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10 Tips for Improvements Before Your Next Report Card

Could your report card look better? If you are trying to raise your grades – fear not! We've got some simple and effective strategies to help. Here are ten awesome Tutor Doctor tips for improvements before your next report card!

1) Identify the classes that could use a boost. This can be as simple as glancing at your report card. Determine which classes you'd like to improve or what grades you'd like to raise so you know where to add extra focus.

2) Add a tutor to your academic routine. A tutor is an academic coach – they help identify your strengths and weaknesses and plan out an educational path to fill in any gaps in your learning. Tutors have the advantage in that they can focus on specific areas that were already covered in class, as well as topics that may have been unclear to you.

3) Talk to your teacher and let them know your goal. Students often don't realize that teachers grade heavily on participation and effort. If a student is not a strong writer but participates every day in class and turns in all his assignments, the teacher is likely to take this into consideration. By letting your teacher know you're working towards improvement, they are more likely to keep this in mind when it comes time for grading.

4) Make an appointment with a school counselor. School counselors can help make sure the problem isn't class placement. For example, it's common for a 9th grade student to be placed in a geometry class, when ideally they should be reviewing algebra. There's nothing wrong with this – class placement is often based on test scores and class size, so tell your counselor if you think you need a switch.

5) Seek out extra resources at school. You can meet with your teachers during lunch periods, attend before-school homework clubs (sometimes known as “zero period”), and you can participate in after-school groups. There's plenty of free help available at school, so take advantage of it!

6) Make sure you're covering non-academic requirements. Believe it or not, many students' grades get hurt by other factors besides academics – specifically, class participation and class cooperation. Make sure you're not losing points for avoidable issues like tardiness and inappropriate classroom behavior.

7) Make a plan to improve your skills. Think about what you'd like to do to start improving. Perhaps you'd like to devote an extra 30 minutes twice a week for reviewing math concepts. Or, maybe you'd like to attend your math teacher's support period during lunch on Wednesdays. Figure out what steps fit into your schedule and plan it out!

8) Crunch the numbers. Find out what you actually need to accomplish to reach your goal. If your teacher provides you with a breakdown of points, you can estimate what kinds of scores you need to reach your target grade point.

9) Use online resources. As we always say, take advantage of modern technology! You have study websites, encyclopedias, historical documents, learning apps – pretty much an endless amount of resources – available to you online. Sometimes, a quick search on tricky concepts can really help make sense of things!

10) Talk to your parents. Students often hide the fact that their grades need improvement from their parents, but this actually works against them. Your parents are there to support you, and if necessary, reach out to your school for additional resources. Don't do this alone – too many students insist on keeping their grades a closely guarded secret until report cards come around. It's always better to be honest and transparent when having academic difficulties.
 

Home Strategies to Help Your Child With Dyslexia

Children with dyslexia have specific learning needs, but with the right guidance and support they can succeed like any other student. In today's world, public schools offer many different programs and resources to assist students with dyslexia. You can also help by implementing some of these tools when your child isn't at school! Here are Tutor Doctor's tips for home strategies to help your child with their dyslexia.

1) Encourage reading with assistance. Since difficulty reading is most commonly associated with dyslexia, children benefit greatly from any extra practice. Traditionally, students would read aloud with a parent or counselor, allowing them to to ask for help with certain words or pronunciations. This is still a great technique – nothing beats turning the pages of a real book! Of course with modern technology, we are no longer limited to just physical books either. Audio books are also a great idea! Depending on your child's reading level, they may be able to follow the text while hearing the words spoken aloud. This is an effective approach towards improving both reading and verbal skills in children with dyslexia. From Roald Dahl to Dr. Seuss, many classic titles are readily available in audio book format!

2) Use technology to your advantage. There's also a ton of great educational apps available to help with dyslexia. Apps that perform “text-to-speech” functions make it possible for any book to essentially become an “audio” book! This can also be helpful for textbooks and other literature that hasn't had spoken audio book recordings created for it yet. Be sure to check out your “app store” for some awesome apps to help with reading!

3) Find alternative activities that involve reading. Reading encouragement, in any form, is the best thing you can do for your child with dyslexia. Comic books, graphic novels, educational television, and some video games require reading. If these types of media interest your child and encourage them to actively read more, then go for it! Tutor Doctor always recommends allowing the use of alternative reading materials.

4) Keep an eye out for emotional distress. The last thing we want is for our children is to become frustrated, as this can discourage them and may hinder their progress. If your child appears to be struggling, encourage them to take a break or step in to help out. As we always say at Tutor Doctor, positive praise is the best motivator. Make sure your child knows that making mistakes is totally fine, and that they're making a great effort!

5) Work closely with your child's school. You will likely spend most of your time communicating with your child's school from home. Make sure to keep in touch with their teachers, counselors, and learning coaches. Make sure your child's school is fully aware of their learning disability. Most schools will take steps to create an IEP or 504 plan to better support their needs. Try to keep steady communication with your child's teachers to ensure they are getting access to the right resources in the classroom.

Tips to Teach Your Kids to Be Awesome Critical Thinkers

Critical thinking is a valuable skill that your kids will use for their entire lives. However, many children don't develop these crucial skills right away. Before long, they find themselves overwhelmed when critical thinking becomes applied in an academic environment. Although your kids will indeed use critical thinking in their science and math classes to form hypotheses and conduct experiments, we're not going to focus so much on these aspects of critical thinking today! When it comes down to it, critical thinking skills incorporate problem solving, planning, and decision making – all important tools we continue to use long after school has ended. But how can we teach our children to start developing these skills early on?

Encourage them to ask questions. It's important for kids to ask questions, as it encourages them to think for themselves rather than blindly following instructions. Even more importantly, kids should get comfortable asking questions when they don't understand something! In an academic environment, some students are embarrassed to raise their hand in class. The misconception that students who ask a lot of questions are struggling or confused couldn't be further from the truth – as any teacher will tell you, students that ask the most questions in class are generally the ones that are most engaged. Effort and participation is weighed heavily in the classroom, and encouraging your kids to ask questions is a great way to ensure they are remaining focused and actively thinking.

Ask them to form opinions. Encourage your children to share their own opinions through critical thinking. This is actually a lot simpler than it sounds! For instance, perhaps your child is watching their favorite animated movie. Try asking them why one character is “good” and the other is “bad.” Why did the bad character do what they did, and was it fair of them to do it? Which character is the strongest? Which character is the funniest? Although these may seem like silly examples, this is precisely the type of character analysis that your students will be doing in school, from comparing main characters in a book report to contrasting protagonists and antagonists in higher level literature classes.

Don't give them all the answers. We know it's hard to see kids struggle, but try not to always give them the answers – at least not right away! Encouraging them come to their own conclusions – whether it's solving a math problem or answering a question – instills patience and deep thinking. One of the many reasons one-to-one tutoring works so well is due to the ample time our students receive to really begin to understand concepts that were previously unclear to them. Whereas certain topics may have been covered in a few class sessions, private tutoring allows us to spend hours focusing on specific areas that “went by too quickly” for the student to fully understand. The same thing goes for your kids – instead of giving them the answer or solution upfront, it's best to encourage them not to rush and take their time to try and figure it out on their own.

Critical thinking helps your child form their own sense of individuality and opinion. At the same time, it provides vital decision-making and long-term planning skills that we employ for the rest of our lives. By encouraging your kids to be critical thinkers early on, you are helping them to lay a framework that will continuously aid them in future successes.

Teaching Kids About Bullying (National Bullying Prevention Month)

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. In order to bring attention to bullying, it's important to talk to your kids about this dangerous behavior. The fight to stop bullying is an important cause that needs to be addressed. With this month of awareness in mind, here are Tutor Doctor's tips for teaching your kids about bullying.

What to do if they experience bullying. Whether your child sees someone else being bullied or comes face to face with a bully themselves, knowing how to properly handle the situation is of utmost importance. In general, there are three simple steps for dealing with a bully – ignore them, walk away, and tell an adult. Bullies often seek reactions, so engaging them will only encourage the behavior to continue. Rather than risk further confrontation, it's best to leave the scene and find a trusted adult right away. At school, this could be anyone from teachers to classroom aides to custodians – as long as they are school faculty members, all student reports will be given to the appropriate authorities.

Signs that someone else may be being bullied. It's also beneficial for your kids to recognize signs that someone else is being bullied. If a friend or classmate begins to show a dramatic change in personality or emotions, this shouldn't be ignored. Whether it's a physical or emotional change, it's always best to talk to an adult and share these concerns when something doesn't seem right.

Why bullies do what they do. Bullies often feel a lack of control in their own lives. As a result, they may find a victim to compensate for their own problems. In many cases, bullies have issues at home, family problems, or may have even been a victim of bullying themselves. Most importantly, your kids need to remember not to take anything a bully says as fact. A bully's behavior is not a reflection on the victim, but rather the bully themselves. Hurtful words are just that – verbal jabs meant to offend – and they shouldn't be taken to heart.

The dangers of bullying. To understand why bullying awareness and prevention is so important, your kids need to know the consequences of bullying. It may seem like a tough conversation, but facts are facts – kids who are bullied are more likely to develop depression and are at a greater risk of suicide. Bullies themselves are more likely to have substance abuse problems in the future, as well as become abusive towards other individuals. It's a vicious cycle that needs to stop as early as possible, and although these subjects may be difficult to discuss, they emphasize why the fight to stop bullying is so important.

Bullying comes in many forms. In today's day and age, digital/internet bullying (otherwise known as cyberbullying) is a real problem. Your kids need to know that bullying is not limited to physical interactions at school or in person. Cyberbullying can be just as hurtful and damaging as traditional bullying, and the same steps should be taken. Never engage the bully. An adult needs to be notified, and the bullying should be reported to the network immediately (and even law enforcement, depending on the severity). Cyberbullying usually happens through social media and needs to be reported to the social platform right away. It doesn't matter which social media network they use – cyberbullying is not tolerated anywhere, and the “report” function exists for this very reason.

Tips to Teach Your Student to Be an Awesome Critical Thinker

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Teaching Kids About Bullying (National Bullying Prevention Month)

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. In order to bring attention to bullying, it's important to talk to your kids about this dangerous behavior. The fight to stop bullying is an important cause that needs to be addressed. With this month of awareness in mind, here are Tutor Doctor's tips for teaching your kids about bullying.

What to do if they experience bullying. Whether your child sees someone else being bullied or comes face to face with a bully themselves, knowing how to properly handle the situation is of utmost importance. In general, there are three simple steps for dealing with a bully – ignore them, walk away, and tell an adult. Bullies often seek reactions, so engaging them will only encourage the behavior to continue. Rather than risk further confrontation, it's best to leave the scene and find a trusted adult right away. At school, this could be anyone from teachers to classroom aides to custodians – as long as they are school faculty members, all student reports will be given to the appropriate authorities.

Signs that someone else may be being bullied. It's also beneficial for your kids to recognize signs that someone else is being bullied. If a friend or classmate begins to show a dramatic change in personality or emotions, this shouldn't be ignored. Whether it's a physical or emotional change, it's always best to talk to an adult and share these concerns when something doesn't seem right.

Why bullies do what they do. Bullies often feel a lack of control in their own lives. As a result, they may find a victim to compensate for their own problems. In many cases, bullies have issues at home, family problems, or may have even been a victim of bullying themselves. Most importantly, your kids need to remember not to take anything a bully says as fact. A bully's behavior is not a reflection on the victim, but rather the bully themselves. Hurtful words are just that – verbal jabs meant to offend – and they shouldn't be taken to heart.

The dangers of bullying. To understand why bullying awareness and prevention is so important, your kids need to know the consequences of bullying. It may seem like a tough conversation, but facts are facts – kids who are bullied are more likely to develop depression and are at a greater risk of suicide. Bullies themselves are more likely to have substance abuse problems in the future, as well as become abusive towards other individuals. It's a vicious cycle that needs to stop as early as possible, and although these subjects may be difficult to discuss, they emphasize why the fight to stop bullying is so important.

Bullying comes in many forms. In today's day and age, digital/internet bullying (otherwise known as cyberbullying) is a real problem. Your kids need to know that bullying is not limited to physical interactions at school or in person. Cyberbullying can be just as hurtful and damaging as traditional bullying, and the same steps should be taken. Never engage the bully. An adult needs to be notified, and the bullying should be reported to the network immediately (and even law enforcement, depending on the severity). Cyberbullying usually happens through social media and needs to be reported to the social platform right away. It doesn't matter which social media network they use – cyberbullying is not tolerated anywhere, and the “report” function exists for this very reason.
 

The PSAT: More Than Just A “Practice” Test

When parents and students think about the PSAT/NMSQT, the term “practice test” often comes to mind. However, this important exam should be seen as much more than just a preliminary version of the SAT. Here are Tutor Doctor's reasons why parents and students might want to take a closer look at the PSAT!

1) There are multiple versions of the PSAT test. Most students are not aware that there are actually three versions of the PSAT:

2) You can't beat the price for all the practice you'll get in return. When it really comes down to it, the PSAT is meant to be an affordable way to practice the SAT. Here are the current prices – although some tests may even be free as many schools cover the costs!

Essentially, this means a student can take all three versions of the PSAT for $43. That's certainly not bad for three practice tests, especially considering the price of a single SAT admission ticket is currently $64.50.

3) It's the best way to get a feel for the test-taking experience. Standardized tests, especially the SAT, are quite a bit different than the exams students are accustomed to taking in school. The check-in process, preparing materials, photo ID verification, admission into the testing area – all these are required steps that are better to get used to early on. Already knowing the process can help to take the edge off when you take the real SAT!

4) There are numerous scholarship opportunities available. Students tend to forget that the final 11th grade PSAT is really called the PSAT/NMSQT – the second section of the test's title meaning National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Here's a few things you might not know about the NMSQT:

These are just some of the reasons why students should take a closer look at the PSAT/NMSQT. Your scores may very well net you a scholarship, so we recommend treating it as more than just a “practice” test!

Local Family Enrollments (July/Aug-2018)

School / Student grade / Tutoring Program Focus

Lakeridge MS, 8, Algebra, Test-taking Skills
PCC Sylvania, AS, Chemistry, Gen. Studies
Hayhurst ES, 3, Math, Academic Confidence
PCC Sylvania, AS, Chemistry, Gen. Studies
Duniway ES, 4, Math, Writing
Sunstone Montessori K-6, 6, X-Skills, Academic Coach
Creative Science K-8, 6, Math, core-content, writing
Shahala MS, 7, Writing, Math, X-Skills, Org. Dev’t
Central Catholic HS, 12, Chemistry, X-Skills
Winterhaven K-8 School, 6, Reading, Writing
Grant HS, 12, Pre-calculus, test-taking skills
Grant HS, 10, Algebra 3/4, test-taking skills
Grant HS, 11, ACT/SAT test prep
Central Catholic HS, 10, Geometry, Academic Coaching
Home school, 7, English, Spelling
PCC Sylvania, AS, Chemistry, Gen. Studies
All Saints K-8, 4, Math, Academic Coaching
Lake Oswego HS, 11, AP Calculus, Physics, SAT
Richmond ES, 4, Math, Academic Coach, Org. Support
PCC Sylvania, AS, Chemistry
St Thomas More, 7, Reading comprehension

Choosing Extracurricular Activities That Will Appeal to Colleges

In today's increasingly competitive college environment, high school students are now recommended to pursue extracurricular activities in addition to their regular academic requirements. And for good reason – these activities are an important addendum to any student's college application, and may very well give you the edge when applying to the college of your choice. There's tons of extracurricular activities to look into, so we've narrowed it down to a few simple guidelines. Here are Tutor Doctor's tips for choosing extracurricular activities that will appeal to colleges!

Find activities that help your community.

One of the best ways to really shine on your college applications is to show you genuinely care about your community. There's no better way to do this than to participate in extracurricular activities that showcase this ideal! Volunteer work is always an excellent choice because it allows you to directly benefit your community in the process. Park cleanup initiatives, food shelters, hospital volunteer work, religious groups, blood drives, community centers – all of these are great efforts to participate in to show you want to give back to your community.

Seek out activities that reflect your career focus.

If you are applying to a school with a specific career focus in mind, you can highlight these interests by finding activities that reflect this. Although you may not have your major (let alone a career) decided yet, pursuing paths in your areas of interest shows strong motivation. Interested in becoming a veterinarian? Consider volunteering at a local animal shelter. Applying to performing arts school? Get involved with drama classes or community theater. Interested in pursuing a law degree? Seek out internships for local attorneys. Getting hands-on is a way to show prospective colleges that your areas of interest are more than just whims!

Focus on an activity that makes you unique.

Not every extracurricular activity has to be academic. Whether it's music, sports, the arts, a hobby, whatever your personal interest is – if you've got something you are passionate about, don't be afraid to highlight that on your college application, even if it doesn't have a direct relation to your professional / academic goals. If you had been taking piano lessons since childhood, this would be an amazing addition to any college application even if the school you are applying to had nothing to do with performing arts. The point is – these types of unique activities are what showcase your personal drive and dedication!

Look for activities you won't lose interest in.

Consistency is key. If you aren't sticking to your extracurricular activities, it doesn't matter how many you include on your application. We touched on this a while back in our “Why Your Kids Should Consider Volunteer Work” blog:

“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.”

To colleges, long term focus and dedication on a few activities is more valuable than sporadic participation in several activities. By choosing the right extracurriculars to get involved in, you can give yourself a serious edge over other college applicants!

5 Simple Steps to Teaching Children About Responsibility

Teaching kids to be responsible may be a lot to take on, but it’s not as difficult as you might think! A few small additions to your child’s daily life routine can do wonders towards helping them to understand the concept of personal responsibility. To make things easier, we’ve narrowed it down to 5 simple steps you can take to help teach your children about responsibility!

1) Give them their own responsibilities. This can be done in a few different ways. It may be helpful to divide these responsibilities into two categories – tasks the child is expected to complete for their own well-being, and tasks they are expected to complete for the family. The first category would include typical routines like tooth-brushing, laying out clothes the night before, keeping one’s room clean, etc. This teaches your children that they have a personal responsibility to take care of themselves (and their own self-hygiene). The second category can include responsibilities like chores and tasks around the house – things that your child can still be responsible for but are also beneficial to others around them.

2) Show them how to do something instead of telling them. As the old saying goes, it’s always better to show someone how to do something rather than telling them. Kids see their parents as role models and are more likely to follow suit if the parent is also performing the same tasks. For example – at the end of dinner, instead of instructing your child to bring their plate into the kitchen, tell them to follow you. Have them watch you rinse your plate before putting it in the sink, and then tell them it’s their turn. Children are extremely impressionable and are infinitely more likely to do something if they see mom or dad doing it first!

3) Give praise to positive behavior. We’re very big on positive reinforcement here at Tutor Doctor, and for good reason – giving praise and small rewards for good behavior is always more effective than its opposite (punishing bad behavior). If your child is doing a great job keeping track of the responsibilities you’ve assigned them, reward that behavior! Children respond more to positive reinforcement than anything else. However, it’s also important not to over-reward your child as this could have the opposite effect – you don’t want them to be doing something just for a prize. For this reason, we recommend primarily using positive verbal reinforcement. In general, kind compliments and praise are going to be more beneficial than material rewards.

4) Let them make mistakes. Another old saying proves itself to be true –you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. In other words, we all need to make mistakes in order to succeed. When it comes to children, it’s healthy for them to learn from their mistakes. Although we may have the urge to shield our kids from disappointment, the truth is that making mistakes is the only way for them to fully learn and grow as people. A while back, we used an example in our “How to Teach Your Teens to Be Financially Savvy” blog about a teen that spent his entire allowance too quickly:

“Consider this – your teen decides to spend all $100 in their bank account on two new video games. They have the games, but they also now have no money left in their account for the rest of the month. This is a great way to introduce budgeting, and more importantly, financial responsibility. It is better for your teen to make a mistake now and spend ‘too much allowance’ than later in life when real money is at stake!”

And really, that’s the point – it’s truly better for children to learn from small mistakes now rather than larger ones later. Responsibility, more specifically personal accountability – is never fully observed until we make a mistake, but in the process also teaches us what to avoid next time. Ultimately, this mentality helps your kids not to be overly critical of themselves when they do make a mistake – it happens to the best of us, and learning how to deal with it in a healthy way is a skill they will rely on for the rest of their lives.

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