It was over two month's ago when I sat down with my 10-year old son to discuss the academic tasks he was assigned over the summer by his 5th grade teacher:
At the time, nothing about these tasks seemed particularly difficult, especially with the "whole summer" to do it.
Preparer or Crammer?
He and I discussed two options:
"Chip away method" - this involved spreading the workload over the entire summer. We did the math, and it came out to roughly 2 pages of reading per day and 1 vocab word and 1 math problem every other day. This amounted to about 8 minutes of concentrated work per day. No big.
"Cram-it-all-in method" - this involved skipping the daily 8-minutes of work in exchange for a 3-week cram session at the end of the summer when all the work had to be completed at once.
We prepared a spreadsheet that mapped out 10 weeks of daily tasks. He could...
How do I ask for a Letter of Recommendation?
I received this question from a highly motivated 9th grade PrepWell Academy student. It's a bit early for 9th graders to worry about this - and I couldn't be more proud! This is proof positive that our message is getting through. It is never too early to prepare well.
How important are letters of recommendation?
If you plan to apply to selective or highly selective schools, they are very important. After a few hours of staring at GPAs and standardized test scores, they all start to blend together - especially for application readers at highly selective schools where everyone posts impressive scores. Letters of recommendation can help you stand out from the crowd. In fact, qualitative inputs like this can serve as tie-breakers in many cases.
When are they needed?
Letters are not normally due until the beginning of senior year, but in no way, shape, or form should you wait that long to begin this process.
Whom do schools want to see letters...
If your son or daughter is taking the SAT or ACT in the coming weeks, here are some tips to help them maximize their score:
Take practice tests under real test-taking conditions - over and over again!
Let me elaborate. Many students spend a lot of time looking for hacks, tricks, and shortcuts to improve their test scores. They also normally study in "short bursts" (e.g. Study Math for 40 minutes every M, W, F) - when they really should be spending a lot more time and effort simply taking more full-length tests.
In my opinion, a large component of how well you perform on the test will be based on how much mental endurance you have built up by test day.
Most high school students aren't...
Your number #1 priority this summer is to prepare for your official standardized test at the end of August or beginning of September.
This is what you should do:
Let me remind you why I recommend this strategy in case you start to waver on implementing any of these steps:
In my opinion, a love of reading is the single biggest academic skill a child can develop prior to high school. A child's relationship to reading impacts their academic trajectory more than any other single factor.
In a prior blog post, I offer 10 Tips on how to raise an avid reader.
Today, I have to admit that I have failed to achieve this goal for my 8th grader. He will read when he has to, but there is no spark - there is no love of reading.
I have tried many of the techniques and failed. Maybe I wasn't disciplined enough, or I assumed he'd be like his brothers, or I was just too tired to follow-through on the technique.
As a former Navy SEAL, giving up is not in my playbook, so I began looking for more options.
Here are some things I considered:
A lot of my days are spent trying to help teens unlock their "potential". If you are a parent or teacher, you know that this can make for some long days.
Most teens are content to operate at 50% capacity. A few strive for more.
The teens who care about their development, progress, and improvement are my oxygen.
Every once in a while, I catch wind of a PrepWeller who has figured it out.
Such was the case with a PrepWeller we'll call "Heather".
Heather started PrepWell Academy as a freshman and wasn't the most diligent PrepWell student of all time. She watched a majority of the videos but not without cycles of skipping and binge-watching. All totally normal. The program was designed with this dynamic in mind.
However, in early sophomore year, the proverbial lightbulb went off for her. All of a sudden, the terminology, advice, and guidance within the videos took on new meaning.
Heather "got it".
It wasn't long before Heather was engaged in the college admissions process as...
My wife and I understand the importance of chores. They teach responsibility, accountability, discipline, pre-planning, and the value of money.
Our four children, apparently, never got the memo.
We have tried many times, unsuccessfully, to create a chore system that works. Each attempt has gotten progressively more serious.
The length of this email is reflective of the months it took us to get it right. If you value chores - but haven't quite cracked the code - it may be worth the read.
In military terms, we have now reached DEFCON 2 (Defense Condition 2: one step before maximum readiness for nuclear war).
Here is our journey to the brink of a nuclear chore war:
DEFCON 5 (lowest state of readiness): Just Tell Them
At first, we just told our kids what their chores were and expected them to do them. What a rookie mistake. Who were we kidding? It was a disaster. They claimed they didn't know what to do, wondered why they had to do X when their brother could do Y, insisted they...
In addition to last week's question regarding How do I build a list of colleges? the next biggest challenge I hear from parents (and kids) seems to be:
"What should my child do this summer?"
Of course, the standard, generic advice is:
I like to provide more unconventional advice to my PrepWellers.
Cast a Wide Summer Shadow
If your child wants a unique summer experience, encourage them to "shadow" as many people in as many careers as possible.
These days, kids have no clue what people do at their jobs.
They see people rush into buildings, shuffle around the streets with their Starbucks coffee, and sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway.
What happens the other 97% of the time?
My 8th-grade son is obsessed with the question:
"Dad, what do people do all day at work?"
He is fascinated by the whole concept.
Unfortunately, I haven't the foggiest idea what to tell him.
I haven't had a conventional job for many years so I find it difficult to...
By the time your child gets to high school, they should be completely self-sufficient when it comes to homework.
This skill comes more naturally to some children than to others (first-born children seem to "get-it" a little sooner than second or third, for instance).
As parents, it's our responsibility to ensure they have this skill mastered by the time they reach 9th grade.
Consider these factors when helping your child build this important habit:
Same time: Establish a specific time to complete homework and stick to it. Ideally, this would be right after school and prior to sports, social activities, and entertainment. My favorite quote is "Do the hard stuff first".
Same place: Identify a place for homework and make it the same spot every time. (e.g. kitchen table, bedroom, home office, Starbucks, etc.)
Clutter free: Clear the workspace of non-homework related items - even if it means moving items into a different room temporarily during homework time. The fewer things on the desk...
In this post, I share our personal experience introducing smartphones to our 14-year old twin sons for the first time. If you're grappling with how to deal with this issue, maybe it will give you some food for thought.
Admittedly, our 8th-graders were behind the power curve when it came to smartphones. Until two weeks ago (on Christmas Day), our twins had been using slider phones with no data. This was atypical for their peer group and they had to find ways to deal with the blowback (e.g. Dude, what's with the slider? That thing's ancient).
We knew we were treading on thin ice. Teenagers are more concerned about impressing their friends than their parents - and our sons were on the wrong side of that trade.
We struck a deal with them a few years ago. If they could demonstrate maturity, responsibility, and patience with their slider phones, we would consider upgrading someday.
That someday had finally come. We couldn't justify leaving them in the Stone Age for...