Saturday, April 22, 2017

JATP | Gifted Prep | The Power of Great Parenting in Atlanta

Listen, watch, and observe - is what people are too busy not doing. It does not take me very long to see which parents that I meet will end up being at the top of their game with their children, and the rest of them will be swimming against a current of disappointment.

Let's start with my Private School Parents. The best ones that I have encountered are the "cool ones". They have been given the "script" of what to do, how to act, and other "insider tips" that help them stand out when they need to, and blend in when they have to. It does not concern me as to who their grandparents are or what patent they have received the year after their second child was born, these parents are more than their last "success".  They are the individuals who know never to pick a fight because it is not about winning or losing and they value the time and expertise of a respected professional.

Parents of children that are classified as "Gifted" fall into a category all their own. I'm uncertain as to what these parents end game truly is, but a parent that did everything to help their child get into the Gifted Program (and not game the system) is one that models what true parenting is. One of my favorite clients learned the hard way that her child is not reduced to a number or a label but is a valued member of society that needs to understand what is expected, and to clarify what they cannot understand. For the last four years, she has helped her child reach his fullest potential without ever asking for anything more than "please let me know if there is anything that I can do at home" from each and every loving professional that has worked with her son. (Yes, and I do mean that. His teachers have always valued his genuineness in the classroom and his "Magic" tricks!).

Sometimes parents rush to a finish line in the hopes that they will finish first in a race that they never qualified for. Being a good parent means knowing what you can do, and knowing what you need to do to help your children be the best that they can be. It's not about having all the money in the world or a job that entitles you to unlimited paid time off. A good parent is one that knows how to communicate with others and ask the right people to help them get their children where they need to be. A good parent is one that knows how to respect the opinions of others and understands the value of what accomplished, humble people have to say.

I'm happy to tell you that I have a number of wonderful parents that I have been so fortunate in working with over the years. Some parents that I have met will undoubtedly be successful in life because they have integrity and the morale fiber that one cannot measure through material worth but in the admiration of their peers and the community.

Thank you to all of those parents who I've helped through the years and I look forward to meeting more of Atlanta's Great Parents!


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Orton-Gillingham and Handwriting Without Tears at Learning Ridge: What is the Difference?

A few months ago we met up with a few old friends for the holidays. We've realized that as we watch the years pass, the time that we spend with those that we care about are more precious than streaming our favorite television shows. After catching up with friends who have always known that I "work with children", they came to realize what it is that I have done for the better part of over a decade.

There were certain words that I hear from a young parent that are "trigger signs" for intervention. "He's struggling", "we are unable", "we've talked to this Dr." are all examples of what it takes for my ears to perk up in that moment. It takes less than an hour for me to do an assessment in my office to generate a report that guides the educational planning for a year, but like a physician who does a physical in the examination room, it only takes me five minutes to see what could be troubling a child.

Unbeknownst to many parents, including my sister, my in-laws and a few cousins, I disguise the act of "playing" into assessments. At the holiday get together that I was at, my husband was left behind to describe my unconventional process to the other guests and they were in complete disbelief that a child could be assessed, remediated and enriched using the art of "play". I'm not certain that I could agree with them, but it is difficult to have children (and adults) accomplish anything when they are bored. I despise cleaning and/or organizing unless I have music on or if I dance across the floor trying to sweep dust away from our walking paths. Work is not something that I can look forward to - but engaging in an activity that appears to be fun and exciting is something that I do everyday.

After a few minutes of listening to our family friend ramble on and on about what pains them with their child, I finally crossed the line of friendship and said, "let me do a few things to see what might be happening". I grabbed a few materials from my car and began my "pretend work". It seems as if I need to be in a classroom or in an office with a hint of "superiority" beside it, but it took me just a handful of tasks and I gathered all the data I needed to help our family friend with something that they had been struggling with for the past few years.

"In order for all of this to make sense to your child, and for him to move past this developmental stage - you need to work on this one thing... Once that happens, he'll take off.." My words resonated like the lyrics from an opera and it was if the biggest revelation was made for them this decade. In a sea of professionals that they had worked with, it boiled down to one thing physically, and the rest of the work was done by (and given credit to) me.

It took our family friends less than a week to make everything happen in their schedule to work with me and my organization. My promise to them was that this challenge would be taken care of and the only thing that I could guarantee is my hard work and honesty.  Nothing less than what they could ask for but I always made sure that I was deliberate and attentive in what they needed and they showed me that their son's education and well being is important.

Fast forward less than three months later, he's made more progress than I can write on one sheet of paper. His stamina when it comes to reading and utilizing the Orton-Gillingham method  has been astounding that when I keep my books on the table, mid conversation he'll start to read a book (without being prompted) and will finish the book by himself. We've come up with ingenious ways to help shape his behavior (thanks to my background in behavior modification) and to work towards a goal - by thinking big picture and then taking it one step at a time. Progress is never expected to occur overnight, but after a long and arduous walk filled with hours of conversation, stories and laughter, you've reached your destination.

I'm so proud of the little man that I've worked with for the past few months. He's not just the "family friend's son", he helps me realize that my job is never done and I'm able, without effort, to be at the top of my game all over again. Helping a child, any child, learn how to do something difficult is one of the best feelings you can have as an adult, Whether it's helping them read, write stories, draw, ride a bike - it does not matter, Once they have learned to do something with your help (and your heart), your existence is forever branded in their spirit!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Orton-Gillingham Excellence in Atlanta

When I read through a stack of resumes, it's almost like watching a reality television show. Some resumes impress me and some force me to get up for a drink of water because I've almost lost my breath laughing.

Here is my story: As I talk to various parents who have problems with their child's reading there are a few questions that they like to have answered. It seems as if they always like to hear what people like for them to hear and it makes me think to myself how too much time on message boards can leave you a little queasy.

Yes, when it comes to education there are certain standards, or (for lack of a less intimidating term) strands. However, just because you buy the certificate does not make you the best person for the job. It also does not mean that if the person's office or tutoring schedule is busy that they will make the biggest impact on your child. (Just because Walmart is busy doesn't mean that it's the best place to shop, right?)

After working with thousands of clients through the years, there are certain things that I am looking for in a client who would like to see their child successful. The first thing is : Commitment. We have spent hundreds of hours preparing for the process of remediating and/or enrichment training for your child and in return, we want to make sure that you, the parent, will know what to do. The other important aspect of our process is: Trust. There are certain benchmarks that each child has. It's almost like being in your Introduction to Philosophy class where you are studying logic: If you have A and B, then C will happen. I've had parents call me after a week and say, "Why have they not learned concept "Z" yet?" All I say is, "Well, we are still on concept "M"... We'll get there, but you need to be patient."

Orton-Gillingham is a great methodology to help teach someone who is struggling with reading how to read and it helps those who already knows how to read a proper framework for orthography. There's more to it than a program. For me, I have spent an additional two years of Graduate School studying educational pedagogy, neuroscience, motivation, and behavior along side with a Professional Development Plan that clocks in over 300 hours a year. What is even more odd is that some "practitioners" with more years of experience than my Grandfather had in taking depositions as an attorney call me for advice or what's even more striking - ask me questions that I thought the certificate would help them answer.

Yes, I have a certificate on the wall at home, but there's knowledge behind it as well. I'm happy to share my knowledge and expertise to anyone who would like to be part of the Learning Ridge Family!


If you or anyone you know is having problems with reading, phonics, or processing, please call me at 404-964-8533 or you can visit our website at www.learningridge.com .


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Singapore Math in Atlanta: It Really Is Amateur Hour

Yes, I said it - only because I can prove that this really did happen and I am sad to say that it was proof that some great schools make unbelievably horrible choices.

On one extremely cold and rainy day in Atlanta, I stopped by one of my favorite Tea Shops off of Ponce De Leon Avenue and was preparing for an Orton-Gillingham/Admission Preparation tutoring session with the son of a sweet family friend. (Yes, this is a picture of him when I brought him to a store to pick out a LEGO because he is doing such a great job reading. I would never identify him because that's not why I'm writing this post - but he was the "Caped Crusader on this day).

I was cutting and stapling an assortment of materials and I could not help but be in awe of two teachers who were having a discussion on what I thought was a PhD Dissertation topic. The conversation was along the lines of: "How do you know when a child is struggling in a topic? Are all children with poor grades unable to grasp that subject?"

It hit me, I thought that I was on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" and was brought to this particular Tea House to answer this question and win a chance to help a person with their dissertation paper. Sadly, I was mistaken about the motive for them asking that question and when they revealed to me that they run the Student Support Services for a Charter School in Atlanta, I thought I was about to faint. How can a school, fully funded and armed with a cavalry of staff and resources, not be able to help students with Math?

In talking with these ladies that "run" the department, I was taken aback by their lack of experience and/or insight on the process of helping students. After invisibly shaking my head, I gave them some anecdotal stories of how parents at their charter school run into my office and beg for assistance in understanding this curriculum that for some reason, is being taught by individuals who have a degree that is as close to Math as Physics is to Classical Music. When they asked me how I knew of the school I told her that they were one of the schools that several of my clients had been excited about attending, but now that they have a lopsided approach to teaching (they have actually told parents that the children will receive a great education in everything but... math) and that their administration has the compromising abilities that are the equivalent to a five year old, I see little to no change in Professional Development.

If a school says that they use a program, please make sure that it is not a year of Curriculum Experimentation where your child will fall victim in their first or second year implementing the program. It is important that with any transition, you find the proper support in assisting your child with understanding the background and concepts that are associated with the curriculum.

If your child is at a school where they are implementing a math program that is different from what they have used in the past and are struggling, please feel free to email: christine@learningridge.com or you can call me at (404)964-8533.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Atlanta JATP Testing: Why Do Parents Wait Until The Last Minute to Think About Private Schools?

If you ever met my in-laws, you would not be surprised that they planned for my husband's education and his scholastic transitions five years before he changed from his first school to his second school. When I talk to my mother-in-law about these different events, she describes the planning that she had to do in addition to all of the milestones he would need to meet in order to be considered for some of the scholastic challenges that lie ahead.

Fortunately for my husband, the work was done for him. My situation of transitioning from one school to another was not as smooth. My parents moved in the middle of my fifth grade year from one area of town to another and even though it was still in the same city, I lost a core group of friends and teachers that understood me as a student and needed to re-learn everything.

When parents look for someone to help them with the private school process in Atlanta, it is a daunting and challenging process. During the first meeting that I have with my new clients, I find myself apologizing at least once (maybe more than once) about the information that I provide to them and sometimes, expect them to remember when they leave the office. I'm extremely happy by the sheer number of parents that contact me early because I compliment them on their timing and can be honest about the element of time and how it can help with your child's development. However, parents who contact me with only a few weeks to help them navigate through the process of selecting a private school are not as lucky.

Some things to consider when you are looking for a professional who is working on an advisory role as you choose private schools for your child are the following:

1. How well do they know the school? (Other than receiving subjective information from a friend.)

2. What makes them qualified to speak about school choices? (A response of "I"m a parent!" is not a qualification..)

3. How long have they been doing this professionally? (If they are recently retired from one of the schools, that makes them bias - and great for that school in particular.)

4. What can they do other than talk about a school? (If they have a brochure from the schools, that is great if you would like to hire someone to act as a filing cabinet.)

5. Why are they advising you on school choices? (I have clients every year call me the "School Whisperer" because I predict which school(s) will send the acceptance letter.)

If you are on the road to having your child go through the Atlanta Private School Admissions Process and would like to have some additional insight/consulting on this rewarding journey, feel free to contact me at: christine@learningridge.com or you can call me at 404-964-8533.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Atlanta Orton-Gillingham: Does Your School Really Understand Dyslexia?

Sometimes I come across a parent who has a child enrolled in a school that has a person that champions themselves as being "Orton-Gillingham certified". I'm pretty fortunate enough to understand the difference between identifying a person who is "Orton-Gillingham Certified" and an individual who is "Orton-Gillingham Proficient".

At this period in time, there are many reasons why some children are struggling in reading than others. Not every parent has the ability to lean in during a Parent-Teacher Conference and really understand how some of the comments that your teacher is giving you can come across as a time when you need to start searching for help. But I would be a little suspicious if your child is struggling in school and the only individuals that the school is recommending are staff that are in the same building.

I've seen some awful things in my life when it comes to children who may need a different approach for remediation or enrichment however, one of the worst has to be when parents choose the wrong people to help their child with an issue. One parent came in to tell me that one of their teachers (an Orton-Gillingham Member) claimed that her daughter needed Orton-Gillingham and for some reason or another, the mother paid thousands of dollars to the school and after four months, the school could not provide any documentation that demonstrated progress from the money they collected. I was livid when I heard of this and after less than one month, the student went from sounding like a Kindergartner sounding each sound out to reading in complete sentences.

I'm always happy to see that I can stand behind all of my hard work and everything that we set out to do is accomplished.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Atlanta Orton-Gillingham/Singapore Math: How to Know When Your Child May Be Having Problems at Home or School

Every month I am able to work with clients all over Atlanta and the country who share with me the challenges that they have with their child. Some issues that their young ones may have are quite normal for a professional like myself who sees this more often than not however, given that they are seeing this issues first hand, it is all very daunting to a new parent.

Here are Some Behaviors that may be indicate that your child is struggling at school

1. Refuses To Read Out Loud

In the early years of your child's education, the foundation of learning is based on print. They transition from a sensory environment that is filled with music and art into one where they must look at information and describe it.

If your child is having problems with learning how to read, they become their own worst critic and may not want to share with you how difficult it is for them. After seeing other children in their class pick up books and go through the material, they struggle with understanding the different letters and "sounding like them". It is easy to see why they would not want to read your favorite bed time story with them when they come home.

2. Enuresis Makes A Comeback

Many children lack the communication skills to describe the barrage of feelings that they hold deep in their heart. Whether it is dealing with a difficult classmate or missing their mommy/daddy when they work too much or are out of town, they keep it bottled up inside because they have not been taught how to "talk through" their feelings.

I've listened in on parents telling me that their five/six/seven year old is still bedwetting and they miss the psychological aspect behind this issue than the physiological aspect. If you've noticed that your child is starting to have accidents more frequently, it may be a sign that should ask your child what they are worried about.

3. Does Not Want to Engage in Conversation After School

"What did you do at school today?"

Some children are unable to answer the question because they have repressed their entire school day because it is truly traumatizing. Fortunately, with technology and access to his/her teacher and classmates, it is much easier to find out what is happening at school and what you can do at home to remedy their communication ills.

4. Has Problems with Transitioning

When it is time for you to go to a social event such as dinner or a community gathering, your child should not take more than a few minutes to get ready and walk out the door. However, if your child has problems with time management and then reverts to a tantrum after you have reminded him/her that you are leaving in one minute, there are underlying issues at hand that need to be dealt with.

5. Strained relationship with siblings/pets

Sibling rivalry is more of a state than a condition in many families. When your child is with their younger or older sibling and has changed personalities over the course of the last few weeks, there may be an issue that you have not been apprised of. I've seen children verbally taunt and become physically aggressive to their siblings and when asked why they are doing this, the response they give is usually that they have felt attacked at school and are backed into a corner.

If your child is having a difficult time with school and has manifested these behaviors, contact Learning Ridge by emailing info@learningridge.com or you can call us at 404-964-8533.