Nerves, Nerves, and More Nerves

testing nerves

Spring means warmer weather, sunnier skies, blooming flowers, fresher fruit, and testing for students in school.  All things spring are wonderful and the students enjoy the new season, except for the testing.  The testing leads to stress, nervousness, and even sleeplessness for many students.

As I was tutoring a fourth grader last evening, she kept mentioning different things that were making her nervous about beginning testing this week (although she insisted she was not nervous at all).  The things she is nervous about are all valid and I got to wondering if other kids are nervous about the same things, but they don’t express how they’re feeling.  Below are just a few of her “I’m not nervous, but what if….?” statements and my responses to try to alleviate some of her nerves.  Perhaps these would be good things to talk to your own students/children about.


  1. My teacher is really stressed about the testing.  This makes me feel even more stressed out.

My response-Yes, testing makes teachers feel a lot of stress, but it’s because they want you to do your best and show what you know.


  1. What if I run out of scratch paper?

My response-You can raise your hand and ask for more, but I’m sure your teacher will give you enough to begin with.


  1. What if my pencil breaks?

My response-You can raise your hand and ask for another pencil.  It’s a good idea to have 2-3 sharp pencils to begin with.


  1. What if I forget everything I have learned?

My response-You will not forget everything you have learned, even if you feel that way.  Relax, take deep breaths, do your best, don’t second guess yourself, enjoy showing how much you know!



  1. What if my computer stops working?

My response-It is unlikely that your computer will stop working, but if it does just raise your hand and the technology teacher or your teacher will help you.  The portion of the test you already did will be saved, so don’t worry that you’ll lose all that work.


  1. What if other kids are looking at my test?

My response-It might feel like the kids sitting next to you are looking at your computer test, but most likely they are too busy looking at their own screen to pay attention to yours.  Also, you’ll each have test questions that appear in a different order to prevent cheating.


I’m sure this little fourth grade girl is as nervous as every other student about to embark on yet another round of testing.  I hope I was able to reassure her that the main goal of school is to learn information you will use in your future daily life, not just to take a test.  However, since testing is here to stay for now, I hope I was also able to reassure her that she is smart and capable of doing her best and her best is what is expected.

Good luck to all students, teachers, and parents during this new season.


Happy New Year

happy new year 1

Wow! It’s 2016 already.  Time sure goes fast these days.  As we enter a new year, I want to thank you all for reading my blog tips and tricks for parents, teachers, and fellow tutors. 

Second semester will begin in a few days.  It’s important to get your kids back into a routine as soon as possible.  They will be tired, as will you, after the holidays, so an earlier bed time is a good idea for the first couple of weeks back to school. Re-establish homework routines, morning routines, and evening routines as soon as school starts (or a few days sooner if you can).  Give your kids, and yourself, a little grace as you get back into the swing of things. 

Here’s to a great year of learning and fun in 2016!

Sing the Multiples

Kids need to know how to count by 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, and 10s in math. Knowing these multiples will help in multiplication, division, telling time, counting money and beyond. Learning the 2s, 5s, and 10s seems to be pretty easy for kids. The 3s and 4s are a little more challenging. But, you can sing to learn the multiples and make 3s and 4s easy too.


3s song (tune Jingle Bells)

3,     6,   9,   12, 15,   18,     21,   24, 27, 30 now we’re done. Hey!

Jin-gle bells, jin-gle bells, jingle all the way


4s song (Row Row Row Your Boat)

4,       8,   12, 16,   20,   24,     28,   32,   36, and more

Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream

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Learning Numbers


Your preschooler needs to know and be able to identify their numbers. Here’s a fun way to practice. Make a card with each number on it (0-12). Place the cards in a circle on the floor. Play music and have your child walk around the circle of numbers. Stop the music. Have your child tell you what number he or she is standing on. Then, have your child count to that number. Fun and easy!

What did you read today? And More Questions to ask Your Child about Reading




  • What book did you read today in reading group? At silent reading?
  • What book did you listen to at read aloud time?
  • Who was your favorite character?
  • What was the character’s problem in the story?
  • Where did the story take place? What was the setting?
  • What happened to the character in the story? What was the plot?
  • What happened at the beginning? Middle? End?
  • If you could rewrite the ending of the story, how would you make the story end?
  • What was your favorite part of the story?

Homework: Helpful or harmful?

Is homework helping my child or hurting my child? Should I assign homework or should I not assign homework? Parents and teachers have been debating the homework question as long as kids have been in school. Is homework helpful or hurtful?

This article by Dave Breitenstein ( addresses many of the issues surrounding homework. One of his key points is that homework is not the only task that kids have after school. Kids need time to be kids and if too much homework is assigned or the homework takes too long, kids do not have time to do the other things they should be doing.

“The problem with homework, according to psychologist Ken Goldberg, is that it isn’t the only task children have after dismissal. School clubs, athletics, household chores and religious obligations still happen — homework or not — on a daily basis. Subtract time for dinner and a bath, and trying to get children to bed on time, and there aren’t a whole lot of minutes left in the day.”

Another key point of the article is the guideline for how long kids should be spending on homework. The guideline is 10 minutes per grade level. The problem is that not all kids work at the same pace or have the same understanding of the material. So, a homework assignment that the teacher says should take 10 minutes might take one child 5 minutes and another child 25 minutes.

“The 10-minute homework guideline has been referenced for years, but only recently has it been researched and tested. Students’ attention spans increase as they get older, but going past prescribed limits has negative consequences. That’s why Goldberg suggests a time limit. At 30 minutes, for instance, you’re done. For older students, perhaps an hour is an ideal cutoff.” Remember that kids have been sitting all day at school and their attention spans might be shorter in the evening. They may need short breaks during homework time. Even adults take breaks during their work day.

A final key point is that homework is assigned to children, but parents take on a lot of responsibility when it comes to explaining the homework and getting the homework completed. Homework should be review of material learned in school, but for children who didn’t “get it” in school, parents are left to try to explain it and reteach it. For some kids, they have spent all their brain power at school and they just don’t want to do any more work when they get home. Parents are left to battle over sitting down and working on the homework.

“That means most of it is spent battling,” said Goldberg, referencing the back-and-forth between frustrated students and frustrated parents.

For more homework tips, please read my blog 4 Tips for the nightly homework struggle.

It’s a question that needs more research. Students do need to review material learned in school, but do they need to do that at home at the expense of other activities, attention span problems, and frustration with parents?



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How do I get my child to write at home?

I get this question a lot from parents. Kids will write at school, but when they get home, they don’t want to practice writing. Writing at home can be fun with this great idea: Sticker Stories!

Sticker stories are sure to get your kids engaged and excited about writing. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Provide your child with a variety of stickers.
  2. Have your child pick 5-8 stickers.
  3. Talk with your child about what could happen in a story using the stickers as the theme.
  4. Have your child write their story replacing 5-8 of the words with the stickers.
  5. Praise your child’s writing specifically. “I like how you used the tiger sticker and made the tiger your main character.”

Happy creative writing!


sticker story

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