Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Monkey See/ Monkey Do! How Technology Brings Out the AntiSocial In Your Family!

I had visited a friend who is a speech therapist in the Atlanta area and as usual, we share some of the common problems that we are seeing with parental interactions and it's effects on their children. What we have noticed most is the unsurmountable (and perhaps inevitable) effects technology has had on their children.

Unlike the generation that many individuals have grown up with, the role of technology is found to have more negative effects when children have "early exposure". I've seen parents who have eliminated televisions from their child's bedrooms and have replaced them with tablets. I've also seen children who spend hours in the car in complete silence as they listen in on their parents having "conference calls" or talking to anyone and everyone - except their own children. The most extreme cases are when children who I've seen work with other providers who need to be coddled, prodded, or grounded from the devices that are an extension of their hands.

Technology is used as a device that is to augment processes that were very time consuming and is also used to allow people access to information that they were unable to obtain before. When children see what their parents are doing, they naturally (for the most part) want to imitate their mom and dad. When they see mom angry after talking to someone on the phone - they imitate this action on their play dates. If the dad has shown his short fuse because the babysitter/nanny failed to show up on time, the child (or children) react in the same way. Every morning, if mom has her daily call with grandma about the gossip for the day, the children find in no way, shape, or form is it not normal for them to "tune other people out" when they are on their iPad watching YouTube or Minecraft videos for hours at a time.

I'm concerned for the welfare of these children. There are times where parents would get in trouble for not being "home" for their children if they are under the age of 11 and did not have supervision. Is having your child babysat for three to four hours a day by complete strangers on the internet classified as "abandonment"? Don't get me wrong - I love technology, and if it was not for technology, I would not have the ability to learn, synthesize and share my interests and hobbies but - I'm an adult and I've had to learn discipline by understanding what moderation is and knowing how to prioritize. When a child is left alone to  watch you use your technological devices, what do you expect them to be?

Are you a good role model by leading by example?

If you or anyone you may know has challenges with academics, communication, learning, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, ADD/ADHD, math, please do not hesitate Christine at Learning Ridge by calling 404-964-8533 or you can email: christine@learningridge.com.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Are Your Kids Ready for Overnight Camp?

For most kids, it’s a time during the summer that they look forward to the most: the experience of going to their first overnight camp! For weeks at a time, they will have butterflies thinking of all the fun activities they will be engaged in while away from their parents. Mornings spent with peers talking about the events from the night before will show in their eyes as they exchange stories with more excitement than an action packed blockbuster movie. However, there are some kids that may not have the same experience.

Going to your first overnight camp can be overwhelming when you are not quite ready. Some children may experience unnecessary anxiety and stress because they are either unfamiliar with the set up of staying somewhere overnight that is not “home” or are unprepared socially for being in a camp setting. 

I had the experience of watching one of my favorite 2nd graders attend a camp for a total of 30 hours before the Camp Director and the child decided that this experience was not one that was mutually beneficial. It was devastating to hear the anguish of the father as he had to drive his son back and endure the six hour trip listening to the reasons why his experience was a horrible one.

If you believe that your child may not be 100% ready to attend camp, here are some tips to help them get ready for that first “going away” experience:

Help coordinate a Large Group Play Date

Yes, your child has a wonderful best friend who you treat as that other member of your family. Let the summer be a time where your child can learn to socialize and play with a larger circle of friends. The exposure and experience will help them prepare to be around different personalities and be more comfortable as a result.

Schedule field trips to local places and stay there for the whole day

The Zoo, the Georgia Aquarium, the Coca Cola Museum, there are many “whole day” excursions from which your child can choose from. Going on a field trip is more than just learning about what the particular venue has to offer. It is an opportunity to plan the events for the day and to also pacify oneself when you have a sudden onset of boredom. Kids learn at any given moment when they have an experience that is memorable and meaningful and you can learn from them too!

Give your child unstructured free time

This is a tough one for some parents, but be creative when giving your children free time. For example, you can give them a few hours to themselves but place limitations on it. Telling your child “this afternoon is all yours - you can do whatever you want to do, but it has to be technology free” may lead your child to pick up an outdoor activity rather than staying indoors. Another example can be stated with a simple, “This morning we can do anything that requires us to use paint”. Give your child the ability to make executive decisions and plan out the process of time management. You will be surprised at what they’ll come up with.

Create a series of “Community Overnight” Camps

If you live in a thriving subdivision or a great community of like-minded parents, gather up your children and help co-sponsor some overnight camps. The children will learn how to build better communication skills with those that they are familiar with and will have memories that will be cherished for years to come.

Want to be a little more daring? Parents who are hosting can have a special time where they are the “Featured Guest Speaker” and can share a scary/funny/inspirational story to all of the kids that are there. (Yes, my father sat in one night and told all of my friends stories of his childhood and how unbelievably mischievous he was. It ended up being a night of Community Comedy sponsored by “My dad”.)

Have your child take classes over the summer

It’s important that children learn how to be comfortable in different situations. Allowing them to take classes over the summer will not only help them work on a different skill or talent, but it will help them actively engage in the learning process. They’ll learn that education is something that happens when you are not looking and will be grateful that you helped them along the way.

If you have any questions about getting your child get ready for Summer Camps, choosing a Summer Camp, or enrolling in a Summer Learning Camp featuring Handwriting Without Tears, Singapore Math, and Orton-Gillingham at Learning Ridge this summer, feel free to visit www.learningridge.com or contact me at christine@learningridge.com.

Have a Great Summer! 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Parents Who Do More, Speak Less

There is a trend in parenting where parents speak to children about anything and everything and when there is an opportunity to teach, they use a script. Sometimes the script comes from a book that they have read that teaches them "how to act" when their child exhibits a negative trait or to start documenting the root cause that causes the child to misbehave.

Parenting, unlike other interactions that humans partake in, is not an exact science but much more of an expression of one's ideals and belief systems passed on from one generation to the next. It's important that as a parent, you take on the role of establishing an identity not only as the role model in your child's life, but the individual that you will raise them to be when they grow up.

In my practice, one of the most important aspects of my interactions happen when I see a parent correct a child. I have witnessed the entire gamut of responsiveness from the father who coddles, to mothers who bribe their children into the bank of capitalism and have told me behind closed doors, "my mom can get me to do anything if she gives me money". I've seen beautiful parenting when one mother, not short of any discretionary funding - explains to her child that there is value in waiting for something that you want because "life is about enjoying what you have worked so hard for!". It reminds me of when I was in elementary school and when we would return from recess, our teacher would give us one Jolly Rancher if we had a "Perfect Week!". Can you imagine the attention to detail and perfectionistic tendencies I had to endure in order to earn that one piece of candy.

As I watch parents come in and out of my life - I see those who have it easy, and I see those who will, at least for a few years in their life, regret what they had done when their child was younger. If there is anything I wish for parents to do more of, it's to spend time with your kids and focus on bridging your past with their future. Teach them about your values and the traditions of what your family has held very close to your heart. Understand that we live in a community - and do not pass judgment on what people are on the outside, but how they make you feel when you are with them. Raise them so that no matter what they do in life, they will always look back and say, "I could not be who I am today if it wasn't for you." You'll tear up when your children say that to you, I know that I always do.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

It's the Case of "LearningCenteritis"

When I was a public school teacher, I had a conference with a parent that was "praising the Gods" about a particular learning center's approach to academics. She said that this program was the reason why her son was doing so well in math and reading and that he attended the program religiously each and every week.

After the conference, I shook my head back and forth multiple times because he was failing all of his classes. I am sure that the program has merits in whatever it is that they do well, but what boggled me was that a great deal of what he was learning did not carry over to the everyday rigor of his school work. If the program is so good, why are his grades "so bad"?

One reason why is that the program is good at what it is intended to be good at: providing a program. Many of the places that have been open for many years exist because they have a format to follow. Some of them are flexible - most of them are not. Some of them have teachers on staff - most of them may not. Regardless of what it is that you are looking for, it is rare to find the person who is at the head of the learning center an individual who understands not only the curriculum that is being taught at the schools today, but also well suited to reverse engineer a lesson that did not sink well with a student.

On a personal note, I have actually worked in these centers (on my own expense). I know what they are capable of doing - and not doing. To be quite honest with you - some of these learning centers have even approached me to help train their staff and (more comically) work with their children. I do not know if their motive is the same as mine - to make a difference in the lives of each child that you can touch, but I can certainly tell you that they do not have the same fervor for education that I do.  They went into this business to make a quick buck. It's insulting to me because nothing that you do well should ever be for money. Education  and health medicine  are fields where you do not want the person who is helping you to be the one that is doing it for the money. Trust me - I know. I have been misdiagnosed by many, many ER doctors because they are out to make a buck. I know that I was made to work with kids. Whenever I have free time and I am out in a public place, like a restaurant, or the office supply store, or the library, parents watch their kids gaze at me wondering who I am. They realize after the 4th glance that I am no ordinary stranger - I am an educator who has always had a certain magnetism when working with kids. I speak their language, know their story. I didn't need to buy into a franchise to become that because I live it every day.

The main difference between these learning centers and me is I stand behind what I do - and think about what lasting impressions my curriculum choices and methodologies are. What good is it if your student can solve complex algebra problems - but have an aversion to a word problem?  I want to develop a humble, well-rounded and highly talented individual, not a parrot.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Decisive Parent

One of the traits that I look for when I meet a parent is decisiveness. Parents undervalue the long term effects of decisiveness in parenting because some of them feel that they have all the time in the world to make the best decisions for their child.

I remember watching this unfold when I was younger. My sister was having some problems emotionally and it was starting to affect other areas in her life. Within one day - my sage of a mother spent minutes on the phone looking for resources both public and private to help my sister. It was imperative that my mom acted swiftly to remedy the problem because she knew as a mother - this problematic area was something that she was unqualified to take care of and was unfamiliar territory. She did not want to take the chance to "fix a problem" that was not in her scope to fix as a mother. Mom sacrificed time, money - and more importantly, her pride by letting someone else resolve the situation. The result of my mom's quick decision had ultimately helped my sister, and saved our family life.

As a community member, I hear the stories of many parents that spend countless hours trying to "help" their children. One of the stories that I tell them is that even parents who are educational or allied health professionals have a difficult time working with their children because it is a completely different relationship that you have with your children when you fill in the shoes of what a professional normally does. I have worked with the students of many educators and witnessed that students crave boundaries - but an overabundance of boundaries from a parent can negatively impact your family dynamics as well.

When your child has a problem, whatever it may be, it is very important to be a decisive parent. Not only does it make your child feel that what they are going through matters, but it also assures you that your time and efforts have not been futile. Whether it be choosing a new school, selecting new extracurricular activities or hiring an educational professional, look for the best and nothing less.

Monday, May 16, 2016

It's All About The JATP Scores? Think Again Atlanta Parents!

I've learned from those who do not learn and always smile when the movie in my mind is played every year from unwilling parents who go through the process of Admissions Preparation here in Atlanta.

Private schools here in Atlanta are what they are: private. The information that they wish to share with you is more of a mystery that can only be solved only by watching all of Alfred Hitchcock's movies and talking to the mother who you think is your BFF at the pre-school that your child is in.

Most parents trust those who are willing to give you the information they believe will "tell them what they want to hear". I've heard, and seen, and observed it all. From the neighborhood pre-school to your son's friend whose mother has a friend who is the friend...The list goes on and on and on.

The problem is - they see a snapshot of what they see for that one year. Unless they come from a troupe of 12 children who have enrolled in each of the 10+ schools on the list and have experienced rejection/acceptance letters for each of their children, the outcome is daunting to say the least.

As much as I love to ramble about this process, the fact of the matter is - you should not judge the past performance of what "others" have done to predict the outcome of your child. Everybody is different and until you have an objective view of the school and what it can offer to your child, it is best to use discretion.

If you would like more information about the Admissions Preparation Program at Learning Ridge, feel free to contact Christine at 404-964-8533.  

Saturday, May 14, 2016

After The Psychological Report: What Do I Do Next?

I had to laugh when one of my clients fell for the oldest trick in the book: a list of recommendations found at the end of her child's Psychological Evaluation that read more like a list of Oprah's Favorite Things than evidence based, research backed methodologies that would help move her child from a life of wasted time in the classroom..

One of the most important qualities that I find to be indicative of a person's character is their integrity. Now that I have grown older (and much wiser than I would like to admit), I must say that integrity is compromised all in the name of cronyism when it comes to education. Psychologists recommend someone they play golf with or the neighborhood lady who tutors children on the side. I've seen some go so far as to recommend a teacher without any credentials who works for a school that one parent would pay hand over fist for her child to attend. Or take horseback lessons for an issue that the child doesn't even have.

Are you kidding me? Is it ethical? Not really. Is it what people are doing? Yes - but I do not know why (nor could understand the reasoning behind this behavior).

I come from a place where people do business with people and have learned that competition breeds excellence. Sad to say, this is not the case in some areas of town. I've watched people spend thousands - I mean thousands of dollars to watch their child take 2 years to learn how to read a book that takes only three months for a child to read under my guidance. Rather than taking the time to find out if a child will succeed with the newest supposed "neurological advances", parents have signed children up for the strangest things to make their problems go away.

I don't believe that any problem can go away overnight - but I do believe that sometimes, it takes more than a few hundred dollars worth of franchise fees to help someone help themselves. It takes courage, strength, intellectual fortitude, and lastly - insight to be successful in changing anything.

There are some processes that need to change as far as how people treat those who have children who need our help. We should not admonish them because they do not know what we know - we should be truthful and help them with what we know works best.

If you have questions about your child's most recent psychological report, feel free to contact Christine at Learning Ridge by calling 404-964-8533.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

JATP Prep: What It Is... What It Should Not Be

I’ve spent the better part of the last decade answering questions from parents that believe that helping their child with certain skills is important for development and not a criminal act that should be considered wrong. Many times parents will ask me why they should or should not have their child prepare for the JATP. 

Here is what I have to say:

To be completely honest with you, those who tell you that you should not prep for the JATP have more to fear than the imaginary "you will get in trouble" scenario they play in your head. When I worked with my very first client - she went into this "Atlanta process" and was given information by a “Consultant”. This "Consultant" who claimed she was a former Private School Teacher told her, “ you don't need to do anything and of course, your child will get into the XYZ school.” This "Consultant" charged her whatever it was that she did, sat across the client, looked at her child and said, “she’s got a good shot.”. Four months later - the child was rejected from each and every school that she applied to.

Fast forward one year later - the mother calls me to tell me that after one year of my guidance and assistance - the daughter was accepted to all four schools that she applied to. I was in utter shock. After months of planning and due diligence, I  was happy beyond belief that from "nothing" we were able to gain everything. Preparing for the JATP is simply more than a behavior that could be “coached” (something that I do not believe in or support), it’s a way of life that I share with my clients.

Over the years I've watched parents who have “prepped their children” and have seen what type of results it has garnered. There’s "coaching" (ineffective in my opinion), and then, there is good parenting. Sometimes as a parent - you may perceive yourself to be the best mommy in the world, but other times you need to know when to draw the line in the sand and ask  for help to be a great parent. Think of it this way: When you are  bringing your child to the doctor for the first time - are you the type of parent that will withhold the fact that they will be getting a shot that may cause them a tinge of pain, or are you going to tell them what they will need to expect so that they do not have a chip on their shoulder for the rest of their life here on earth? 

I know what type of parenting I was exposed to -  and I’m glad my parents  were educated enough to know when they needed me to understand the world that was beyond my comprehension. That’s all it is - nothing more, nothing less.

This is why I feel so strongly about parents being informed about this unruly and emotional process. It is not a process  that is difficult - or something that you should be scared of; merely one that will prepare you for the life of  good parenting. Something that you should always strive to live.  

If you need assistance getting your child the help that they will need for JATP Admissions Preparation, do not hesitate to call Christine at 404-964-8533 or you can email me at christine@learningridge.com.