3 Things Parents Should Do In January

Most grade slippage happens in the third quarter of the school year, and it’s no wonder — with all those fresh holiday toys at home and summer so far away it can be hard to stay motivated and on track with schoolwork. And hectic family schedules combined with shorter daylight hours can make it tricky to find time together for important conversations. Here are three simple things parents can do to make sure your kids start the New Year off on the right foot.


1. Get them organized.

Even if your kids keep their room on the cleaner side, January is the perfect time to make sure everything else is in order for the year to come. Replace busted binders, worn out notebooks, and pencils that have lost their erasers so they’ve got the tools they need to excel in class. Ask what their biggest roadblock to staying organized is; they may need an adult to suggest a system like color coded folders.  It’s also a great moment to take inventory of any appointments they need scheduled in the upcoming year.


2. Evaluate their extracurriculars.

Being stuck inside during the long winter months is a great time to try a new hobby. Then, ask if there’s a free drop-in class or lesson to test the waters. If your child already has a packed after school schedule, use the calendar changeover as the time to have an honest talk about whether she’s still finding joy in her hobbies or if it’s time to switch things up.


3. Check in on their emotional health.

Progress reports, report cards, and online school portals let us know how our kids are doing academically, but it can be harder to know how your child is doing socially and emotionally, especially if they are the shyer type. A quiet car ride is a good time for a casual conversation about who he’s been spending time with in school and whether they have been experiencing any friction in their relationships.If anything concerning comes up, try to help him work through it, and don’t be afraid to reach out to the teacher or a counselor for extra support.



Easy Ways to Get Everyone in the Giving Spirit

This year, create a new holiday tradition with your family — get involved in a charitable activity. It’s an ideal way to teach your child values such as generosity, compassion, and gratitude, and prevent her from coming down with an annual case of “the gimmes.” The months of November and December are a great time to get involved, as there are a plethora of opportunities to suit your family’s interests and availability. It’s also a chance to try out several different types of activities and find one your family can get involved in all year round. We’ve got a number of ideas to get you started, but to find more options and specific opportunities in your neighborhood, visit


1. Host a Coat or Food Party
Drumming up donations is a great way to start a tradition that not only helps your community but also strengthens bonds within it. It’s great to give some canned goods or your family’s old coats to a charity, but making it a party takes it up a notch. For a coat party, have guests bring coats that are used but still in good condition. If you want to have a food party, ask for canned and dried food and have kids help pack it up for food banks and shelters.


2. Sing and Dance for Joy
If your child is the type to surprise you with impromptu puppet shows or sing from dawn to dusk, consider harnessing that energy to put on a play (or other performance) at a nursing home or community center. Involve everyone in the family in making costumes and sets, and recruit other families and friends to play parts.


3. Help Furry Friends
For animal lovers, helping out at a pet shelter is an easy choice. Donate a few days or just an afternoon to give the regular staff a break and fill in for vacationers. Even during the holidays, dogs need to be walked, cats need petting, and all animals need to be played with, fed, and have their cages cleaned. If you have young or sensitive children, a no-kill shelter is a good option (especially if you don’t want to come home with a new pet!).


4. Serve a Senior Citizen
If your child is unable to spend time with his grandparents this season, consider reaching out to an elderly person. The winter and holiday months are often the hardest on the elderly and a little help will be much appreciated. Help your child connect with past generations by visiting with seniors in a retirement community or nursing home. Your child can give manicures or makeovers, deck the halls with boughs of holly jolly décor, help wrap gifts, or read to the hard-of-sight.


5. Feed the Needy
The most familiar way to volunteer is still a perfect one: help out at a soup kitchen or food bank. The holidays are the busiest time at shelters, and they need help setting up, serving, and cleaning up. If your older child is interested in cooking, he can don an apron and help prepare food in the kitchen.



Visual, Auditory or Tactile? Take the MyStudyStyle Assessment

Knowing your child’s learning style is key to his or her school success. Most kids have a natural way of picking up new information. For example, they learn best either by listening, looking, or doing. Once you know your child’s learning personality, you can sidestep a lot of academic agita. There are three primary types of learning styles to which Omega Learning® Center caters:


Omega-Sight -iconVisual – You learn best through SEEING. You learn best by reading, watching a demonstration, and looking at graphics and illustrations.


Omega-Hearing -iconAuditory – You learn best through HEARING. You learn best by hearing lectures, having information verbally repeated, and having information  read to you.


Omega-Touch-iconTactile – You learn best through TOUCH. You learn best by using hands on manipulatives, moving while learning, and experiencing the learning through action.


To take a FREE MyStudyStyle Learning Style Assessment, find an Omega Learning® Center tutoring center near you. 

4 Writing Activities That Foster Thankfulness

In November, we think a lot about the things we’re thankful for. We post about them on Facebook and Instagram. We spend weeks preparing for Thanksgiving dinner, and express our gratitude for the meal. But what are we doing to foster thankfulness in our children?In order to foster a thankful spirit, I came up with a list of four easy activities that will get kids thinking about the things they’re thankful for.


1. Write Thank-You Notes 

Bring back the tradition of having your child write thank-you notes for gifts received. Older children can write their own notes while younger children can dictate their note to an adult. Not only will the handwritten note brighten the giver’s day, it also reminds your child to stop and be grateful for the things they’ve received.



2. Create a ‘Thankful Turkey’
Pull out the construction paper and help your child create a paper turkey. Cut out a shape for the body, a round head, a beak, and a red wattle. Next, cut out paper feathers. Each day, have your child write down one thing she is thankful for on a paper feather, and tape it to the turkey. By the end of the month, your turkey’s tail will be full of your child’s thankful thoughts, and will become a cherished keepsake for years to come.



3. Create a ‘Thankful Tree’
Gather a handful of long twigs and sticks from your yard. Put them inside a mason jar. You can dress your jar up with a bow or piece of twine, or simply leave as is. Each day, have your kids write down something they are thankful for on a paper leaf. Tape or pin the leaves to your sticks, creating a “thankful tree.” Not only will your kids get an extra dose of writing, you’ll have an adorable centerpiece and fall decoration for your home.



4. Start a Gratitude Journal
During a very painful time in my life, a gratitude journal changed everything for me. Will it be as earth-shattering for your child? Probably not. However, helping our kids shift their thinking towards the things they have instead of the things they don’t can have a life-long effect.

A simple lined notebook is all you need to create a gratitude journal for your child. Encourage your child to jot down several things each day (or each week depending on age of child) that she is thankful for. Then, when your child is having a rough day, encourage her to read back through their list.



Rising High School Seniors Action Plan

Senior year is a whirlwind of activities. This is a big year for your child as he or she balances schoolwork, extracurricular activities and the college application process. Use the suggestions below to help you and your child successfully navigate this important time.




  • Work together to apply for financial aid. Have your child contact the financial aid offices at the colleges in which he or she is interested to find out what forms students must submit to apply for aid. Make sure he or she applies for aid by or before any stated deadlines. Funds are limited, so the earlier you apply, the better.


  • Learn about college loan options together. Borrowing money for college can be a smart choice — especially if your high school student gets a low-interest federal loan.


  • Encourage your senior to take SAT Subject Tests. These tests can showcase your child’s interests and achievements — and many colleges require or recommend that applicants take one or more Subject Tests.


  • Encourage your child to take AP Exams. If your 12th-grader takes AP or other advanced classes, have him or her talk with teachers now about taking these tests in May.





  • Help your child process college responses. Once your child starts hearing back from colleges about admission and financial aid, he or she will need your support to decide what to do.


  • Review financial aid offers together. Your 12th-grader will need your help to read through financial aid award letters and figure out which package works best. Be sure your child pays attention to and meets any deadlines for acceptance.


  • Help your child complete the paperwork to accept a college’s offer of admittance. Once your child has decided which college to attend, he or she will need to review the offer, accept a college’s offer, mail a tuition deposit and submit other required paperwork.




Halloween Safety Tips

For a tear-free celebration, observe these safety recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Los Angeles Fire Department, and the National Safety Council.


Dress-Up Smarts:


  • Choose fire-retardant costumes. Look for a label that indicates flame-resistance on any costumes, wigs, and headpieces you purchase. If you’re making the costume yourself, examine the fabric content and talk the salesperson to help you choose the least flammable material.


  • Use make-up instead of masks. Hypoallergenic, non-toxic face paint is a better choice than a mask, which may obscure your child’s vision and hinder his breathing. If you do opt for a mask, cut oversized holes for his eyes and mouth, and encourage him to take the mask off each time he crosses the street.


  • Select light-colored costumes when possible. This makes it easier for drivers to spot trick-or-treaters. For costumes that have to be dark, accessorize with a white pillowcase your child can use to stash his loot and help him stand out in the dark.


  • Attach reflective tape to her costume to make her easier to spot. A few strips on her back, front, and goodie bag should do the trick. If she’s planning on biking or skateboarding, stick some tape on that as well.





Stay Safe on the Trick-or-Treat Beat:


  • Make sure children under 12 are supervised by an adult or teen chaperone if you can’t take her around yourself. Teens should have a curfew.


  • Round up a group. It’s best for kids of any age to travel in groups of three or more — there is safety in numbers. Plan a route with your child, making sure he knows to call you if he deviates from the plan. Keep his route to familiar streets and houses, working up the street then back down without crisscrossing. Set a time limit when he should come home or call you.


  • Tell her to visit well-lit, familiar houses. Make her promise to stick to the stoop — and never go inside unless she knows the grownups very well. Remind her to say “thank you” for her treats.




Prepare for Treat-Seekers:


  • Turn on the porch lights and replace burnt-out bulbs.


  • Decorate the walkway or steps with lanterns instead of candles. Battery-powered light sources such as light sticks are just as decorative and not as dangerous.


  • Let adults do the carving. Give your child a marker to draw the pumpkin pattern, but keep knives in the your own hands. If you plan to use a candle in the pumpkin, small votives are the safest bet. Stash the lit pumpkin on a sturdy surface away from anything flammable, and don’t leave it unattended.


  • Remove tripping hazards on your porch, walkway, and driveway. Clear your lawn of hoses, branches, bikes, wet leaves, or wires that could trip trick-or-treaters.


Sift Through the Loot:

  • Check candy wrappers. Pinholes, tears, or unusually loose packages can indicate possible tampering.


  • Remove choking hazards for young children, including hard candies, small toys, peanuts, or gum.


  • Don’t let your child eat anything that isn’t sealed. Unless you know the source, throw away homemade or fresh food items.


  • Regulate candy intake. Set a daily quota on your child’s consumption, and set a deadline for when leftover Halloween candy gets thrown out.




ACT Test Day Checklist

• Report to your assigned test center by the Reporting Time (8:00 a.m.) listed on your ticket. You will NOT be admitted to test if you are late.

• Bring a printed copy of your ticket to the test center. You will not be admitted to test if you do not have a printed copy of your ticket.

• Bring acceptable photo identification. You will not be admitted to test if your ID does not meet the ACT* requirements.

• Testing staff will check your photo ID and ticket, admit you to your test room, direct you to a seat, and provide test materials.

• Be ready to begin testing after all examinees present at 8:00 a.m. are checked in and seated.

• Please note that ACT* may visit test centers to conduct enhanced test security procedures including, but not limited to, collecting images of examinees during check-in or other security activities on test day.

• Do not engage in any prohibited behavior at the test center. If you do, you will be dismissed and your answer document will not be scored. Note: For National and International Testing, you will be asked to sign a statement on the front cover of your test booklet agreeing to this policy.

• Once you break the seal on your test booklet, you cannot later request a Test Date Change, even if you do not complete all your tests.

• You may use a permitted calculator on the Mathematics Test only. Some models and features are prohibited. You are responsible for knowing if your calculator is permitted and bringing it to the test center.



Fun Halloween Trivia for Kids

Does your child have a lot of questions about Halloween? Share fun facts — like how the holiday got its name and why we carve pumpkins as decorations — with your curious kid.


Why do we dress up?

People used to believe that ghosts might visit the earth on this day, so some tricksters started to dress up as spirits to scare their unsuspecting neighbors!


Why is it on the 31st?

To honor saints and martyrs, the Catholic Church deemed November 1st All Saints Day in the eighth century. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve. Say it quickly and you’ll see where the name Halloween came from!


Why do we carve jack-o-lanterns? 

In an old Irish legend, a man named Jack outsmarted the Devil but was forced to wander the afterlife with his way lit only by a carved turnip. Pumpkins later replaced them because they’re more common in the United States.


Where does trick-or-treating come from? 

In the 1930s, young boys often spent Halloween pranking local farmers. The farmers began bribing the boys and offering them a treat to save themselves from a trick.


Why are Halloween colors black and orange?

Halloween is often associated with black and orange. The black represents death or darkness, while the orange represents the colors of crops in the fall harvest.


Why are black cats and monsters Halloween symbols?

According to urban legends, if you cross paths with a black cat on Halloween, there is a witch nearby. Scary gargoyles were created by medieval stone carvers to ward off evil spirits.





Raise a Reader: A Parent Guide to Reading for Ages 11-13

Just as your  teen is now asserting her independence and also negotiating a new world, she is also starting a new world of responsibility in middle school. If you are feeling chagrined at the quality of your teen’s reading choices, suggest alternatives, but consider letting him choose his own books. Kids and teens like choosing their own books — 89 percent say their favorite books are the ones they picked out themselves. In most elementary schools, students have just one main teacher for the year. In middle school, your  teen will likely have a different teacher for each subject. Each teacher deals with hundreds of students. It can be easy for your young learner to slip through the cracks.


Reading Intervention

At this age, your preteen should be reading history and science books, exploring the world of research on the web — and using these sources for school assignments. She should feel confident using dictionaries, glossaries, and reading diagrams and charts. If you have concerns about your  teen’s reading progress, address them as soon as you can. Why? If her reading skills are not on level, she will not be able to achieve her potential in most of her subjects.

For students who need help catching up with reading skills, schools in your district may offer reading intervention programs, such as Scholastic’s READ 180. A good intervention program can bring up reading scores up by several grade levels over the course of a single year. Then, your  teen can rejoin her peers and succeed. Intervention does work.



Preparing for “Real Life Reading”

In school, your  teen will be challenged to read literature, social studies, and science texts. However, students learn about “real-life” text forms mostly at home. Show and discuss cell phone and credit card bills, tax and insurance forms, medicine labels, and online “user agreements,” GPS instructions, and car registration.


By the End of Sixth Grade, Your Tween Will Be Expected to:

  • Cite evidence to support analysis and draw inferences from a text.
  • Determine the meanings of words and phrases, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings.
  • Integrate information from different sources (for example, an article and a chart).
  • Describe how a plot of a story unfolds in episodes.
  • Compare and contrast texts in different forms (drama and poetry, for example) that cover the same theme.


By the End of Seventh Grade, Your Tween Will Be Expected to:

  • Determine two or more central ideas in a text and explain their development.
  • Compare and contrast audio and multimedia interpretations of a text.
  • Analyze the reasoning of authors and the evidence that supports their claims.
  • Compare fiction and nonfiction from the same time period.
  • Analyze the elements of poetry, drama, and multimedia presentations.


By the End of Eighth Grade, Your Teen Will Be Expected to:

  • Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing and speaking.
  • Analyze how a text uses comparisons, analogies, or categories.
  • Analyze the structure of a paragraph and the rhetorical purpose of different sentences.
  • Analyze texts that present conflicting information on the same topic.
  • Contrast modern and classic stories with similar themes.


Don’t Be Concerned if These Skills Develop Erratically, Unless Your  Teen:

  • Reads very slowly with many inaccuracies.
  • Continues to spell inaccurately; spells the same word in several different ways.
  • Avoids reading and writing.
  • Has poor memory skills.
  • Has difficulty with planning, organizing and managing time, materials, and tasks.



Reading Activities for Ages 11-13

Encourage your older reader to pick up a book and read for pleasure with these 4 fun strategies:


1. Book Club
Start a book club with your teen Invite her to choose a book you’ll each read, and then you choose the next one. You’ll both be motivated to pick something the other will really enjoy. Don’t shy away from gross, silly, or even racy (Gossip Girl or The Demonata, for example) books that your child might pick. Showing an interest in her literary taste — whatever it might be — is a sign of respect.


2. The Behind-the-Scenes Story
As your teen looks forward into his own future, he might start to identify with various celebrities. He may want to become a pro ball player or a scientist. Help him find age-appropriate biographies so he can learn all the facts about what it takes to succeed in the fields he is interested in.


3. Reading Rewards
Middle school students are often so busy that downtime is increasingly valuable to them. That usually means video games, TV, and talking on the phone. Reading for pleasure might be the last activity they want to do. Try making a deal with your teen. Together, make a list of books she wants to read this year. If there is something your teen wants — for example, a new pair of jeans — make it contingent upon finishing one of the books on her list.


4. Mom or Dad’s Executive Assistant
Planning a vacation? Ask your teen to do some legwork on the Internet. Ask him to research accommodations, driving routes, bus or plane schedules, or other necessary planning tasks. He will take pleasure in helping to make decisions for the family. You can translate this activity into research for buying a new television or finding a new public park to visit.



What the Report Card Really Means

A, B, C is no longer as easy as 1, 2, 3. Today’s student report cards go way beyond the simple letter grades of years past. Now, many school districts send home detailed accounts of each subject’s content, student progress, social behavior, work habits, learning skills, and more.

The Letter Lineup

Don’t expect to see traditional letter grades until 3rd or 4th grade. Prior to that, schools usually describe progress with a scale such as D for developing, E for expanding, S for satisfactory, and N for needs improvement. The kindergarten report card can be likened to a checklist of skills crucial for early learning. Sharing and self-control are typically evaluated in a “social development” category. Holding a pencil correctly and using scissors competently are important motor skills. In your kindergartener’s first public school report card, you’ll learn how well she cooperates with adults, participates in group activities, follows direction, and forms upper- and lowercase letters.


The Right — and Wrong — Way to React

Even in a sea of As and Bs, disappointing marks always stand out. Mary Pat McCartney, elementary-level vice president of the American School Counselors Association, cautions against getting emotional about low grades. Here, her advice on how to handle the academic news:


  • First, be enthusiastic about whatever’s good. Acknowledge the positive. Even if there’s only one A, say something like, “Wow, you did really well in art.”


  • Deal with bad marks in a caring and calm manner. Talk together about the report card, and help him come up with an improvement plan. Ask your child what he’s going to do to bring up low marks, and support his efforts. They’re his grades and he needs to take responsibility for them. His teacher didn’t give him the D in math, for example. He earned it over the course of the marking period.


  • Never use a report card to be punitive. “I’ve known parents who ground their child for weeks at a time. That’s really not effective discipline,” warns McCartney.


  • Instead, figure out what motivates your child and provide incentives. Some parents get results by threatening to take away extracurricular activities or computer access. Others promise gifts or pay for achievement. A better approach is to establish some goals and reward improvement, not necessarily As. Your child may be more interested in your company than your cash. Acknowledging effort with an outing to the movies or a game of checkers might be all it takes. For students whose hard work still falls short, be sure to applaud the effort. Some children simply aren’t capable of all As and Bs.


  • If you feel a grade is unfair, contact the teacher for more information. Be matter-of-fact in your approach. Don’t promise your child that you’ll get the grade changed; instead, say that you’ll help figure out what went wrong. Once you’ve discussed the situation with the teacher, the three of you can work together to put an improvement plan in place.


  • Consider including your child in a parent-teacher conference, if the teacher is agreeable. For children in upper grades (3rd, 4th, and 5th), this can be an effective strategy. Expect the teacher to pull out samples of class work, tests, and quizzes and show you her grade book. Teachers today have lots of documentation; a conference that includes the student can have a powerful impact.


  • Finally, convey to your child that school is important. Post her work on the refrigerator. Keep papers she is proud of in a portfolio. Explain that his report card makes a statement about him. Tell him that in your family hard work and good effort are valued most.