Sunday, November 9, 2014

9 Parent Coaching Tips for Battling Math Anxiety

by Margaret M. Desjardins, Ed.D., C.A.G.S., Ed.M.

Remember this formula: Confidence +Solid Preparation= SUCCESS
Parents, with high stakes testing here to stay, math is more challenging than it’s ever been before. Follow these 9 Parent Coaching Tips, and you will have a confident and well prepared child who is more confident of his or her math abilities.

1. Coach your child to develop a positive Attitude!

One of the most important ways that your child can do better is simply by having a positive attitude. Don’t let your child sell themselves short by saying things like, "I can’t do math; I am no good at math." If they believe they can do it, they WILL be able to do math!

 2. Coach your child to ask a lot of questions!

There is nothing embarrassing about asking questions. Your child will not look like a "nerd" to their classmates. In fact, their classmates probably want to ask the same questions, but they are afraid to ask! It could be that the teacher is not explaining the math concept fully. Maybe the teacher can explain the concept in a different way. ASK!

3. Make sure your child doesn’t fall behind!

Your child is building on a base of math skills and concepts. If they miss something early on, it gets harder to catch up later. Also, to take the next level of math courses, your child needs to master the linear concepts to be successful.

Try tutor services-- professional ones, or try a high school student in advanced classes, recommended by the local high school guidance department. Do not wait until the child is failing. Consider tutoring an investment, and sign them up as an additional booster for math. And keep them in the tutor program. If they"get it", the tutors will enrich them. Tutors can keep up by talking to your child’s teacher, and sometimes they will be able to get a copy of their math textbook. Falling behind can lead to feelings of "why bother?"

4. Practice, Practice, Practice!

That’s how we learn anything--Through repetitive practice. Usually it is not until your child applies the concepts to real problems that they "get it". Practice out in public. Calculate money everywhere.
Find a sequence or pattern of cars driving on the highway, etc. There are life opportunities to show the relevance of math in your child’s life. Coach them to find relevance in the "real world".

5. Build their confidence!

When they do their homework, start with easier problems or problems you know they can do. Review simple ideas first, or material they covered a year ago. That will give them the confidence to approach the more difficult problems. Baby steps….

6. Coach your child to show their work!

It is tempting for you or your child to skip steps, but that does not reinforce the concept being developed. Remember the importance of repetition? It is better they get into the habit of showing all their work. That way, if there is a mistake, it is easier to see and correct. You can also detect a pattern of mistakes and help them immediately. Plus, your child may get partial credit for a tough problem that is almost correct.

7. Do NOT ignore wrong answers!

While accuracy is always important, a wrong answer can tell you, as your child’s coach, to look further to see if your child really understands the material.

8. Coach your child to write neatly!!

It is important that your child organize problems and write numbers and variables clearly, so they do not confuse either themselves- or the teacher. Sloppy numbers equal wrong answers!


9. Don’t Be Afraid to Go Low Tech! Use Old-fashioned Flash Cards!

Don’t be afraid to use the tactile approach. Symbols, equations, and concepts can get overwhelming. Use flash cards to organize information or test concepts. They can sort facts into piles, and watch the pile of "don’t knows" get dwindled down. You can place unknown facts on the refrigerator so they see them whenever they open the refrigerator door.

Read the book by Dr. Margaret M. Desjardins,  Murky, Quirky, Beserky Math, and discuss math feelings and strategies from this humorous approach to math anxiety.

Visit the website: www.murkyquirkybeserkymath.com
Interact with the 10 beserky kids and get tips from them on how to beat math anxiety!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Parrot Talk: Stressors That Keep You from Seeing

Parents, what I want you to do now is STOP…stressing…and relax! The Today Show recently conducted a survey of 7,164 U.S. mothers which indicated that once parents reach “…a certain critical mass of kids, life seems to get a bit better”.  Three seems to be the point at which most moms indicate the highest level of stress, 8.5 out of a 10 point scale.  More than three kids and the stress seems to diminish according to today.com. 


But the common denominator is that 75% of all mothers say that they are stressed from within, not by outside pressure.  Imagine that percentage of moms stressing about the stress they feel within.  It’s crazy what pressure American moms feel --and, I’m sure moms in other parts of the world feel that stress too!  It’s that need for perfection. Flash to all moms everywhere!  Perfection is unattainable, so use the same 10 second rule you do when your child drops something on the floor, and you dust it off and call out to the world, “It’s the 10 second rule”! 
Go easy on yourself!  Parenting is a journey to be enjoyed.  Stress is real and may at some point, if left unchecked, cause you to miss out on the fun and enjoyment of those “blips” in childrearing.  You know, the stories that later become legendary at family gatherings, and which are nostalgically embellished as the years go by!

OK, now for the question I know you are asking yourself:  What do a red parrot and stress have in common?  Here’s the test.  Apply the 10 second rule to the parrot. But this time, stop the madness, and REALLY look at the red parrot for 10 seconds straight without worrying about what is happening around you. Hard to do?  You will be rewarded with the illusion of the red parrot. Well, go study the parrot and come back before reading any further?

…Did you see it?  Embedded within the red parrot is a dancer with outstretched leg (hint, the parrot’s feathers).  This dancer was body painted and embedded within the parrot to fool you.  Did it?

Now, examine what you did to actually focus on the dancer?  You really had to let go of your perception of a parrot and look at the bird “from a different perspective”!  Now, consider stress and that grueling statistic of 75% self-imposed stress that moms take on needlessly.  You need to ask yourself this question:  Is the stress real?  …or is it self-imposed?  If it’s real, “deal with it”, and solve the problem causing the stress, either with a step by step plan, or by isolating the stressor and examining the impact of the stress on you as a mom.  Usually, when you examine your stressors, your anxiety lessens.  It will turn out that 25% of your stress is real, and that 75%, as today.com concludes from their survey-- is self- imposed.

Now, imagine moms all over the U.S., who are empowered by examining their stressors.  That will lead to a calmer, more rational mom, who can really participate in raising their children by enjoying the bleeps and missteps of parenting along the way.


Tip:  You are not perfect. You are going to make mistakes.  Just make sure you enjoy the journey and fun of parenting.  Be in the moment.  Notice the dancer within each child, the uniqueness in seeing your child from a different perspective!  

Friday, September 12, 2014

My Baby is 14 Months, 15 Days, and 8 Hours Old!My Baby is 14 Months, 15 Days, and 8 Hours Old!

Why do all parents tell you the exact age of their babies in months? …or weeks? Instead of “My baby is 14 Months old last Monday,” how about, “My baby is a little over one year.”  Why are we so preoccupied with charting the number of weeks and months our child is, since baby was born?  You should know how old baby is!  You participated in his/her birth!

 What is the mystique of charting baby’s life to the day?  By the time they get to be teenagers, you will be asking yourselves, “Where did the time go?” …or “He’s getting so old?  You’ll then chart the stages of life by the year in school.  Did you ever hear the parent of a fourteen year old say, “My child is 168 months, 15 days old?” We don’t even say the number of years any more.  We say, “He’s a teenager!” or “He’s entering Freshman year of high school.”  Your teenager still has ages and stages of growth and development as a teenager, but now it’s more like you try your best to somehow make it through the teenage years –without losing your mind!  But for now, babyhood is magical, especially your first child!  You have that pile of “How baby grows” books on the coffee table for easy reference, or you have some app on your phone to give you appropriate activities to sync to baby’s stage of growth at 14 months.

There are charts of the “average” times. You know what I mean!  The average time it takes to…turn over from front to back and then to front again…average time to toilet train.  If it’s a boy add about six months more to the chart! …average time to read.  It used to be six years, six months, but now with Baby Einstein and competition to be weight-

 listed at Harvard, it’s more like six months, six weeks.  We go to the docs and the first thing we tell people is how our baby stacks up.  “He’s in the 82%ile for weight and 50%ile for height.  Against whom?  What are your babies being normed against? Who are they competing with, anyway, at 14 months of age?  So, if your child is only in the 50%ile in height should you be concerned since your baby is sooooo “average”?  Why not place him on a rack and stretch him for a couple of hours a day?  I’m just kidding, of course. But that’s how silly all this norming is.  If your child is in the 82%ile in weight does that mean you should be proud of him because he is fatter than 32% of the baby population?  …or should you place him on baby lock down and ration out his food until he gets back to that 50%ile? 

I do understand that there are guidelines or benchmarks by which we keep a close eye on baby.  But we, as a nation, have gone too far.  We live by the guidelines, forgetting that Baby is going to do and be just exactly what he/she is!  No more, no less.  And that should be fine with you as parents. 

Always challenge just where these benchmarks are coming from.  If it’s from doc, ask him when these guidelines were established?  Are they current, relevant to your baby? We in this culture are proud to be parents of babies who are taller than the average, even though height should be irrelevant, except if lack of growth is a danger signal for baby.  I am concerned at the amount of time parents spend in obsessing about height and weight and training time for pooping.  I am sure doctors are alerting parents to the average in the hopes that parents will use these growth benchmarks as a means of observing wellness in baby.  Sometimes benchmarks are just that, nothing less, nothing more.

Tip:  Live your life with your baby in wonderment of just how miraculous each day is.  No two babies are exactly alike in their age/stage growth and development.  It is possible to learn more through observing your baby and through your instincts as a parent than any chart gives as a barometer of health and wellness. After all, nobody knows your baby the way you do.  Use the benchmarks as suggestions, and use your own best practices to help baby develop into his/her own special self!


Monday, September 1, 2014

So, What’s in a Name? Plenty!

I have bought houses a lot quicker than new parents pick out a name for their  unborn baby.  Sure it helps if you know the sex of the child. That eliminates 50% of the stress!


You don’t want your child to have an acronym that spells out anything, so Fredrick Charles Kerby is out-FCK—too close for comfort!   Or Elizabeth Ann Sally (after your grandmother) Yarger, or EASY for short! Particularly when she goes to high school and there is already enough peer pressure to have sex as it is! With initials that spell out EASY, you just know she’ll be hunting you down!! And it doesn’t look good either, when she graduates from business school and you have her initials carved out in gold on her new, expensive, leather briefcase! Think parents before you leap! Elizabeth is a lovely name. Perhaps you could compromise with Grandma Sally and your mom, Ann, and switch the initials.  Then you can sleep at night. Who’s going to make fun of ESAY on a briefcase?  The worst that will happen is that everyone will think she can write an essay well!

And what about baby name books and baby naming websites.  Sick of all of them too?  Don’t want to give your child the popular” name of the year”? Now you can even check your own state to find out just how” in demand” your name choice is this year. Wikipedia will tell all! Let’s take Florida for the most popular male name.  That would be “Jayden” and number two would be “Jacob”, followed by Ethan, Michael, Mason, etc.  In 2012, the most popular boy’s name in all the states was “Mason”, so if you named your son, “Mason” and you wanted to discipline him in the mall for misbehavior, you’d say, “Mason Adam Divine” come here! Tricked you!  You forgot that acronym spells MAD, and that’s your first mistake! Your second mistake would be to call your child only by his first name, “Mason”.  In this case, most of the other little boys in the mall would come running to you—a very popular name, indeed! 

If you had a girl, and loved the name “Emma”, you’d have the same problem in almost any mall in the entire United States from Massachusetts to Mississippi—kid you not!  But it’s a great name. Actually, my great-great grandmother’s name was Emma, so was my husband’s Grandmother!  It does withstand the test of time! So, go bold, and popular, if you love the name.

How about if you wanted to name your child after a celebrity that you admired?  Jason Lee, a pretty funny dude, named his child “Pilot” after a song he heard by the band Grandaddy, called, “He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s the Pilot”.  And what about the name “Apple”, the child of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin?  At least they had a sweet reason (no pun intended), “because it was sweet and wholesome”, is the reason they gave.    And the list of equally ridiculous names goes on and on and on and on!  Look it up! Oh you probably did already! Please, please, please think before naming your baby.  The name may sound fine at the time, but long after you have departed this earth, that name will live on. 

And then there is naming your child after a family member or someone on your Ancestry.com family tree.  That would be best. Whenever you say, my child was named, “Stone,” for example, you can quickly lay a disclaimer on a person by delivering the deep roots in the family tree spiel! That, honestly, can be one of the best legacy’s you can leave your child.  The gift of connection… the gift of belonging… to a lineage of people whom you can then show pictures of and discuss stories passed down through time.  That name is the connection to your past… to his/her past… and to the future. 

 Parents, you should always have the last say in naming your child. I know you agonize about it and make the best choice you can.  You want your new family to be distinctive, so how about a nice compromise? For instance, choose the first name to match your new family’s needs.  So…you got pregnant at Deer Island, so you name your little girl, Deer.  Then, for balance, with such a different name, take the opportunity to honor your family tree, either yours or your husband’s or partner’s, and give her a middle name which reflects the connection and respect for someone special in your family. So maybe, “Deer Jane”—Jane, after grandma Jane.  I admit it is a bit weird, but with a name like Deer Jane Jones, at least the initials are respectable (DJJ)! And with any luck, her classmates will call her, D.J.! 

 Tip:  Names are treasures if we take special care of them.  Our children are branded for a lifetime by their names.  Parents, it is a huge responsibility to craft the best name possible for your little one so that when they have grown old, they will still smile when someone calls their name out loud!


Monday, August 25, 2014

The First Day of School: Quivering lip? …or Pep in the Step?

Guest Blogger:  Kate from Scotland

              Mom to three small children

‘The first day of school.’  Some newbie school parents will read that statement with quivering lips; others with the enthusiasm of an over-caffeinated cheerleading captain.  Some newbie parents will wonder where the time has slipped away to while others will be excited to finally see that mythical empty laundry basket for new beginnings. As the days ticked down to my oldest’s first day, I pondered which team would I be on? Team ‘sentimental saps’ or Team ‘tough guys’?

Being a newbie, I wasn’t sure what to expect first day. How would I feel? How would she feel?  How would I feel about how she felt? (Yeah, I tend to overthink sometimes…) As a stay at home mom, my daughter Lily has been my right hand girl these past five years.  She witnessed first-hand my parenting highs and my parenting disasters learning moments.  We have kinda been learning this parenting gig together, as a team… What was this first day going to bring? 

As dawn broke that first day morning, the buzz in the house was epic.  With full tummies, pressed clothes and our overdone Pinterest inspired photo session done, we made the family walk to wave our girl off onto her new journey.  Watching the range of emotions from fellow newbies, I recognized the common denominator.  Whether it was a quivering lip or pep in the step, the first day of school is as big for parents as it is for kids. 

And like every milestone, it has come and it has gone. I am happy.  She is happy.  And I am happy for her happiness. (There I go again…)

What have I been up to with my new found ‘free time’? Well, I am off to hide mess turbo clean for the impromptu play date that is always lurking, chuck ingredients into the slow cooker prep a healthy dinner, and slap on war paint touch up my makeup before I do the school run.  Don’t get me started on school gate mom code… ;)