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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Sophie’s Farewell

As August comes to an end so does my time at the Educational Resource Group. As some of you know my husband is in the Navy and he has received orders to Hawaii. I have lived in Annapolis for almost three years and worked in other places, but the ERG felt most like home.
I felt at home each day I went to work and it saddens me to be leaving. I really do wish I had found the ERG sooner. I have loved working with the students and helping them progress in their cognitive training. I love coming into the office and having fun with the other coaches. I will miss all of you all.
On a happier note I would like to share some of my favorite places to visit and things to do.

1. Washington DC –I always enjoyed jumping on the metro at New Carrollton station and taking the twenty minute ride into the city. It is filled with amazing history and I was able to embrace my inner photographer. I would go and walk and shoot all day.
2. Hersey Park –I know this isn’t in Maryland, but I went there recently and rode a roller-coaster for the first time! I have to say it was amazingly terrifying and I would do it again…. Well some of the rides anyway. I enjoyed my time at the park, but I still don’t love Hersey chocolate as much as Cadbury (made in the town I grew up in, so it is a biased opinion).
3. Bowie Baysox Stadium –When I went here this was also full of firsts….. My first fun filled day out with the other trainers from the ERG, my first baseball game and I ate my first hotdog! Dr. Perez, Manny, Amy and the other trainers kept me laughing all afternoon, the game was pretty good, but the first hotdog was also my last.
4. Downtown Annapolis –I am a very proud Navy wife and having the chance to live in Maryland was amazing. However, living so close to the history of America and the Navy was something else. I never missed a chance of a stroll in Downtown Annapolis. I did all the tourist things; went on the different boats, toured the Naval Academy, ate crabs and took hundreds of pictures. My favorite place to eat downtown had to be Buddy’s Crabs and Ribs…… I couldn’t get enough of the crab soup and ribs they had to offer. Every time I went in I received great service and enjoyed wonderful food.
It is an understatement to say I enjoyed my time in Maryland. I can’t even put into words how much fun I had while living here. It is easy to live somewhere and forget what is around and what great things the state has to offer. Go out and enjoy some of my favorite places. Don’t take Maryland for granted and relish every minute.
I travelled a lot before I met my husband and I love all the adventures anyone can have in different places. I am looking forward to the next adventure in my life. Maryland will always be the first state I ever lived and I will never forget the great times I had here.
I will also never forget my ERG family. I will be sending them updates and pictures of me spreading the word of the Educational Resource Group wherever I go! Let’s take the ERG Global!
Sophie
“Oh, the places you will go!”

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Spread some Joy- Tiffany Owens

Spread Some Joy

 

-Happiness and laughter-life’s natural medicine. Happiness is more than a phrase; it’s a way of living, a way of doing, and a way of interacting. Happiness has an abundant amount of benefits to the body and mind, more than just a smile or the platform to a “good day”. Renowned benefits include a healthier heart, a strengthened immune system, fewer aches and pains, greater use of intellect and efficiency, and longevity. So how do we create this happiness and joy and how can it be sustained? Here are five tips/tricks to help you increase your level of happiness and make way for a brighter, healthier tomorrow.

-Be Grateful- This is something too many of us forget to do. I will be the first to admit that I often take things for granted and do not appreciate all life has to offer and the opportunities that I’ve been given. Being grateful for what we have and cherishing every little moment in a day, or even saying thank you can go a long way for you and those whom you are grateful for.

-Reduce Stress-This is a big task to many, but you can start by surrounding yourself with positivity; including people, places or things and eliminating Negative Nancys or Debbie Downers. This could also mean worrying less about things outside of your control. Too often we get consumed with the chore of trying to control our surroundings. Once you come to terms that life is forever unpredictable and not everything may be scheduled and structured, you begin to release the pressure and weight of responsibility thus, reducing stress.

-Embrace & Be Open- Take a chance and live in the moment. Embrace the small talk of a new neighbor, be open to change at work, never limit your mind or possibilities. Let’s be real, living in the moment isn’t easy with three kids and a spouse, but embracing spontaneity every once in a while keeps the soul fresh and young.

-Forgive-Forgiveness is a big word and an even bigger challenge. As children we forgive more often because we are more trusting and optimistic. As adults we have experimented through life’s trial and errors of which we have learned to build barriers in order to protect ourselves. Step outside of your walls and climb down from your ego and learn to forgive more frequently. Forgiveness is the path to spiritual awakening for many and emotional justice for all.

-Fake the Funk- Better known as “Fake It Til You Make It!” Even if you’re feeling down and are certain the whole world is against you, just smile. The simple motion of smiling releases endorphins (happy hormones) and improves your mood and helps you feel less tense. Tell yourself “today will be a good day” when you wake up in the morning. It tricks your brain into already believing in positivity, that way, you are more likely to react favorably to things that would normally drive you mad.

These positive habits are great not only for maintaining a work life balance, but keeping the peace in your social relationships and is applicable to anyone of any age. Parents, share these tips with your children. Start healthy habits early to influence positive behavior well into adulthood.

Dr. Timothy Sharp of The Happiness Institute states “Happiness is determined more by our minds than by our circumstances”. Always remember that happiness is measured by each person differently meaning, what makes you happy may not be the same for the next person so, try to understand and accept rather than dismiss and judge.

 

LIVE HAPPY AND BE WELL

~Tiffany

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Can you manage the rocks in your life?

By Kelly Barnard

It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon and you’re dreaming of the things you would like to accomplish. Law School, marathon running, sailing, get in shape. The list will vary depending on your goals, age, stage in life. Then somehow it’s 5 years later and you’re still in a job you hate or not making and progress in life. Why is this? Do you find yourself spending inordinate amounts of time occupied by the internet? The TV? Do you hear yourself saying, ‘I wish I had time to learn x.’ Do you complain that you never have time for your dreams?

 

Where does all this time go? It’s lost to the Time Thief. It’s happened to the best of us! It’s pretty much the same scenario. You sit down to computer to check your checking account balance or look for a recipe on Pinterest and you slip down the rabbit hole. Soon enough, you’ve watched an episode of Friends you’ve seen at least a dozen times or pinned things for projects you have no intention of starting or crafts you have no interest in making or played Candy Crush for the last hour.

 

SOAR Study Skills (Kruger, 2007) suggests dividing your life into three categories:

  1. The Rocks: These are the big things in life. Perhaps you want to finish your degree, or pursue marathon running or sailing or you want to learn to knit. Maybe you want to date.
  2. The Pebbles: These are the activities you must do. This category includes things, like eating, sleeping, working or going to school. These activities occur daily and are required tasks.
  3. The Water: These are the activities we get to do if we have spare time. They include playing video games, watching tv, etc. These are fun activities to do as time allows but are filler to the rest of our lives.

 

When you’re older and look back on your life, will you remember that you beat some video game? Will you even still have your Pinterest or Facebook?

Will you regret that you didn’t pursue a doctorate or take up a lifelong hobby? Maybe or maybe not. If you spend all your extra time pursuing the “water” in your life, you will never have room for the boulders. The idea is that you’ve lived your life to its fullest, taken advantage of all the things life has to offer and look back on your life with a smile. Just think how much extra time you would have if you put down the phone or the XBox controller! Try dividing your life into the three categories. Take the time to separate your life into the required and optional. Set goals for larger things you want for the Rock section. Make sure you’re making time for all the tasks in your life.

 

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A voice from the other side by Hope Stone

I was a public school teacher for five years. I will always consider myself a teacher. The drive and empathy that many teachers have when starting out what will continue to ensure that I feel in my heart that I am a teacher.

~ Only, I no longer have four walls, a chalkboard and 30 some students. ~

Some days that hurts, other days I remember that I took a stand for my own personal goals and that meant that I needed to step out of the classroom environment. What I can tell you is that I continue to learn daily at ERG how to help children succeed, a feeling that I begin to feel slip away from me in the public school system.

 

I applaud each and every one of you for taking the steps necessary to ensure your/ your child’s success. It is never too late to start on the path for better planning, reading retention, memory processing. Even better, it’s never too early to start! A question that I want to pose to you today, what can you do to better help connect the programs at ERG, to home, to school and then back to ERG? I know from experience that teachers are impacted by their jobs constantly; way after the school bell rings and even after school is out for the summer. Last summer I even found myself drawing out classroom seating arrangements in the middle of July! I loved to celebrate my students’ accomplishments when I could notice them. Positive reinforcement really does work! On the flip side, there were days when I would be at a complete loss as to what would help a particular child. I didn’t know back then that there was a place like ERG to send them to. If you haven’t told your teacher about the program that your child is completing at ERG, do it! While you are at it, ask if there is anything else you can do to assist. You might find that the teacher could use some of the knowledge from ERG to help in the classroom even more. They may just appreciate a parent that is willing to appreciate what they do rather than criticize. When I was a kid, my dad and I would watch the 5pm news, dinner at 6 and we would talk as a family. This has become a lost art having busier schedules than ever but find some time to discuss how they feel about the programs at ERG and if they feel the same way in the classroom. You may be surprised! Do not underestimate the importance of one day, one month or one year in a child’s education. Every day is important and they are constantly observing and learning and we want to make sure that they are learning in the best way possible!

Here is an additional article with some practical advice if you are not sure why or how to have frequent conversations with your children!

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