Category Archives: Blog

When A Student Avoids School Work

 

Recently a client’s father was concerned. His child was avoiding schoolwork and becoming very anxious when it was time to complete school or homework. He was at a loss as to why this was happening.  So we had a chat about the patterns of behavior and ways to help.

When kids refuse to complete a school task there is always a reason. No, it is not because they are “lazy” or “bad”. It may take some digging, but finding out why this is happening can help you set up a plan to help your child.

Is there a trigger in the schoolwork?

Sometimes children are unable to complete a task because it is considered gross, scary, or has a topic/word they feel uncomfortable around. Adjust the assignment when possible. If writing about ducks triggers a child, change the topic to a different animal. If writing by hand is a trigger because it hurts or feels weird due to sensory issues, then allow typing or allow the child to speak the words instead.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Is executive functioning an issue?

Executive functioning skills must be strong in order for children to complete multi-step tasks, especially if they must figure out the steps to complete a task. If a child needs to write an essay, they will need to come up with a topic, outline the main idea and details, create sentences, edit the writing, then turn it in. This can be an overwhelming task if executive functioning skills are not yet strong. Help by sitting together to make a to do list, in order, for the activity. Break the task into different hours or days. Do something fun in between as well to have a break from the difficult task.

Is there anxiety because it is a new task?

Many times people become worried or anxious over a new task. This can occur for clear reasons or simply be a feeling with no clear reason. Either way, it is important to recognize the anxiety and how bad that feels. Ask how you can help. Offer alternatives when possible such as a different topic, different way to show understanding of the material, and offer a longer amount of time in which to complete each stage of the task.

Is there anxiety because someone is demanding the child complete the assignment?

When someone appears oppositional it may be due to anxiety, Pathological Demand Avoidance, or Oppositional Defiance Disorder, as well as other reasons such as feeling ill. Be a teammate rather than someone who demands immediate compliance. What steps can you take together to assist without doing the work for the child? Will taking short breaks in between every 3 sentences written help? Will drawing work more easily than cutting and gluing a project? Think outside of the box if possible. Give time between a task and the completion time for a task. Consider writing it down or using graphics and pictures to show what to do in steps, then give time to complete the task. Pressing the issue and repeating oneself to a child can build pressure in the child and trigger a feeling of unworthiness, anxiety, or even opposition in some kids.

Does the child not see the value in the activity?

Sometimes people need to see the link to everyday life or their goals before a task seems worthwhile. Consider using hands-on activities, creative presentation options, mentorships, real life experience through field trips, etc. These activities can help students see why topics such as division are necessary to their every day lives and motivate them to tolerate or willingly ask to practice life skills and academic activities. Sometimes a new perspective or having someone who is not mom or dad say that a topic is important can help as well. AN internship may be an additional step if a mentorship is working well for your child.

Is distraction happening even when the child is interested?

Distractions can cause a  lot of stress for teacher and student, parent and child, leaving everyone stressed and tired. Consider adding in a favorite type of music at a low volume if our child works better with background noise, but consider taking away sounds like tv or music if they distract. You may want to try using a white noise machine or headphones to block sounds, depending on if your child does better with or without background noise. Remember that becoming distracted easily is not usually something a child can control so punishment and anger will not solve this issue. Take a breath, or 10, then come back to the issue and help your child get back on task. If a task is taking a long time, consider completing the task in short bursts of time. Break down the task. You can also talk to your health care provider if you are concerned about a special need being present and request a referral for testing. If there is a special need, there may be medical and therapy alternatives available to assist your child. This is your choice and I cannot recommend that you do or do not. However, if concerned, consider this option.

Helping our children become life-long learners can be a challenge. Sometimes things do not go as planned, Instead of becoming agitated because our children are seemingly not listening, let’s consider why their tasks are not being completed and work with them to solve these issues. Alfie Kohn and Dr. Ross Green have fantastic books which address some of these issues.

 

For evaluations and consultations, contact Melissa, The Reading Coach!

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

 

I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my dissertation for my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. Additional services include public speaking, transcript preparation, and more. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you.

Please contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at 407-712-4368

Moving and Learning – Whole Body Learning

One trick of the teaching trade is using gimmicks to get kids invested in the learning process.

One fantastic way to do this is to include movement into lessons. Children especially enjoy this

type of activity when the teacher or parent joins in. When we value the activity, children are

more likely to join in, too. Try the following ideas to help children commit information learned

to their long-term memory. Make sure you, the adult, join in too!

  • Tap, jump, or clap while you count.
  • Dance it out with a song from Youtube, or your favorite children’s music artist, that covers a math concept.
  • Create a scavenger hunt throughout your room, house, or school.
  • Eat foods that represent a concept such as pizza for fractions.
  • Paint or draw about vocabulary words.

  • Act out a story or play.
  • Use baking to practice multiplication and fractions.
  • Set up an obstacle course to bring each word through when writing a sentence.
  • Build a model with blocks, clay, or another medium.
  • Use packing bubbles to pop each time a child says a sound in a word you are breaking down.
  • Draw letters or shapes in a container of sand or rice.
  • Roll a back ball to each student and have them say a new rhyming word.

 

 

For evaluations and consultations, contact Melissa, The Reading Coach!

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

 

I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. Additional services include public speaking, transcript preparation, and more. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you.

Please contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at

407-712-4368

5 Ways to Record Homeschooling Progress

5 Ways to Record Progress

     Many parents ask how to keep adequate proof that their homeschool

students are making progress. Each state or province will have laws which

cover this question so be certain you consult the laws in your area before

choosing how to record progress. That being said, I compiled a short list of

ways to record progress and activities easily and effectively.

 

 

  1.  Record activities on a calendar or in a planner. You can often purchase one for $1 from the dollar store, if you have one. If your child is writing legibly, have him/her add activities and lessons to the calendar.
  2. Use a spreadsheet on your computer, but regularly save a back up copy on a flash drive or to your email/cloud/etc.
  3. Consider using a journal along with photographs to document your year.
  4. Using an online photo book or webpage can also effectively present work completed, activities, and field trips.
  5. Consider having your child complete a create project at the end of each unit or a few times during the year within each major subject covered. Perhaps a travel pamphlet is a good way to share what your child knows about a country studied or an art project can express information learned about ocean animals.

 

For evaluations and consultations, contact Melissa, The Reading Coach

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

 

I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. Additional services include public speaking, transcript preparation, and more. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you.

Please contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at

407-712-4368

 

Review of “The Smart Kid’s Guide To” Books

One of the issues I sometimes see when working with clients, and saw when teaching kindergarten, is nonverbal and social skill weaknesses.

Social skills are largely based upon nonverbal understanding and hidden societal rules.

These skills and concepts may be difficult for children who have varying exceptionalities or who are English language learners. Social and nonverbal communication skills can help you make friends or cause you to be alienated from potential friends.

That’s why it’s extremely important for kids to have practice with social skills and learn how to understand nonverbal communication cues in their culture as well as when getting to know people from cultures outside of the child’s culture.

I recently happened upon a fantastic set of books which I find really help with nonverbal communication and social awareness. The “Smart Kid’s Guide To” series contains explicit instruction, examples, scripts for practice, and has photographs to assist in understanding.

 

I highly encourage tutors, teachers, and parents to use these books in conjunction with everyday situations to help children understand how society expects them to behave and how to read situations, then respond in a socially appropriate way.

 

 

Using one example script per day can open up a dialog for how to respond to others as well as how responses may vary, yet still be socially acceptable. This is also a great way to foster emotional learning and empathy.

 

It’s okay to be different than someone else, have different interests, and to prefer time on your own. It’s also a good idea to understand social cues so we can respond in a useful way so we can make connections when we want to and grow our village of support. Our kids need that, too, and these books help tremendously.

Teaching Customer Service Skills

Many of my clients who leave public school to homeschool have told me there is less life skills education in their public schools as STEM and other ideals take over.

I have nothing against STEM, focusing on core academics, and other educational philosophies such as these. However, I see the issue with students graduating without life skills such as cooking, money management, and preparation for the workforce. 

It has become necessary for parents to make sure their children learn life skills so they will succeed in adulthood.

 

Teaching customer service skills is a great place to begin. Encourage role-playing games when children are young. Move on to yard sales and other odd jobs. Eventually, teens will be able to hold their own part-time job and practice consistently in a real-world setting.

Skill: Patience and Calm

Encourage children to handle disappointment and rudeness with calm and patience. Practice how to react when someone insults you in a work setting and how to handle this stress. Getting a supervisor or excusing oneself for a moment then coming back with a solution may help.

Skill: Compromise

Have your children practice finding compromises. Give them examples of situations they may encounter and ask how they think these issues ought to be handled, especially when a customer is irritated due to a long wait or poor service prior to meeting you.

Skill: Make It Right

Consider ways to solve customer unhappiness due to mistakes by the business or a delay in products or services. Practice scenarios which put your children in the position of a manager who is dealing with an employee’s mistake and must smooth things over with a customer.

Skill: Communication

After sitting in school and asking for permission to answer questions or go to the bathroom, students are often not prepared for communication and decision-making with a variety of customers with different ages, abilities, and needs. Practicing effective communication, including communicating with those who have special needs, is paramount to customer service success. Learn about varying needs, how to successfully communicate even if that means learning American Sign Language or finding an interpreter.

Skill: Time Management

Those who work in service and retail industries must be able to start and stop projects, change gears, then get back to the projects. Sometimes stocking has to happen, yet there is a line of customers to be checked out. It is important to prioritize, work quickly, and stay focused on each task while remembering the rest of the “To Do” list for the day. The ability to multi-task is highly important.

Skill: Strong Work Ethic

Working is not easy. Working in a field which includes customer service adds to the potential stress. Many times frustration makes people want to quit. It is important to teach our children to work through the stress, take breaks when needed, and help co-workers when they need a break. With support of co-workers and resilience, tough situations won’t keep our children from sticking with a job. Instead of quitting the first time things get tough, they will persevere and learn coping skills which will help them in all facets of life.

Whether we homeschool, unschool, or choose brick and mortar schools, customer service skills are necessary skills for our children to learn. We may have to work on these skills at home, then encourage our teens to get jobs. Early practice of these skills sets our children up for success in adulthood.

Manatees at Blue Spring in Florida!

 

Every year my family takes at least one trip to view the manatees in residence during the cold

months in Orange City, Florida at Blue Spring State Park. When weather gets cold (okay, not as

cold as up north, but cold for Florida) manatees like to be in the warm spring water.

 

Sometimes the manatee count goes upwards of 200. That’s right, hundreds of manatees, and

their adorable babies, all in one spring area.

 

Can you tell we LOVE manatees?!

 

I highly encourage you to visit Blue Spring State Park for other events as well. We have attended

ranger walks to see fireflies and other animals. At certain times during the year you can snorkel

or canoe. Check with the rangers to find out which activities are available during your visit.

 

You may see alligators, turtles, tons of fish, otters, turkeys, owls, and more!

 

Stay for a day or camp overnight, just be sure to check in advance for events, campsite

availability, etc. The park does reach capacity quickly on weekends, holidays and special event

dates.

Make sure you check out the playground, cafe, and the historic Thursby House.

Check out the Blue Spring website and webcam link for more info.

Use Movies to Teach

 

 

 

I remember way back in school when the teacher would roll out that lovely tv on a cart. I

rarely knew exactly which video was on the roster that day, but it was often better than regular

classwork.  It’s always fun for kids to have variety so with the advent of streaming options (like

Amazon and Hulu) and DVD rental services (like Redbox and Netflix), there are plenty of options

for media use in schools and homeschools alike.

 

 

Any topic can be taught using movies. Documentaries are available for topics from poverty to

living in counties outside of the US to how to make things. On top of that, there are TV shows

about history, physics, and Earth.

If you find that a topic has not yet been covered, consider it a challenge and ask your

students to research and produce their own documentary. Consider creating a YouTube or

SchoolTube channel. Or, if you prefer, create a website where you can instantly post the movie

your students create.

 

 

To extend learning, ask students to consider what happens next, how they can help if a

topic requires action, or to retell the information. Allow for individualized or group projects.

Give options for presentations which are flexible such as songs, art, acting it out, etc.

Don’t be afraid to learn with your students. Nobody knows everything. Learning together is a

great way to show that you are human. Plus, learning with kids helps them understand that you

are a life-long learner, which shows them the pros of being a learner for life.

 

 

So, what are you waiting for? Teaching through movies is only a click or two away. 😊

 

About Melissa, The Reading Coach

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

 

I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. Additional services include public speaking, transcript preparation, and more. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you.

Please contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at

407-712-4368

 

My Favorite Valentine Books

Every year I go back to old standbys for each holiday clients wish to celebrate, but I also

like to add in new activities when possible.

I was working on lesson plans for clients and found some cool books for your homeschool or

classroom this year. Links are included if they are available for each book. Some links may be

via affiliates.

 

The Berenstain Bears’ Valentine Party

Berenstain Bears’ books tend to teach solid life lessons while entertaining children. Try opening your lesson to include student discussions about the topic of how to include others. Also consider allowing students to act out the book using puppets, action figures, or students themselves.

The Valentine Bears

Consider using The Valentine Bears as a whole group activity or in listening centers. Discuss how people sacrifice for each other to brighten a day. Allow students to discuss kind acts and safety boundaries to round out the lesson.

Junie B. Jones: Junie B. My Valentim

Junie B., the B. is for Beatrice and don’t forget it, makes mistakes and has some fun along the way. Junie books help students evaluate wise choices versus inappropriate choices with some laughter along the way. Consider having students rewrite a chapter or page to tell what happens if Junie makes a different choice.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mouse!

Given the popularity of books like “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie”, it’s likely that kids will enjoy this book, too. Consider using this book to practice predictive text, make valentine’s in the classroom as not every student will have an opportunity to do so at home, and practice rhyming activities.

 

 

 

Transcript FAQ

Many homeschool and unschool families ask what is needed when requesting for me to

write their child’s transcripts. I suggest that you keep some basic information as your child

moves through the high school years. Unschoolers may have to be a bit more diligent in

keeping track of activities and classes chosen as their choices may be more eclectic than

traditional homeschoolers or those who use many state or locally run public school courses

such as those provided by FLVS in Florida.

 

 

Keep a list of:

Course names

Course descriptions

Grades (if given)

Activities such as volunteerism, school band participation, tennis practice

Dates for beginning and end of activities, courses, and the beginning/end of your high school program

Job training program or college entrance requirements for your school or schools of choice

 

Also, be certain I have the following information:

Student name

Student birthdate

School name (such as Lewis Homeschool Program)

Address

Email

Phone number

Contact name (parent/guardian)

Date your transcript must be completed

 

It is acceptable to use courses outside of those used in public schools, but keep in mind your

child’s college and/or job aspirations so you can gear activities and classes, and eventually the

transcript, toward these goals.

Be certain to include sciences, language arts, mathematics, social studies and history, as well

as language if your child is college-bound. Be certain you request transcript writing services as

early as possible. I can always add in current courses in progress or recently finished courses,

but may be back-logged if you wait too long to request your service. Waiting may mean the

difference between sending applications in on time or sending them in late and being wait-

listed or denied college entrance.

     If you have further questions, please contact me via the form on my transcript request page. I look forward to putting my experience to work for you!

Our Trip to Legoland

My family recently visited Legoland-Florida. I know my youngest enjoys Lego blocks and rides. However, I was slightly concerned that my preteen and teen would find less to do than my youngest kiddo.

We were pleasantly surprised! There were a ton of

activities for ALL ages!

Legoland-Florida was decorated for Christmas when we arrived. My kids were delighted to see this tree made of Lego bricks!

Everyone found rides they enjoyed. We ended up going on several rides multiple times. A huge favorite was driving school. Flying school was a close second.

Of course, my oldest enjoys roller coasters, so she became our official guide to make sure she had a chance to ride each coaster during our visit.

Driving school is fun! This popular attraction also has a version for younger kids close by.

Between roller coasters, water rides, driving and boat school options, everyone had a blast!

Children attempting to drive is quite interesting. We have some work to do before anyone takes a real driving test.

To cap off our day of fun, we enjoyed Milo’s Journey which is a STEM class you can choose to pay for and attend. The classes are inside the Imagination Zone which has literally TONS of Lego bricks for your children to use for physics and engineering activities.

What’s even better is that there are several other classes we plan to go back and try out, too!

During our class, the children had a laptop and Lego kit. The instructions for their assignment were on the laptop and easy to access.

During our class, students had the opportunity to build and program a rover!

Each child had access to their own laptop and Lego kit. After the kids programmed their rovers, a race was held!

Our instructor was extremely patient, clear, and helpful. It was so much fun that my kids asked to do it again!

I highly encourage homeschoolers to attend Homeschool Days as the rate is slightly lower if you reserve your tickets and pay in advance. Remember to bring your homeschool ID, which your local support group is likely to have, when you arrive at the park.

For a list of rides, parking information, and class info, check out the Legoland site!

Be sure to check out hours of operation and note that the water park area is open only part of the year. We live close by, so we will visit again when the water park is open (in warmer weather).

If you live far from the area, consider making the trip and staying at the Legoland Hotel or Beach Retreat

Legoland is inclusive. You are encouraged to contact Legoland personnel in advance of your visit to discuss any special needs and how they can be of service to you.

In addition, our STEM class teacher was extremely helpful and read my children’s cues. She was able to determine how much or how little assistance they needed and backed off if help seemed to agitate a student.

I have no doubt that the new STEM classes and teachers are well-equipped to help those with varying exceptionalities.

I highly encourage families, teachers, and homeschoolers to visit Legoland as well as the new STEM classes. There is far more to see, do, and learn about than a single blog post can cover. 

Make sure you check for events as well. The Christmas Bricktacular is just one of many events each year.

My family looks forward to going back again soon. We hope to see you there!