Summer Learning

Do Olympic gold medalists stop training for two months a year? No, they are always practicing so that they can be the best. For students to do their best, they cannot take two months off from school and expect to come back the same they were when they left. Summer learning loss is an issue faced by most students today. When summer comes around students break their sleep and education schedule. When they return to school the next year, getting the brain used to learning all day while adapting to a new sleep schedule leaves students drained, and if they cannot adjust fast enough, it can force students to start behind.

Most students spend their summers going on vacations, going to camps, playing video games and doing anything but school work. Meaning that when school starts again, students will struggle to remember where they left off the year before. To help with this most courses have a few days of review at the beginning of the year. However, most students are too tired from readapting sleep schedules to retain all the information reviewed thoroughly. Courses build upon each other so by forgetting or not understanding things from previous years, students may start the year without having a solid foundation, which can prevent them from reaching their full potential.

So how can you help your student? The answer is simple, a summer learning program. By having something as simple as a 2-hour a week learning program students can remember material, work on weak areas, and even get ahead. As Brian Herbert once said, “The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.” So help your students have the capacity, ability and willingness to learn by sending them to an ERG Summer Program.

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ERG from a Coach’s Perspective

It’s easy to forget that the brain needs workouts just like any other part of the body. The truth is most people get through life just fine without working out at all, but what parent envisions “just fine” for their child’s future? Real strength-of any kind-requires hard work and commitment. Just like any other coach, I push right up to a student’s limits, because only through that continued effort will the improvements come. More than strength, the brain needs to be conditioned, too. Oftentimes it seems as though you’re dealt what you’re dealt, and that’s that. The thing is, those skills can be built up, in many cases. Of course, there’s no magic bullet for erasing cognitive or executive functioning struggles, and everyone has their own unique situation, but with a little know-how and a lot of commitment real changes can begin to take place.

I’ve been working at the Educational Resource Group for about a year and a half now, and I have genuinely been blown away with some of the experiences I’ve had here. When I initially applied to this job, I assumed from the description of the center that I would be up for a job as an aide or a tutor. At the time, I was in college for a degree in clinical psychology, and the thought of having a job that applied to these things at the same time I was studying them was beyond exciting. Needless to say, I was hired, but that was really just the beginning, because even though Dr. Perez and the rest of management knew I was qualified, I still had to be trained.

The first training I attended was essentially a two-day seminar with Dr. Perez where I-alongside three or four other trainees-learned the ins and outs of the Woodcock-Johnson IV, the Conners, and the BRIEF-2: some of the assessments we use here to determine students’ strengths and weaknesses for the purposes of planning a personalized program or qualifying for in-school accommodations. Before I could be certified as an assessor, I had to conduct and score several full practice assessments, including one observed by Dr. Perez, so it was clear whether or not I knew what I was doing. I also did separate trainings for executive skills coaching, standardized test preparation coaching, and cognitive training, which were even more intense and took several weeks each to complete.

In the time I’ve been an active coach and assessor here, I’ve seen students go from failing every class to getting Honor Roll consistently, other students completely turn around their attentiveness and cooperation, student gain 300 points overall on the SAT, and several students with significant difficulties have made so much progress it warms my heart writing about it. Students often complain about the difficulty of the work that they have to do here or the fact that they have to come at all, but there comes a point when they start to see the improvements in themselves. They stop calling themselves stupid or saying that something is impossible. They get revved up when they’re close to passing a level instead of dreading it and expecting to fail. Once they reach that point, confidence may waver occasionally, but they will begin to see the possibilities that will open up to them.

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Cell Phones & Distractions

Cell phones have been rising in popularity as we move into more technologically-advanced generations. Not only have cell phones become more popular, but the urge of making a presence on social media has been growing as well. The internet is now accessible on our mini computer devices, and it is becoming easier to be attached to them as we carry on our day-to-day routines. Admittedly, our cell phones are also great for communicating to the outside world and they can play an important role in all forms of communicating. Whether communicating with your friends and family, or your coworkers and supervisors, your cell phone enables you to connect to the outside world with a click or a tap. Cell phones obviously have their positive attributes, but they have also earned a reputation for being distracting.

Last semester, I conducted a research project to see just how distracting cell phones can be. Since it is difficult to measure distractibility of cell phones, I had two different tasks that participants were going to complete with two parts to each task (A and B). I had two groups for my independent variable. The first group had their cell phones present in the top right corner of their desk while they completed these tasks, and the second group had their cell phones put away where it was not visible while they did the tasks. The two tasks were the “Digit Cancellation” task and the “Trail Making” task. These two tasks had different directions for each and the first task was made to be easier than the second task. Because it is so difficult to measure distractibility, I chose these tasks because they focus specifically on sustained attention. My hypothesis was that the participants in the “phone present” group would perform worse on the second part of both tasks than those in the “phone absent” group. Since this was my first time conducting an in-depth study independently by going around into different college classes, there were many limitations and the results did not necessarily come out the way I had hoped, but the point of my study is to show that cell phones are distracting in environments that require an individual’s full attention. There is literature that strongly suggests that cell phones can influence a person’s performance on tasks that require complete focus. After learning what worked and what didn’t work in my previous study, I plan to do another study on cell phone distraction for my Senior Thesis class this semester. I plan to look at eyewitness memory and cell phone distraction.
Bottom line — research and literature have shown that cell phones, Internet use, social media use, etc. can be distracting to an individual. Even if the distraction has an individual’s attention for only a few seconds, the amount of time it takes someone to get back on task outweighs the amount of time someone was initially on task (Thornton, B., Faires, A., Robbins, M., & Rollins, E., 2014). This can hinder productivity in many different environments. The next time you decide to pick up your cell phone in the middle of class, work, an important meeting, etc., really take a second to think; is this worth my attention?

Thornton, B., Faires, A., Robbins, M., & Rollins, E. (2014). The Mere Presence of a Cell Phone May be Distracting. Social Psychology, 45(6), 479-488. http://dx.doi.org/10.1027/1864-9335/a000216

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Test Prep: An Investment in the Future

Imagine, your child is a sophomore or junior in high school and looking to the future. Maybe he or she has taken a PSAT before and done well and now you’re now starting to look at colleges. There are lots of options: in-state or out-of-state, public or private, and large or small. According to the College Board, the average college in America’s tuition for last year was approximately $33,000 for a private institution and $25,000 at an out-of-state public institution.

In four years, that cost surpasses $100,000, with additional fees, textbooks, and room-and-board.

So, now you’re in sticker-shock recovery and thinking about how you’re going to pay for said college. Next, you should consider an SAT or ACT preparatory courses. Why does my child need SAT Prep, if they already scored a 1200-1300? Schools, especially the pricier private schools, give out high-dollar scholarships. Many use P/SAT or ACT scores as a qualifier. National Merit Scholarships are determined in your junior year, based on your PSAT score. This NMSC awards scholarships of up to $25,000 to 7,500 students across the nation. Some are awarded by the NMSC and some by individual colleges.

I had the privilege of coaching a student in English and Reading skills in September 2016. He was applying to his dream school: a public university in the southeast. Out-of-state tuition for the 2017-2018 year at this school is $28,840, $48,602, if you include room-and-board and fees. That’s $194,408 for four years, barring any tuition or fees increases.

I’ll wait while you pick your jaw up off the floor.

Ultimately, he completed a comprehensive 40-hour program. This student came in knowing what the requirements of the scholarships were. We knew he had to raise his, already high, SAT score a minimum of 100 points, in order to qualify him for a scholarship. Based on his needs and goals, he completed a customized program: 10 hours in Math and 30 hours in English and Reading. SAT Prep proved to be a worthwhile investment for this student. Because of the investment he and his parents made, he raised his SAT score 110 points, and he was ultimately awarded a $32,000 scholarship. We’ve reduced his need from $48,000 to just $15,000. Now his four year, out-of-pocket expense is just $60,000. SAT Prep tuition may seem expensive, but consider the fact that his investment is going to end up saving him roughly $130,000 and it begins to make much more sense.

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Positivity

I enjoy practicing yoga, but rarely have a chance to actually get out to a yoga class, so I typically just end up following a video. In one that I watched recently, the instructor said something that stuck with me: “Take time and honor exactly who you are and where you are today.” Though all of us are working to improve and progress, we shouldn’t be so consumed that we forget to appreciate who and where we are right now. Many of us, myself included, have a habit of holding ourselves to extraordinarily high standards, minimizing our achievements and maximizing our missteps and mistakes. We seem to negate all of the work we have done to make it here and the experiences that have made us who we are. We forget to periodically look back and take stock of how much we’ve grown and progressed already. I think it’s so important for all of us to be a little less critical of ourselves and appreciate our own hard work. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to grow and improve, but we shouldn’t completely lose ourselves and who we are in the process.

This lesson has been a difficult one for me to learn. The past two semesters have been spent pushing myself to my physical and mental limits. I worked two jobs and took a full load of courses, some of them quite intense (including two of Dr. Perez’s accelerated courses). All of this while trying to stay on top of family issues, have a social life, and a successful relationship. I was so driven to reach one goal, then the next, and the one after that and started to be so critical and cruel to myself in the process. I felt awful and it was beginning to take a toll on every aspect of my life. I wasn’t sleeping well, started skipping meals, isolating myself from some friends, and taking my frustrations out on others. I realized I couldn’t keep going on that way, so I did something that can be incredibly difficult to do: I asked for help. In doing so, I found myself taking a step back and looking at things more objectively and realized that I was placing so much unnecessary stress on myself trying to do more and more, trying to be better and better. I had already done quite well and come so far, but had just lost sight of my own progress and didn’t appreciate all the hard work I had already done to get to that point. So I did another difficult thing: I cut myself some slack. It wasn’t easy and it still isn’t. It’s a work in progress. But I feel much better and much more in control. My grades improved, as did my work performance and my relationships with those around me. I’m still struggling to be nicer to myself, but I can look back and see how much progress I’ve made and it’s helping me reach my goals in a better, healthier way.

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Comparing kids

I promised myself when I started having children I would never compare them to each other or to other peoples children. Fast forward to the present, I am now the parent to a 5 year-old daughter and a 3 year-old son. I find myself slipping up every now and then and making comparisons. Just this week I told my son that his sister was already potty trained by the time she was 3 and why wasn’t he. Of course I’d love him to be potty trained, but at what cost? Am I setting him up for failure, trying to force him into something he’s not ready for? Absolutely! We have friends who have a son about my daughter’s age. He did several things ahead of my daughter, largely because he was in daycare from a young age and subsequently pre-school starting at 2. My daughter started pre-school at 3, so naturally he caught on to some things sooner. I notice almost no difference, in less than 2 years time.

What am I doing to myself, as a parent? I’m creating unnecessary stress for myself. There are no glaring “issues” with the development of either of my children. They’re happy, healthy young people, who are meeting all of their milestones in the “normal” range. So what that my son still wears diapers! It’ll happen eventually and there’s no need to create additional drama and stress in our lives. As parents and adults we have enough things on our plates.

I can already see that my children are competitive with each other. They race to see who can get in their car seats faster and whoever wins gets an imaginary trophy. They also race to the front door or when playing in the front yard. If I promote a house where one is pitted against the other, or where we compare their performance to their friends, I am doing them no service. I have noticed that when my daughter can do something that my son can’t, he gets angry and directs that anger at his sister. If I encourage this competitiveness, I may end up doing harm to their relationship with each other as well as their self-esteem.

What will I do instead? I commit to setting goals for each of my children. For example, I ask that my son be at least partially potty trained by the start of school in the fall. He can go to school in a pull-up. I’m hoping that he sees his classmates using the toilet for pee and poop that peer pressure will kick in and will want to use the toilet. I will praise my children when they accomplish a new goal. They will get words of thanks and accomplishment. Finally, I commit to providing the support my children need to accomplish their goals. Whether it’s in school, extracurricular activities, or at home, I will give them whatever tools they need to help them attain their goals and I will be there with encouragement when they need the support.

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Lincoln and Learning

Abraham Lincoln was an extremely intelligent man. Well read, measured, and able to stand toe to toe with America’s greatest minds, one might assume that, like many Presidents before him, he was born into fortune and attended the most prestigious schools in the nation. In reality, Lincoln was born to an average family in a frontier town in Kentucky. His family later moved to Indiana to escape massive slave owning plantations that swallowed up smaller farms like that which Lincoln’s father owned. Frontier life was not known for its leisure. Lincoln received very little formal education growing up. He would occasionally attend lectures at small schools, but he was needed at home to help work and provide for the family alongside his father. Lincoln did not fit in with other boys his age in Indiana. Despite not having the opportunity to attend school regularly, Lincoln was constantly learning. He devoured any book he could get his hands on, and was considered lazy by anyone who saw him because he was constantly reading instead of working. Lincoln did not let his circumstances determine his future.

He took his education into his own hands, feeding his natural curiosity with book after book. Eventually, Lincoln struck out on his own. After trying his hand at owning a general store, which failed, he became interested in politics and law. He decided that he would become a lawyer, and, like before, he taught himself everything he would need to know. Again, he read book after book, until he had a masterful understanding of the law. He did not attend a famous law school or study under a great lawyer, he taught himself.

Whether it is the system you are stuck in, or lack of opportunities available, take a lesson from one of the greatest figures of the 19th century. Believe in yourself, make the opportunities that aren’t available, chase your desires. If you stick with what you love, opportunities will open before you. Lincoln read and learned things he loved, and, despite growing up in the middle of nowhere, through his dogged determination, a young man born into a one room wood cabin went on to become perhaps the most powerful and revered President in American history.

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How Education Liberates?

“Education liberates us from the shackles that are within us and from the shackles that are imposed on us by the society”-Dr. Fazaga. Growing up, I was told that education is important because it helps shape your future. But, as a teenager, it never made sense to me. How is Algebra and History going to shape my future? Algebra certainly doesn’t have magical powers. Look at those professional athletes! They make millions of dollars a year without a degree. They also seem to have an amazing life. Growing up, I could not see the connection between education and a successful, good life.

But half way through college, I’ve come to realize something that was eye-opening for me. One of my teachers, Dr. Fazaga, had told me something very special. He told me that the main benefit of education is that “Education liberates us from the shackles that are within us and from the shackles that are imposed on us by the society.” Education makes you a responsible citizen and allows you to make objective, informed decisions. Since then, I have come to realize that education may or may not have the power to change my future but it definitely has the power to transform my present.

I started working at the ERG during my senior year of college. I’ve had number of jobs since high school. I worked at an auto shop, worked at a lab, did pizza delivery during the summer, worked as a student ambassador, worked as a waiter etc. But ERG was different. Working at ERG, I actually realized something really important. When you help, encourage, advise others to do something, it actually has a profound impact on yourself. It’s like throwing a tennis ball at the wall. Whether the wall feels it or not, it surely comes back to you. I would encourage students to do well in school and that would help me do better at my own studies. Working with so many kids was an amazing experience. It’s a pleasure to see students improve and reach their maximum potential. I don’t really know why, but at some point, their success becomes your own success.

Education may or may not guarantee financial stability. But it does guarantee an enlightened individual. It is an honor to be part of the Educational Resource Group because it helps kids get an education no matter how hard that might be for some of them.

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My Kid Didn’t Make Honor Roll and I’m Thankful for it

The leaves are changing. The weather is cooling. It’s that time of year again when we ask ourselves –What are YOU thankful for? My story of gratitude is one that has a rocky beginning. This November, my son, Cristian, was chosen as the ERG student of the month. That may not seem like a particular feat for some, but for me, it’s a pretty darn big deal. Considering I didn’t even get a vote (or a nomination), it’s something particularly meaningful as well. But to understand the full story, you’ll need a little background information. I trained as a school psychologist. For nearly six years, I administered all kinds of tests and gave out all kinds of labels. I had great training and I was pretty darn good at my job –just ask any IEP facilitator in the county! One day, I met a woman who spoke a resonating truth. “You’ll be a better psychologist when you have kids.” I had just recommended that her son be dismissed from services. He was 12 years old and continued to struggle in school. He obviously still needed support, but he no longer qualified for services. The mom wasn’t angry when she spoke. More than anything, she seemed tired. While I didn’t understand it fully that day, today I realize just how right she was. A few years later, I discovered that I was expecting my first child. I received a phone call one day that changed my life forever. It was a beautiful Friday morning in September. I was sitting in the car with my husband watching as they put the final touches on our new house. As we sat dreaming about the memories we’d soon be creating, my phone rang. It was the doctor’s office. “Hi, Mrs. Perez….something wrong….see a genetic specialist….we’ll talk later.” That’s about all of the conversation that I remember. Next thing I know, I was begging my husband to drive so that our new neighbors wouldn’t witness my emotional breakdown. He had no idea what was wrong, but instinct kicked in and he drove. Finally, a safe distance away, he pulled over and I explained that the doctor thought there might be something wrong with the baby. That next week, we went to see the genetic counselor. I had arrived about 15 minutes late. I had been dreading this appointment. Instead of being supportive or welcoming, the receptionist curtly pointed out that I was late. Normally, I’d question her rudeness, or make a sarcastic comment back, but feeling another wave of tears coming on, I mumbled an apology and sat down in defeat waiting to hear if my baby was ok. Fast forward 6 years. While no genetic abnormalities had shown on the testing that day, a new struggle was on the horizon. As many parents were celebrating their children’s first achievements, I struggled with my son’s teachers. “He can’t read Mrs. Perez.” “We’ve done what we can Mrs. Perez.” “He never lines up on time, he loses everything, his handwriting is horrible, he doesn’t understand the math concepts, blah…blah…blah…blah”. More fancy labels came…ADHD, Executive Dysfunction, Dyscalculia…. but where was the support? No emotion can quite describe how I felt during those school days. Frustration. Anger. Exhaustion. Hopelessness. They all fit, but not one alone could quite sum it up well enough. I remembered what that mother has said so long ago…”You’ll be a better psychologist once you’ve had kids”. Hmm…I had left the public school system quite a few years ago. But, maybe she was right. Seeing life through her eyes gave me a much broader perspective. It’s easy to fall into a parenting funk. Especially when it seemed like all my other mom friends were celebrating their kid’s academic talents or awards each year. While I was happy for them, they didn’t seem to be able to relate to my struggle. Night after night I sat at the dining room table trying to be both parent and service provider to my kid. It’s not an easy combination –I can tell you. Cooking dinner, being present for my other kids, and providing more of what Cristian wasn’t getting in school, but needed so desperately, seemed impossible. It was out of this chaos that an idea sparked. I knew I wasn’t alone. Who was helping these kids? These parents? Where was the support? And so, the Educational Resource Group was born. Fast forward to nearly a decade later and it’s my kid who gets voted as Student of the Month. Wow…what I would say to my younger mom self. What I would say to my son, six years old and swinging his legs at the dining room table. Working so hard to just keep up, staying so patient and fighting through his own frustration. And what I would say to that mom who gave me what was to become one of my most powerful life lessons. Bottom line….I’d say Thank You. I’m forever grateful for that mom –sisters in the struggle so many years later –for being brave, speaking her truth, and opening my eyes to what they don’t teach you in graduate school. And today, I continue to say thank you. Thank you to my wonderful staff, both past and present, who’ve dedicated their lives to helping our kids fight their own battles in and out of the classroom. I say thank you to the moms and dads who have shared their fears, their tears, and their hopes. I firmly believe that in our difficult moments we uncover our resilience. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to be a mentor and a guide for my son and so many other wonderful families that walk through our doors at the Educational Resource Group. For me, even that rude receptionist taught me a valuable life lesson. Our families have come to expect warmth, support, hope, and acceptance. We won’t tolerate anything less. We understand how difficult it can be and we built this organization with that struggle in mind. We are an extension of your family, a support system to back you up on even the most difficult days, and we will fight, and celebrate, with you every step of the way. In closing, I just want to say thank you to my son who, day after day, put one foot in front of the other and held his head high as he crossed those school doors and walked into his own battleground of frustration day after day. Congratulations, Cristian! Look how far you’ve come baby…

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Effects of Technology and Learning

Encouraging the use of technology with your child/student as a supplemental learning tool.

As the school year is now in full session, kids are back, eager and ready to learn! We should all encourage the use of technology as a supplemental learning tool for all age ranges. Technology has changed the way we think, work, learn and play. Through the use of technology, learning becomes more interactive. When technology is incorporated in education, there are countless benefits to the students. Students are more engaged and motivated in the subject matter because their minds are more stimulated with hands on learning therefore, retaining more information. It allows for students to think critically and solve problems on their own.

Various technologies promote different kinds of learning in students. For example the use of the iPads, internet and can be used to customize the material based on the individuals strengths and focus on the areas of concentration. In addition, using technology at an earlier age benefits the students with skills that are essential to the 21st century!

There are so many great resources, apps and websites, that can be used to supplement their education. Here are some examples that technology can be used as an excellent source for a fun and engaging way to learn.

General for all ages

* Khan Academy – (website and app) – www.khanacademy.org – For ages K-12
Students can use this site to learn at their own pace, master skills that are challenging and appropriate for their level, reinforce skills already learned, and use hints and videos to provide help when needed.

* Duolingo – (website and app) – www.duolingo.com – For all ages
Students can use this for a fun and interactive way to learn a new language such as Spanish, French, German, Italian and so many more. This app is great for foreign language learners.

* typing.com (Website) – www.typing.com – For all ages
Students can use this to learn to type and practice their typing skills.

* Peak – (app) – For all ages
For those looking to challenge and improve cognitive skills in areas of memory, problem-solving, language, mental agility, focus, emotion, and coordination while playing games.

* Lumosity – (website and app) – https://www.lumosity.com – For all ages
Looking to improve cognitive skills and brain training in areas of speed, processing, memory, and attention, this is a great app for that.

* Coding (website) – https://code.org – For all ages
Everyone can learn the basics of html and javascript with this interactive website.

Pre-K – Kindergarten

* ABC Mouse – (website and app) – www.abcmouse.com – For children ages 2-7
Students can use this interactive tool as a fun way to explore reading, math, colors, shapes, and the world around us.

* PBS Kids – (website and app) – www.http://pbskids.org – For children 2-7
Students can learn through fun and interactive games.

Elementary School

* ABC Ya – (website and app) – www.abcya.com – For grades K-5
Online games for kids in K-5 sorted by grade level. Games incorporate areas such as math and language arts while introducing basic computer skills.

* Cool Math For Kids (website) – http://www.coolmath4kids.com – For ages 12 & under
Math lessons, brainteasers and games for kids under 12.

Middle school

* Cool Math (website) – http://www.coolmath.com – For ages 13 and older
Students can practice pre-algebra, algebra and pre-calculus lessons while interacting with games.

* Brain Pop (Website/App) – https://www.brainpop.com – For ages 8 and older
This tool engages students through animated movies, learning games, interactive quizzes, primary source activities, concept mapping, and much more

High School

* Purdue Online Writing Lab – (website) – https://owl.english.purdue.edu – For grades 7th to 12th
A great resource for writing, grammar and style guides

* Collegeboard – (website) – https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/practice – For 9-12th grade
Students can use this tool to practice and get ready for the SAT, PSAT

College and Beyond

* iTunes U – (ios app) –
This app provides free online courses in a variety of subjects developed by instructors in some of the world’s leading universities. Courses come with loads of materials, such as audio, video, ebooks and more.

* Coursera – (Website/ App) https://www.coursera.org – For Adults
Coursera is an education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide, to offer courses online for anyone to take.

The limits to all the great resource out there ere endless! The internet and apps have made it possible for continued learning to be a fun and engaging experience for everyone. Have a great school year!!!

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