Preparing Kids with Special Needs for Back-to-School Transitions

Back to School Some kids have a greater difficulty with “transitions” than others.  If your child is one who might have a stressful transition from Summer-to-School schedules, you might want to take a few tips offered by Karen Plumley:

  1. Jump the gun a little–Practice new School Routines before school actually starts.
  2. Establish a pattern of “quiet time” so that you begin to suggest a Consistent Homework Schedule
  3. Prepare an emergency phone numbers & contact info list that can go with your returning student.
  4. Make that first day back to school as stress-free as possible by having everything ready the night before.

To read Karen’s entire article, please visit: Back To School Planning for Special Needs Kids And, for more tips, notions and fun ideas for keeping kids busy, visit her blog at Daily Activities for Kids.


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I’ve been gone a while—I’m Ba-a-a-ack!

Life sometimes surely gets in the way, doesn't it!  It's been 6 months since my last post and there is so much to catch up on.  So, given a flimsy excuse, you can expect more posts in the near future.

Just in time for school to start again, the Homework Coach (me) is getting back up to speed with ideas, tips, links and a bunch of good resources to assure a smooth transition from summer freedom to the confines of the school regimen. 

While you're here, you might just breeze through some of my past posts.  You'll find good info you might have forgotten (if you're like me and "life" sometimes gets in the way). 

Enjoy what remains of summer…See ya soon…Judy A. (The Homework Coach)

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“Little Women” for Big and Little Girls

Little When was the last time you read "Little Women"?  Have you seen the movie?  I just watched it for the first time (the one with Winona Ryder) this last weekend and I'm thinkin' it might be a really good movie to share with pre-teen and teenage daughters.  (OK, die hard literary folks might want their daughters to read it…but reading can be such a solitary process and watching a movie together has social benefits).


 Now before you begin saying "they'll never watch THAT!", think about what they might learn if they did.  The following messages are loud and clear:

  1. family matters–especially when times are tough
  2. the relationship between the sisters back then isn't very different from the conflicts between modern siblings
  3. the attitudes of teenagers (then & now) are just as "independent" and "testy"
  4. different "little women" have different criteria for choosing a boyfriend, husband or life partner
  5. staying true to your dream is important for a "happily ever after"
  6. smart girls are "cool"

So how do you encourage your daughters to watch this movie with you?  Bribe 'em?  Perhaps.  Depending upon the age of your girls, you may need to dangle a little carrot.  Some younger girls may just enjoy exclusive Mom/daughter time.  But others may need a small incentive the first time you want to watch an "old" movie with them.  You may consider an "if you watch with me then I'll ____".  You might choose to watch a movie of their choice AFTER they watch "Little Women" with you.  You might promise a trip to the Mall AFTER they watch "Little Women" with you.  Some girls may even respond to a "treat" closer to home….an opportunity to talk with Mom where they get to do the talking. 


Many kids think that movies are just for entertainment.  And many are!  But if you choose to focus upon a few nuggets in almost any movie, you may find at least one or two messages that can stimulate an important discussion with your children.  When the movie is over you can explore what happened during the movie (the plot or events within the story)…or how the characters responded to challenges…or imagine what you would have done?  

The more personal you make it, the greater value the experience will be. Don't frame the movie experience as "education" or ask them "what did you learn?"  Instead, ask questions that allow your children to share their ideas and attitudes without interruption or criticism.  And be on guard to "zip your lip" if you are tempted to tell them what they should have learned or taken away from the movie. 

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Who’s Who in Your Family “Zoo”?

Animals_hanging_around_zoo_sign_lg_clr Every individual person in every family has a unique combination of skills, aptitudes and interests.  And, in case you hadn't noticed, some of us are better than others at certain tasks.  Some kids understand math easier than others; some kids are more verbal; some are more interpersonal; some are more musically inclined, etc.  Since children are watching us and learning from us; it is important that we value their natural talents that may be different from our own.

Very often we're evaluating our kids by looking at their deficits–where do they fall short?  Here's a way to discover strengths, instead:    Family has a nifty 8 check-list "quiz" to identify your child's natural talents–with no right or wrong answers.  Instead, when the answers are totaled and combined, your unique child's talents become clear. 

This Multiple Intelligence Identification tool uses your observations and understanding of your children –you answer the questions, not them.  So it makes sense to be as accurate and truthful as possible.

Then, after you've learned about them, it might be a useful notion to take the "test" for yourself.  You'll find out more about YOU.  It's possible you'll discover why you sometimes have a hard time understand your child and his/her world-view.  You may also have an "ah-ha" moment that will help you support your child to be come the best he/she can be.

It just takes a few minutes….check out Multiple Intelligences "Quiz"  You might enjoy their newsletter, too.  So browse the rest of their website and sign up–it's free.

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If Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,
what’s a frustrated parent to do???

Katie Couric (on CBS) recently reminded us that sugary cereals are a real problem for many children.    And, since kids want sugary cereals, parents have to take charge….Sure!   Check out Katie's video article below–




Watch CBS News Videos OnlineP>


So, now what?  What can you do to change the cereal for breakfast habit?

  1. Read the labels of your kids' favorite cereals…choose ones they like but have the least amount of sugar.
  2. Know that manufacturers try to fool ya with their labels. When you add up "sugar", "corn syrup", "high-fructose corn syrup", "maltodextrin" there may be more sugar in the cereal than anything else. Look carefully for disguised sugar.
  3. Try to change (or expand) your breakfast choices to include more options…i.e. yogurt with fruit, fruit smoothies, peanut butter toast, oatmeal with trimmings, etc.
  4. Don't give up. Kids can fight for their right to sugary cereals. Give yourself credit for each and every time you serve them a nutrition breakfast instead.

For more ideas about how to change the sugary breakfast habit, you're invited to visit:

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Help for Underachievers

Student_grade_d_disappointed.lg_clr According to a column  in "The Parent Paper"  at  there are quite a few reasons that kids may be struggling at school.  Some may just have "B.A.D."–or simply a  ‘bad attitude disorder."  Some may truly not understand the material being presented.  Some may have developed poor study skills that may not have been required in lower grades and are currently unprepared for the current level.  

What's a parent to do?  Jan Wilson's article suggests that a first step is to "Face the Problem".  If "underachieving" is a new behavior for your child, it makes sense to evaluate whether new circumstances are affecting your child's performance.  That means you might start by contacting your child's teacher and maybe the school counselor.  It's possible that your child's belief about school or learning may be intruding upon his/her effort to succeed.   Also, there may be other contributing factors such as depression or bullying at school.

Whenever a child changes his/her behavior or attitudes dramatically, there is likely a reason.  So, if your child is suddenly underachieving, you're invited to read Jan Wilson's entire article at  Help for Underachievers   for more information and suggestions.   'Cause you know…when the goin' gets rough, the tough go 'n' get more information!!! :)  

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Preventing a Swine Flu epidemic–from within your family

Sick It can be really scary if one of your kids comes home with symptoms of the flu. How are you going to keep it from spreading to your other family members? Following are some unofficial (but logical and practical) ideas you might consider:

Know the signs and symptoms of the Swine Flu (H1N1)–Visit the CDC's website for the latest information. As fever is one of the hallmark symptoms, be prepared to monitor a person who's temperature is above normal. Keep the sick family member home from school or work until the fever is gone! The fever is your sign that the virus is still active–and if it's active, the virus can be transmitted. This is one time when you want to discourage "sharing"–it won't help the sick family member or his/her classmates or the workplace gang.

Isolate the family member as much as possible. Keep your healthy family members away from exposure to the higher concentrations of viruses likely to be in the "sick room" When people want to visit, go outside to avoid healthy folks' exposure to the potentially higher concentrations of virus in the sick-room. Infected family members should either eat meals in their rooms or have a family gathering outdoors –bundle up (if necessary) and socialize in the wide-open air, like a picnic or barbeque.

Continue reading

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Climate Change?
Start your conversation here…


What’s is “Climate Change” about?  Who does it affect? Can we (you and me) make a difference?  This amazing 12 minute video provides a variety of ways to look at Climate Change…and it can stimulate conversations at home, science projects for school, behavior changes, attitude change and (maybe) even spark a new vision of our planet’s future.  It’s awesome–Really, it’ll strike awe in you and your kids!

It’s about geography; look at the word map.  Where are the changes taking place? Who is at risk? How close are some of the dramatic changes to where you live?

It’s about science–What’s causing climate change? Why is the ocean “rising”? Where are the birds going and why?  Why are some animals doomed to extinction?

It’s about math–If these changes have happened in the recent past, how much time do we have to stabilize it? What’s our carbon footprint?

It’s a perfect subject for critical thinking.  If…then thinking,  Consequences and Action options.  What can each of us as individuals do to slow climate change down.

It’s an interesting and engaging topic for writing an essay, article or paragraph.

For older kids, this could also be an opportunity to discuss the politics of Climate Change.

This brilliant and beautiful video is an incredibly valuable teaching tool for all the suggestions above!  And it’ll move you.  It might break your heart…but it also provides positive notions and options that we can use to “get on it”.


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Hassle-Free Homework? Is it possible???

Boy studying1 According to an article by Barbara Minton in at  Natural  it is.  She proposes that parents can benefit (and so can kids) by returning the responsibility of homework back to the actual person who is affected–the kid!  It might seem counter-intuitive to willy-nilly hand the reins to the very person who is often reluctant to press on.  But, she offers some great ideas about how (and why) parents should do it anyway.   Following is a list of the primary steps that Ms. Minton suggests:  

  1. Decide whose Homework it is
  2. Think about what Homework REALLY is
  3. Align yourself with your child
  4. Let your child make the decisions about homework
  5. Keep to the time schedule–no matter what!
  6. Talk to your child
  7. Have faith in your child

These steps might seem simplistic.  And #4 (Let your child make the decisions about homework) seems to undermine a parent's obligation to press kids to do their homework.   But hang in through to the end of her article.  Her primary point seems to be that Homework is important…but less important than your relationship with your child.   For more information and further insight about how to actually take these steps toward Hassle-Free Homework, check out Barbara's entire article:  Seven Steps to Hassle Free Homework for You and Your Child   

Oh, And let me know what you think about her approach…Please leave me a comment.

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Sizzle, Sizzle….my Kid’s Having a Homework Meltdown!

J0284131 Homework can be pretty daunting sometimes.  But Dr. Yvonne Fournier has an insight that I think is really valuable–it's about time.  

I don't mean "finally, we've got an answer".  Nope, it actually IS about tick-tock "TIME".  

According to Dr. Fournier, kids can be put off and discouraged if they think that homework is going to take "FOREVER!".  Her suggestion is to break it down into chunks so a frustrated student can discover that it'll take less time than heJ0283477 imagines.  For the kid in her Q-and-A article at the Ventura County Star, she suggests setting a timer for how long the kid thinks it'll take.  Then he'll be encouraged to discover that it takes much less time when he gets into it…and even willing to tackle the next chunk of the assignment. 

Oh, and beware, she doesn't think it's a good idea to insert "breaks" into the homework task between chunks.  Instead, with the timer set (and the kid determined to beat the clock), kids are more likely to stick to the task and actually get done quicker–Giving them more TIME to play.  YAY! 

To read her entire article you're invited to visit  Help a Child who has a Homework Meltdown  (original article source: Scripps Newspaper Group

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