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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At KinderPrep, Kids get Ready for Kindergarten

by Sonali Kohli

LA Times Aug. 16, 2016

The summer school students plopped down on an orange mat and listened as teacher Elizabeth read aloud to them from a book. As she pointed out different animals, they took turns pinning the lion and polar bear pictures on a cork board.

They had already gone through parts of a book  — front cover, back cover, spine — as they sat outside on the grass in Santa Monica. People walked by with their dogs. One floated past on a hoverboard.

The children, ranging in age from 3½ to 5, were engaged in more serious pursuits. They were at KinderPrep, a weeklong boot camp designed to prepare them for the rigors of kindergarten.

Parents and at least one au pair had dropped the dozen children off at the Colorado Center, an airy office complex with its own park and private security. Among its tenants are Hulu, HBO and KinderPrep’s home, Academic Achievers, a private tutoring and admissions counseling company.

It’s now common for Westside parents to enroll their kids in these early tutoring programs. Some of the children in the group also had been signed up for separate one-on-one sessions that cost $120 to $200 an hour.

Such efforts can really help students, said Elizabeth, the director of KinderPrep and other early education programs at Academic Achievers.

“When they get into kindergarten,” she said, “there is no play. It’s like first grade.”

Parents vie for coveted kindergarten spots at elite private schools that charge upwards of $25,000 a year.

“It’s so competitive,” said Jenni Silberstein, as she watched her 5-year-old, Lily Joyner, settle into her writing exercise, mouth in a straight line, ready for the serious task ahead. “It’s more the private-school parents who do it,” Silberstein, a psychotherapist, said of the camp.

Lily will start kindergarten at Kenter Canyon Elementary, an L.A. Unified public school in Brentwood, but both of her older siblings attend private school — and Silberstein said Lily’s constantly asking to be taught how to read.

The camp day had started in the complex’s grassy park area, where the children opened their personal folders. Each contained family or personal photos, which parents had been asked to provide. Elizabeth had pasted each child’s photos in a notebook alongside space for the child to write.

For those who didn’t know how to write yet, the three instructors helped, using yellow highlighter to spell out what the campers wanted to say, and then showing them how to go over the letters’ lines in darker ink.

Then came circle time. The children left their bright green writing tables for the mat, where they sat surrounded by stuffed animals. Elizabeth led them through the months of the year, and when this prompted them to start shouting out their birthdays, she clapped rhythmically to get their attention. It worked. They quieted down. In unison, they clapped back the same sequence.

Next it was time to practice transitions by walking single file to the cafeteria. There, each instructor sat with four children in a booth to read a book about counting. One of the groups drew pictures of toys, bunk beds and other things that they could count at home. When this work was done, the children gathered their folders and walked back, single file, to the grass.

Packing up their things teaches them responsibility, while lining up and walking single file gets kids used to following instructions, Elizabeth said.

At snack time, the children could partake in organic fruit, gummies and aloe water provided by the program, though many brought their own food because of dietary restrictions. Fraley said she’s seen paté.

Even during snack and play time, Elizabeth and the other instructors observed their students and gently pushed them to think more deeply. Fraley said she looks at how many “communication loops” each student is able to complete — how many back-and-forth conversations they have.

“I take what they say and I add a couple more adjectives,” she said.

When one girl volunteered that she was going to San Diego soon, Fraley pointed up and then down as she asked, “Are you going north or south?”

When the kids painted rainbows, she asked Lily, “Have you ever seen a rainbow before?”

“Yes,” Lily replied.

“Where did you see it?”

“Don’t remember,” Lily said, busy concentrating on completing a perfect blue arc on her canvas.

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

Skills Every 18 Year Old Needs

olivia1As parents, when our child encounters frustration or anxiety, our first instinct is to swoop in and solve the problem. This need to protect, however well intended, has created a generation of children without coping skills.

Let’s hear from an expert about how we should guide our children to thrive.

Former Stanford dean shares the 8 skills everyone should have by age 18

1. An 18-year-old must be able to talk to strangers

Faculty, deans, advisers, landlords, store clerks, human resource managers, coworkers, bank tellers, health care providers, bus drivers, mechanics — in the real world.
The crutch: We teach kids not to talk to strangers instead of teaching the more nuanced skill of how to discern the few bad strangers from the mostly good ones. Thus, kids end up not knowing how to approach strangers — respectfully and with eye contact — for the help, guidance, and direction they will need out in the world.

2. An 18-year-old must be able to find his way around

A campus, the town in which her summer internship is located, or the city where he is working or studying abroad.
The crutch: We drive or accompany our children everywhere, even when a bus, their bicycle, or their own feet could get them there; thus, kids don’t know the route for getting from here to there, how to cope with transportation options and snafus, when and how to fill the car with gas, or how to make and execute transportation plans.

3. An 18-year-old must be able to manage his assignments, workload, and deadlines

The crutch: We remind kids when their homework is due and when to do it — sometimes helping them do it, sometimes doing it for them; thus, kids don’t know how to prioritize tasks, manage workload, or meet deadlines, without regular reminders.

4. An 18-year-old must be able to contribute to the running of a household

The crutch: We don’t ask them to help much around the house because the checklisted childhood leaves little time in the day for anything aside from academic and extracurricular work; thus, kids don’t know how to look after their own needs, respect the needs of others, or do their fair share for the good of the whole.

5. An 18-year-old must be able to handle interpersonal problems

The crutch: We step in to solve misunderstandings and soothe hurt feelings for them; thus, kids don’t know how to cope with and resolve conflicts without our intervention.

6. An 18-year-old must be able to cope with ups and downs

Courses and workloads, college- level work, competition, tough teachers, bosses, and others.
The crutch: We step in when things get hard, finish the task, extend the deadline, and talk to the adults; thus, kids don’t know that in the normal course of life things won’t always go their way, and that they’ll be okay regardless.

7. An 18-year-old must be able to earn and manage money

The crutch: They don’t hold part-time jobs; they receive money from us for what ever they want or need; thus, kids don’t develop a sense of responsibility for completing job tasks, accountability to a boss who doesn’t inherently love them, or an appreciation for the cost of things and how to manage money.

8. An 18-year-old must be able to take risks

The crutch: We’ve laid out their entire path for them and have avoided all pitfalls or prevented all stumbles for them; thus, kids don’t develop the wise understanding that success comes only after trying and failing and trying again (a.k.a. “grit”) or the thick skin (a.k.a. “resilience”) that comes from coping when things have gone wrong.

Remember: our kids must be able to do all of these things without resorting to calling a parent on the phone. If they’re calling us to ask how, they do not have the life skill.

Originally appeared in the book “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success” (Henry Holt & Co., 2015).

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Private Schools Road to Ivy Leagues

While it is true that fewer than 9% of applicants were accepted into an Ivy League school last year, some high schools sent over 46% of their students to an Ivy, Stanford or MIT.

According to CBS Market Watch, “The path to the Ivy League is most successfully traveled through exclusive private schools. Of the 100 U.S. high schools sending the highest percentage of students to Harvard, Yale and Princeton, 94 of them are private schools.

Counselors say the Ivy League draws heavily from top-notch private high schools because most of their students had to beat out their peers academically to gain admission at that level.” In other words, they already know your child is academically competitive.

Of course, the first hurdle to the Ivys or any top tier school is gaining admission to one of the highly competitive Los Angeles private schools. Since the gatekeeper to admission is often your child’s ISEE score, let us help your child do his or her best!

Posted in college applications, College Planning, ISEE, Los Angeles tutoring, Private School Admission, SAT prep, Tutoring | Tagged | Leave a comment