despite the name, the ACT’s science section doesn’t necessarily test knowledge of scientific material, but rather critical thinking and a student’s ability to interpret data and graphs. Due to some of the scientific terminology used in this section (density, mass, solutions, solvents, etc.), students that excelled in science or biology classes may be more comfortable with this portion.

3. What is my test taking style?
The SAT and the ACT both cater to different test taking styles. If you are a student that has trouble managing time during tests, the SAT may be a better option for you. The SAT has significantly less questions (154 in 3 hours to be exact), which allows students to spend more time on each. The ACT, on the other hand, has 215 questions in 2 hours and 55 minutes, so the test is quite a bit more compressed. According to The College Board, the SAT averages to 1 minute, 10 seconds per question, whereas the ACT clocks in at 49 seconds per question. If you are good at time management, the ACT’s quicker and more dense format may be better for you.

Another important topic to mention is the optional essay section both tests offer. This is required by many colleges and universities, and both tests have different styles of essays. On the SAT, a student will be given a source text that they have to read, and is then asked to write an essay that tests their comprehension of the source material’s argument. On the ACT, the essay focuses more on critical evaluation of complex issues, and the student is required to form their own argument. Neither is necessarily easier – it all depends on what writing style you feel more comfortable with!

Can’t I just take both?
Absolutely! There is a misconception that some schools “weigh” one test more than the other. In reality, all U.S. colleges accept both tests. As mentioned before, some colleges may be “test flexible” and allow students to choose one over the other. Both tests cost roughly the same, and both focus on similar concepts.

Investigate what test your college of choice requires (if any), and take the test that is best suited to your academic strengths and test-taking style.

If you need help deciding which test is right for you, please contact us and one our Tutor Doctor education experts will be happy to assist!

Local Family Enrollments (Oct-2017)

School / Student grade / Tutoring Program Focus

Llewellyn ES, 4, Math
Caitlin Gabel, 10, Algebra, Science, English
Grant HS, 9, Academic Coaching
The International School, 5, SSAT Test-Prep
Rieke ES, 4, Reading Comprehension, Math
The International School, 4, Chinese Immersion
Gilkey Int’l Middle School, 6, Chinese Immersion
Tualatin ES, 5, Math, Core-content support
Lakeridge HS, 10, Academic Coach, inc. confidence
Heron Creek K-12, 7, Writing, Academic Coach
Lake Oswego HS, 11, math foundations, test-taking
Reed College, 19, Writing, Exec. skills support
Lincoln HS, 10, Math, Test-taking Skills
Lane Coll, AS, Anthropology, Biology
Central Catholic HS, 11, Pre-calculus
Lake Oswego HS, 10, Math /Language Arts
PCC Sylvania, English 195, Philosphy 201, AS,
West Sylvan MS, 6, Math
The International School, 3, Math, Chinese
Portland Village School, 5, Math, Academic Confidence

The Importance of Family Time for Young People

An elementary school principal was recently asked why her school had not implemented the no-homework policy that had been announced at the beginning of the school year. She replied that she had received too much resistance from parents. “They see it as a kind of day care,” she said. “Their kids are bent over their books and don’t need looking after for part of the evening.”

In many ways this is understandable. To say that being a modern parent is exhausting is putting it mildly. Costs are high, salaries are low, and constant worries about bills, retirement, health care and more just make it difficult to create real quality time between parent and child. However, studies consistently show that benefits of “family time” are immense and far-reaching, especially for the child.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of parent-child quality time is improved self-esteem in the child. This helps create a young person who is happier, more relaxed, and better equipped to handle life’s hurdles. They also learn about relationships, which helps them navigate the often choppy waters of social life in school and beyond. Improved self-esteem can be a key path to better academic performance.

Building the bond between parent and child has other benefits too. A 2012 study found that kids who regularly eat meals with their parents got better grades. What’s more, young people who spend more time with their parents are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Best of all, simply sharing food can lead to happier, healthier family relationships. One mother tried baking cookies for her teenage daughter and her friends, and found that while, at first, the girls were only interested in the treats, over time they hung around and chatted casually.

Kids who spend more time with their parents also feel safer. It can be a rough old world, especially in this digital age. Being able to relax with parents can create a feeling of peace and protectiveness. This can also, perhaps, open lines of communication that might not otherwise exist, with the young person sharing details of their life and struggles that a parent would want to know about (and help with).

Students with exceptionalities such as ADHD, Dyslexia or Anxiety can also benefit hugely from extended family time. Society often imposes judgement and shame on young people with exceptionalities, especially if they struggle in school. Being able to be with their loving parents and just being human (as opposed to just a label) can have huge benefits for their mental and emotional health.

It’s true that setting aside time for casual, no-pressure family time can be extremely difficult these days. Facing that struggle is normal, human, and should not be judged. But if it is at all possible to expand on those family connections, the payoff is definitely worth it.

How To Stop Your Child From Hating School

It’s so common it’s become a cliché in television, books and movies: young people hating school (or maybe specific subjects). In fact it’s become so common that we’ve gotten used to it, to the point where we tell our kids to just suffer through it, get it over with, act like a kidney stone and just “pass it.” The truth is, though, your young person may have specific reasons for disliking school, or parts of it. The good news is, there may be solutions that can help students overcome that loathing and, believe it or not, find joy in learning. Let’s look at some of the biggest culprits:

School my not fit their learning style

The standard method for teaching young people -- teacher at the front of a classroom, writing on a blackboard and lecturing to students -- is pretty much universal, and practiced in every school. However, that teaching style does not match the ways in which young brains learn best. In fact up to 50 percent of all young people may be struggling with this one-size-fits-all approach. Research there are many different ways that our brains can best learn new information, and the standard model practiced in school is only a handful of them.

Do a bit of research online into learning styles. You will find a number of tests for your young person to take (take more than one), usually around 20 questions. Once you get answers, you can start working to structure school learning so that it matches your student’s learning style. For instance, musical learners will benefit from playing music while studying, kinesthetic learners should take breaks for exercise, visual learners should try employing graphs and images, and so on.

Chances are a gigantic light bulb will shine brightly above your young person’s head once they figure out their learning style. Many of their educational struggles might suddenly make sense.

Your student may have gaps in their learning

This is a very common problem. In essence, your young person may not have a strong enough foundation of knowledge to grasp what’s happening in the classroom. If you picture learning as a ladder, it’s important to grasp and ascend each rung, but you can’t make it to the top if there are gaps. A student who has missed earlier steps in their learning will quickly find themselves completely lost, and this can be extremely frustrating.

Working with your child’s teacher(s) can be a great help, as can conversations with your youngster. If they just don’t know what’s going on in class, they’ll quickly start to hate it. That can be remedied with backtracking with some extra work, or finding a tutor to help catch up.

Your student may have an undiagnosed learning exceptionality

There are many exceptionalities faced by modern educators, ranging from ADHD to dyslexia and even physical issues such as hearing or vision impairments. Having such a problem undiagnosed can be extremely frustrating for young people, leading not only to a hatred of school but also social alienation, depression or worse.

Working with the school -- including the school counselor, a social worker or a child psychologist -- may result in an assessment that can produce a diagnosis. Every parent dreads such a diagnosis, but the truth is that knowing is far better than not knowing. There are always ways to work with learning exceptionalities, with steps that involve work at home, at school and outside help such as therapists, tutors and more, but getting to the bottom of learning struggles can change a young person’s life.

Your young person may have social or psychological issues

Young people often lack the vocabulary to discuss their inner lives. Instead they are likely to act out any turmoil they harbor in their hearts. This can make it extremely difficult to understand what’s troubling them, especially when their behavior tends to push people away. In truth, however, it is worth the effort required to understand those inner lives.

Help may be required in the form of trained counselors and psychologists, but emphasize to the youngster that the goal is not to label or judge them but help them find happiness -- and that friends and family will love them no matter what.

The list of possible problems can be a long one, and may include depression, anxiety, bullying, harassment, substance abuse, even assault. It can be complicated by the fact that some problems may only be a symptom of something deeper. The only way to find out for sure is to “do the work,” as they say.

Regardless of what ails your student, approach them with love and empathy, not simply worry or high expectations. Remember that while the goal is to help them find excellence in school (and life), the point of all of it is for them to be happy -- and who better equipped to help them get there but a loving parent?

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