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Catching learning differences early: Why it matters

Have you ever thought that your child is struggling to learn the way that he/she is being taught?  Or, have you ever felt that no matter how much you review something with your child they just don’t seem to retain the information?  Observations such as these may be indicative of either their particular learning style or possibly a learning disability. Children learn in different ways and the one size fits all models that occur in traditional classrooms may not be beneficial for all children. There are three primary types of learning: visual, auditory, and tactile. Some children will have overlap…



Improving Study Skills

Do these phrases sound familiar? “I forgot my book at school.”“I did my homework, but I can’t find it.”“I didn’t know we had a quiz/test today.”“It takes forever for me to do my homework.” Study Skills seems to be quite the buzz phrase lately. Is there too much hype surrounding “study skills”? Absolutely not! Study skills can make or break a student’s success in the classroom and at home. We have repeatedly seen students increase knowledge, which improves grades, when applying sound study skills strategies.  The best news is that using proven study skills is easily done.  At the Learning…



Preparing for college – and entrance exams!

One of the most common questions we hear is: “When should my child start planning for college and preparing for the ACT and SAT?" The short answer is that he or she has been doing that since entering first grade. It began with learning how to read and then learning simple math. Year after year, the reading became more advanced; same with the math, and then science was added. And as each bit of information becomes a larger “byte” of knowledge, students inch progressively closer to college. Preparing for the ACT or SAT is not a sprint. It is instead…



Benefits of a 1:1 Classroom

Providing individualized learning in a 1:1 student-teacher ratio is hardly a new idea, but this type of school model is changing quickly as our worldview concerning education evolves. Though it is an overused phrase, “teaching to the middle” of a group of students with widely varying ability levels (which is true of any classroom) has been proven to be quite ineffective for most children. Fast-paced learners often grow complacent or inattentive, while students needing more individualized consideration can be left feeling overwhelmed or discouraged. These are often the students who will “act out” or engage in problematic behaviors. It is…



The Summer Learning Advantage

When school doors close at the end of the year, most kids (and families) never look back. Summer is finally here. A break from teachers, grades, tests and from the overall anxiety that school causes some children. However, just because school shuts its doors for two months, doesn’t mean that learning doesn’t, or shouldn’t, happen. Summer school traditionally carries a negative connotation. For many students, it feels like a punishment and imposes a stigma that the only students subjected to summer school were those who truly failed the previous year. But in reality we need to erase the idea that…



Reinforcement: One Key Tool In Managing Behavior

My ongoing contributions to this page will be based around both a conceptual and practical understanding of behavior and how it is shaped, reinforced, and punished. We will utilize one "pretend" scenario, dissect it, analyze it, and look at the kinds of errors we may make in situations like this and the tools we have to deal with those successfully as well. Behavior, in short, is shaped by reinforcement and punishment. That statement may feel overly simplistic, but it is imperative, in that if we are to understand how to actually affect, change, manipulate others’ behavior(s) (and our own), we…



What Is IQ and Why Is It Important?

The first time you probably hear about your child's IQ is when there is some question about their abilities in school, whether it's above or below expectations. This often misunderstood concept is foreign to most people, perhaps with the exception of those quick tests that they offer online. You know the ones to which I refer. But, IQ in relation to what it means for assessment, academics, and even expectations, merits serious attention. IQ stands for intelligence quotient and in the most basic of terms it is defined as: A measure of the intelligence of an individual derived from results…



Metacognition and the Reading-Writing Connection

There are many different ways children learn. And there are many different strategies teachers will model in a classroom to help students learn. An effective strategy for helping children understand what they are reading and connect or build new connections with material is through using the “reading-writing connection” (Richardson, Morgan, Fleener, 2009). “Students need to write about what they are going to read about -- and after that reading use writing again as a culminating activity to clarify what was read (Richard, et al). This is a well tested and very effective way to help students connect on a deeper…



Practical Ideas for Launching a Smooth New School Year

Yes, it’s still June! However, before we know it, it will be time for back-to-school shopping, cooler temperatures, and the promise of a brand-new school year for your child. Though it’s usually exciting, any new and uncharted territory can produce uncertainty and even anxiety in children and teens. The summer break is usually just enough time to get very comfortable with more relaxed schedules, flexible meal routines, and a slower pace for most days. Then, the start of a new school year seems to come out of nowhere! Here are some helpful tips for things you can do now before…



What Role Does Confidence Play in Academic Success?

How long would you work at a job that you were unable to perform well? Not only would you not be successful at completing the tasks assigned, but also, in order to do anything somewhat successfully, you would take much longer than the other employees. To make matters worse, add the fact that you are not interested in this job either. And, on top of it all, everyone else knows you are the least capable employee. How long would it take you to quit that job and search for something else? A few months? Perhaps a year? Imagine that you…



Non-traditional Learning: The new trend in educating your child

Families today have more options than ever when it comes to education. Public schools, private schools, online schools, charter schools, home schooling: the number of choices can be overwhelming. Over the last several years, non-traditional education such as online learning, one-on-one or small group learning, independent study, and blended learning, which might feature a combination of all three, has become an increasingly popular choice for many families for a variety of reasons. The number of K-12 students who have taken at least one course online has more than doubled from 2009 to 2013 (http://educationbythenumbers.org/content/k-12-online-education-grows_621/), and homeschooling is the fastest growing…



The Impact of Punishment on Behavior

In a previous post, we examined the concept of reinforcement, with a focus on the fact that something is only reinforcing if it increases the likelihood of future occurrences of a behavior. The counterpart to reinforcement is punishment. The term “punishment” is often misused by most of us. This error occurs when we make assumptions about what is “punishing”. If I were to ask you to list a number of punishers, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear examples such as “losing privileges”, “grounding”, “time-out”, “spanking”. In reality none of these are actually punishing all the time. They have the potential,…



Why Assessment is Important…And Why You Shouldn’t Wait

School has started, and you are already seeing your child struggle. This can be a difficult time as they adjust to the school demands of a new year, but this could also be a long term struggle that you have been watching year after year, semester after semester. You may think: why is this so hard for them, why can’t it just be easy like it is for ____? You may think this is the way it is always going to be and that your child just doesn’t like school, or they aren’t a school “type” of child. What you…



Back to School Tutoring Help? Better to Start Early

Preparing for the beginning of school takes weeks! There are new school clothes, shoes, uniforms, supplies, back to school events, orientation and school sports to name a few. Amidst this busyness we can sometimes forget the most important part of school “learning”. Making sure your child is not only prepared academically for school but also succeeds throughout the school year is the goal for all parents and educators. Don’t wait for the first report card to assess your child’s progress, be proactive. Seek a tutor if you see the following: Your child is taking a difficult class and is anxious.…



Your Guide to a Parent-Teacher Conference

We are quickly approaching the season for fall parent-teacher conferences! This is typically a brief meeting that yields important information to guide the rest of the school year at home and at school. It is a rare event for teachers, parents, administrators, AND students to be sitting all in the same room at the same time--be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to learn from each other. Each member of your child's educational team will have unique input to share, and so will you! Here are some simple tips for parents before, during, and after your child's parent-teacher conference:…



How to Help the Unorganized Writer

We often hear teachers and parents asking about students who can clearly express their thoughts in words, but have a difficulty translating them to the written word. These students can verbally answer a question, but when they write their thoughts down, it is not cohesive, and the point is lost in the rambling. Where is the “disconnect?” In general, this type of student has good ideas, but they are just unorganized. When having a conversation, ideas can flow a little better than when they need to be put on paper. Going immediately from talking about something to a blank page…



Giving Power to Parents

Earlier in my career, I spent the majority of my time working directly with children who had severe behavioral issues. I had access to these children for many hours throughout the week either in the home or at a school-based center. Because of this direct access, I was able to make significant changes to unwanted behavior, but what I found was that as soon as the child was no longer with me and returned to the home environment, the behaviors would most likely return. This is why “parent-training” is so important. Parents are typically those who spend the most time…



Improving Handwriting and Communication Ability with Occupational Therapy

Well known conditions requiring occupational therapy treatments include autism, ADD, ADHD, sensory processing disorders and other physical disabilities. However, Occupational therapists may also enhance a child’s school performance and communication ability by focusing on handwriting skills. Handwriting is a multifaceted process that requires good body posture and simultaneous coordination of the eyes, arms, and hands. A mature pencil grip is also important in facilitating letter formation. Without this imperative development, a child’s written work may be hindering their learning. Occupational therapists evaluate the underlying aspects that support a student’s handwriting. Common reasons for poor handwriting include: Decreased coordinationDecreased muscle strengthDecreased…



ADHD and Giftedness?

We receive more questions about and requests for assessments for ADHD than for any other issue. Often, our assessments reveal that the child is, in fact, not ADHD but is gifted -- or is both ADHD and gifted. I cannot stress enough the importance of a formal assessment to determine the true cause of what might be happening academically, as self-report rating scales and collateral report rating scales do not give the full picture of the individual. ADHD and giftedness may look alike in the following ways: Daydreaming and little attention unless very interesteLow tolerance for tasks that seem irrelevantHigh…



How to Get Started with Homeschooling

We often meet with families who have decided to homeschool for various reasons but don’t know where to begin. After attending traditional school, figuring out how to homeschool can be a daunting task. Here is some basic information on how to get started. 1. Enroll with a homeschool umbrella.Just because you have decided to homeschool doesn’t mean you can just get going. Some other entity must be formally responsible for keeping your student’s educational records and submitting your enrollment to the district for which you are zoned. In Tennessee, your student can be registered as a homeschooling student directly with…



Preparing for Exams – Study Tips that Work!

Final Exams can often bring stress to students and their families. Students may need extra help to prepare for this sometimes overwhelming event, so secure your tutor early. Having a tutor will not only allow your child to have that extra academic support but it also allows the parent to participate in a more supportive role rather than a “teacher” role. Below are some tips which may make this process more successful. Turn off your Phone and go to a place free of distractions to study. Give yourself enough time to study fully for the exam.  Starting the night before…



Creating Clear Expectations

A theme that comes up time and again working directly with students and also when working with their parents, is “creating clear expectations.” In simplest terms, this refers to the idea of being extremely clear with the child/student in relation to what is expected of them (both in the desired behavior and/or the problematic behavior). For example, consider the following scenario demonstrating the type of language we all unknowingly use with our students/children from time to time: A six-year-old boy is with his mother in a grocery store. They have been shopping for about 30 minutes and he is growing…



Understanding the New SAT

If you have a child who is currently a high school student, you may be aware that the SAT test has recently been overhauled. Because the ACT and SAT are such high-stakes tests -- a high score can not only secure a student a spot at their college of choice, but can also lead to more scholarship offers -- they can create a lot of anxiety for high school students and their families. So major changes to one of these tests can understandably increase the anxiety. What are the main changes to the SAT, and what do these changes mean…



Applying to a private school? It’s all about the ISEE

Some families are surprised to discover that applying to private schools can be just as stressful and time-consuming as applying to college. Similar to applying to college, the private school application process may require recommendation letters, transcripts, interviews, resumes of extracurricular activities, essays, and, of course, standardized testing. If your child will be applying for admission to a private school, there's a good chance he or she will have to take the ISEE, or Independent School Entrance Exam. The test is given to students applying to grades 5-12, so students in grades 4-11 may also be required to take the…



Planning Your Homeschooling Curriculum

Now that you have decided to homeschool, you have the daunting task of planning how to get it all done. Below is some basic information about how to plan your year of schooling. How do I know what classes my child needs? This will depend on where your child enrolls. Ultimately, whoever is the keeper of your child's grades and transcript will determine the classes your child needs in order to advance to the next grade level. These requirements vary, and some umbrellas are more flexible than others. In high school, a good guide to follow is the state's graduation…



Managing the Parent-Child Behavioral Relationship

Over the course of my career, I have worked with children who have a wide variety of needs. Some are profoundly affected by some form of a specific disability, while others are considered “typically developing,” but in need of some behavioral support/guidance. With many of those children, both typically developing and those affected by a disability, there may be one or more relationships in their lives in which we see a significantly higher occurrence of problematic behavior. Such relationships may be with a parent, a teacher, or with a sibling. If there is an existing pattern of problematic behavior with…



Tips for a Successful School Year

School changes all of our schedules, routines and social life. Planning ahead and putting together a routine will help create a successful school year for your child. Here are some tips to help start this school year successfully. Have a designated area that is conducive for doing homework. Preferably, a place free of distractions and noise.  A bedroom may not be the best place for studying, especially if your child is easily distracted.   Establish a rule that no TV or electronics are allowed during study time unless they are used for homework; this includes particularly radio, iPod, smartphones, Supervise…



Setting up the Home Command Center

How many mornings are you running around, looking for shoes, homework folders, that paper that was supposed to be signed so your child could attend the field trip at the end of the week? How often are you fumbling around, running late, nagging and fussing just to get out of the door to get to school? I don’t think there is a single parent that does not know this scenario, and for some this is a daily occurrence. The end result: frustration, anger, tears, and someone having to run to school later in the day for that forgotten item. I…



When Getting TO School is Hard! (School Refusal)

It seems impossible, but the new school year is starting to get old already! The shiny new lunchbox is a bit scuffed, the fresh Crayola tips are worn down, and the shine of optimism is already waning in the new school year. Now it’s down to the real “work” of school. Some of us are energized and excited by the a new school year. It’s a time for fresh beginnings, rekindled friendships, and academic adventures! However, some children and teens are already experiencing an emotional and motivational letdown after the early “honeymoon” (usually August or September). Now is the time…



Preparing for the ISEE

Believe it or not, ISEE season is upon us! If your child will be taking the ISEE, or Independence School Entrance Exam, for admission to a private school, now is the time to choose a testing date and start preparing for the test! The August-November testing window is already underway, and the traditional December-March testing window will be here before you know it! One of the best ways to prepare is to have your child take a practice test. You can purchase ISEE practice books that have practice tests in them and administer a test at home. Because the scoring…



Is Online Schooling a Good Fit for Your Child?

Online school options have become increasingly popular for families who need a nontraditional schooling route, whether due to scheduling reasons, health reasons, or just a need for greater flexibility. Online school programs can also be used to support a homeschool curriculum. When deciding if online school is a good fit for your child, consider what role you want to play in your child’s schooling. Online school is made for independent learners, but it generally requires the parent to be somewhat hands-on and, at the very least, to determine whether the student is progressing. Online school does not necessarily mean that…



Homework Help—How much help is just right?

A few summers back, my small daughter was perched next to me on the edge of the neighborhood pool. She was waiting not-so-patiently for the endless sunscreen ritual to be over and watching the teenage lifeguard settle into her chair after a break. Just out of curiosity, I asked her, “Do you know what the lifeguard is here for?” My daugher: (giant, dramatic sigh and her best sad/Eeyore voice) “Yes, of course I know...they’re here to stop all the kids from having fun.” When the word “homework” is uttered at school, regardless of grade level, our students often see it…



True Behavior Modification is a Slow Process

When addressing a behavior for the purpose of creating a change (e.g., increase, decrease, elimination), it’s important to understand that often “true” behavior change can be very slow. For our purposes, the phrase “true behavior change,” refers to adopting a behavior pattern that is no longer reliant on “unnatural” external motivation (e.g., prizes, punishment) and lasts for extended period of time. As an example, if I want my student, Johnny, to stop interrupting in class, I can offer him a prize (e.g., candy) if he refrains from interrupting for one whole class session. Johnny may be successful that session, but…



Learning Lab Wins Best Tutoring Center in Nashville & Williamson Parent Magazine

Learning Lab is proud to have been voted best tutoring center in both Nashville and Williamson counties for the second year in a row by readers of Nashville Parenting and Williamson Parenting magazines. While our staff is proud of the results that we help our students to achieve every day, it is always gratifying to know that we provide a great learning environment in which students can excel. The professional educators at the Learning Lab extend hearty thanks to all our students and their families for supporting us with their votes again this year, and for allowing us to fill…



Juggling Your After School Schedule

These days, it can feel like our children have busier schedules than we do! There are more extracurricular options for kids than ever before, which can be both a blessing and a curse. Between school, sports, music lessons, art lessons, play practice, and tutoring, you can start to feel like a full-time chauffeur. Throw another kid or two in the mix, and utter chaos can ensue! How can you fit it all in without stressing out the entire family? Here are a few tips: 1) Prioritize -- This may be easier said than done, but sometimes families need to limit activities…



Blended Learning: The nexus of education and technology

What is it? Blended Learning is a more recent term that has started to be used in education. As defined by Clifford Maxwell on BlendedLearning.org: “...Blended Learning is any formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace. Critical to the definition is ‘online learning, with some element of student control.’ In all blended-learning programs, students do some of their learning via the Internet. This does not mean using any digital tool, such as an online graphing calculator or Google Docs.” Blended…



Helping Your Child Define Goals and Success

In my experience working with families who have children with behavioral and social needs, one particular issue seems to differ greatly from family to family: how to define our goals and ultimately, our "success" in attaining those. Determining goals and success in academia seems much simpler. If a student is learning about photosynthesis, the goal would be learning the actual scientific process and success as determined by a simple test or quiz that demonstrates the student has “learned” the skill. This process is very different for problematic behavior and social skills, especially in our day-to-day lives outside of a clinical…



Is My Child Kindergarten Ready?

If you have a child who will be entering Kindergarten in the fall, it is a good time to be thinking about how to prepare for the transition. There are two categories regarding preparedness: how your child will handle the academic piece of school and how they will handle everything else (group settings, being independent, etc.). All schools are going to have different expectations in their curriculum, but here are some basics to consider. Academics Beginning math, reading, and writing skills will be very important. Students should enter knowing basic counting skills. Rote counting (counting out loud) and counting with…



The ACT Writing Test

If you have a child in high school, you may be aware that the SAT was completely revamped last year. What you might not know, however, is that the ACT has also made some changes. For the most part these changes are minor, and they have not been publicized to the same extent as the changes to the SAT. The single biggest change is to the optional writing section of the ACT, which, like the SAT, has been overhauled from the ground up. Being aware of these changes can help you give the best possible guidance to your high school…



What an Amazing experience! Learning Lab has boosted my son's confidence in math and science more than I could have ever imagined.

Cathie C.
Nashville Mom

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