Anxious Children and Learning

Anxiety and depression are treatable, but 80 percent of kids with a diagnosable anxiety disorder are getting neither treatment nor accommodations, according to the Child Mind Institute Children’s Mental Health Report.

Because anxiety is a normal response to stress factors, parents often believe that even severe and disabling anxiety symptoms are just a phase, and on average, there is a two-year lag between the time children develop anxiety and the time they get help. “It’s bad for these children’s brains,” he said. “Having your brain’s thermostat miss-set is not good for your brain.”

“Anxiety can manifest itself along a continuum,” said Rachel Busman, the senior director of the anxiety disorders center at the Child Mind Institute. The report shows that there is some overlap with physical illnesses, such as chronic headaches or stomach aches, often coordinated with school. “That could be a kid’s way of saying, ‘I’m anxious,’” she said.

Anxiety often causes a child to act out., Dr. Busman said, that child may start throwing things, or running and hiding, and that “bad behavior” may represent the fight or flight response of anxiety. “We’ve also seen kids who have intense social anxiety and their way of managing it is to be class clown,” she said.

If your child’s anxiety is starting to affect their interest or performance in school, they may need to step out of the traditional classroom to an environment where they can learn at their own pace and in their own way.

Your child is one-of-a-kind. Traditional classrooms are not.
Academic Achievers Academy provides a safe nurturing alternative that allows each child to thrive.

Posted in Early Elementary, Early Learners, homeschool, los angeles independent schools, One-on-one Academy, Parents, Private School Admission | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Importance of GRIT

According to CCRS (research predictor of post-secondary and career success) the predictors of future success for middle grades students include meeting the benchmark scores on cognitive assessments, such as the Grit Scale, which measures student characteristics (e.g., focus, interest levels, commitment, and follow-through) that have been shown to predict student ability to continue the pursuit of academic goals despite uncertainty, risk of failure, or feelings of frustration.
High scores on the Grit Scale are correlated with positive outcomes at multiple levels.
In the middle grades, high scores are correlated with higher student GPAs, and one study asserts that, in adulthood, high scores also correlate with fewer career changes over time (Duckworth & Quinn, 2009).
Achievement Oriented vs. Dependency.
The ability, drive, desire, and follow-through to complete the task. That is the value we stand by and the value we hope to instill in our students.
Academic Achievers’ CORE values include GRIT: Guts, Resilience, Initiative, Tenancy
To take on a challenge when you don’t know if you will succeed, takes Guts.
The ability to spring back from set-backs takes Resiliency
Being self-motivated and stepping up takes Initiative.
To persevere, especially when things look difficult, takes Tenacity
Grit is necessary for success at any level.
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An Alternative: Academic Achievers Academy

In a perfect world, you send your child off to school and they return smiling, stimulated, curious, and capable. Because school is their job and they feel confident, accepted, and passionate about the work they are doing. As a parent, you trust that the environment is safe, that your child is treated kindly, and that real, innovative learning is taking place. You trust that your child is building the life skills that support a healthy social and emotional development process. You trust that even within a large group of children, your child will be taken care of, challenged, supported, and appreciated.

In a perfect world, this is our public school system, where every child has equal access to the best possible education, with every possible resource within a caring and safe community. In a less than perfect world, this is our private school system, with more resources, higher teacher to student ratios, and a more individualized curriculum.

But what happens when even a private education is not right for your child? What happens when children are bullied in school and are in danger every day they attend? What happens when your child has to miss too many days due to illness, travel or other extenuating circumstances. What happens if your child is highly gifted, but can’t be placed in a classroom with children 4-5 years above their age? What happens when the schools cannot or will not accommodate your child’s needs? What happens when your child hates going to school and their learning is greatly impacted?

In a perfect world, your child would have an individualized education: one-to-one tutelage with a master teacher/mentor.  No two children are the same, so why would the same education be right for every child?  The mass-market approach to education may not be the most productive learning environment for your student. Academic Achievers Academy is creating a unique option. A homeschool facility where each student’s curriculum is custom created to their specific interests and pace.

A homeschool facility may not be for everyone. But you’ll know if it’s right for your child.

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Starting School? How’s it Going?

Whether you just started Kindergarten like Prince George, or 11th grade, here are a a few tips that will keep you on the road to a smooth school year.

  1. Organization is key.  A designated study space will go a long way towards keeping you focused on your goals. Color coded file folders will keep your English papers from your math papers, your AP US History from statistics.
  2. A calendar is important.  Get a large calendar and mark  your the due dates from all your different class syllabuses.  Working backwards, give yourself triggers as to when your research should be completed, when you should have an outline or a first draft. The more self-motivated you are, the better the results will be.
  3. Clean out the backpack. Whether in pre-K or college, nothing says Disorganized like a messy backpack.  You may find papers that you thought you lost are actually crumpled and stuffed in the bottom of your backpack.
  4. Sleep is important.  Nutrition is important. Whether M&Ms or Red Bull, what you put in your body will affect how well you will process and retain information and no one functions well without enough sleep.
  5. Take study breaks.  Set an alarm to allow you time for a run, a nap, or some socializing, but then dive right back in.  You’ll feel in control and have some strong work to show that you’re getting ahead.
  6. If you fall behind, or get confused, don’t just muddle along. Get help right away.   Material builds as the year goes on and you don’t want a shaky foundation. Get on track right from the start and you will be on your way to a very successful school year!
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Want to go to an Ivy League?

“The path to the Ivy League is most successfully traveled through exclusive private schools,” according to CBS Market Watch. In fact, their research showed that of the 100 U.S. high schools sending the highest percentage of students to Harvard, Yale and Princeton, 94 of them are private schools.

The good news for local parents is that three of the schools in Business Insider Magazine’s 2016, 25 Best Private High Schools in US for Getting into a Top College, are in the LA area. One local private high school sent a whopping 30% of their 2015-16 graduates to the Ivy League, MIT or Stanford.

Of course, attending a private high school alone does not ensure that a student will get into a top tier college. Colleges are looking for students with solid academic foundations to equip them for the academic rigors they will face once admitted. Whether they attend a private or public school, they have to prove that they can excel in the classroom. 95% of accepted Ivy League students are in the top 10% of their classes.

How can someone make him or herself into the strongest possible candidate for the Ivy League, or any top college? There are a few simple keys:

  • High grades and test scores
  • Something of value to bring to the school’s community
  • Strong reasons why that particular school will enable you to grow.

First and foremost, highly competitive colleges want to see that a student has tackled the most difficult courses a school has to offer. Some students pile up double-digit AP course loads. If a school doesn’t offer enough, or any, AP classes, students can study independently and take the AP exams. They can also take advanced classes concurrently at a community college. Now that shows ambition!

Coursework isn’t everything. Students should find an extra-curricular activity of interest and delve deeply. It may take a few tries before they find something they feel passionately about, but once they do, it’s to their advantage to dedicate themselves to it throughout their school years. Encourage them to join clubs, play sports, take summer classes, look for internship opportunities, write articles, have an art showing, or enter competitions. Whether it’s aerodynamics, environmental design, or screenwriting, nothing impresses like competitive success.

Finally, a student should be able to demonstrate real interest in the college or university. Students should take the time to visit, really visit, their schools of choice. They should determine which classes they would like to take, the professors they would most like to study with and the advantages that a particular school can offer them. This knowledge will not only help them choose the best fit, but also allow them to more convincingly make their case to the admissions office in both their essays and interviews.

Of course, nothing is a guarantee of admission to your first choice school, but these tips are certainly a start down that road. My advice – start early!

Janis Adams is the Founder/CEO of Academic Achievers, “KinderPrep® to College Prep”. She has raised 3 children and each was accepted into the Ivy Leagues.

Posted in Academic Coaching, ACT, college applications, college essay, College Planning, ISEE, los angeles independent schools, Los Angeles tutoring, Parents, Private School Admission, SAT prep, Study Skills, Test Prep ACT or SAT, Tutoring, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Building Confidence and Resiliency in Young Learners

Today’s Kindergarten curriculum has advanced. Whether you attend public or private school, children are expected to be reading and writing stories by the end of Kindergarten. They have a certain number of sight words to be memorized. They take written tests and get graded. The transition from a play-based preschool, to an entirely academic day has challenged our children in new ways. The curriculum has changed, however, children’s developmental needs have not. Children today still require the same social, emotional, and cognitive foundational skills that were once offered over the course of Preschool and Kindergarten.

Yes, the transition into kindergarten can be difficult. But ultimately, building a foundation of confidence and resiliency will equip children with the mindset, motivation, and capability to succeed in school.

How do we prepare children to be inquisitive, knowledgeable, confident, and resilient in a developmentally appropriate way?

We begin in the very early years by helping them build confidence and resiliency. Bottom line. No matter how difficult school is at any age, even for a frustrated 5 year old, a confident and resilient student will be a life long learner. They will love learning. A confident student ultimately believes they can do anything. And combined with resiliency, their confidence doesn’t dissipate with disappointment. Rather, they try again. And again. They get creative and grow from mistakes. They feel accomplished and independent when they finally figure something out. But the real beauty of this creative process is what fuels the child to continue to try and persevere.

3 Ways to Build Confidence and Resiliency at Home

1. Give your child space to get frustrated and work things through

While they learn through our guidance, they also learn through trial and error. When your child is learning a new skill, he or she is also building the ability to go through the learning process. It may take a few tries, days or even weeks. This is the beginning of resiliency.

2. Model making mistakes

If you make a mistake around your child, bring it to their attention. Verbally state something along the lines of “That’s not what I meant to do, or hmmm, that didn’t work out. Let me try that again.” They will pick up on your natural reaction to frustration, so those real time mistakes are great teachable moments. If you have a child who has perfectionist tendencies, it could be helpful to intentionally make mistakes and verbalize your process of trying a few times before you get it. It can be very simple like a drawing or building something with blocks. But try not to make it perfect in the end.

3. Encourage independence

Children can be doing a lot for themselves by the time they enter Kindergarten,
such as setting the table and clearing their plate, preparing their clothes and backpacks for the next day. Try setting up a time to food prep with your child and create healthy snacks that are easily accessible in the fridge. They can pack their lunches and make a snack. The list is endless but feeling a strong sense of independence and capability builds confidence, responsibility, and takes just a bit off your plate.

Read more about KinderPrep™ here

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Waiting for Private School Admissions

Feet wearing red shoes on black background with arrows in difrent direction

For many applying to Los Angeles Independent Schools, the anticipation of enrollment decisions is nerve-racking and daunting, or as the LA Times referred to it, “waiting for Black Friday”.

After all the research, testing, applying, and interviewing, there is nothing left to do … but wait.

While you’re waiting, we want to give families some behind-the-scenes insight about what is going on as these decisions are being made.  Despite this being crunch time for the admissions directors, several top ADs and experts took the time to talk with us about the admissions process.

Laurel Baker Tew, Director of Admissions at Viewpoint School, reminds us that “the student isn’t the only part of the admissions decision.  The family as well has to fit into the school community.”

“I used to be in college admissions,” adds Tew, “and admissions to an independent school is very different from admissions to college. In college we’re looking to admit a student; in independent school, we are looking to admit a family.”

Independent schools agree that the family has to be supportive of the school and its philosophies. Viewpoint likes parents who take the time to do the research and can articulate what it is they are looking for in their families. “Make sure the school is a good fit before going in for the interview,” suggests Laurel Baker Tew.  Be sure to have specific examples and questions that align with the mission and values of the school.

Dr. Amy Horton, a prominent clinical psychologist who works with many families from independent schools, cautions, “Don’t go into the school admission process holding back relevant information about your child. It’s not necessary for them to have that perfect ISEE score. Admissions directors are looking at the whole child”.  Her advice is, “The best school fit for a child is where they will thrive and feel supported even on their worst day”.

Jeanette Woo Chitjian, Director of Enrollment Management at Marlborough School, reminds us of the reality of the numbers for seats available for every applicant.  “There are approximately 3-4 applicants for every one spot in 7th grade, and 10-12 applicants for every spot in 9th grade.”

Jeannette is quick to add,  “We are looking for different things in different grades.  In 7th grade we are looking to put a class together.  In 9th grade, we are looking to add to an established class.”

Of course, each situation would have a different need.  When you are putting a class together you want to have students who will balance the group as a whole.  Neither an entire group of introverts nor an entire group of extroverts would make for a well-rounded class.  Jeanette Woo Chitjian puts it into perspective, “Remember, it isn’t just about what the student can contribute to the class, it is also about what the student will gain from the experience.”

Like other top schools, Marlborough wants to see the academic record (grades, ISEE, ERB scores) and also importantly, the comments from the teachers. “Our girls are much more than numbers to us. We take a great deal of time in reviewing each girl’s application.  We encourage parents to send additional information about the child if they feel it will help us to make a more informed decision,” says Jeannette Woo Chijian.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but especially during the stressful waiting period, it is important to remember that regardless of where your child goes to school, they will still bloom.

To this point, Admissions Consultant Rob Stone had this to say: “One thing families can do during that terrible limbo of waiting for the decision is to embrace the premise that everything is going to be okay.  The biggest trap is thinking that a child’s whole future hinges on getting into a certain school.  The second-biggest trap is allowing the stakes of the admissions decision to create so much pressure in the home that it begins to trickle down to the child. The worst case scenario is that a child feels like a complete failure if they don’t get in.”

You have no control if the orchestra does or does not need a double-bass player at this time.  You give it your best shot but you have no ultimate power  over which candidate is accepted. Being a top contender is what is matters most.

Stone adds, “It is about positivity and perspective.  Getting into a school does not make, or break, the success of a kid.”

The application process is part of a bigger picture in the investment of your child’s education. The skills they develop during this preparation will serve them for a lifetime.

Posted in Academic Coaching, Early Elementary, ISEE, Kindergarten Prep, los angeles independent schools, Los Angeles tutoring, Private School Admission, Tutoring | Leave a comment

Organizational Skills and Academic Achievement

Studies show there is a direct correlation between academic achievement and organization skills. Organization and planning ahead are actually learned skills. Therefore, for your child to become more organized, they must be taught how to plan and stay accountable.

Disorganization, according to the study, Teaching Exceptional Children, ERIC (Educational Resource Information Center), can contribute to lower grades and academic failure.

Caucasian smooth-skinned boy is calm and confident while smiling on  homework

Teaching Organization Skills to Promote Academic Achievement

“Organizational difficulties are major obstacles for many students with learning and behavior challenges. These students often neglect to separate notebooks into various subject areas, forget to bring necessary items to class, and stuff assignments randomly into their book bags and pockets. Students’ disorganization, including their inability to keep track of assignments and turn them in on time, can contribute to low grades and academic failure, particularly beginning in secondary school when teacher expectations are greater and supervision of students tends to be more limited than during the elementary years. Students with learning challenges may not acquire essential skills unless they are provided with systematic direct instruction; youth who fail to apply organizational skills may not have had the opportunity to acquire them through an explicit instructional approach. This oversight places struggling students at increased risk for unsatisfactory or failing grades and tends to heighten misperceptions of their academic performance in relation to that of their more successful peers. Can organizational skills instruction (OSI) help middle school students at risk behaviorally and academically? In this study, students who received training in self-monitoring of assignments were able to accurately monitor their academic performance and improved their grades in academic classes.

To this end, Academic Achievers has opened a new division:   Academic Coaching

Our Academic Coaches are Educational Therapists and educators with backgrounds in adolescent counseling and track records of improved academic success. For more information call: (310) 883-5810

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The New SAT is Gaining Ground for Test Takers

The new SAT made its appearance a year ago in March. Although all the data isn’t in yet, the new SAT seems to be gaining in appeal for many new test-takers.girl writing essay

In the past few years, more students took the ACT than the SAT because students seemed to be more comfortable with scope of the ACT, but now many students who are particularly adverse to graphs and science, are swinging back and preparing for the SAT. But there are many students who are more comfortable with the tried and true ACT. Which one for you?

Just like the ACT, the SAT has no penalty for guessing, the writing section is optional, and there are 4 choices of answers to each question. The SAT scores between 400-1600, and the ACT scores 1-36.

The SAT reading section is more analytical and requires the student to site evidence from the passage to support the answer. Questions are evidence and context-based in an effort to focus on real-world situations and multi-step problem-solving.
The ACT reading section questions are more straight forward. The pace is quicker and averages 52 seconds for each question.
The SAT math section requires a solid understanding of math fundamentals as one third of the math section is done without a calculator. It also tests linear equations, inequalities, functions, and graphs.
The ACT math is Pre-Algebra (20-25%), Elementary Algebra (15-20%), Intermediate Algebra (15-20%), Coordinate Geometry (15-20%), Plane Geometry (20-25%), and Trigonometry (5-10%)
The SAT questions increase in difficulty level as you move through that question type in a section.
The ACT questions are more random in difficulty.
The SAT essay asks for an analysis of the opinion of the author of the supplied essay.
The ACT essay wants the student to evaluate 3 perspectives and then offer their own complete with examples.

Which way to go? The ACT or the SAT?
Take a Diagnostic Assessment with us and let us help you decide.

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New SAT or ACT…It’s Time to Choose!

You’ve taken the PSAT, so now it’s time to gear up for the SAT…or the ACT.
No need to prep for both.  Virtually every college accepts both ACT and SAT equally and use the concordance tables to compare the score of one to the other. So all things being equal, it is to your advantage to choose the test that gives you your best advantage.
Since the SAT has been redesigned (to align with Common Core), there is now far less difference between the New SAT and the ACT.  There is no longer a penalty for guessing, and you have a choice of only 4 answers on both tests.  The grammar remains the same and the reading comprehension is very similar.  But there are still some differences:

The ACT has a science section.  Even though the ACT science section does not really require previous knowledge of science, it does test your ability to quickly but accurately interpret data.  In other words, the science section tests skills, not specific facts or topics.

The essays are different.  Both tests come with optional essays. The ACT essay asks you to come up with your own argument and support it – the New SAT essay asks you to evaluate an argument that someone else has already written for you. Neither is easier or harder – it’s just an issue of personal preference

The use of a calculator is limited in the New SAT.  The ACT lets you use a calculator on all its math problems, and all the answers are multiple choice. The New SAT has a “with calculator” section and some answers are fill-in. The “without calculator” problems do not require any difficult arithmetic, so it’s not that much of an issue. And just as before, if you are a strong math student, you will find the more in-depth math portion of the ACT will work to your benefit.

The ACT is fast.  It averages to about a problem a minute.  This is great if you like to make your choice and move on.  However, if you tend to mull over the questions and reach into your higher order thinking each time, you may run out of time on the ACT and might do better on the SAT.  Prep for the ACT is skewed more heavily toward time management than prep for the SAT.  The pace of the ACT vs. the SAT is probably its biggest difference.

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