All Posts by Dr. Patricia Porter

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Dr. Patricia Porter is a Learning Skill Assessment Specialist & Speaker. Discover your Child's Learning Needs to Unlock their Full Potential.

Sep 26

5 Essential Rules So Kids Get Their Homework Done On Time and Without Fuss

By Dr. Patricia Porter | Develop learning skills , home page

Homework is a hassle.  Your child does not want to do it and you spend time and effort making sure the homework gets completed on time.  Family life is a mess, you never get time to do what you want to do. Parents complain about homework all the time.  “My child has too much”’ “My child has too little”, “My child never wants to start on time” and so it goes on.

Never let homework create problems between you and your child.   Your relationship with your child is much more important than any homework he or she may have to do!

Following these five basic rules will take the sting out of homework help AND make homework the positive experience it is meant to be.

Rule #1    Whose homework is this?

Teachers set homework for students.  They do not expect, or want, parents to do any of the child’s homework.  I have known some teachers give a mark to a student and another mark to the parent because it has been obvious that the parent has done most of the work!

Yes, I know that you want your child to get a good grade, and I know that you will do whatever you can to make life easier for your child, but doing some or all of their homework for them is not the way to make this happen.

What if someone volunteered to do all your shopping – sounds nice doesn’t it – but when that person is not around and you need to buy something you would not know which shop to go to or where to find what you needed.  You would not have learned how to shop for yourself.

That is what happens when you do your child’s homework for him or her.  You are stopping your child learning and you are preventing your child taking the steps that lead to being an independent learner.

I know you want to help but there are better ways, continue reading to discover what they are.  The first rule you need to remember is that homework is for your child – not you.  Let your child take responsibility for getting homework completed. It is the only way to learn.

Rule #2     Only help when asked to help

Don’t hover.  Let your child get on with doing his or her work without interference from you.  Make sure that your child knows you will be around if he or she needs help but set the expectation that your child will do the work and that you will only help if he or she asks for help.

This might mean that your child’s work is not as good as you want it to be but that is fine. The teacher needs to know what your child can do and what he or she needs help with doing.

And only offer the type of help that your child asks for – remember rule #1 – and do not take over your child’s work no matter how much easier it would be for you to do!

 

Rule #3    Respect your child’s preferred learning style

Children learn in different ways. Some learn best when they are alone, others when they can interact with people around them.  Some like to be shown what to do while others prefer to have things explained to them.  Some need frequent breaks and the ability to move around, some like to listen to music, some need to be near a window!

When you know how your child likes to learn you can make sure that he or she has the right set up to get homework done.  Your child might need a desk in his room, or might prefer to work on the kitchen table.  Does your child need music while working or does she work best when things are quiet?

If you need to discover your child’s learning preferences go to www.Vnaya.com and follow the links to  links to the free Porter Diagnostic Learning Assessment.  It only takes a few minutes and you will get all the information you need.

One more thing – do not assume that your child learns the same way you do.  I have seen Word Smart parents become frustrated and confused when their Picture Smart child didn’t seem to get what they were explaining.  And I have seen Number Smart parents in despair because their child seemed to have no sense of organization or plan to get their work done!

Decide what works best for your child and then adapt the way you help to meet your child’s needs.

Rule #4    Tell the teacher

This is important.  Tell your child’s teacher if homework is taking too much time or too little time.  Tell your child’s teacher if your child finds homework too difficult or too easy.   Tell your child’s teacher if homework is making your child unhappy or stressed.  And tell your child’s teacher why your child has failed to complete homework. Teachers need this information so they can make adjustments to the amount and type of homework they set.

You don’t have to make this a big deal.  Either call and set up a time to talk to the teacher or send a short note an ask for a response of some kind.  Most teachers are willing to talk things over with you if you approach them with the attitude that you are both in this together and you both want to do the best for the child.  If you don’t get any response from the teacher, ask to speak to the Principal.  It takes time, but your child’s future is worth it!

And make sure that your child knows you are going to do this.  You may be surprised by how many homework issues get solved once your child knows that you will do this!

Rule #5   Don’t nag

It is so easy to fall into this trap and it can be quite difficult to get out of it.  When you nag your child to start homework or to get it finished on time you are taking away their responsibility to get their work done.  You may think that you child is not capable of being responsible for getting their homework finished but there is no way they are going to learn this unless you allow them to become responsible.

Use the ‘Two times – and you’re out!’  strategy.    First, remind your child that homework has to be done.   Just one sentence, no more.  Then leave it up to him or her when to start doing the work.  If nothing happens and it looks like homework is not going to get done you can again remind your child that homework needs doing and this time you can add on consequence of not getting it done.  You might say something like, “Just a reminder about your homework and that if you don’t get it done you won’t get the grades you need”.  No judgement, just facts.

Then say nothing more.  It is your child’s responsibility to get to work now, not your responsibility to remind him or her.  He or she has to take the consequences of their action, or lack of action.  Don’t say another word!    Never ever say “I told you so” or anything like that.  Never comment on what your child is doing or not doing.  Do not nag!

It is hard to do this at first. It might take several tries before your child accepts that the responsibility is his.  There might be push back.  Trust me, persevere and in a few days or a week things will get much better.

Five rules.  Five ways of doing things that will take the sting out of homework AND help your child learn more.  Try them and then let me know how they are working for you – and your child.

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Sep 12

The Ultimate Guide to a Successful ‘Meet the Teacher’ Experience.

By Dr. Patricia Porter | home page , Parent Power , Work with the school

OK, so you have survived the first week of back to school now it is time to make the ‘Meet the Teacher’ meeting a success.

This meeting is normal set up during the first few weeks of the school year and, as the name suggests, it is a time for you to meet the person your child will be working with during the following 40 weeks or so.

It is an important meeting.   But it is easy to get wrong.  It is easy to come away from the meeting wondering what it was all about, why you were there, and what good it did you or your child.

And that is a shame, because, properly handled, this meeting helps set up your relationship with your child’s teacher and provides you with an understanding of what your child will be doing during the year.  So here is my guide to making the most of the ‘Meet the Teacher’ event that your school will be having.

 

 Notice the title – it is MEET the teacher, not GRILL the teacher!

You are there to get to know each other, to put names to faces, to look at the classroom and to get a feel for the kind of situation your child will be in.

You are not there to ask detailed questions about child’s learning or about what work your child should be doing at home, you are there to lay the groundwork to an important relationship – the relationship between home and school.

Put a face to a name.

You would be surprised at how difficult it can be for a teacher to match a child to a parent.  You might think that your child looks exactly like you but the teacher might not see the resemblance.  I have known – and I have been guilty of doing this myself – teachers go through a whole parent meeting and have no idea which child they are talking about.  This is especially true in High School where teachers meet hundreds of students and can find it very difficult to put a face to a name.

Take a recent photograph of your child with you when you go to this meeting.  Hold it in your hand as you talk to the teacher.  That way you can be sure that she is talking about YOUR child!

Be on time

I know, this can be difficult but teachers have many parents to talk to and won’t be able to wait if you are not there when you are expected to be there.  If you can’t make it, phone the school and leave a message.  You may even ask for another time to meet the teacher.

Ask about expectations around homework.

This is a biggie and getting this information can save you a whole lot of heartache later in the year.  Does the teacher give homework? How much homework does she expect a child to do each night? What kind of homework will your child be getting?  If your child is expected to do project work how are you exceed to help?  What happens if homework is not handed in on time?  Will homework grades count for the final grades? and, most importantly, Can you contact the teacher if you have concerns about your child and homework?

This leads into the next item on your agenda…

Confirm contact details.

The school office will have details of your address and phone number but you might also want the teacher to let you know if your child is having difficulty in class.  Tell the teacher that you would be happy to have this information and give her your phone number or another way she can contact you.

By doing this you have opened the door to the communication process and invited the teacher to step in and help you help your child.

If these details change make sure the teacher knows about the changes.

Ask what your commitment to your child’s education should be.

Does the teacher want you to help with homework? Check homework? Report problems? Provide extra support? or is he happy to let you decide what to do?   Perhaps you are expected to read with your child every night, or help him or her learn spellings for a test, or provide materials for project work.  You need to know.

Let the teacher know what you think her commitment should be.

Ask her to keep you informed about your child’s progress.  Report cards are not the best way to make this happen – perhaps she sends out monthly newsletters?  Remind the teacher that you will always be happy yo hear from her and that if there are any problems in class you want to be the first to know about them.

Then say ‘Thanks, nice to meet you!” and leave.

 

This is a lot to get through in the few minutes you will have to meet your child’s new teacher but if you approach these meetings with an agenda in mind you will get the information you need and the teacher will be grateful that you are using the time well.

Teachers can be scary but we are not all the ‘creatures’ some of you think we are!

 

It's that time again!
Aug 22

The Truth About Back to School

By Dr. Patricia Porter | home page , Parent Power , Work with the school

It’s that time again and you are probably being bombarded with advice about how to prepare for the big day.  Most of the advice is good – so I don’t need to repeat it here – but, just for a moment let us go beyond all the information and advice and take a look at ‘Back to School’ from different perspectives.

  1. Back to School – Teachers

Your child’s first day of school is the last day of a teacher’s preparation for the new school year.  Most teachers have been in school for a week already, getting books prepared, sorting out files, having meeting, making sure resources are in place and working out how to fit students into the right class.

For Vice Principal the time has been even more hectic.  They have the responsibility of working out the timetabling for the whole school.  No easy job.  So the first day of Back to School for your child is something of a relief for teachers.  Preparations are complete and the year can begin.

Teachers are ready.

2.  Back to School – Students

Most students are very happy to be back in school.  They may complain and they may be nervous about the upcoming school year but like the rhythm and regularity of the school days.  They look forward to seeing new friends and reconnecting with old ones.  But Back to School time is also a time of great uncertainty.  What will the new teacher be like? Will I be able to do the work? What if I hate my new classroom?  What homework will I get and will I be able to do it? – all questions that are in the back of your child’s mind right now. Even the coolest kid harbours some trepidation about the new school year.

Students are nervous.

3. Back to School – Parents

So where do you fit into this picture?  You have probably been busy rushing round getting last minute supplies, being hassled by your child for the latest gear that he  cannot live without and been getting ready for the new routine that the school year brings.  All busy work.

But deep in your heart you are worried about the new school year.  Will he pass or fail?  Will she be happy or miserable?  Will the teacher understand your child’s needs?  Will your child make the right friends? and What can you do to make this year the best ever for your child?

Parents are worried.

The truth, the whole truth, about Back to School is that however much teachers prepare, however much students question, and however much you worry none of it really matters in the end.

Preparation is necessary but not sufficient.

After the first week or two all the teacher preparation will have changed, the student questions will have been answered BUT  your worries will not have gone away.

The only way to avoid worrying about your child’s success is know what you can do to ensure that it happens.  You need answers to your questions.  You need to know who to ask and how to ask them.

The truth about Back to School is that only you can ensure your child has a good year. Only you have the power to make good things happen for your child.

Scary, but as my mother said “It’s easy when you know how”.

back to School preparation is not enough. If you want your child to have a great year you need to know how to provide support that makes a difference.

 

Aug 15

Ready for school?: 5 ways you can ensure your child’s success.

By Dr. Patricia Porter | home page , Make School Make Sense

So, are you ready?  Is your child ready for the new school year?  Oh, I am not asking about new clothes or  school supplies or having a few last days of family fun. I am asking about something much more important than those back to school preparations, I am asking if you are ready to make the next school year the best your child has ever had.  I am asking if you are ready to help your child enjoy learning, reach his or her full learning potential and get great grades.

So, are you ready to help your child have a year full of success and happiness?

Let’s be honest.  Most parents don’t even understand what I am asking.  Why should they be the ones responsible for their child’s success?  Surely that is the job of the teacher?

Yes, teachers have to do a good job of teaching your child but research states that up to 80% of your child’s success in school depends on you – on how you support your child at home!  And providing back to school support goes way beyond buying school supplies and new clothes.

Here are four ways you can guarantee your child has a wonderful school year.

  1. Set high expectations.

Parent’s expectations are the main indicator of school success.  Having high expectations doesn’t mean that you have to expect your child to get A’s on every assignment. here is what you need to expect –

That your child will do his best and that the school will provide all the help your child needs.

You may be disappointed at times.  Your child may not always do his or her best work and the school may not provide all your child needs.  But if you start off the year with these expectations you will be ready to act when things go wrong.

2.  Make sure your child knows how to learn.

Too often teachers, and parents, expect children to learn when they don’t have the skills they need to be able to learn.  Kids struggle to do the best they can but learning becomes hard work and many children call it quits.  They start to think that they are stupid and begin to lose confidence in their abilities. If you are concerned that your bright child is lazy or just not trying it may be because he doesn’t have the skills that allow him to learn.

3.  Work with the school.

You don’t have to volunteer to help with every school outing but you do need to keep in touch with your child’s teacher so that you know what is happening in class and what the expectations are around your child’s learning. (There is that word – expectations – again!).

Then, if things are not going well, if you think your child is not learning what he is expected to learn, you can inform the teacher and ask for extra help for your child.  Teachers want all children to do well but it can be difficult to keep track of every student.

5.   Provide extra support when your child needs it.

Schools can’t do it all!  Sometimes students need extra support that the school cannot provide.  If your child needs extra support to master a subject or just to catch up on missed lessons you may need to hire a tutor.  The key to hiring the best tutor for your child is to find one that teaches the way your child likes to learn.  When you know how your child likes to learn you can hire a tutor that is going to help your child learn quickly and easily.  You save money and your child feels good about learning.

So, are you ready?  Do you expect your child to do well, know that he has the skills he needs to learn, are prepared to work with the school and to provide extra support the necessary?  If you answered ‘yes’ to all these then I congratulate you – you are ready to give your child the best year of his school life.  If you weren’t able to answer ‘yes’ to them all then you have some work to do.  You have to discover more about how your child learns and how you can provide support that works.

If you want to be able to say ‘yes’ to being ready for the new school year I am ready to give you any help and advice you may need.  Schedule a call and we can talk!

 

 

 

Jul 26

Stress and students:What Every Parent Should Know

By Dr. Patricia Porter | Develop learning skills , home page

One third of students in a long term research study were found to have moderate to severe symptoms of stress.  Signs of stress included feeling worthless, being nervous, thinking things were hopeless, and being so depressed that nothing could cheer them up.  Older students were also worried about student debt and the job market.

One third! And the number is rising!  This is a big problem.

Stress has long term consequences on a student’s ability to learn and may even effect his or her health and well being. Stressed out and unhappy students can withdraw and this causes difficulty with family relationships.

It is too easy to say kids are stressed because the list of things he or she is expected to do and to learn keeps on growing.  The real reason is not about what others expect but that students not  not have the skills to solve the problems that are causing the stress. We need to prepare children by giving them the skills they need to cope with the challenges they are facing.

Who can do this? Schools try but they have limits to what they can achieve. Parents must help.  Parents are the ones who can ensure children develop the self confidence and self esteem to know they can handle challenges, to see failures as learning opportunities, and to maintain a good attitude about the future and ward off depression. These are some of the basic skills that all children need.

The problem is no one is helping parents help children develop these skills. Parents are left on their own, trying to do the best they can.  I know, I have work with many parents who are desperate to know what they can do to support their child’s situation.

Before we start to condemn students for spending too much time on social media, teachers for expecting students to do too much, and parents from neglecting to provide children with the support they need we should provide parents with the ways and means of stress proofing children.

Only then will students have the skills they need to handle the challenges that face them on a daily basis.

 

Jul 06

The One Catastrophic Mistake Parents Make When Helping Children Learn And How To Avoid It.

By Dr. Patricia Porter | Develop learning skills , Parent Power

I hate when this happens.  And it happens often.  What am I talking about? Parents doing their best to help their child succeed in school yet making the one catastrophic mistake that makes all their effort useless.

It goes something like this.  Child comes home with homework that he struggles to complete.  Parent rushes to help by telling child how to do the work.  Child looks confused and says ‘That is not the way my teacher told me!’  Parent frustrated because her help is rejected.  Everyone is upset.  No one knows why.

The big catastrophic mistake parents make is to assume that the best way they can help their child is by giving them ‘more school’, is by taking over the role of the child’s classroom teacher by trying to teach their child what he or she should have learned in the class.

Let’s be clear – parents have a vital role to play in helping children learn but their role is very different from that of the teacher.  Parents don’t need to give their child ‘more school’ they need to support their child in the way that only a parent can.  And if they don’t do this their child misses out and will never reach his to her potential.

How do parents avoid doing this?  Until now it has been almost impossible to avoid taking on the role of the teacher because no one as telling you what else you should be doing.

But that has changed.  Research states that what you do with your child AT HOME DURING REGULAR FAMILY ACTIVITIES is much more important to a child’s success than when you give your child ‘more school’.

Your role is to set the scene for learning, to make sure that your child is ready to learn, to ensure that your child can benefit from what the teacher is teaching.

When you get your child ready to learn and teachers teach your child what he has to learn your child is getting the support you are guaranteeing the your child is on the way to the future you both have dreamed of.

 

Jun 26

Why Report Cards Are Like Mexican Traffic Lights

By Dr. Patricia Porter | Make School Make Sense

It is report card time here in North America.  Students are wondering about the grades they will get and maybe dreading what you will say to them when you see them.  But before you take your chid’s report card too seriously there is something you should know.

There are many different kinds of report cards. Many use letter grades, others use comments, some use both. Although there are many differences between them the share one enormous similarity.

All report cards are like Mexican traffic lights!

If you are Mexican please forgive me for what I am  about to write – even though it was  Mexican friend who told me this.   Mexican traffic lights are ‘advisory’.  Drivers take them as an indication that they should stop or to slow down.  If you have ever driven in Mexico City you will know what I am talking about.   The traffic moves quickly and you can never be sure that cars will stop for red lights.

So how are report cards like Mexican Traffic lights?

All report cards are advisory.  They are not set in stone.  The grades you see are merely advice about how well your child is doing in a subject.

There is no consistency between the grades your child is given.  One teacher might give a child an A where another teacher would give a B or even a C.  That is why when your child changes teachers his or her grades may suddenly go up or go down. Not because your child has worked harder or not done the work but because what one teacher considers A work another teacher considers it a B.

So how do teachers decide what grade a child will get?  That depends on the teacher.  Some teachers go by test results, some go by homework scores, others assess project work.  But few teachers only use the marks a student gets during the year.  Most teachers mix in thoughts about the student’s attitude to learning, the amount of effort he or she has put into their work, the progress they have made since the last report card.

Is this fair? No, but it is the way it is.  That is why you MUST remember that report cards are advisory only.

When you look at your child’s report card think about Mexican traffic lights!

 

Jun 21

Is your child getting enough sleep? Are you sure?

By Dr. Patricia Porter | Parent Power

Most children do not get enough sleep – and that impacts their ability to learn.

Sleep is when your brain gets rid of all the detritus of the day, when your brain cleans itself, stores important memories, and gets ready for new information.  If a child’s brain does not have time to do all this – and more – that brain will not be functioning well the next day.

And that means less learning!

So how much sleep does your child need?  New research states that –

  • 3 – 5 year olds need 12 hours sleep each night
  • 6 – 8 year olds need between 10 and 12 hours
  • 8 – 12 year olds need 10 hours
  • 12 – 16 year olds need 9 – 10 hours sleep

That is a lot of sleep!

Young children need a good nighttime routine so that they go to bed with little fuss.  Older children may find it more difficult to get to bed at a reasonable hour.  Their sleep pattern changes.  Teenagers tend to need to sleep longer in the morning – that is why it is hard for them to wake up in time for school.  We torture our teenage kids by making them start school at 9a.m.

And late night screen time doesn’t help either.  Video games stimulate brains and stimulated brains don’t get chance to rest and clean themselves unready for the next day. The research says that even one night’s disruption to sleep can cause brain problems for several days.  That means less learning for several days!

So is your child getting enough sleep?   Are you making sure your child is ready to learn?

 

 

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