Just Say No to New Year’s Resolutions

Just Say No to New Year’s Resolutions

Some traditions outlive their usefulness, and making New Year’s resolutions seems to be one. Do an online search for “no resolutions 2021” and you’ll find videos, blog posts, articles, lists, and advice on ditching the resolutions.

If you’ve ever resolved to start doing something, or stop doing something, or set a specific goal, then you’re familiar with the optimism at the beginning, and probably also the depression at the end, when it didn’t work out the way you planned.

Why Resolutions Fail

One survey from Franklin/Covey found that more than three-quarters of people who make New Year’s resolutions will break them. A third won’t even make it to the end of January. In an interview with Business Insider, psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert cites three main reasons our New Year’s resolutions fail:

  • Your resolution isn’t specific enough
  • You aren’t framing your resolution positively (instead of “stop” or “don’t”, think in terms of “do”)
  • Your resolution isn’t uniquely about you but may be influenced by friends, family, or society

What to Do Instead?

Marelisa Fabrega, lawyer and entrepreneur lists 10 alternatives to New Year’s resolutions on her blog, Daring to Live Fully. These include:

  • Create a bucket list for the new year
  • Create a list of things to look forward to
  • Choose one word to guide you throughout the year (like joy, serenity, discipline, flourish)

When you keep your goals smaller, they are more achievable. And, just like with exercising, if you have a buddy you connect with, you’re more likely to succeed. You don’t have to have the same goals in order to help encourage each other to stick with your own.

Instead of going to the gym, or losing weight, a survey of 2,000 Americans conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Affirm found that the majority are focusing on learning life skills, or saving money. 53 percent want to spend more time with their family, and 49 percent want to travel more. And nearly 60 percent want to cultivate a more positive outook on life.

Ditching Resolutions Could be Good for Your Health

If you are making resolutions out of pressure or obligation, either self-imposed or from others, you are setting yourself up for failure, according to Dr. Sophie Lazarus, a psychologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. She contends that 2020 was a challenging year for most everyone. Instead of putting extra pressure on yourself for 2021, if you absolutely want to adopt a “fresh start” mentality, start small. Instead of “quit eating junk food, period”, for example, pick one day a week where you give yourself permission to eat something you shouldn’t. The weekly relief valve not only gives you something to look forward to, but it helps you stay on track the rest of the week.

But if you’re determined to make a change, increase the odds of being successful by starting small with something you know you can accomplish. As an old and wise Jedi Grand Master once said, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Which Is the Best Tutoring Solution for Your Child?

Which Is the Best Tutoring Solution for Your Child?

There are basically four main learning styles for children (and adults): Visual, Auditory, Tactile, and Kinesthetic. Most children fall into a combination of styles, but you can usually identify one style that seems to be the most successful.

Four Basic Learning Styles

  • Visual Learners learn through seeing. Showing works better than explaining.
  • Auditory Learners learn through listening. Explaining and discussing things is the best way to reach them.
  • Tactile Learners learn through touch. Being able to use their hands, reading, writing, and even doodling or drawing, helps them learn.
  • Kinesthetic Learners need to move and do. The kinesthetic learner may have trouble sitting still and needs to be able to be active in order to stay engaged.

No surprise that experts don’t all agree, and many of them break down these four basic learning styles into more specific niches. The important thing is to be able to recognize what works for your child, and use that knowledge to help them succeed.

Practical Application in the Classroom

Now imagine that you have a classroom of twenty students, and they all have slightly different learning styles that work for them. And they are all at different levels of comprehension and mastery of a specific subject or concept. It is clearly a huge challenge to try to meet those individual needs and ensure that everyone in the class is “getting it”.

If you are the parent of a student who may be struggling to keep up, or just needs a little extra one-on-one attention to achieve mastery of a subject, private tutoring is an effective option. Even the most accomplished students benefit from having the teacher’s undivided attention to ask questions and get answers.

Pandemic Learning Loss

This is even more true over the past year where we have seen students who normally don’t have a problem in school who are now falling behind. It may be directly related to the switch to online learning, part-time school, and the inherent inadequacies of these models, or it may also be related to the social isolation, uncertainty, and anxiety they feel.

Whatever the cause, studies are showing impressive gains for students who are trying to combat COVID learning loss by receiving online tutoring. Scientific American has published data from an analysis of 96 different tutoring models, and found that “80 percent of the studies led to markedly improved outcomes, with more than half of the studies reporting large gains as a result of these programs. In education research, such consensus is a rarity, and the consistency and magnitude of the results are both remarkable and encouraging.”

An Italian study has shown that middle school students who received three hours of online tutoring a week saw a 4.7 percent boost in performance in math, English and Italian. With six hours of tutoring support, improvement doubled. They have seen similar results in online tutoring programs in the United States and the results of these different tutoring programs “suggest that tutoring is a key tool in keeping students engaged and combatting the growing COVID-19 learning loss.”

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Trained educators are able to assess a student’s performance and learning style and can adapt lessons to suit. Tutors who are subject matter experts but are not trained teachers may know their subject cold, but it doesn’t mean they are equipped to teach a struggling student.

At TutorUp, all of our tutors are certified, background-checked, experienced teachers, and we match your student’s specific needs with the perfect tutor from our database of over 3,000 professionals. We facilitate the matchup, you schedule sessions at your convenience, and the teacher/tutor provides session recaps for every tutoring session.

We have three different solutions for families looking for personalized online tutoring

Individual Sessions

To see if our online tutoring is the right fit for your student, we offer the opportunity to purchase one hour at a time, or you can take advantage of our introductory offer for new students, where you can purchase 3 hours of tutoring and get a 4th hour for free.

Package Pricing

For students who would benefit from more than a couple of tutoring sessions, we offer package pricing at a discount from the individual session price. You can purchase 8, 16, or 24 hours and they never expire, so you can use them as needed.

Subscription Pricing

Our very best value is our subscription model, where you sign up for 4, 8, 16, or 24 hours of tutoring per month, on a recurring basis. Unused hours roll over to the next month, and you may cancel anytime.

To find out more, Get Started here.

Tired of Electronics and Computers? Try Books!

Tired of Electronics and Computers? Try Books!

Remember the unique smell of books and paper that greeted you the moment you stepped in the library? And the shelves and shelves of stories both real and fictional, promising hours of distraction from “real” life? How about your favorite book store? So many possibilities to choose from, it was hard to decide. And there’s the feel of a book in your hands, the weight and substance of it. No batteries or electronic cables to contend with. No blue light burning into your retinas, disturbing your sleep and fracturing your ability to concentrate.

If your kids are becoming digital zombies, addicted to the instant gratification offered by their various “plugged in” devices, it may be time to return to the joys of reading an actual physical book.

It Started with Email

Back in the early days of email, it was a special little thrill to hear “You’ve got mail!” and to see that the mailbox flag was up and an envelope was peeking out. Paper mail was boring. Or at least it was common. Cards, letters, announcements, invitations, bills, advertisements… they were ordinary. Gradually all of these communiques stopped arriving in the U.S. mail and were all delivered “paperless” and “digitally”. We’ve come full circle and are now at the point where an actual handwritten note or letter that appears in your physical mailbox (when you remember to check it) is an unexpected delight. When someone takes the time to actually hand write something, fold it up, stuff it in an envelope, buy postage and mail it to you, you treasure it more than a dozen e-cards that took 10 seconds and a few mouseclicks to send.

A similar transformation has happened with books. In the first 10 months of 2020, ebook sales registered nearly a billion dollars. With a “b”. Audiobooks have also increased tremendously and in the same time period reached sales of $56.9 million. Downloaded audio is ten times that amount at $553.6 million.

The good news is that physical paper books, both hardback and paperback, are still outselling their digital counterparts with hardback revenues for the first 10 months of 2020 at $2.6 billion, and paperbacks at $2.1 billion.

The Effect of the Pandemic and Online School

Many families have struggled with balancing computer time and other activities, especially since quarantine and lockdowns are severely restricting options for kids. Adding to that, many children are required to spend hours a day in front of a computer, tablet, or other digital device instead of attending school in person. Parents who have been trying to limit their child’s time online are now finding that they have to force their children to spend more time online.

A study by the National Institutes of Health found that children who spent more than two hours a day using screens scored lower on language and thinking tests. Some children who spent more than seven hours a day of screen time actually experienced physical changes to their brain structure, affecting critical thinking and reasoning.

According to EdSource, children ages 8-12 in the U.S. spend four to six hours a day watching or using screens on average, and teens spend up to nine hours. This is exacerbated with additional requirements for school and homework that has to be completed online, due to school closings.

Offering an Alternative

Children who are oversaturated with screen time need a break. If your local library is open, a weekly visit is a free way to introduce (or reintroduce) the joy of reading a physical book to your children, regardless of age. If that’s not an option where you live, you can always contact your local bookstore and order books that they can ship to you or you can pick up curbside. A quick online search reveals that there are many sources for discount and bargain books you can order. There are even sources for free books for kids. This list from The Penny Hoarder includes free physical books, PDF copies you can download and print, and ebooks.

The Little Free Library is the world’s largest book-sharing movement and now has over 100,000 book-sharing boxes worldwide. Their motto is “Take a Book – Share a Book” and they encourage book-sharing in all types of communities. To see if there is one near you, check their world map. These little library boxes in Albuquerque, New Mexico are made from converted newspaper vending boxes, built by Bob Shipley, with instructions on how to do it yourself. Many communities also informally set up shelves and racks in public areas that encourage the same kind of book-sharing as the Little Free Library, and a phone call to your city or Chamber of Commerce could point you to their locations.

Encouraging a love of reading is a gift you can give to your child that will pay off their whole life, and giving them a break from the digital onslaught will benefit their minds, their eyesight, and their psychological health. For a list of the benefits of reading a printed book as opposed to digital, check out this list from ReviewThis. This gift-giving season, consider adding to or starting a library of physical books for your child. And yourself!

Stay Positive – It’s Good for You!

Stay Positive – It’s Good for You!

There is definitely a strong link between positivity and good health. The Mayo Clinic reports that “researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health. Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:

  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress”

A study at Johns Hopkins found that “people with a family history of heart disease who also had a positive outlook were one-third less likely to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular event within five to 25 years than those with a more negative outlook.” (emphasis added)

Great! So how to stay positive?

There’s no question that this year has been stressful to people all over the world. Do a quick search online for “2020 memes” and be prepared for a few chuckles. It’s been quite a year!

Unfortunately, the news has been nonstop with fires, volcanic eruptions, floods, earthquakes, explosions, murder hornets, aliens, and of course – COVID-19, among many, many other distressing events.

While all of these things contribute to anxiety, stress, depression, and uncertainty, how does one remain positive without just escaping civilization and living off the grid on some remote mountaintop or isolated island?

Limit your consumption of news and social media

A steady diet of doom and gloom reporting on the 24-hour cycle of news and social media is bound to affect anyone in a negative way. So check the headlines once a day, block or mute the trolls on social media, and don’t feed yourself negativity.

Increase your consumption of positivity

There are many options for humorous, inspirational, positive content to take in if you just can’t put down your phone or tablet. Follow accounts that are uplifting and that help distract you in a good way. You can’t go wrong following cute animals, like this great account. While it’s easy to slip into spending too much time in front of the TV or computer screens, you can find funny or uplifting content that can actually help your mindset.

Limit idle time

Even if you are staying in and limiting your outside contact to the occasional grocery shopping expedition, it’s really important to keep busy and, however possible, to incorporate some exercise and movement into your daily routine. Idle time can contribute to depression. It’s also a great time to pick up a new hobby!

Stay in touch

Video chats, phone calls, emails, text messages, social media messaging… these are all ways to stay in touch with friends and family even when you can’t get together in person. Don’t let yourself or your children become isolated and cut off. Encourage communication. Help your child find a pen pal who lives in an interesting place and actually, you know, pick up a pen and paper and write a letter! Some schools have pen pal programs, or you can check out the resources here.

Do something for others

It is always uplifting to use some of your energy and resources to help someone in need. Here are some great suggestions from Parents magazine on how to get your child involved in charitable activity. And for some suggestions that are specifically designed for kids during quarantine, check out this information.

Get enough sleep

Sometimes, just when you’re finally able to rest your head on your pillow, all the worries of the day start flooding in and you can feel your blood pressure rising along with your anxiety. This can result in loss of sleep and restless nights which, in turn, affect you well into the next day. This is a cycle that can quickly lead to physical illness as well as depression. So how to turn off those sleep-stealing worries? Cleveland Clinic offers some suggestions. And if you wake up in the middle of the night and find that you can’t get back to sleep, Healthline has these suggestions.

We’re not suggesting that you white-knuckle it, hide your head in the sand and try to block out the rest of the world (also referred to as “toxic positivity”). If you need help cultivating a positive attitude, here are some more tips. Finding healthy alternatives to negativity can help you and your children cope with the unavoidable stresses of life in 2020.

School 2020: Online Learning, In-Person Classes, and Hybrid Programs

School 2020: Online Learning, In-Person Classes, and Hybrid Programs

Every student in the United States has experienced some form of disruption in their education so far in 2020. Remote or online learning has ranged from basically checking in online to get current class assignments to sitting in front of a computer for hours a day in a virtual classroom with all of your classmates. Each school district has taken different approaches, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the end result has been somewhat chaotic. Teachers, students, and parents have all had struggles, and while they may not all agree on the total impact the lockdown has had, its clear that education has suffered.

The Washington Post recently reported that “Remote learning has been a struggle for teachers and is expected to set back the learning gains of a generation of students. It has been particularly hard on children of color, kids from families who are financially insecure, and those without access to computers and technology at home.”

For example, in Little Rock, Arkansas, the school district found that schools with higher percentages of English language learners (ELL) had lower login rates to the online portal the district was using. To try to remedy that, the district identified which students needed internet access or digital devices, and were able to improve the situation for those students.

Many school districts have returned to full-time in-person learning, however even in those school districts, a number of parents have opted to keep their children home because of concerns over the Coronavirus, and some districts started the school year in person but have already switched back to remote learning.

Finally, there are many school districts who are doing a combination of remote learning and in-person classes, and some have started the school year remotely, with plans to transition to in-person classes over time.

The Balance Between Remote Learning and In-Person Learning

In their recent spotlight on Online Learning, Education Week takes a close look at balancing in-person and remote instruction. They recommend essentials for remote learning that have proven to be helpful, including the suggestion that teachers should try to spend some one-on-one time with each student during the week. Also, breaking up lessons into smaller chunks is helpful not only for comprehension, but many students are using mobile devices rather than a laptop or desktop computer, so smaller is better.

Slowing Things Down

Teachers will find the right pace for their particular students, but taking things slow is important in order to make sure everyone is comprehending and keeping up. Teachers are also finding that many students need the flexibility to do their classwork on nights and weekends. In the Madrid-Waddington school district in New York, they found that 30 percent of students completed much of their work outside of traditional school hours.

In situations where students are attending school in person, they most likely ended the last school year at a deficit, and are spending a good part of this fall semester just trying to get caught up with where they should be. And there is always the chance that schools will decide to return to remote learning if a COVID-19 resurgence crops up in their area. Because of this, many teachers are trying to take advantage of real classroom time to focus on curriculum elements that are difficult to teach remotely.

Not surprisingly, the students with better online access and whose parents can coach them at home are coping better with remote learning. Realistically, even in districts where reliable online access is great and students have appropriate digital devices, parents have jobs and usually have more than one school-age child, and the roles of teacher and tech support are not something they can easily assume. So parents are increasingly looking for help in managing their children’s educational activities.

How Tutoring Helps

Before COVID, the vast majority of students who participated in some form of tutoring were attending school in person. What they needed was some additional support in order to master a subject they may have been struggling with. There were many models of tutoring available: specialized classes with multiple students at a brick-and-mortar location; one-on-one tutoring in person at such a location; one-on-one tutoring in the student’s home or the tutor’s home; in-person tutoring at a library or other public facility; online group classes a student could sign up for; online study guides and practice tests; and online individual tutoring sessions.

Since COVID, much more emphasis has been placed on the various online tutoring methods due to the concern over meeting in person, even with social distancing, masks, and sanitizing. However, combined with virtual school, online tutoring may seem like more of the same, resulting in burnout. Younger students have much more of a struggle keeping up with remote learning than older students, but it’s certainly not ideal.

That’s when the distinction between online classes and online one-on-one tutoring is so important. When you can have a tutoring session one-on-one where the tutor is an experienced educator and not just a subject matter expert, and they focus their entire attention on one student and that student’s individual, unique needs, the fact that it takes place over a video screen is very minor. Parents are looking for high quality online tutoring to help them out as well as helping out their children academically.

What online school is missing is the ability to really reach students individually and ensure that they are “getting it” and can keep up. Many students are distracted or don’t even bother to log in. They just try to complete their assignments on their own and get them turned in. And teachers have the incredibly difficult task of trying to engage groups of such disconnected students and meet curriculum goals.

It May Seem Counterintuitive

Parents who are finding that their students are struggling with remote learning may not immediately see how more time online can possibly help. But once they see that online tutoring sessions can be exactly like in-person tutoring sessions, and they see how their child is engaged and improving academically, they embrace it as an important tool in helping their child succeed.

For more information on how our certified teacher/tutors can help your child, one-on-one, check us out!

How Is The School Year Going So Far?

How Is The School Year Going So Far?

The 2020 school year so far has seen unprecedented challenges and lots of upheaval. The teachers we talk to have shared their own individual experiences and they run the gamut. Some are back in school full-time, some are holding virtual classes online, or a hybrid blend of the two, and many have decided to sit out this school year in favor of staying home to work with students one-on-one in private tutoring.

The parents we talk to need help dealing with the huge increase in homework combined with the lack of attention their students are experiencing. As parents struggle to manage work and home responsibilities, they are finding it difficult to also be proxy teachers to their kids. And all the while they are worried that their students are falling behind.

Change is Constant

With countless schools on lockdown to one degree or another all over the country, there is no universal plan for moving forward. Individual school districts, counties, and states all have varying levels of authority to decide what form instruction is taking this year and this has led to a lot of frustration for all concerned. Some schools have changed course once or twice already in the first month of school, having started in-person instruction only to revert to remote learning because of spikes in positive COVID-19 test results.

Just looking at the state of California, it’s obvious how chaotic the situation really is. Counties are moving from purple to red in the state’s four-tiered color coded tracking system. While the state has invested heavily in distance learning technology, gaps exist where many students just don’t have the access they need. In fact, parents have sued Los Angeles Unified school district over what they consider an “inadequate” plan for remote learning.

School districts in the Dallas area are still figuring out how they’re going to handle this school year. They’ve discussed using a hybrid model for nine weeks and then reevaluating. That means half of the students would go to school on Monday and Tuesday, have a “flex” day on Wednesday, and the other half would go to school on Thursday and Friday.

Teacher Shortages Force Last-Minute Changes

In New York, inadequate staff for in-person classes has led to schools being forced to quickly switch to remote learning. At one school, the change happened on the first day of school. In some cases, blended learning where students alternate between in-classroom time and online-from-home time has been implemented.

Colorado schools have announced that “we are in a crisis” due to their COVID teacher shortage. “Districts are getting creative,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, president of the Colorado Education Association. “I’ve even seen districts asking parents if they want to consider getting a substitute license to help them fill the gap.”

The Tri-State area of Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois has reported a shortage of teachers and substitute teachers. As teachers are hesitant to head into the classroom, schools are finding that they are unable to find substitutes. And to add to the shortages, they are also having trouble finding reliable bus drivers.

Federal Funding to Help

In March, $13.2 billion of the CARES Act stimulus package was dedicated to K-12 schools. Continued tax revenue losses due to the COVID-19 shutdowns will have an ongoing negative impact on education funding. As a result, the House, the Senate, and the administration are currently in negotiations to pass another bill that would continue to help fund education, along with many other relief programs. Schools are asking for assistance in funding coronavirus school safety measures as these are additional operating costs that were unanticipated and unbudgeted.

Is There Any Positive News?

Regarding the coronavirus, a new study of COVID-19 in schools brings good news. As of September 25, there was a confirmed infection rate of 75 cases per 100,000 students and 140 cases per 100,000 staff members. That translates to 0.075% of children and 0.14% of staff. An associate professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins is quoted in the Washington Post’s coverage of the survey as saying, “We’re not seeing schools as crucibles for onward transmission. It’s reasonable to say that it looks promising at this point.”

Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts reports that the back-to-school season “is off to a fine start” as they focus on the importance of in-person learning in communities with low COVID-19 risks. Assistant superintendent Erin Perkins said the challenges of bringing students and staff back into school buildings were made worth it by “the way children lit up as they entered the room.”

On the community level, the Trees for Cities charitable organization is urging teachers and parents to help children embrace outdoor learning at home or school. They are providing free online educational resources and curriculum guides to help students do more outdoor learning. Creative approaches to teaching and learning are cropping up all over.

Local heroes step up to support at-home students. In Columbus, Ohio, a non-profit called Impact Community Action is building desks for children who are learning virtually from home. Local artists are painting the desks. Another group in Maryland, Desks by Dad, is also producing study furniture for children. And in Santa Fe, New Mexico, The Community Desk Project is doing the same.

Students helping students – a teenager in Reno  has started a company with her friends with the goal of providing learning kits for children with special needs. Priyanka Senthil formed AUesome to make customizable at-home therapy kits. Senthil partnered with 4 friends to launch the company as part of a summer entrepreneurship program for high school students worldwide. There are many examples of students who are using creative ways to help other students through these uncharted lands.

There’s a lot going on, and that can be stressful, but hard times also bring out the best in people, and on a grass-roots level, people are creatively coming up with ways to help students and parents get through the challenges they face this school year. Instead of focusing on the negatives, as Mr. Rogers said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”