Tips ’n’ Tricks for Parents

Healing Homework Blues


Does your child take too long to do homework?


If I had a dollar for every time I heard a parent lament family stress related to homework, I’d be a wealthy teacher! Homework blues are a common woe faced by parents of students of all ages. The remedy for helping students complete their homework efficiently seems to elude us all. As I work with students and draw out their responses, I believe I’ve uncovered the answer to a question so many parents wrestle with: Why does my child take so long to finish their homework?? And the answer I hear most often from students themselves is…distractions!  


Here’s the scenario: distractions cause homework time to drag out unproductively. That results in later bedtimes, which of course creates tired students who can’t performing at their best throughout the day…which makes their homework take even longer. It’s a futile cycle—like the proverbial hamster wheel.


The inevitable result of this relentless drama is stress in family relationships. And in this day and age, families don’t need added stressors in their relationships with their children!


Most anyone who is a parent is all too familiar with the picture I’ve described. So, what’s the solution? I’d like to offer a “Golden Remedy.”


Make homework time into a daily, competitive game.


In this challenging “game,” students compete against themselves. Here’s what it looks like:


Before beginning homework, students take two minutes to write a list of that day’s subjects and assignments. Next to each assignment, write an estimate of how long that assignment ought to take to complete. Then, set an alarm for that amount of time. Ready? Get set. GO! Try to beat the alarm!


The subtle beauty of this race against the clock is that it encourages students to remain intensely focused on the assignment, resulting in better results and more effective learning, in addition to more efficient use of time.


For younger children…


Parents can help with setting a timer.


For older students…


Their #1 distractor is the variety of electronics and social media they have at their fingertips, especially the irresistible tug of their cell phones. The allure of those little, musical alerts is too powerful for many students to resist Consider making homework time a phone-free zone altogether or keeping the phone on silent. Brainstorming a solution together with them will give them ownership of the plan and greater motivation to make it work.




Not only can this strategy help to heal families’ homework blues, but it also teaches our children an effective time management game they can use successfully for the rest of their lives!

A Pen & a Plan



We’re teachers. We’re professional writers. AND we’re parents. So we get it. Some kids can write a 17-page journal entry without coming up for air. Other students would rather clean a bathroom as write a single paragraph. Writing is a joy for some—but painful for others.


Yet, writing is one of life’s most valuable skills. Like it or not, we are often judged based on our ability to express ourselves well. And like it or not, doors to future opportunities for our children may open or close, based on their writing skills.


That’s why we created our writing skills workshops! Sherry Parnell and I are both published authors with years of experience teaching writing to young people. We love what we do! Our passion is not only to equip our students with solid writing skills, but also to inspire them to enjoy the process along the way.


It may encourage you to know that even if your child is not a natural writer, writing is a skill much like playing a sport or a musical instrument. Writing skills can be learned by most anyone. And the process can be fun! Through storytelling, group collaboration, and interactive activities, children can learn some of the secrets professional writers use to make their writing a pleasure to read. School papers can become as much fun to read and write as a mystery novel!


Additionally, research has shown repeatedly that students can lose as much as 30% of their prior school year learning over the summer.[1]  This includes a loss of the critical reading and writing skills your child needs to succeed. Regretfully, the ability to think critically is a skill that is disappearing from our classrooms. We want to help you put your child in the best position for success by teaching them these valuable skills. Our unique writing workshops will introduce students to analytical and creative writing techniques. Students will learn to think critically and organize their thoughts into clear, cohesive ideas. And they will learn to express themselves in ways that make their writing a pleasure to read!


We’ll reveal a few of our secrets in our upcoming workshops…!





[1] Atteberry, A., & McEachin, A. (2016). School’s out: Summer learning loss across grade levels and school contexts in the United States today.  In Alexander, K., Pitcock, S., & Boulay, M. (Eds). Summer learning and summer learning loss, pp35-54. New York: Teachers College Press.


Take Ten!

“Take Ten” is a daily, ten-minute routine that improves on the two key elements of improving grades: organization and learning. 

How It Works

When students sit down to do their homework each evening, they should take the first ten minutes to organize papers and review notes from all their classes:

  • TWO minutes to clean out the book bag and organize papers in folders or a binder.
  • EIGHT minutes to review all the notes and handouts that were distributed throughout the day.

This daily review helps the brain process information much faster, dramatically reduces study time for tests, helps students work through their homework faster, and will ensure that assignments get turned in!

Why Does It Work?

This process is very brain-friendly. It caters to the way the brain works on several levels:

  • Reviewing information within 24 hours helps the brain transfer information from short-term to long-term memory.
  • A review allows the brain to make new connections with information, making long-term recall easier. The brain works best when it has time to let new information “simmer” and be processed by the unconscious mind.
  • Students more easily shift into higher levels of thinkingWhen reviewing new information at a different time and/or in a different setting, the brain develops a new perspective on information. This new perspective allows the brain to channel the information at higher levels, moving beyond rote recall.
  • “Take Ten” makes higher level thinking and organization familiar processes for the brain! Habits get hard-coded into the brain; when neuron pathways are used several times, the brain takes note and coats those neuron pathways with a substance called myelin to preserve them. Take Ten is a simple habit to develop. It won’t take long before high-gear learning and organization become permanent for your students.


Susan Kruger, M.Ed. 
Former Struggling Student


QUICK RE-CAP: How to  Motivate Students for Success

 “Take Ten.” Students save hours of homework and study time by taking ten minutes every day to organize their papers and review notes: 2 minutes to clean out their bags and sort papers in their binder, and 8 minutes to review notes from all classes that day.

How to Organize & Motivate Students for Success

Here are two great benefits from one simple strategy!

Sometimes, simplicity is difficult to comprehend. For some reason, we naturally make things more complicated than necessary. Nowhere is that more evident than in school.

We were raised to believe that learning is “hard work” and that being a good student means hours of labor. We have passed that notion on to our students. As a result we often believe that many of our students would “get it” if they just tried harder.

However, the idea that learning has to be to a lot of dreadful labor does a lot of damage.

First, it causes students to associate learning with negative feelings. With our natural curiosity and ability to learn, we should be celebrating opportunities to learn! Instead, we think of learning as painful and boring. This makes us educators feel as if we are fighting a constant uphill battle. Well, we are!

Second, it is a false premise. No one likes to fail. Nearly every student enters school with a natural desire to succeed and feel good about themselves. They start out wanting to try their best. However, when students who struggle are told that they just need to “try harder,” they get confused; they are already trying hard and it isn’t working. They don’t know how to try harder. Eventually they find it easier to stop trying than to face repeated failures and confusion. This is when they get labeled as “lazy” and are made to feel as if there is something inherently wrong with them.

Finally, it destroys students’ quality of life. Students spend 13+ years of their life in school, believing that it all has to be a chore. I believe in the merits of hard work, but “hard work” shouldn’t be synonymous with “misery.” We accept it as normal, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

It would make our jobs a heck of a lot easier if it weren’t that way!

To be honest, I haven’t discovered 90% of my options for simplifying my life. But I do know how to simplify learning, making school less of a chore for my students, and making my job as a teacher quite a bit easier

I “accidentally” discovered study skills in college and they transformed my life! I started out struggling all the way from kindergarten to 12th grade. Once I learned how to learn, I easily earned a 3.9 GPA in college. Since then, I have spent over 20 years studying the brain and the processes for learning. The following is one of many great “shortcuts” I have discovered.


Tips ‘n’ Tricks for successful learning: Learn to Love Learning!

Successful Learning


Study after study has shown that “spaced repetition” is the most effective form of learning. That means, we ought to be helping students to continually review and repeat prior concepts…then add new skills on to the previous skills. This not only helps students to completely master learning concepts, but it also helps them to retain their knowledge long-term. No more “in-one-ear-and-out-the-other” learning!


Best of all, repetition of concepts helps students to build confidence. And it makes learning more meaningful and fun in the process.


When it comes to making repetitive learning fun and fast, few things beat flashcards. Students are never too old or too wise to benefit from flashcards! Adding a picture onto a flashcard provides a “visual memory trigger” that’s almost unforgettable. Not an artist? No problem! Google images has pictures for every imaginable subject. The sillier the better!

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