As parents, it’s natural to focus on grades to measure our student’s success. While grades provide insight into academic performance, they don’t always reflect the actual knowledge and growth that our students experience. In fact, the process of learning, problem-solving, and developing effective strategies is more valuable in the long run.

At Untapped Learning, we see many instances where we’re more excited to see a C than an A. For example, we recently had a student with a C- in chemistry and an A in history in a semester of their junior year of high school. For context, history was a relatively easy class for the student while chemistry was incredibly challenging. Since chemistry was so tricky, they had to develop a disciplined routine to pass. They experimented with different study strategies and used trial and error to determine their learning style and how to play to their strengths. When we interviewed this student, they shared that even though they still don’t have the strongest understanding of chemistry, the class gave them an opportunity to establish better study habits, applicable to any class they take in the future. This class inspired (forced) them to work on a process that would help them succeed academically. Those learnings go far beyond the classroom as well. So, as mentors, we are much prouder of this student overcoming this obstacle than them receiving an easy A.

Though it can be frustrating to see your student fail a test or receive a low grade, steer away from that reflex to lecture. If the student did put in the effort, that lecture will only disrupt the learning process. Down the line, they will be less willing to take chances to understand how they learn. Instead, prioritize the process over the outcome!

Teaching Students the Process

Students and families focusing on the process over the product have much more long-term success. By learning to work through challenges, students gain valuable problem-solving skills that will help them in their academic and personal lives. Not only does this build better people, but we see the same conclusions time and time again:

Improve the process, and the grades will follow.

Instead of solely disciplining children when they face challenges or setbacks, we recommend you help guide them through the learning process. By asking thoughtful questions, you can encourage them to reflect on their study habits, learning environment, and overall approach to their education. Helpful questions from parents and educators that we have witnessed firsthand include:

  • What did you do to study for your last assessment?
  • What environment did you study in for your test?
  • Have you considered studying in a group or seeking teacher-led study sessions?
  • I see that you got 50% of these questions correct. What specific actions did you take to learn the material you understood?
  • Did you space out your study sessions over multiple days or cram all at once?

By asking variations of these questions, you can help your student identify their strengths and weaknesses in the learning process. This reflection allows them to understand their learning style better and adapt their strategies accordingly. When discussing academic challenges with our children, avoid using general statements like “work harder,” “you’ll do better next time,” or even “maybe math just isn’t your thing.” Those phrases are usually ineffective in terms of creating change. Instead, focus on using open-ended questions to find practical ways to help your child improve, such as:

  • How can we change your studying habits so that you can get the grade you want next time?
  • How often do you need to attend math office hours to understand the material better?
  • What steps can we take to help you feel successful in this class?
  • How can you improve your relationship with your teacher to improve your learning experience?

Reframing the conversation and focusing on actionable steps will empower your student to take ownership of their learning journey.

A Real-Life Example:

Consider the story of Miley, a 6th-grade student struggling with math. After her 2nd failed test, her parents organized a meeting with her math teacher to discuss ways that she could improve her scores. The math teacher suggested the following strategies:

1. Attend morning study sessions two days a week

2. Do ten minutes of online math per day

3. Find a math homework partner

4. Spend five minutes every night reviewing the notes taken in class that day

Surprised at the simplicity of the recommendations, Miley and her parents agreed to follow these steps. While Miley faced setbacks, she persevered and eventually began passing her assessments, finishing the semester with a B- in the class. Through this experience, no one obsessed over the result. Instead, Miley embraced the process and, in turn, learned discipline, how to ask for help, and that small actions over time can lead to big results. Regardless of her future path, these lessons are invaluable.

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    Beginning a new year or semester can be daunting, especially for our students who need to balance academics with athletics and other extracurriculars. To ensure a successful start to a new semester, we’ve compiled a list of recommendations to help your student start the semester strong. 

    1. Establish a routine before the school year begins. Long breaks from school are a great time to relax and enjoy time off after working hard during the year. However, transitioning back to school mode can be tricky if bad habits have developed during that time off. To avoid this, help your student get back into a routine at least a week or two before the semester begins. Encourage your student to go to bed on time and avoid sleeping in too much. Incorporate light academics, like reading for 15 minutes daily, to activate their brain. If they are heading into preseason conditioning, encourage them to work out on their own leading up to the start of team practices, gradually adding a few minutes every day to more easily transition into high-volume training.

    2. Clean and repack your backpack (and sports bag). Leaving perishable items, equipment, dirty jerseys, or general clutter in bags over long breaks can lead to unpleasant surprises when it’s time to pack them again. We strongly recommend that your student clean out and wash their backpack and sports bag at the start of any break rather than at the end. This time is also an excellent opportunity to reorganize the bags and take stock of any gear your student may need, ranging from binders to new cleats. The night before that first day back, make sure all bags are fully packed and sitting by the front door so they’re ready to go the next morning.

    3. Organize electronically. Electronic organization is often overlooked, but it’s essential for academic success. Before the new semester begins, encourage your student to organize their email, Google Drive, desktop, and even apps or notes on their phone. Archive old emails and files that should be kept (but aren’t needed right now), do an “unsubscribe audit” to declutter their current and future inbox, and create folders for every class in the upcoming semester. Put important due dates, practice and game times, and any extracurricular activities they participate in into one electronic calendar. Implementing these electronic organization strategies will make it easier to keep track of schedules, materials, and assignments throughout the year.

    4. Review for the first day. Review your student’s academic and athletic schedules with them a few days before classes start so they know what to expect. Double-check that they have all the necessary books and school supplies ready. You can also help to reduce their stress by talking through the logistics of their first day back, like how they’re getting to school and practice, or what they can expect for lunch. Planning for the first day will help your student start the new semester with momentum.

    5. Reflect on the previous semester. Encourage your student to take some time and reflect on their last semester. Identify the habits and routines that worked well for them and celebrate those successes. Also, work with them to acknowledge the areas where they faced challenges and collaborate on ways to help them improve this semester.

    6. Discuss their routines and goals. Use their past experiences to create a plan for the upcoming semester. Consider adjusting morning, night, and homework routines to accommodate your student’s commitments and academic responsibilities. Set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based objectives. Write down these goals and post them somewhere visible as a reminder of what they are striving to achieve. Help them regularly check their progress and seek support from teachers, coaches, and family members to help them reach these goals.

    By following these recommendations, you can lay the foundation for a smooth and successful start to the semester. Establishing routines, staying organized, reflecting on past experiences, and setting goals will help your student excel academically while confidently pursuing their goals.

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      When students split their time between multiple households, maintaining routines and consistency becomes vital for their academic success. Collaborative efforts among parents, guardians, and mentors are crucial to creating a supportive environment for students to thrive. Here at Untapped, we have a few recommendations to help make collaboration across households easier.

      1. Set Clear Consequences and Rewards 

      Establishing consistent expectations across households is important to ensure your student takes responsibility for their chores, schoolwork, and other commitments. Talk to the other parents or guardians involved and agree on what is expected from your student. By providing clear guidelines and consequences, your student will better understand what is acceptable behavior. Avoid labeling one parent as “strict” and the other as “cool.” This can lead to inconsistent expectations and confusion for the student. Make time for regular check-ins to address any issues and make necessary adjustments.

      2. Stick to Consistent Routines

      Consistency is key when it comes to helping your student stay on track academically. Establishing predictable household routines will help your student understand and fulfill their obligations. For example, make it a rule that homework should be completed before any leisure activities, regardless of which house your student is in. Discuss bedtime, homework/academic time, and chores at the beginning of each semester and build a routine that can be followed in both homes. This communication will help prevent arguments with your student and will reduce your stress. 

      3. Emphasize Organization

      Keeping track of belongings can be challenging for students who move between households. Help your student stay organized by incorporating simple practices into their routines. For instance, include packing their backpack in their bedtime routine so they don’t forget any school materials in the morning rush. Identify areas where better organization can benefit their academic and personal life, and discuss small changes that they can make to improve this process. Be aware of the differences between houses and find solutions that will be useful, and realistic, for both.

      4. Create a Shared Plan 

      To ensure everyone is on the same page, consider using collaborative cloud-based programs for your student’s weekly plans. Platforms like Google Drive allow multiple people to access and update the schedule, making it easier to keep track of completed and pending tasks. Choose a free cloud program that offers shared notes, and encourage your student to update their plans regularly. Consistency in updating schedules, including homework routines, ensures everyone knows of any changes and expectations.

      5. Take Advantage of Office Hours and Untapped’s Homework Center

      Each household may have its own unique challenges. If your student struggles to do their work in one or both houses, consider arranging office hours with their teachers or utilizing resources like Untapped’s homework center. Office hours provide a quiet space for your student to focus on their assignments and seek help when needed. Untapped’s homework center offers academic support and reinforces your student’s academic routine. These external resources can provide a neutral location that keeps your student on track.

      Key Takeaways

      You can support your student’s academic success across multiple households by establishing clear expectations, maintaining consistent routines, emphasizing organization, and creating a shared plan. Collaboration with all parents, guardians, and mentors is essential to ensure a consistent and supportive environment. With a little effort and teamwork, you can help your student thrive academically, no matter the circumstances.

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        Originally published on The Yellin Center blog

        We know lead dominos come in all forms. Sometimes they take the form of a task, other times the form of an action, or even a process.

        For many of us, work or school is the driving force behind our overwhelm. There’s often a big project to start, a paper or proposal to write, or a test to study for. We have to remember—the lead domino for any of those scenarios is just the one thing we can do that will give us some momentum.

        Here are some frequent scenarios our students encounter:

        1. There’s an assignment due at the end of the week and you’re confused about the instructions. What’s the lead domino? Send an email.

        Teachers and professors want to help you succeed. They definitely don’t want to see you fail just because you misunderstood part of an assignment. Reach out to ask for clarification, come into office hours, or even schedule a Zoom call if that would expedite the process and be more convenient. (Side note: make sure the clarifications around the instructions are documented somewhere, like in a notebook or on a Google Doc—you don’t want to have to email them a few hours later to ask again.) Asking clarification questions can save you from HOURS of work wasted on guessing. Not emailing, on the other hand, could cost hours of your future time as you redo the assignment, or the cost could be the hit your grade will take due to the points deducted. By sending this email, you’re also showing the instructor that you care about their class and your academic success overall, helping to establish a positive student/teacher relationship.

        1. You have a test coming up and you need to focus and study. What’s the lead domino? Create a clear workspace.

        Notebooks, textbooks, flashcards, slideshows on your laptop—you have so many materials to sift through when preparing for an exam. They may all be helpful and necessary, but you know what’s not necessary? Yesterday’s half-full cup of coffee, the balled-up, dirty workout clothes on your chair, and pieces of an unfinished art project strewn across your desk. There’s no room for the materials you need, so take a minute to clean your space before you jump into studying. This will save you from wasting time searching for missing flashcards in the midst of scrapbook paper, or frantically cleaning up cold coffee when it inevitably spills on your notes. Take a minute to set yourself up in a clean environment, void of distractions.

        1. Tasks are piling up, but you’re just spinning your wheels. Where do you start? What’s the lead domino? Write everything down.

        It’s hard to prioritize effectively if you’re not looking at a full list of the things you have to accomplish. If you have limited time to complete a number of tasks, you can’t always dive in blindly and hope for the best. Write down every task, assignment, or action that needs to be done. Once it’s all written down, you have a clearer idea of what things already have fixed times (class at 12:30, soccer practice at 4), providing structure to build around. At that point, you have everything you need to map out a realistic plan!

        Planning is the first thing we do at Untapped when we sit down with students. We take every assignment, test date, dentist appointment, and violin lesson of the week and assign them to the appropriate days. If we don’t write down a test date, we might forget to account for study time in the days leading up to the test. If we don’t write down a violin lesson, we could incorrectly assume the number of hours available to do homework that night. Creating a plan is one of the best lead dominos, on both micro and macro levels, when you find yourself needing to get started. Whether you’re looking at your week as a whole, or you just can’t bring yourself to get to work on a specific project, take a moment to make a plan and organize your thoughts. By structuring unstructured time and using effective tools to create routines and lists, you’ll be better prepared to tackle your tasks and achieve your goals.

        External Link: https://jamesclear.com/domino-effect 

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          In simple terms, self-regulation is the ability to control one’s body and self. Many students struggle to self-regulate in their daily lives. For example, students may spend too much time playing video games, and not enough time on their school work because they have a hard time controlling their impulses. As parents and mentors, we help our students develop self-regulation skills in several ways.

          Create routines and encourage students to stick to them. Routines will help students form habits, which eventually become second nature to students. Initially, students may need frequent reminders about when to complete their routines. Over time, they form habits and become more independent. Additionally, students will require less frequent reminders of how and when to accomplish these tasks, and they will be able to hold themselves accountable with less external intervention.

          Give students space to develop these skills on their own. Just as it is important to stay active in reminding students of their routines, tasks, and behaviors, it’s also important to give them the space to build these routines on their own. By having students plan out their day independently and communicate that plan with you, you can hold them accountable while giving them the opportunity to take more responsibility in the process.

          Have students take time to reflect on their progress and habits. Encourage students to reflect on what’s going well for them, what they want to improve, and what actions they will take to work on their self-regulation. Having a discussion about progress gives students a greater sense of ownership in the process of developing these skills. This may look like reflecting on the week each Friday and making goals for the upcoming week based on students’ reflections.

          Set clear expectations for your student. Many students who struggle with self-regulation benefit from having clear expectations set for them. Ambiguity around expectations can cause many students anxiety and confusion about what they need to do. Discuss expectations with students. Students may also benefit from time-based expectation guidelines, such as having homework finished by a certain time each night or completing daily chores by a certain time. This creates an environment where the student knows what to expect, and they can have the freedom to execute those tasks on their own while being held accountable.

          Positively reinforce students. It’s important to acknowledge the areas in which students are succeeding and congratulate them on those successes. Positive reinforcement can help students identify beneficial actions they are taking. This will help students feel encouraged to continue these positive habits and extend them to other areas of their lives as well. Perhaps a student completed their morning routine and got to class on time every day this week. Congratulate them on this success, and ask them why they feel they were successful. When students understand what makes them successful, they can incorporate that mindset into other parts of their routines.

          External Link: https://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/executive-function/#:~:text=Executive%20function%20and%20self%2Dregulation,and%20juggle%20multiple%20tasks%20successfully.

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            We’ve made it through three quarters of the year, through all of the success and growth, and every frustration and setback. Don’t stop now—the end is in sight, but we’re not there yet.

            As you and your student tackle these last few weeks, remember: your student is #1.

            We always have to look out for #1: homework, grades, and performance. Help your student prioritize themselves and school in this home stretch.

            What does that mean?

            Review the semester: acknowledge the routines that helped your student and “revise” what didn’t work. Maybe during Academic Hour, your student listened to music while studying, but test scores weren’t as high as they could have been. Cut the music and see what happens. Have you seen a difference in grades when your student is studying in their room vs. studying at the kitchen table? Talking through these routines and figuring out what to stop, what to continue, and what to start will set your student up for a strong finish to their year. Ideally, we want to get these systems in place before the last few weeks, before we’re stressed and pressed for time.

            Discipline = Freedom

            Help your student understand the importance of finishing strong, and help them navigate tough conversations with friends or other influences that might pull them off task. Once the work is done, they have full freedom, but the work has to be completed in order for that to happen.

            Remind your student: “In the end, you have to live with your grade and your learning.” Encourage them to realize they have the power and discipline to stand up to distractions. This discipline is a powerful move if they can pull it off, and practicing it now in a school setting will have a positive effect in the future (college, peer pressure in social situations, etc.).

            If your student has work to do and they don’t feel comfortable telling their friends no, help them role play with answers:

            – My mom/dad are on my case, I can’t hang out

            – The teacher extended our assignment last minute, I have to finish it

            – I have to focus on college applications

            – My coach says I have to stay eligible

            Whatever it takes to get them to take action, own their education, and take responsibility for their work: make it happen.

            These goals to finish strong, whether or not they’re achieved, do not mark an “end point” for your student. A step back doesn’t mean full failure, but on the other end of the spectrum, success should be celebrated and is an opportunity to raise the bar! Take pride in your student’s progress and success… but don’t stop now. Finish strong!

            For More Information: Discipline Equals Freedom

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              Originally published on The Yellin Center blog

              When we talk about the lead domino with our students, it’s often in the context of school.

              If you can finish the missed homework assignment in math from Monday, you’ll have a better, more complete understanding of that section, then you’ll be able to finish your review packet, which will set you up for focused studying material for the chapter test next week…

              However, we face situations where our lead domino is something outside of academics or work; it’s actually just a small change we could implement in our everyday lives that would make things run more smoothly.

              One of our favorite lead domino examples to help people start their day off on the right foot is the landing/launching pad. For adults, the landing pad is where we drop our wallet, keys, and sunglasses as soon as we walk in the door. When we leave, it becomes our launching pad. Because we’re taking the step to place our necessities in the same spot every time we come home, we aren’t scrambling the next time we head out the door. Everything is right where we left it, every time. We can simply scoop up those essentials and leave on time. For students, a launching pad can be an organized backpack sitting by the front door each morning. At night, if you and your student can take the time to pack their laptop, chargers, pencils, all binders, etc., and even make lunch before heading to bed, you can prevent the majority of conflicts that usually take over your mornings.

              Another lead domino that can positively affect our day is exercise—we know that exercise is the miracle drug. Exercising helps us activate neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. When we find ourselves stuck, unmotivated, or overloaded, getting up to go for a 20-minute walk can change the trajectory of our whole day and our productivity. This exercise increases blood flow to the brain, triggers those neurotransmitters, and helps us concentrate. When we return to our to-do list, workload, or whatever it is that’s overwhelming us, we’ll find that our focus has improved significantly thanks to that exercise and its impact on our brain. When students are stuck on a homework assignment and have been sitting in front of a computer for too long, the action they need to take is entirely non-academic; they just need to get up and move.

              One of the most important, and hardest, lead dominos that sets us up for success, is sleep. Sleep can dictate almost every aspect of our lives: focus, mood, energy level, etc. It has the power to positively or negatively define a day, or even a week. However, getting more sleep is never a quick fix. Behind better sleep is a routine that must be developed and maintained.

              The lead domino can be, but does not always need to be, an action or a task that defines your whole day. It may simply be a choice that can help you move forward in a small series of events, and you probably have a few lead dominos that you could choose from that would all result in the same outcome—you just have to get started. Common examples of this include: jumping in the shower, making a cup of coffee, or choosing to face the one task you’ve been putting off that’s hanging over your head. All of these actions can help you move forward in a small way, but that little bit of momentum can make it easier to tackle the rest of your day. Two hold-ups we see, in both adults and in adolescents, are: struggling to follow-through with the lead domino, and getting caught between two actions and not being able to decide the best way to move forward.

              For example: You’re trying to brush your teeth and get out the door to go grocery shopping. As you’re putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, you realize you have a load of clean laundry that needs to be moved from the washer to the dryer. So you put down your toothbrush to go flip the laundry, but on your way to the basement you stop to pick up and put away shoes that were a tripping hazard. As you’re putting them away, you notice some empty mugs on the coffee table, which reminds you that you haven’t had a single sip of water all morning. You pause for a minute to go grab and drink a nice, big glass of water. As you set the glass down, you remember the laundry, but you also remember that your toothbrush is sitting on the bathroom sink, locked and loaded for you to brush your teeth. What’s your next move?

              Brush your teeth, flip the laundry—you just need to decide. Committing to that decision and moving forward will help propel you to achieve your original goal: getting out the door and making it to the grocery store.

              Does this series of events sound familiar?

              As parents, educators, or just trusted adults, we can get so focused on helping students succeed that we forget—everything we relay to our students also applies to us. We’re not above facing those daily challenges, they just typically don’t come to us in the form of math assignments. When we can apply our own advice to ourselves, we model real-world efforts and accomplishments for our students, showing them the effectiveness of our lead dominos outside of school.

              Go to The Lead Domino Series: Part 3

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                Originally published on The Yellin Center blog

                Some days, we feel stuck. Maybe we have a clear to-do list with reasonable tasks, maybe we have a full page of high-priority items. In both scenarios, we can feel overwhelmed and find ourselves spinning our wheels. Why can’t we just pick something from the list and get to work?

                In these moments, we debate if we should choose the easiest tasks just so we can knock them out quickly, or if we should start a harder, longer task that’s the source of some tangible anxiety. Instead of getting caught between these two options, we have a third: Find the lead domino.

                Part 1: Identifying the Lead Domino

                Take a step back. Look at your list. Maybe even look beyond your list. What one thing could you do that might positively impact the rest of your day? Maybe it’s not a work or school task, maybe it’s just jumping in the shower. Maybe it’s pausing to really prioritize your to-do list. Maybe it’s committing to not checking your phone, email, or other distractions that can pull your attention, until the task with the closest deadline is complete. Regardless of what your specific “lead domino” is, it has the power to positively impact your day. By knocking it down, you’ve opened yourself up to a strategy and system that can more easily carry you through the rest of your responsibilities. One domino knocks over the next, and the next, and the momentum is perpetuated in a chain reaction. 

                If you begin with a “lead domino” task, you can build the momentum needed to cross off the rest of your list items more easily—even if they are exponentially larger. Often, by achieving one key task on the list, the rest of the tasks will be significantly easier. 

                If you set up 13 dominos in a row, each domino one and a half times bigger than the one before, the first domino could be five millimeters tall and the last domino could be more than one meter tall and weigh 100 pounds. If you knock the first domino over, after just 13 “reactions,” the largest domino would topple over easily. We can apply this idea to our lists. The “lead domino” task is like the 5 millimeter domino; if you get this one accomplished, toppling the 100 pound domino at the end will be much easier than trying to push over the heaviest domino first.

                How can we identify the lead domino?

                Completing your lead domino may take awhile and be more tedious than you’d like, but by tackling this task first, the other tasks will be easier to complete going forward. Your lead domino could be anything from outlining a paper to going to the gym for a workout! Both of these activities are examples of lead dominos that give you the momentum to get your work (or your day!) started.

                Go to The Lead Domino Series: Part 2

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                  When school is in session, students gain not only academic knowledge, but life skills they can apply to be successful in school (EF skills like organization, prioritization, planning, etc.). Because some of these skills go relatively unused in the unstructured summer season, many students return to school in the fall with less knowledge than they ended the year with, and are often out of practice in terms of their executive functioning. We refer to this as the “summer slide”: over the course of the summer months, students lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained the previous school year.

                  Studies show that students can lose up to 40% of the progress they made during the school year, and that percentage is even higher for our neurodiverse students.

                  Due to the lack of structured academic stimulation throughout the summer, the summer slide can be difficult to prevent. Fortunately, there are plenty of approaches to combat this phenomenon. Some suggest involving a student in summer programs through their school, libraries, museums, or other learning institutions; others advocate for reading and practicing math to keep those skills sharp.1,2 It’s important to remember that each student is unique, and everyone will likely benefit from different approaches. Since the summer slide typically impacts two areas—knowledge and EF skills—there are two approaches to mitigate its effects.

                  Below are a few effective strategies to help students retain the knowledge gained throughout the academic year:

                  1. Encourage students to read. Reading is among the most widely-recommended ways to keep students’ academic minds firing over the summer. When encouraging a student to read over the summer, consistency is key, and reading with the intent to really comprehend and retain the content is what prevents the summer slide. Making time to talk to students about the books they read ensures that you have the opportunity to gauge their understanding. The Children’s Literacy Initiative is in favor of a “Goldilocks” approach to selecting a book for a student: the book needs to be easy enough to avoid frustration, but challenging enough to prevent boredom while reading.3
                  2. Engage in educational games. From the student perspective, summer is a time to engage in preferred activities as opposed to academically focused activities. While we want them to stay sharp and knowledgeable over the summer, we don’t want to enforce that concept with methods that will make them defensive or resentful. Work to find a middle-ground: vocabulary games, apps or websites where they “win” when they’re successful, etc. If you can find methods that provide dopamine in some capacity, like through the idea of “winning,” students are more likely to retain information, and do so in a more relaxed context.
                  3. Practice writing.2 Writing skills really come down to practice, which is part of the reason that student progress is so hindered by the three months of summer. During the school year, students’ writing is usually limited to academic topics. However, over the summer, encourage them to flex their creative muscles and free-write about anything they want. Not only will this inspire students to write of their own accord, but it will help them write more easily the following year. This also helps students brainstorm with less hesitation or stress associated with the task.

                  As many students struggle to remember content covered the previous year, there are just as many students who struggle to maintain some of the academic skills they gained the previous year. Below are examples of effective strategies to help a student retain those skills.

                  1. Find other opportunities outside of classroom learning to encourage experiential learning. Active opportunities, like encouraging volunteering, or spending time outside, can be turned into learning experiences.1,2 Applying the discipline and the sequencing processes (taught through experiences in the academic year) to non-academic activities that still have structure and require attention helps students reinforce their understanding of these idea through practice, allowing those concepts to keep their momentum and not get lost over the summer.
                  2. Engage in team-oriented exercises. Some schools encourage group work in their classes, which necessitates many important skills for students to learn like communication, emotional regulation, and compromise. As group work can require lots of coordination and organization, it can be particularly difficult for students with ADHD to have time away from this practice. Sports, camps, time with family, and any other group activities are really beneficial in helping students maintain this practice during the summer.
                  3. Make plans. Summer for students is often a long period of unstructured time, requiring little to no planning or time management on the student’s part. Parents and educators can model structured time and consistent routines, as well as help students to make similar plans over the summer in order to start managing their own time between their activities and free time.
                  4. Set goals.3 Goals are a very helpful way for students to stay on track, especially when dealing with such a time period like summer. The nature of goals can be very diverse (reading, learning, athletic, or social goals), but simply having something to work towards can help students practice making and keeping commitments, which will serve them well when they continue into the academic year.

                  It’s generally accepted that the best way to effectively prevent the summer slide is to create fun opportunities to keep students in practice. It can be challenging for students to be motivated to engage in learning opportunities during the summer, so it can be easily applied in the context of fun, “summer-type” experiences. Creating learning experiences (both academic experiences and skill-building exercises) can also help the student remember these more when they return to school, as it may be easier to make a connection from a fun experience to what they learned from it.


                  The summer slide is one typical result  common effect of the summer months on students; however, its effects can be mitigated by creating opportunities for effort and engagement for a student. Below are some of the strategies that were covered in this article.

                  Strategies to retain academic knowledge gained during the prior year:

                  1. Encourage reading over the summer.
                  2. Engage in educational games.
                  3. Practice writing.

                  Strategies to retain academic skills developed during the prior year:

                  1. Find opportunities to encourage experiential learning.
                  2. Engage in team-based activities.
                  3. Create plans to aid in time management.
                  4. Set goals.


                  1. https://extension.umn.edu/supporting-learning/preventing-summer-slide

                  2. https://www.additudemag.com/stop-summer-slide-video/

                  3. https://cli.org/2014/08/07/5-tips-for-preventing-summer-slide-2/

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                    Originally published on Grown and Flown, November 16, 2022

                    Procrastination: “the action of delaying or postponing something.” Your definition may be “the source of all my fights with my teenager.” It’s not a new topic, but it’s a conversation you can’t bear to have one more time. What can you do?

                    Behind your child’s defensiveness and your frustration is a reason—the source of the procrastination. Task initiation, time management, and attention are a few culprits that often fill that role.

                    We’re all familiar with time management and attention, but “task initiation” puts a name on a struggle that many can’t quite articulate. We all know the feeling of not being able to start something: a task we don’t want to do, an email we’ve been putting off. Task initiation isn’t just a lack of motivation—it’s an executive function (EF) skill that not everyone has. EF skills come naturally to many but must be learned by others.

                    Many diagnoses, such as ADHD, dyslexia, anxiety, and depression, are known to be accompanied by EF challenges, including struggling to start a task. Neurotypical kids may also face some of these challenges, and that’s normal! But it’s up to us to help them build up the skills that aren’t as strong so they succeed academically and beyond.

                    What can a parent do when initiating a task is a struggle

                    When initiating a task is a struggle, it can stem from many underlying causes. If your child cannot bring themselves to start a project, try to sit with them and figure out where their avoidance is coming from.

                    If they’re in college, you might be on the receiving end of a panicked phone call…are they feeling overwhelmed by the weight of the project? Are they avoiding it because they don’t have an excellent grasp of the content? Are they preemptively nervous that their project won’t be good enough?

                    General overwhelm

                    Feeling overwhelmed is common, but sometimes we forget what that felt like at 17 or 18. It felt like the world was crumbling down around us, and we couldn’t catch a break: too much to do and too little time. If we do poorly on this assignment, it could bring our grades down, and with it, our ability to get into a good college and get a good job, and — it’s paralyzing, and that can be hard to snap out of quickly.

                    If you find your child in this position, remind them that teachers and professors are regular people. They get overwhelmed too, and one quick email asking for an extension is worth preventing a multiple-hour meltdown.

                    Please work with your child to make a different game plan for next time, and try to figure out a system where they’re open to you, holding them accountable, but in a blame-free way. If you have the human resources available, see if there’s someone else they’d be ok with holding them accountable. With middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college-aged kids, accountability is often more well-received when it comes from someone other than a parent.

                    Overwhelm goes hand in hand with anxiety, which can be a huge driver of task initiation challenges. Anxiety knows precisely when the project is due. Anxiety has a pretty good grasp of what needs to be done. Every minute that passes on a Thursday night, before a Friday deadline, anxiety is thinking about the project that needs to be done.

                    There’s even a mental outline, maybe. At 9 pm, when we finally sit down to start the paper, the (often self-applied) pressure reaches an unbearable level. Whether we can turn it in before 11:59 pm or not, it’s taking a toll on our mental health, and we need to break this habit. When your child gets some help starting the paper, or the project, earlier in the week, this race against the clock doesn’t rear its head as aggressively.

                    Lack of understanding or learning differences

                    This part can be the hardest. Procrastination, skipping class, poor grades, and lying (a punch to every parent’s gut) can all stem from a lack of understanding in some capacity. This should NOT be mistaken for lack of intelligence!

                    This also doesn’t mean they’re unable to grasp a concept — they may just be struggling with class pacing or how content is presented (aurally, visually, etc.). Suppose you’re consistently getting last-minute project announcements from your high schooler (Mom, I have a DBQ poster due tomorrow for history. Do we have any poster board?) or tearful, 11 pm phone calls from your college student (panicking about a subject they’ve always loved). In that case, you may be wondering: What is the hold-up? Why are they putting this off? They’ve always loved history. What shifted?

                    This is an easy trap to fall into. Comparing your child’s previous interests and successes makes perfect sense to you; they’re incredibly smart and love learning, yet they’re struggling, and you can’t understand why. Sometimes you vocalize this to show how much faith you have in them.

                    Suppose they could only see themselves and their intelligence the way you do! You know they have “it” in them; you’ve seen “it” repeatedly. Your priority is to help them succeed; this feels like encouragement from a parent’s perspective.

                    What they hear, for better or worse, is this: You used to be so good in history. What happened?

                    They know they’re smart. They know that as soon as they grasp a concept, it’ll stick with them for the foreseeable future. But after hearing that they’re smart and have “got this,” your child can’t find the courage to tell you what’s happening: they’re trying to take notes fast and can’t always keep up. It’s tough to listen, look at the board, and write or type; when they get behind, they feel defeated.

                    Our kids, especially teens, are rarely going to share this information with us voluntarily. They’re sensitive, and they have assumptions about how we may react. They may feel ashamed that they can’t meet the made-up expectation they think you have.

                    So as much as you can, with no threats or punishments on the table, ask if there’s something you can help with. Task initiation is often the easiest area to support. For many students, that’s the biggest hurdle, and once they’ve begun, they’re good to go. But, even if that’s not the big hold-up, starting a project with them can give you insight into where the struggle is coming from.

                    Fear of failure

                    The tree of anxiety has many branches. This often looks different depending on gender: girls are significantly more prone to anxious tendencies than boys. That anxiety can show up as perfectionism, or even obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

                    Perfectionism is the enemy of procrastination. A perfectionist would rather avoid turning something in altogether than in something they’re not 100% happy with; their fear of failure has more control over them than they probably realize. A perfectionist with OCD may write and rewrite notes until they’re color-coded to their liking, and the handwriting is flawless.

                    If your child has perfectionist tendencies, they may spend significantly more time completing assignments than their peers. This is especially tough if they wait until the last minute to start assignments — see if you can work with them to set time limits on specific steps of projects and encourage them to start projects as soon as they get the rubric or instructions. If they finish the project before the deadline, once they’re through all of the steps, they can go back and “tweak” things until they’re more satisfied with their final result.

                    The goal is to avoid settling into an “all or nothing” mindset. “If I can’t do it right, I have no interest in doing it at all” is a hard attitude to change, but it’s not impossible.

                    Accountability and a nudge to get started are two significant steps to overcoming procrastination tendencies, especially those that stem from trying to start an assignment. However, if your child is away at college, you may not personally be able to provide that support.

                    If your teen is away at college and procrastinating, what can you do to help them?

                    1. Please encourage them to explore campus resources: Writing centers, subject matter tutoring, and multiple other resources are offered on campuses, and many are free. If they’re open to that support, help your child discover which resources are available at their institution.

                    2. Look into executive function coaching or academic coaching: Ask an expert! These coaches can help your child develop the strategies and tools they need to get through school and thrive in a professional setting.

                    3. Consult with a medical professional: If there are mental hurdles your child can’t quite tackle on their own, that’s ok. Medical professionals can have valuable insight into your child’s challenges and help them overcome those roadblocks.

                    There are many tips and tricks to help prevent procrastination. But before we can get into that nitty-gritty, we must get over the biggest hurdle: initiating the task or starting the project.

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