Parents who start saving for college when their children are newborns will end up with 30 percent of their savings made up of earnings from their investments. Meanwhile, parents who start saving when their kids are in high school will only get 10 percent from earnings.
This shows that when it comes to college savings, parents who make a plan early come out ahead.
Part of that plan is deciding how much you will contribute to your child’s higher education – and how much he will contribute. Another part is calculating how much you can save each month, and another is choosing where to put that money while your child grows.
529 Savings Plans are a common choice. These state-run accounts allow individuals to grow money tax free – and withdraw tax free, if they use the money for higher education expenses. Here are some frequently asked questions about 529 plans and their benefits:
Will the money in my 529 plan affect my child’s eligibility for need-based financial aid?
Yes, but barely. Only up to 5.64 percent of a 529 Plan’s value will be considered in calculations of need-based aid. In other words, you’d have to save about $15k before even $1k gets added to your expected family contribution.
What can the money be used for?
Eligible expenses include tuition, room and board, textbooks and computers. 529 Plans can also pay tuition at a trade or vocational school. These plans can be tricky if you try to withdraw money for other expenses – you’ll owe income tax as well as a 10 percent penalty on earnings. If a child gets a scholarship, however, you can withdraw up to the awarded amount penalty free.
Is there a limit on how much I can save?
There is no annual limit, although aggregate limits across states range from $235,000 to $520,000.
Should I work with a broker to find a 529 Plan?
Generally, no. Plans sold directly to families have lower annual costs and less expensive investment options. (Some investments come with a sales charge between 1 and 5.75 percent.)
Whose name should the account be in?
Put the account in a parent’s name, with the child as beneficiary. If you’re divorced, set up the account in the custodial parent’s name – this shakes out best for financial aid down the line. Try to avoid putting 529 Plans in a grandparent’s name. When they withdraw money, it will be treated as untaxed income and will affect the student’s eligibility for need-based financial aid. 529 Plans in the student or parent’s name, on the other hand, are counted as assets and do not affect financial aid.
How should I allocate my investments?
Most 529 are set up as age-based glide paths. That means as your child gets closer to college, your investments are automatically shifted among stock and bonds funds.
These investments start at a higher risk level and gradually get more conservative as your child grows. Nonetheless, most plans offer conservative, moderate and aggressive investment tracks based on your personal risk tolerance.
Not all plans define risk the same way, however. A plan labeled conservative could have 40 percent of your savings invested in equities – or it could have 80 percent. Be sure to do your research as you search for the best savings plan.
For a personal college savings planning session with a certified financial advisor, call iLearn Academy at 847-834-0791 and ask about our support services for college-bound students.
Just a year ago, Fortune magazine reported that parents in 28 U.S. states spend more on childcare each year than on college tuition.
That's a lot of money. In fact, Illinois families spend anywhere from 15 to 19 percent of their annual income on childcare.
Despite all this spending, most childcare options don't offer the services parents need, like homework help and enriching activities.
That's why iLearn Academy is launching an after-school childcare program with built-in math, English and writing instruction. Drop off your child - or have us pick him up from school - any day of the week. We'll help him finish homework, serve a healthy snack, build math and English skills and spend time outdoors. When you pick him up, you'll have the evening to spend time as a family - homework free.
We'll like to learn more about your childcare needs through this 1-minute survey. We'll even give you $25 off your next tutoring session for participating. As always, thank you for trusting us with your child's care and education.
The PSAT 8-9 is a standardized test that’s part of the SAT Suite of Assessments. Illinois students take the test in October of their 8th-grade year.
This test serves two purposes. First, it gives parents an idea of how their students are progressing in math and language arts. If a student gets a low percentile score, that’s a sign he may need some intervention to be ready for college placement tests like the SAT and ACT later on.
Second, PSAT 8-9 scores help teachers decide whether a student would benefit more from advanced, general or remedial math and English courses in 9th grade. This test, along with grades and teacher recommendations, determines your child’s academic trajectory as she transitions from middle to high school.
As such, it’s important that parents are aware of the PSAT 8-9 and its importance. If your student has the skill and desire to take advanced classes, it’s important that he prepares thoroughly for this test.
How to Prepare for the PSAT 8-9
The PSAT 8-9 has three sections: Reading, Writing and Language, and Math.
The Reading test contains passages that students use to find and analyze claims and evidence, evaluate words in context, and examine hypotheses and data.
The Writing and Language test asks students to correct poorly written passages using their knowledge of grammar and syntax.
The Math test contains both multiple-choice and grid-in questions. It measures students’ Algebra skills, as well as their quantitative literacy (which includes ratios, percentages, and proportional reasoning). All problems are word problems, and the test is divided into “calculator” and “no calculator” sections.
This is not a test students can prepare for overnight, or even in a few weeks. To excel, students need to get comfortable with not only the test content, but also the way the questions are formatted. The best way to do this is to complete real PSAT 8-9 practice tests with the help of an instructor who’s familiar with the exam.
Here are some helpful tips as your student prepares for the PSAT 8-9:
Why the PSAT 8-9 Is Important
The PSAT 8-9 helps determine high school class placement, and class placement helps determine college admissions.
For example, many collegiate STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs prefer students who have completed AP calculus. If your child isn’t placed on an advanced math track, it can be difficult to get into an AP course and demonstrate high competency in math.
It also can be tricky to switch from general courses to advanced courses after placement. Talk to your student about her academic goals. Have her write down what she’d like to be or what she’d like to study, and map out the classes she’d need to take in high school to get there. If she wants to take advanced classes, have her communicate that to her teachers (it’s better if this comes from the student rather than parents). Teacher recommendations also play a role in high school class placement.
Starting in August, iLearn Academy offers weekly PSAT 8-9 test prep courses. Our knowledgeable instructors and large collection of real practice tests help students make measurable gains. We adjust our curriculum based on each student’s strengths and areas for improvement, so they get the most from their study time. Additionally, our Test Prep Gym program lets students come in whenever they want to take practice tests and get help from our tutors.
To find out your child’s PSAT 8-9 test date in Northbrook, Wilmette, Glenview, Skokie, Winnetka, Glencoe, Northfield, or Niles, ask your child’s teacher or check your school district’s testing calendar.
To learn more or enroll in PSAT 8-9 prep, give us a call at 847-834-0791.
If you have a child in school, you’ve likely heard of Common Core Standards. However, you may not know what these statewide standards entail, or how they affect your student.
Here is a breakdown of Common Core Standards, including where they came from, how they’re measured, and why they’re so divisive.
What Is Common Core?
Common Core refers to a set of educational checkpoints in math and language arts designed to standardize what students should learn in each grade level.
The Standards were spearheaded by a group of state governors and chief school officers in 2009 and written by teams of college professors, education advocates, testing company employees and, after pushback from teachers’ unions, schoolteachers.
Common Core is not a curriculum, rather, it’s a set of expectations detailing which skills students must master at each grade level in order to be considered “on track” for college and the workforce.
Initially, all but four U.S. states adopted the Common Core State Standards. Today, five participant states have repealed the Standards, and about half have declined to use standardized testing to measure the Standards. Nonetheless, many states, including Illinois, use the PARCC or Smarter Balanced tests to measure Common Core Standards.
Why Does Common Core Exist?
Common Core was developed largely in response to concerns about American students’ academic performance compared to other nations.
Proponents of Common Core were worried by the percentage of college freshmen enrolled in remedial courses because their math and language skills did not meet the requirements of college coursework. In 2008, one in five first-year university students needed a remedial course.
College professors weren’t the only ones unimpressed with students’ abilities, according to Common Core supporters. Hiring professionals also complained that entry-level workers were missing key math and literacy skills.
The increasingly globalized and competitive job market led many policymakers to call for more stringent, systemized standards for public schools. By creating a list of standards identical across all states, Common Core creators hoped to ensure students left school with the knowledge they need to succeed.
Why Is There Controversy Surrounding Common Core?
Since its inception, there has been vocal opposition to Common Core from teachers, parents and policymakers.
Some worry that Common Core wrongfully makes workforce participation the aim of education, rather than the explorations of students’ unique minds and abilities. Others claim the program patronizes schoolteachers and prevents them from serving individual students’ needs. Some parents protest that the additional standardized testing creates unnecessary stress for students, while states’ rights advocates decry the involvement of the federal government in public school curricula altogether.
Currently, there is no conclusive research that supports the efficacy of Common Core Standards, at least in terms of post-secondary or workforce achievement. However, this doesn’t mean the Standards are misaligned. So many participant states didn’t fully implement the standards or opted out of national testing, measuring the impact of Common Core has been a challenge.
What Does Common Core Mean for My Student?
Illinois still adheres to the Common Core Standards to measure student progress, but transitioned from the controversial PARCC test to the new Illinois Assessment of Readiness, or IAR, in 2019. Students will take the IAR annually in the spring.
The new test is shorter, with a forthcoming computer adaptive model, faster results and better options for students whose first language is not English. Ideally, this test will be more reflective of student’s understanding of Common Core Standards.
Your child’s IAR score will not affect his or her opportunities at school or beyond. These scores are used to measure the performance of school districts and teachers. However, you can use the scores to determine if your child needs extra support with math or literacy.
On a day-to-day basis, Common Core likely informs which skills your child’s teachers focus on during lessons. Your student’s school may even use a curriculum aligned to Common Core.
You can use the Common Core math and language arts standards to check in on your child’s academic progress and stay up to speed on his overarching learning goals. If you’re concerned your child is struggling with grade-level skills, a qualified tutor can help her catch up and lay the foundation for success.
For information on iLearn Academy’s personalized learning plans and expert instructors, check out our curriculum page.
Just like adults, children experience anxiety, and some are more prone to it than others.
Stressful circumstances – like a big test or conflict at home – may trigger anxiety, or it may be part of a child’s personality to worry. Whatever the cause, it’s important that parents understand anxiety and the strategies that help.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is defined as, “An emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”
Everyone feels anxiety from time to time, and this emotion is often helpful. It helps us avoid danger, for example, and it drives us to get things done.
Too much anxiety, however, has adverse effects. It can cause physical symptoms like shortness of breath and stomachaches, and it can affect our behavior and relationships. Some people experience anxiety so intensely that it’s considered a disorder.
Common symptoms of anxiety in children are:
Why Do Children Experience Anxiety?
Often, children have anxiety because of an upsetting experience. This may be something they experienced directly, but could also be something they saw or heard secondhand. It’s beneficial to talk openly with children about upsetting experiences, so they can voice their feelings and sort out their perceptions.
Children also may feel anxious about family, friends and schoolwork. (We all worry about difficult projects or negative interactions – the same is true for kids.)
By speaking openly about fears and concerns and watching for signs of disordered anxiety, you can help your child develop a healthy approach to worry.
How Can I Help?
Everyone worries, so it’s important your child feels safe voicing his concerns. Try not to scold your child for worrying or diminish her worries with statements like, “calm down” or “there’s nothing to worry about.” Sometimes, simply talking about anxieties makes them feel more manageable.
When your child inevitably worries, here are some responses that help build a healthy outlook:
In all of this, your priority should be to help your child find ways to manage and tolerate anxiety. Worry never goes away, but if we continue to engage with the things that frighten us, it decreases with time.
If your child's anxiety develops physical symptoms or impedes her ability to do normal things, visit your family doctor. Children do not "grow out" of disordered anxiety, so it's important they receive appropriate treatment.
At iLearn Academy, we create personalized learning plans based on each student’s individual needs. If your child needs help managing anxiety about school or homework, our expert instructors can help him catch up, find strategies and build confidence. For more information, check out our curriculum.
The ACT is a standardized test colleges use to determine a student’s readiness for post-secondary coursework.
The ACT doesn’t measure intelligence; rather, it assesses a student’s knowledge of high school-level skills in math, data analysis, reading and language.
Students must register online or by mail to take the ACT. Registration currently costs $50.50, and students take the test at a nearby high school or community center on a Saturday morning.
The ACT testing organization offers the test about eight times a year. As such, parents and students often ask if there is any benefit to registering for a particular test date.
Our answer is: yes! While there is no way to predict the difficulty of a certain test date (test questions change each time, although the concepts tested remain the same), some test dates tend to work better for student’s schedules.
Here is our advice for students preparing for the ACT:
The Facts about ACT Preparation
Even though the ACT covers skills you’ve learned in high school, it’s not an easy test. The timing element is a big challenge. It includes skills from Algebra I and Geometry you may have forgotten if you’re currently taking Calculus. It tests over nuanced writing errors like redundancy, wordiness and unclear sentence structure.
Students who cram for the test – or skip studying entirely – are unlikely to earn their target scores. For reference, most private universities prefer composite scores at or above 30 – that’s about the 93rd percentile.
The best way to study for the ACT is incrementally. You can use class notes from previous courses to go over what you’ve learned bit by bit. You can also use a test preparation textbook or the ACT’s online materials. If you want to ensure your scores impresses college admissions counselors, you can enroll in a test prep course that meets once or twice a week.
Choose Your Test Date Wisely
Because of the time it takes to adequately study for the ACT, we recommend students prepare during the summer. With less homework and fewer extracurricular activities, ACT test prep becomes less of a burden. Usually, this means registering for the September test and studying in July and August.
Here are some other things to consider when choosing your ACT test date:
You’ve Got This!
With commitment and preparation, you can earn your best score on the ACT. Take time to carefully consider your schedule, and choose the test date that gives you plenty of time to prepare.
Not sure where to begin studying? Check out a test prep course like the one at iLearn Academy. Students meet twice weekly with expert instructors who guide them through a proven ACT curriculum. Students see an average six-point gain in their composite scores after 10 weeks.
Learn more our ACT prep courses here.
Many parents use summer learning programs as an enriching childcare option, but these programs also have concrete benefits for students’ academic achievement.
For years, experts have known that summer learning – or the lack thereof – is a important factor in learning and achievement gaps among students.
Would summer academics make a long-term difference for your child? Here’s what the research says:
What Is an Educational “Gap”?
Educators use terms like “learning gap” and “achievement gap” to analyze why different students have different levels of academic success in school and beyond.
A “learning gap” refers to the disparity between what a student is expected to know at a certain grade level and what he or she actually knows. An “achievement gap” is the difference in educational outcomes between two demographic groups, like high-income and low-income students.
Research shows that learning loss is one of the largest contributors to learning and achievement gaps. Learning loss occurs when students forget skills – or miss learning them entirely – because of long breaks from school. While illness, changing schools and family instability can lead to learning loss, the most common cause is actually summer vacation.
What Is Summer Learning Loss?
Summer vacation fuels learning loss because many students go two and a half months without engaging with school materials, books or academic programming.
Many researchers have attributed summer learning loss exclusively to family income. In many ways, this makes sense. Summer learning takes time and, often, money, and many low-income families simply don’t have the resources.
However, statistics now show there’s more to summer learning loss than family background. A recent NWEA study showed that while there are small differences in the amount of summer learning loss among different races and income groups, the variation in learning loss within each demographic is much greater. That means within each group, some students are being presented with opportunities for summer learning, while others are not.
In fact, students who participate in summer learning can actually make gains during the summer, the study found. This puts them at an advantage academically and socially.
Learning gaps and learning loss are no small issue. When students fail to master foundational math and reading skills, they tend to fall farther behind as they get older and coursework becomes more challenging. Teachers often cannot take time to reteach fundamentals, or they don’t have the skills to help students who are struggling.
Some policymakers have introduced initiatives that address the widespread problem of summer learning loss. In 2018, Oregon implemented the Summer Learning and Meals Act, hoping that by keeping libraries open during the summer, they would encourage families to spend time on academics during the summer.
How to Avoid Summer Learning Loss
Simple activities like reading to your children, visiting a historical landmark or practicing the multiplication tables can help abate summer learning loss.
However, the best solution to learning loss is a structured summer academic program. This takes pressure off parents to oversee their children’s summer “curriculum” and provides students with knowledgeable educators to identify their strengths and needs.
Whether it’s a daylong program that takes the place of childcare, or just a couple hours a week of skill-building, summer learning makes all the difference to your child’s success in school.
If your child needs to catch up, get ahead or maintain skills this summer, there is still time to register for iLearn Academy’s summer academic program, led by certified teachers. Two days a week is all it takes to combat summer learning loss this year!
For more information or to enroll, give us a call at 847-834-0791.
Fathers Day is a time to show appreciation for the men who raised us, but did you know the holiday was invented by a woman who had a special relationship with her dad?
Sonora Dodd lived in Spokane, Washington during the early 20th century. Her mother died in childbirth when Sonora was a teenager, so her father raised her and her five brothers on his own.
In 1909, Sonora sat in church as her pastor preached a sermon on the importance of Mother’s Day. Remembering her father’s dedication, she decided her town needed a day to honor fathers, as well.
This began a five-decade-long campaign to make Father’s Day a nationally recognized holiday. Although her first petition in favor of Father’s Day gained only two signatures, she spent years traveling the country raising support for the concept.
On the first-ever Father’s Day in Spokane, townspeople wore roses to honor their dads – a red flower if your father was still living, a white flower if he had passed away. As soon as 1916, Sonora’s efforts brought President Woodrow Wilson to Spokane to endorse Father’s Day and join in the town’s celebration.
However, it wasn’t until 1957 that Senator Margaret Chase Smith introduced a bill establishing Father’s Day as a federal holiday, insisting that to have a day honoring mothers but not fathers was insulting to both. Almost 10 years later, President Lyndon Johnson declared the third Sunday in June an annual Father’s Day celebration. Finally, in 1972, President Richard Nixon made the day an official federal holiday.
Today, Sonora Dodd’s gravestone reads, “Founder of Father’s Day,” recognizing her love for her father and her commitment to the holiday honoring men’s contributions to their families.
Father’s Day Today
This year, 76 percent of Americans plan to celebrate Father’s Day. We’ll spend a record $16 billion on presents and outings for our dads, with most gift-givers looking for something that is unique to their fathers’ interests or commemorative of a special shared experience.
Holidays are an excellent time to share statistics with your children and talk about concepts like percentages, demographics, surveys, and research. Here are some Father’s Day statistics to discuss as a family:
Fun with Fathers during the Summer
The summer months, when students are home from school, is a great chance for fathers to spend extra quality time with their children. That, combined with the huge importance of summer learning, is incentive to plan fun, educational outings for dads and kids.
Fatherhood.gov provides a helpful list of activities that promote learning during the summer while creating opportunities for dads and kids to make memories. Here’s what they suggest:
iLearn Academy wishes a happy Father’s Day to all the fathers in our lives. For more creative ideas on summer learning, check out our guide on how to make any family vacation educational.
Our children often think they know more than we do. When it comes to elementary school math, they might be correct.
As adults, calculators and Excel shortcuts make it easy to forget how to solve problems by multiplying fractions or calculating probability. If our children come home with questions about these concepts, we might be at a loss.
If you want to help your child strengthen his math skills but don’t have time to re-learn the skills you’ve forgotten, there’s an easy solution: drill basic math. By simply reciting the multiplication tables or practicing basic addition and subtraction, you’re preparing your child to excel in higher math courses.
The Case for Memorization
Among some educators, memorization has gotten a bad rap. In the past, teachers have overused memorization, at the expense of critical thought and analysis.
An overreliance on memorization can certainly be a disservice to students. However, avoiding memorization can rob students of the foundation they need to understand more complex concepts.
For example: A teacher might use colored marbles to illustrate the concept of multiplication. This is a great way to cater to multiple learning styles and ensure students understand where the multiplication tables come from. Nonetheless, if that teacher doesn’t require students to memorize the tables, they will struggle with every math problem they come across, as more challenging problems require multiple steps of multiplication or division.
Some educators argue that memorization and drilling are not developmentally appropriate for young elementary school children. I disagree – and the research backs me up. Much of the learning small children do involves “scaffolding” the facts they learn into their long-term memories. Their brains are primed to absorb and memorize information. The earlier they begin to recognize and repeat the multiplication tables, the less time they spend later counting on fingers and guessing at answers.
In my career as a Math Support Specialist, I worked with dozens of teachers and schools, helping them improve their math instruction and curricula. One of my initiatives was to incentivize math mastery by providing a pizza party for elementary students who memorized the multiplication facts. Not only did the students enjoy the challenge, their performances improved drastically.
Unfortunately, many teachers don’t have the classroom time to drill multiplication facts until each student has mastered them. Some students learn the tables right away; others take longer.
That’s where parents come in. Instead of head-scratching at the more challenging problems on your child’s homework, focus on building mastery of basic math skills, multiplication and division in particular. This is great use of your time together because it gives your student a leg up in the classroom. Best of all, working on memorization actually builds a better memory, which helps your child succeed in all school subjects.
At iLearn Academy, I consistently see the connection between multiplication mastery and a student’s overall math performance. Students who struggle in middle school math are often the ones who never memorized the multiplication tables. This slows them down so much that keeping pace in math class becomes difficult. Conversely, students who know the basic math facts by heart are empowered to learn new concepts.
Helping your child with her language arts homework? The equivalent would be memorizing parts of speech and labeling them within sentences. This easy exercise helps your student develop a strong understand of grammar, which makes for clearer, more effective writing down the road.
If your child is struggling with math, reading or writing, call 847-834-0791 and ask for Youngah Anderson. I’d be happy to help you find the tutor and learning plan that will boost your student’s grades and build his or her confidence.
My sincere gratitude,
Director, iLearn Academy
Experts agree summer learning loss is a leading cause of the achievement gap among students. This has many parents wondering how to build learning into the family's summer schedule.
On one hand, an educational family trip could help your student keep her mind engaged during the long summer months out of school.
On the other hand, trudging through Gettysburg when you could be relaxing on a beach is not every parent's idea of a good time.
Here's the good news: You can make any family vacation educational with the right approach.
Use these tips to sprinkle in some learning alongside your fun this summer. Your children's report cards will thank you!
Make a Budget
Every family vacation requires a budget, and putting one together is a great way to practice math with your kids (not to mention financial skills).
If you'd rather not share how much you're spending on vacation, work in percentages. Ask questions, like: What percentage of the budget should go toward food? A hotel? Activities? Will those amounts be sufficient?
Here are some math skills that budgeting builds:
Finding a book that complements your vacation activities is a great way to build reading into your family's vacation planning.
Camping in the Pacific Northwest? Check out a story set in nature, like My Side of the Mountain. Taking a road trip to Florida? Try the smart, coming-of-age story about Floridian preteen Sally Freedman, in Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself.
Reading the book together helps your student stay engaged. Look up new words, discuss the story's themes and ask your child to make predictions about where the story is heading.
For younger children, reading books about family vacations is an excellent way to manage behavior. Use the story to talk about appropriate behavior at the beach, hotel or campfire. Tell your child what you expect from them, and reward them when they deliver.
Keep a Journal
Vacation journals are not only a fun way to record family memories, they help students practice writing.
Maximize the journal's skill-building potential by coming up with a writing prompt for each day of vacation. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Every destination has a history, even if it doesn't contain historical landmarks.
Before you leave home, take some time to research your vacation spot's backstory as a family. A grade-level appropriate educational database is a good place to start. For elementary, try Kids InfoBits. For middle school, try Research in Context. For high school, try Student Edition.
Contact your destination's local library or historical society to see if there are any family-friendly events planned during your stay. These events run the gamut from farm expos to archaeological digs. Street fairs are another engaging way to get to know the community you're visiting.
Summer Learning Programs
Looking for more ways to combat summer learning loss? Check out iLearn Academy's flexible summer tutoring options. Just two hours each week can help your students maintain their math and reading skills and get ahead in upcoming classes.
Enroll by June 8 to save $50 on tuition and receive free weekly test prep. Call 847-834-0791 for more information or to enroll!
If you have a child in 8th grade, he or she will take the PSAT 8-9 this coming October. Some school districts use this standardized test to determine high school class placement. If your student wants to take advanced math or English in high school, earning a good score on this test is important.
Schools in Illinois use the SAT Suite of Assessments to track students' college and career readiness. The PSAT 8-9 is the first test in that series, and parents and teachers can use it to get a sense of a student's skill level and check how her scores compare to test-takers across the country.
The PSAT 8-9 is cumulative, so students cannot prepare overnight -- or even for just a few weeks. The best way to secure a high score is to become very familiar with the test structure and material and prepare incrementally.
What Does the PSAT 8-9 Look Like?
The PSAT 8-9 has four sections: Reading, Writing and Language, Math with a calculator, and Math without a calculator. Test-takers receive 55 minutes for Reading, 30 minutes for Writing and Language, and 60 minutes for both Math portions.
The Reading and Writing sections are combined to yield an Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score out of 720 points. The two Math sections are also scored together out of 720 points. Therefore, the highest score a student can earn on the PSAT 8-9 is a 1440.
What's on the PSAT 8-9?
Here is a section-by-section breakdown of the material that appears on the PSAT 8-9 and the skills that are tested:
The PSAT 8-9 Reading test is completely multiple choice and based off accompanying passages and, occasionally, informational graphics like charts and graphs. The reading selections might be standalone passages or paired passages. (Paired passages are two excerpts placed side by side so students can compare and contrast.)
There is always one excerpt from literature, one passage or pair of passages from a U.S. founding document or the conversation it has inspired, a social science passage (economics, psychology, or sociology), and two science passages (Earth science, biology, chemistry or physics).
The PSAT 8-9 never tests on outside knowledge, so all the information needed to correctly answer the questions is contained in the passages.
The Reading section measures three main skills:
Writing and Language Test:
The PSAT 8-9 Writing and Language test is completely multiple choice and based off accompanying passages and, occasionally, informational graphics like charts and graphs. Students will answer questions about how best to improve underlined portions of the passage. They may be asked to improve:
The PSAT 8-9 Math test is part multiple choice, part grid-in (see below for an example of a grid-in question). There are two sections to the Math test: one where students can use calculators and one where they cannot.
The Math portion of the test covers two main skill areas:
Preparing for the PSAT 8-9
The PSAT 8-9 tests grade-appropriate skills, so much of your student's preparation should be review.
However, the breadth of material is so wide that it's difficult for students to effectively prepare for this test on their own.
For the best results, prepare incrementally using real PSAT 8-9 test material. iLearn Academy offers summer PSAT 8-9 prep courses that use real test material to familiarize students with the format and content of the test. These courses also help students avoid summer learning loss.
Enroll before May 27 to receive two free hours of test prep each week, in addition to your student's standard math or English tutoring. Call 847-834-0791 to enroll today.
Each year, about 30 percent of ACT test-takers earn scores at or above the College Readiness Benchmark.
That means that about 70 percent do not. Some students score below the benchmark because they are not ready for college-level academics. Others, however, may simply be unfamiliar with the test material.
This happens for a few reasons. Sometimes, tricky math problems or nuanced writing mechanics are above a student's ability. But usually, students have simply forgotten material they learned long ago or failed to practice fundamental reading and problem-solving skills.
Luckily, that issue is easily fixed. By building and maintaining grammar, reading, and problem-solving skills over time, your student can take the stress out of standardized testing.
Here's what your students should be doing now to help them earn their best scores:
1. Read for Fun
Students who read outside of school are miles ahead of their peers in vocabulary, grammar and reading comprehension.
In fact, a student's attitude toward reading is a better predictor of his or her academic achievement than parent income or education. Student who read because they want to consistently outpace students who only read when extrinsically motivated by grades, rewards, or punishments.
How can parents encourage children to become self-motivated readers? There are two ways: limiting screen time and connecting kids with reading materials that suits their interests.
Not every student will enjoy "academic" reading like historical nonfiction, essays or canonical literature -- and that's okay! All reading helps build essential language skills. So put a password on that laptop and join your student on a trip to the bookstore or library.
2. Review Grammar
While the ACT, SAT, and PSAT test extensively on grammar, most English teachers stop reviewing these concepts after middle school. By junior high, many students have forgotten foundational grammar concepts like parts of speech, comma rules, and simple subjects and predicates.
The solution to this is to review incrementally. Cramming for the ACT or SAT is impossible, because of the breadth of material the test covers. Preparing for these tests requires either a few months of intensive practice or a few years of regular review.
Help your child build time into her homework schedule for short review sessions. With due dates looming, it can be tough to make time for relearning old concepts, but it's essential for success on college entrance exams and other important standardized tests.
The best way to review is to keep detailed class notes. There are also excellent online resources for reviewing grammar concepts. Every iLearn Academy students gets a free account on IXL.com, which contains a huge database of grammar, vocabulary, reading and math exercises.
3. Don't Forget About Algebra
Algebra is the foundation of mathematical problem-solving in high school and beyond, so the ACT Math section tests heavily on algebraic concepts. While students take Geometry, however, their focus shifts to non-algebraic concepts like proofs and trigonometry, and it's easy to forget Algebra skills from years past.
If your student takes Geometry right before taking the ACT, make sure he or she thoroughly reviews Algebra concepts like systems of equations, quadratic functions, graphing linear inequalities, solving linear equations, and setting up expressions. (Make sure he uses ACT-style word problems and not just numerical ones!)
4. Focus on Nonfiction
Often, a test's biggest reading comprehension challenges come in the form of nonfiction passages. The ACT, for example, contains science, humanities and social studies passages. If students are unfamiliar with the common structures and devices of nonfiction passages, their scores can suffer.
Talk with your student's science, history and English teachers about their use of nonfiction passages. Will students be exposed to scholarly articles and journalism in science, history and the humanities -- or will most of their reading come from a textbook? If that's the case, connect your students with engaging nonfiction articles from sources like Time Magazine, National Geographic and The Economist.
How to Prepare
All in all: The best way to prepare for standardized tests is to set aside some time each week or each month for cumulative review.
Use class notes and resources like IXL.com to check in on grammar, Algebra, and informational reading skills.
Help your student develop a love of reading by connecting her with books and magazines she enjoys and limiting screen time.
We know it can be tough to monitor your child's homework routine and hold him accountable for standardized test preparation. iLearn Academy's Test Prep Gym lets students prepare for standardized tests on their own schedules with a multitude of real practice tests and skill-building exercises. Just come by our center, grab a test booklet and start practicing. There are always tutors available to check work, correct missed answers and review tricky concepts.
Additionally, iLearn Academy half-day summer programs include two free hours of standardized test prep each week for PSAT 8-9, PSAT/NMSQT, ACT or SAT when you enroll before May 18.
To sign up for summer test prep, classes, or Test Prep Gym, read about our summer programs or download our enrollment form.
We love boosting grades. However, we know there's more to success than the letters on a report card.
Often, a student's attitude toward schoolwork matters more than his or her skills. Students who develop personal responsibility, motivation and teamwork are better prepared to achieve.
That's why we're excited to announce our 2019 Summer Program theme: 7 Habits of Highly Effective Students.
This reading and writing curriculum - based on Sean Covey's bestselling book 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens - will help students identify the behaviors that support long-term success. Through discussion and reflection, students will consider how their personal values, goals and strengths can inspire them in and out of the classroom.
Here's a closer look at the habits we will focus on each week. By the end of summer, we hope our students feel empowered both academically and personally!
Week 1: Be Proactive
Students begin by considering the importance of habits. Can our daily habits really influence our future selves? They then define their paradigms and principles. How do they view the world? What matters most to them? Do they take responsibility for their wins and their losses? Lastly, they will discuss the importance of keeping promises -- to others and to themselves.
Week 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Long-term goals help students discover the purpose behind their schoolwork and activities. Students will craft a personal mission statement and learn how to set weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. They will then examine how they divide their time -- are they choosing activities that put them closer to their mission?
Week 3: Put First Things First
Lengthy to-do lists make it tough to decide what to tackle first. Students will learn to separate their to-dos into four categories: urgent and important, not urgent but important, urgent and unimportant, and neither urgent nor important. By organizing their tasks, students can cut down on procrastination and minimize time spent on activities that aren't truly important to them.
Week 4: Think Win/Win
From dance class to college admissions, students' lives feel more competitive than ever. This habit debunks the idea that life is a "zero sum game" in which a win for one person means a loss for another. Students will learn the many benefits of supporting other people's success. Similarly, they will learn how to speak up and advocate for themselves when needed.
Week 5: Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood
This habit can enhance students' relationships with friends, family, teachers and coaches. In times of conflict, our first instinct is usually to explain our own perspectives. By first trying to understand how others are feeling, students can solve interpersonal problems from the inside out.
Week 6: Synergize
Our differences are a source of strength! In this unit, students will learn to harness the diversity around them and draw from different perspectives. How can a fresh pair of eyes take your project, idea or goal to the next level?
Week 7: Sharpen the Saw
If we don't take care of our minds, bodies and spirits, our goals start to drain us instead of inspire us. Students will identify which activities drain energy and which renew it. Then, they will create their own definitions of a balanced life.
Throughout the summer, students will work through the 7 Habits workbook, which gives space to journal and plan as we examine each habit.
Reading classes will focus on historical figures who paved their own roads to success. Grades K-6 will practice comprehension strategies with historical fiction and nonfiction articles and short stories; grades 7-12 will read longer biographies.
Students will also strengthen their informative and creative writing skills. Elementary students will focus on personal narratives and informative essays, middle school students will focus on persuasive essays and story structure, and high school students will focus on literary analysis and research papers.
Join Us This Summer!
At iLearn Academy, we want to help our students develop all the tools for success. Sometimes, that means building strong math skills. Other times, it means setting personal goals that motivate students for years to come.
Join us this summer for a meaningful, enriching curriculum and top-notch tutoring that helps students start the school year strong. Call 847-834-0791 for more information about summer programs and classes.
Bullying is a common problem for students of all ages. The explosion of social media has raised the stakes, however, as much bullying has moved from the school hallways into the online world.
Ideally, parents can keep tabs on their students' school experiences and social media use. But, as any parent knows, children and teens are not always forthcoming about negative experiences with classmates.
If left unaddressed, bullying can lead to low self esteem, low grades, and even depression and anxiety. It's essential that parents recognize the warning signs and work with schools to keep their students safe.
Are you familiar with the warning signs of bullying and cyberbullying? Here are some red flags:
If your student loses interest in schoolwork or other activities, this does not necessarily signal a lack of motivation.
Students who are bullied may have trouble concentrating on schoolwork because of anxiety or low self-esteem. If a student doesn't feel safe and accepted at school, it's challenging to care about report cards and due dates.
If your child's disinterest in schoolwork is out of character, it may be a sign of social problems at school.
Children who are bullied often complain of frequent headaches or stomachaches.
These maladies may be real symptoms of stress, or they may be excuses to avoid school or other activities where bullying occurs.
Regardless of the reason, frequent sickness is a red flag. If your child is avoiding school, it's important to figure out why. If your child is experiencing physical symptoms of anxiety, it's best to treat the underlying cause.
Changes in Eating or Sleeping Habits
Bullying can affect a child's appetite and sleep. If your child did not eat at school -- because his lunch was stolen or because he avoided the cafeteria -- he may come home famished. If he is anxious, he may struggle to finish his meals.
Likewise, bullying can affect a student's sleep. For some, anxiety may cause nightmares or insomnia. For others, depression may cause a lack of energy or disinterest in daytime activities. Keep an eye on your student's eating and sleeping habits and note any pronounced changes.
There's nothing wrong with being an introvert. But if your child doesn't make friends, avoids social scenarios, or suddenly becomes a loner, this could be a sign of bullying.
Children who struggle to make friends are often the targets of bullying. Not everyone will be a social butterfly, but it's important for your child to have a support system at school.
Sometimes, social isolation is self-imposed. Other times, former friends exclude a child who's being bullied. Either way, a sudden loss of friendships could stem from a problem with bullying.
Bad behavior at home can signal social problems at school. If your normally friendly child is behaving aggressively or lashing out at family members, it may be because she's being bullied.
Bullying makes its victims feel powerless. When your child is at home, she's around people who love her unconditionally. So, she may feel tempted to mistreat siblings or parents to regain a feeling of power and control.
Bullying is a cycle. If your child shows characteristics of a bully at home, talk to her teacher and find out if she's experiencing it (or perpetrating it) at school.
How Should I Talk to My Child?
Many students don't tell parents when they are being bullied. This could be because they don't want parents to worry, they feel like the bullying is their fault, they're ashamed to be the target of bullying, or they're afraid of hurting their reputation by getting adults involved.
Rather than ask your child directly if he's being bullied, talk to him about his life at school, including people he likes and dislikes. If he trusts you to listen and sympathize, he is more likely to open up.
Additionally, your child may fear you will respond to the bullying in a way that further damages his standing with classmates. (Remember the old adage, "No one likes a tattletale.") Make sure you communicate to your child that you will work with him to address the bullying.
If you're concerned that your child is being bullied, here are some good conversation-starters:
If you're concerned that your child is being bullied, set an in-person meeting with her teacher. The teacher will be the most informed about how your child interacts with other students. Ask how your students gets along with classmates, whether she has close friends, and if the teacher has seen any students mistreat your child. Before your meeting, research different types of bullying so you can offer examples.
If you feel that your meeting was not helpful or sufficient, schedule a meeting with the school's guidance counselor or principal.
If your student is being bullied because of race, national origin, gender, sexuality, disability or religion, the school is obligated to address this issue and protect your student. If the school's response is inadequate, contact your superintendent or the state department of education.
Bullying can have serious, long-term effects on a student's mental health and achievement. If you suspect your child is being bullied, take action as soon as possible.
If your child has fallen behind in school or has trouble completing assignments, iLearn Academy can help. Call us at 847-834-0791.
Families searching for a tutoring center have many options. From large chain brands to self-employed tutors, tutoring comes in all shapes and sizes.
However, not all tutoring is created equal.
Your ideal tutoring service will depend on your child's needs and goals. Make sure to research thoroughly and ask about curricula, tutor qualifications and training, and communication with parents.
Based on those criteria, here's how iLearn Academy stacks up to other tutoring centers:
The biggest differentiator between iLearn Academy and other tutoring centers is its curricula.
Most centers have a set curriculum for each grade level that consists largely of worksheets. Students come in, complete their homework, then complete a worksheet. Worksheets are assigned by grade level, regardless of the student's skills. This can present a challenge for students who perform above or below grade level.
At iLearn Academy, we adjust our curricula based on each individual students' needs. We work with schoolteachers to align our lesson plans with what's actually being taught in class, and we consistently update our materials to include new activities and helpful teaching tools.
By personalizing our curricula for each student, we ensure that they master the necessary skills to improve their grades as quickly as possible. If students already earn high grades, we provide them with more challenging material so they can get ahead in class and continue to advance.
Many tutoring centers hire college students and offer little training.
iLearn Academy hires only certified teachers or subject experts and provides ongoing training and support.
Because all our teachers have real classroom experience, they know how to check for comprehension, adjust to different learning styles and create engaging lesson plans. Additionally, our tutors work together to fine tune curricula and incorporate best practices.
Just as we strive to keep our curricula on the cutting edge, we give tutors continual feedback so they can sharpen their skills and better serve students.
Communication with Parents
Most tutoring centers do not provide any ongoing communication to parents regarding their students' progress. Students can attend for months without making any measurable gains, because their progress is not being tracked.
iLearn Academy uses weekly lesson notes and recurring diagnostic testing to measure our results. Parents hear from us after each session with a summary of what we worked on in class, what's for homework, and how the student performed.
We also check in with parents and schoolteachers to monitor grades and upcoming projects. If a student is struggling with a particular concept or assignment, we take extra steps to help them succeed.
In our ACT and SAT test prep programs, we use diagnostic testing to document students' baseline skills and set target scores for each subject area. Our students see an average 6-point growth in their ACT scores and 204-point growth in their SAT scores. This system lets us challenge students to reach their highest potential scores and make the most of their preparation.
When it comes to your child's academic success, results matter. Don't pay for a tutoring service that doesn't track the return on your investment.
At a large chain tutoring center, your student will complete homework and do worksheets. At iLearn Academy, your student receives a personalized learning plan, dynamic curriculum, experienced teacher and measurable results.
Remarkably, the price of both centers will be comparable. But at iLearn Academy, families receive more for their money.
Want to learn more about our top-notch curricula? Read about our elementary school, middle school and high school tutoring programs.
Bilingual education in the U.S. has a loaded history.
During the 19th century, many states adopted bilingual education laws mandating that schools offer dual-language instruction to students. However, World War I and national paranoia about foreign-language speakers led to the removal of bilingual instruction from most U.S. schools in the early 1900s. Decades later, the Bilingual Education Act of 1968 provided federal funding for native-language instruction in public schools. While this move signaled a shift in the prevailing attitude toward bilingual education, some English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students ended up segregated in native-language classrooms long after they needed to transition to English-speaking classrooms.
Today's educators agree that temporary native-language instruction is beneficial for students’ cognition, achievement and identity. Nonetheless, ongoing national debate surrounding immigration and bilingualism may leave many multilingual parents wondering how to best approach language education at home. Should parents avoid using their native tongue at home to help children learn English?
The answer, according to linguists, is no. Children of non-English speakers will learn English from their English-speaking friends, and familiarity with your first language is a gift to children in many ways. It connects them with their extended family, their history, and countless personal and professional opportunities.
Letting your child become fluent in your native tongue lets you communicate without any language barrier, and the things she learns from you will translate to her English-speaking life. For example, if you teach her about fractions and decimals in Russian, she will be ready to apply that skill in an English-speaking math classroom.
Studies show that bilingualism has a positive effect on academic performance, career prospects, and even self-esteem. Here are some of the ways that speaking multiple languages benefits your child:
Benefits of Bilingualism
Americans are notoriously monolingual. Only 18 percent of Americans can speak a language other than English, compared to the 53 percent of Europeans who speak a second language.
An increasingly diverse country, as well as rising demand for multilingual professionals, has changed the game, however. Government entities and employers are pushing for more emphasis on language education in public schools, and bilingual children and teens have a huge leg up on their monolingual peers.
But the benefits of bilingualism extend beyond the workforce. Studies show that using two languages rewires children’s brains, giving them a more developed executive function, or the ability to filter through information and effectively make decisions. People with higher executive function have better memory, mental flexibility and self-control. This makes it easier for them to pay attention, complete projects, regulate their behavior and form social connections.
Additionally, this boost in executive function may make bilingual people more creative. The ability to sort through information and connect disparate ideas helps them come up with useful, original thoughts and solutions.
Linguist Erica Hoff found that monolingual children do worse on standardized tests than children who grew up speaking both English and Spanish at home.
Bilingualism can even stave off the symptoms of dementia. In a 2006 study, researchers found that bilingual adults with Alzheimer’s Disease began showing symptoms four years after their monolingual counterparts, on average.
Learning New Languages
If you or your spouse do not speak English as a first language – no worries. Speaking your native language at home creates countless opportunities for your child – from broader career options to a stronger connection with his background and ancestry. So, celebrate multilingualism at home and in your community!
If you or your child need help learning English or Spanish as a second language, call 847-834-0791 for more information on affordable English tutoring and Spanish tutoring at iLearn Academy.
Your student may never need to calculate the area of a circle in her adult life, but she will certainly need to calculate an interest rate. So why is financial literacy completely left out of most high school curricula?
The answer to that question is complex, but the result of widespread financial illiteracy is crystal clear: Americans have more debt and less financial freedom than in the past.
Consumer debt in the United States is at an all-time high, with the average American household carrying more than $130k in debt. More importantly, this debt is growing faster than our incomes.
Large debt can be especially burdensome for young people, who sometimes borrow huge sums to fund their higher education. While borrowing for college is often a worthwhile investment, it can also burden young professionals with monthly payments their salaries do not cover. Thus, it's critical for teenagers to understand the rudiments of borrowing and saving in order to make smart financial decisions as they plan for college.
Student Loan Debt: The Facts
As the cost of college rises beyond what most families and student can pay out of pocket, college debt has become more common - and more problematic.
While the "student debt crisis" is fueled primarily by the inflation of college costs, students' attitudes toward borrowing and saving are another important factor. That's why it's critical to seek out opportunities for your teen to become more financially literate.
Building Financial Literacy
A 2016 study by the FINRA Foundation showed that two-thirds of Americans cannot pass a basic financial literacy test. This result makes sense, given that most people never receive a formal financial education. Financial literacy is often passed from parents to children, and these financial skills can make a huge difference to your child's future.
Wondering how to build financial savvy at home? Here are a few tips to get you started:
Strong financial skills will benefit your child for the rest of his or her life. To learn what you and your teen can do now to build a strong financial foundation for the future, join us for a free, one-hour workshop for students and parents on Saturday, Jan. 26 at iLearn Academy. This event will cover budgeting, tax-advantaged college savings plans, credit scores, and long-term investing.
Seating is limited; you can RSVP here.
If you have a student in high school, you've likely heard of the ACT. But do you understand its importance to your teen's college prospects?
The ACT is a standardized test that measures a student's knowledge of grade-level concepts in English, math, and reading. There is also a science section that tests students' data and graphical analysis skills.
Colleges use the ACT to create a "level playing field" for prospective students. Not all high schools receive the same funding and use the same curricula, so tests like the ACT and SAT allow admissions officers to evaluate students using one standardized scale.
Of course, the ACT cannot truly be considered a level playing field, either. Students with more time to study and more access to instruction and materials will perform better and, therefore, have a leg up in college admissions.
That's why it's so important to help your student create a test preparation plan and earn the best scores possible.
Alongside grades and activities, colleges use ACT scores in admissions decisions. The more prestigious and selective the institution, the higher ACT score a student will need to get in. Most colleges list the average ACT and SAT scores of incoming freshmen on their admissions sites, like this page for Northwestern University.
In addition to evaluating academic potential, colleges use ACT scores to determine a student's readiness for college coursework.
When students are not academically prepared for the rigors of college classes, they are at greater risk of spending extra money and time on remedial classes to catch up. Currently, 39 percent of students who enroll at a 4-year university require at least one remedial class. Since remedial classes do not count toward a degree, they make it more challenging for students to finish in four years - a concern, given the high cost of college.
Students who do not meet college readiness standards are also at greater risk for dropping out due to low grades. In 2018, the U.S Department of Education reported that 40 percent of students at public universities fail to earn a degree within six years.
In an effort to maintain strong graduation rates, admissions officers look closely at college readiness benchmarks like the ACT. The following are the scores that qualify a student as "college-ready" in each subject, according to ACT research:
Many schools also use ACT scores for scholarship and merit-based aid consideration. Some even attach automatic aid amounts to certain ACT scores. For example, students with a 34 on the ACT can receive a $22,000-per-year scholarship at Baylor University. At Clemson University, students with a 29 can receive an annual scholarship of 7,500, and higher scores can earn a student even more.
How to Prepare
The best way to prepare for any standardized test is incrementally.
The ACT measures a student's knowledge of standard high school concepts, so, naturally, the best way to ace the test is to master class material and review frequently.
Of course, recalling 9th-grade math skills when you're in 12th grade is no easy task. Students should keep their notes from each class and each year, so they have material to review when it comes time for standardized tests. (This makes it especially important for students to use a pencil during math class and record their work!)
ACT.org has a small database of practice problems and instructional videos for students who need to brush up on certain concepts.
Another excellent way to prepare is to take an ACT prep course. That way, a knowledgeable instructor can identify which concepts a student needs to review and make sure he or she gets familiar with the test format and question types.
It's advantageous to take an ACT prep course, as opposed to studying on your own, because the structure of the course ensures that students use their study time productively and that no information slips through the cracks. It also allows students to take real ACT practice tests and get comfortable with the timing element, since a good tutoring center should have a collection of real test materials.
ACT scores are important. When it comes to your score, trust the experts at iLearn Academy. You can read about our test prep programs here.
For many families, middle school marks a transition from dependence to independence. Parents become less involved in their students' schooling, leaving students responsible for managing their time.
While it's important for students to build responsibility and independence, the transition from elementary to middle school can feel overwhelming. Middle-schoolers are confronted with new school buildings, new classmates, new teachers, new procedures and new expectations. They need parents' support to navigate these changes successfully.
Moreover, middle school is a critical time in students' academic trajectories. The math and language skills built in middle school determine students' eligibility for advanced high school coursework. Additionally, middle-schoolers who build strong study skills are better positioned for success in high school and college.
Your student's day-to-day experience in middle school will be profoundly different from elementary school. She'll have different teachers for different subjects, her own locker and a larger building to navigate.
Help her prepare by talking about these changes beforehand. Teach her how to use a combination lock and a school email account. The more she knows about these new experiences, the less intimidating they will be.
Here are some ways to help your student adapt to day-to-day changes in middle school:
Middle school is much more academically rigorous than elementary school. Students have more homework, more classes and fewer breaks. They start building essential skills for accelerated courses in high school. They also choose their own elective classes.
When it comes to electives, students must choose strategically. A computer science course, for example, is more beneficial than woodshop if your student is college bound. Additionally, many colleges require two years of foreign language study for admission, so starting in middle school is advantageous.
Here are some way to help your student adjust to the academic demands of middle school:
If your child's school offers a transition program, it likely focuses on the procedural and academic changes between elementary and middle school. However, the social changes are often the most pronounced.
Children entering middle school are going through big emotional, cognitive and physical changes, and those changes often affect their social lives. Their developing social skills make them more aware of other people's thoughts and opinions, and, while that awareness helps them in many situations, it also causes stress.
Many incoming middle-schoolers have anxiety about building new relationships, since they are in class with so many unfamiliar students and teachers. Talk to your child about the best way to make new friends, as well as how to identify toxic friendships and group dynamics.
Here are some ways to help your student prepare for the social challenges of middle school:
College Planning in Middle School
Is your middle-schooler college bound? If so, the time to start planning for college costs and admissions is now. To learn more about how to create a smart financial plan for college, sign up for our free college financial planning seminar led by an expert financial adviser.
You've likely heard the term "emotional intelligence" (or EQ), but do you understand its importance to your child's academic and social success?
Experts agree that EQ skills are more important to a child's future achievement than his grades or intelligence. Many public schools include emotional goals alongside grade-level academic benchmarks, and some even have targeted programs for building EQ.
As we learn more about emotional intelligence, it will become an increasingly valued skill in the workplace. Here's how you can help prepare your child.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive and understand emotions - in oneself and in others. Some skills typically associated with emotional intelligence are:
Much like IQ, we're born with a certain level of emotional intelligence. However, learned behavior is also a large component. People of any age can build their emotional intelligence skills for increased productivity, better relationships and healthier choices.
Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?
Studies consistently show that EQ is a better predictor of a child's career success than IQ. In fact, EQ skills account for 54 percent of the variation in adults' level of success, one study found. Additionally, children with strong EQ get higher grades, earn more advanced degrees and make healthier life choices.
The benefits of high EQ have become so lauded that many top-level companies - like Google, American Express and FedEx - now use EQ testing as part of their interview processes for new employees. In collaborative, fast-moving corporate environments, the ability to work successfully with others is often more important than pure smarts.
With schools and companies increasingly recognizing the importance of EQ, it's often parents who are behind the curve. Many parents push students to earn high grades but pay little attention to emotional development. Even more fail to notice small opportunities to build emotional skills at home.
How to Build Emotional Intelligence
The best way to foster emotional intelligence is to model it. Take some time to evaluate the way you express your emotions. When you have a negative emotional response, do you label it honestly and express your underlying frustrations? Repressing negative emotions usually causes them to leak out in unhealthy ways, like resentment, explosive anger or nervous habits.
If you have room to improve when it comes to modeling emotional intelligence, don't fret. These skills are challenging, and people of any age can work on them. As you talk more openly about emotions at home, your child will become more empathetic and more self-aware.
Here are some other ways to build EQ at home:
Stories are how we make sense of the world around us. For children, this is especially true. Make sure your child has ample opportunities to read on her own. This may mean weekly trips to the library or limited screen time.
While your student will be assigned books in school, this obligatory reading should not be the only reading your student does. Help him discover his own literary interests, whether that's science fiction, comic books, graphic novels, fantasy or biographies.
Reading is the best tool for building empathy because students experience the world through the eyes of characters who are different from them. In fact, reading is the only self-guided way for children to get inside someone else's head.
Strong empathy helps students build supportive friendships, connect with bosses and coworkers, and avoid off-putting or antisocial behaviors.
2. Acknowledge Emotions
Understanding and labeling emotions is a huge component of self-awareness. Toddlers throw tantrums because they don't have the language skills to express themselves. As children age, it's important to help them develop those skills and accurately label their feelings.
Here are some example statements for constructively labeling emotions:
"You wanted a popsicle, but you can't have one before dinner. You feel so frustrated."
"It's tough for you to brush your teeth when you don't want to, but it's time now."
"You're disappointed that we can't go to the pool today."
"You're mad that Anthony isn't sharing his toy!"
"You get to stay up late with your brother. You're so happy and excited!"
3. Encourage Self-Expression
Do you often find yourself saying things to your child like, "Don't be upset," or, "Stop crying"? While this is a natural response to seeing your child upset, it's beneficial to let him express his emotions instead of correcting him. If children feel ashamed of their emotions, they repress negative feelings and fail to develop helpful communication and coping strategies.
Always listen to your children and affirm their emotions before offering advice. Affirming their emotions does not mean that you condone their behaviors - it's simply a way to let them know you care and that their feelings are valid.
When you do give advice, guide your child to her own conclusion, rather than offering your own. This helps her build interpersonal problem-solving skills (which can be tough to develop in the age of social media). If your child is being mistreated by a friend at school, you might ask, "What could you say to Angie that would let her know how you feel?"
Here are some ways to encourage healthy self-expression:
"You're feeling very angry that you're not allowed to go to the party, but slamming your door is not allowed. Tell me in words how you feel. I will not change my mind, but I will listen."
"What a terrible day! Of course you're crying - your friends made you feel embarrassed!"
"It seems like you're anxious about your test today. I get nervous before tests, too. Do you want to talk about it?"
4. Pretend Play
For small children, pretend play is an excellent way to process the surrounding world. (All species use play for this purpose!)
If you notice your child struggling with a particular social dynamic or negative emotion, try to incorporate it into your next play session. Here's the kicker: Instead of minimizing or dismissing their emotion in your imaginary world, make it more pronounced.
For example, if your child is jealous of his brother, play a short game where no matter the outcome, his brother is declared the winner. Let your child be in on the joke - let him protest dramatically and fall over in despair. Children love repetitive games with a recurring "punch line." By acknowledging a negative emotion while still making your child the "star" of the scene, you bring the unhealthy dynamic to light and let it dissipate.
Reading for EQ
Wondering how to help your elementary student build emotional intelligence through reading? Call us at 847-834-0791 to learn more about our expert elementary language arts tutors.
Has homework drama wormed its way into your nighttime routine? Never fear! With a little structure and planning, homework time can become a chance to check in with and support your student. Take the stress out of weeknight homework with these easy tips:
1. Set a Routine
Setting a consistent nightly routine is the first step to making homework time less hectic. When students know what to expect, it is easier for them to transition between activities and focus. It also builds strong study habits, which will be essential when their coursework becomes more challenging. Furthermore, a designated "homework time" each night makes it less likely that assignments will slip through the cracks.
2. Create a Helpful Homework Space
A noisy or cluttered homework space can make it tough to get things done. Find a quiet (and TV-free) spot where your student can work without interruption. Make sure she has access to the materials she needs to complete her assignments - like pencils, paper, a calculator or a computer - before she starts. For some reluctant studiers, the hunt for a pencil can spiral into a major distraction.
3. Build an Assignment Calendar
Writing upcoming assignments out in calendar form helps students visualize their weeks and manage their time effectively. Two weeks may sound like plenty of time to finish a large project, but once you break it up into manageable chunks and add it to the calendar, your student can see the benefit of starting early. For children (and many adults!) remembering due dates can be a challenge, so writing down each assignment helps prevent last-minute panics.
4. Set a Timer
Nobody wants homework time to drag into the night. But if you have to hover over your student to get him to work, he can't develop the necessary self-motivation to succeed in high school and beyond. Work with your student to determine a suitable time limit for each assignment, then set a timer she can see. The "ticking clock" adds structure to homework time and motivates her to work efficiently.
5. Create an Incentive
Homework incentives don't have to be rewards. This could be something as simple as putting a sticker or check mark on a daily calendar. The point is to create a sense of accomplishment and finality at the end of each homework session. Your student has worked hard, so take a moment to acknowledge that together before bed.
6. Use Visual Aids
A visual aid could be a chart, graph or diagram - or even something as simple as colored highlighters. Organizing information into a visually engaging whole helps students retain what they learn. Additionally, creating visual aids builds important data analysis and organization skills. Here are some ideas to get you started:
7. Communicate with Teachers
Students can't always be trusted to keep track of their assignments and keep you in the loop. Use a syllabus or curriculum guide to maintain a general idea of what's happening in class, and check in with teachers every so often. If your student's teacher does not use a website to share grades and assignments, a short email will do.
Remember that, as a parent, your job is to support the work a teacher does in the classroom. When you contact a teacher, make sure that your tone is collaborative and that you leave room for your student to advocate for herself, when necessary.
8. Cut Yourself a Break
You've got enough on your plate without stressing over how to multiply exponents. If your student's homework surpasses what you remember from school, no worries. There are plenty of affordable, qualified tutors (as well as school resources) that can help your child complete assignments and master new concepts.
For more information on iLearn Academy's Homework Help program, call 847-834-0791.
The modern math class is deeply reliant on technology. Many lectures are online, and much work is submitted online or graded by computer.
This new approach has many benefits. Students can experience moving graphic displays of mathematical concepts, many that they can manipulate themselves to get a better grasp of new ideas. Students also get instant feedback on their answers with online homework and don't have to wait for a teacher's corrections.
However, there are drawbacks, as well. Students can repeatedly get questions incorrect due to small input errors, like a missing bracket or period. For other questions, students can simply click their way to a correct answer without actually doing any math.
Overall, technology is simply another tool to help students learn. Technology doesn't replace the tools that are tried and true: paper and a pencil.
Don't be fooled. The world still has pencils! Use them. Writing is important for students to memorize math concepts and techniques. Showing work gives students a record of what they have done and what they understood. Additionally, by showing work for previous assignments, students are making themselves an instant study guide to use for later exams.
The scientific evidence is clear: Writing helps memory. Those who write their notes learn concepts quicker and remember them longer than those who type or take pictures of notes. Some studies attribute this to the many different parts of the brain that are engaged while taking notes. When students take notes, they must take in visual and auditory information and reinterpret it as written symbols. In the process, this information passes through many crevasses of a student's mind (auditory while listening, visual while reading, symbolic while interpreting, tactile while writing). Later, when students go to recall the information, their minds have more places to draw from.
Other studies claim the mere inefficiency of writing forces students to choose important information to transcribe. Students who take pictures or type notes can record everything verbatim. Then, they try to memorize every word when it comes time for a test. No easy task!
Writing is slower. So, students who write are forced to learn what primers help them remember. Because of this, their notes are more helpful . In other words, they must actively process and filter information to choose what is important enough to write down.
Whatever the reasoning, study after study finds that writing by hand is the best route to remembering. When students do homework on a touch screen or keyboard, the writing element is lost. This makes it hard for students to remember solving the problem in the first place, let alone how to do it again.
It is important that students write down every problem they encounter online and work it out on paper. Writing out work gives students a record of what they did and what they understood. This is helpful in many ways. Firstly, it saves them time and missed points on homework and tests. For online homework, for example, if students miss an answer, they can simply look through their written work to find their error, fix it, and resubmit, rather than doing the entire problem again.
Writing helps with human graders, too! Written work gives teachers the chance to reward students for showing understanding, even if an answer is wrong. Secondly, writing out work helps students notice common mistakes they make. If a student has one step in a problem he cannot do, writing will help him notice that and get the needed help. Similarly, teachers can quickly identify the source of an incorrect answer and help students with that step of the problem.
Who needs a study guide when you have all this nice written work? When students make it a habit to show work, they automatically accrue a wealth of resources to study later:
With all this, students will not have to seek out new materials to study. They can refer back to work they're familiar with. There's no better way to master skills!
In summary: Please don't forget about the pencil. A pencil is a math student's best friend. Simply put, if students cannot solve a problem with a pencil, then they don't know how to solve the problem.
Writing helps us remember. Writing helps us communicate what we know. Writing gives us the best resource to refer to later. No matter the medium, if a student is trying to learn or remember any math concept, writing will help. Whether watching a video, solving problems on a screen, working in a book, doing a worksheet, or taking a test -- write.
Want to help your student master math concepts and build strong study skills? Schedule a sample session with one of our expert tutors.
The ACT is a college admissions test designed to measure students' readiness for university-level study. A high score helps students get admitted to their target schools and qualify for scholarships.
Because of the test's importance (and length - it takes nearly three hours to complete), preparing for the ACT can be daunting.
Luckily, the test-makers let students and instructors know exactly which skills and concepts will show up on each section of the test. With this information and a detailed study plan, students can avoid cramming and walk into test day feeling confident and prepared.
The ACT English Test
The ACT consists of four portions: English, Math, Reading and Science.
The English section tests students' knowledge of grammar, punctuation and writing standards. Here is a breakdown of the concepts included in each ACT English test:
1. Grammar, Usage and Mechanics (40 questions)
Perhaps the fastest way for a student to improve his or her English section score is to memorize punctuation rules. While the breakdown attributes only 10 questions to punctuation problems, the English section requires students to draw on punctuation rules frequently to rule out wrong answers and answer sentence structure problems. For example, the test-writers often rely on misused commas to generate the three incorrect answer options that students must eliminate.
Check out this sample problem, for instance:
As World War I began, the British navy blockaded the European continent, cutting off Chilean nitrate supplies.
A. NO CHANGE
While this is primarily a sentence structure problem, students must correctly apply punctuation rules in order to select the correct answer option.
Ready to boost your ACT score in a few easy steps? Take a couple minutes to memorize these 13 punctuation rules, then complete some ACT practice problems to solidify your new skills.
The 13 ACT Punctuation Rules
1. Use a comma to separate three or more words in a list.
Sam brought his bat, ball, and glove to the game on Sunday.
2. Use a comma to separate two equal adjectives.
The violent, steely waves menaced the fishermen.
3. Use commas to offset non-essential words or phrases in a sentence.
The sunset, glowing in the evening dusk, looked like a ball of fire.
Teresa, my cousin, immigrated from France in 1998.
4. Use a comma to separate an introductory word or phrase from the rest of the sentence.
Yes, Mary is planning to attend the dance this Friday.
According to Dad, the car is fixed.
5. Use a comma to offset a dependent clause at the beginning of a sentence.
Although she was good at business, she chose the profession of a teacher.
6. Use a comma and coordinating conjunction to separate two independent clauses.
I enjoyed watching the game, but my brother thought it was too long.
Now, try a few practice problems:
1. A bright yellow shining light glowed from the lighthouse to warn travelers at sea.
A. NO CHANGE
B. bright, yellow, shining light
C. bright, yellow, shining, light
D. bright, yellow, shining, light,
2. We went to a great concert last night but the music was too loud.
A. NO CHANGE
B. concert last night, but the music
C. concert, last night but, the music
D. concert, last night, but the music
3. To open the door properly you must turn the knob while pressing in firmly.
A. NO CHANGE
B. properly you must turn the knob,
C. properly, you must turn the knob
D. properly you must turn, the knob
Answers: B, B, C
1. Use apostrophes to show missing letters.
I'm, They'd, It's raining outside, Who's coming?
2. Use apostrophes to show ownership.
Juan's car, children's film, many flowers' stems
3. Do not use an apostrophe to make a noun plural or create a possessive pronoun.
yours, ours, its muffler, Whose idea is it?
1. Use semicolons to connect two related independent clauses.
I called Jessica; she will arrive in 30 minutes.
2. When necessary, pair semicolons with a longer transition word or phrase (subordinating conjunction or conjunctive adverb) followed by a comma. Do not use a coordinating conjunction.
I love cheese; however, I find milk disgusting.
I missed the final exam; as a result, I failed the course.
1. Use colons to set up a list of items.
This recipe includes many ingredients: chicken, curry, onions, brown sugar, and sour cream.
2. Use colons to set up and deliver a salient point.
That's when Walt Disney stumbled upon the character he would become known for: Mickey Mouse.
Now, try a few practice problems:
1. Almost all areas on earth have been explored by modern scientists; as a result, they have begun research on the floors of the sea.
A. NO CHANGE
B. scientists; as a result they
C. scientists, as a result, they
D. scientists. As a result they
2. Don't you remember they're story about catching butterfly's?
A. NO CHANGE
B. Don't you remember their story about catching butterfly's?
C. Don't you remember their story about catching butterflies?
D. Don't you remember there story about catching butterflies?
3. The questions were tricky, but I did them.
A. NO CHANGE
B. question's were tricky, but I
C. questions were tricky; but I
D. questions were tricky, but: I
Answers: A, C, A
Preparing for the ACT English Section
How did you do on the practice problems? The more time you spend answering practice questions in the ACT format, the easier the real test will be.
Every ACT test features the same concepts, format and question types, so completing practice problems and practice tests is by far the best way to raise your score.
Need assistance finding practice materials, creating a test preparation plan or mastering difficult concepts? A test prep tutor can help.
The expert ACT tutors at iLearn Academy help students raise their scores by six points, on average. For more information, check out our test prep program page.
Parent-teacher conferences are right around the corner, and it's important to make the most of this valuable opportunity to connect with your child's teacher face to face.
The goal of parent-teacher conferences is to find ways to work together to support your child's success. By taking a few minutes to prepare in advance, you can help facilitate a productive meeting.
Ready to form a beneficial partnership with your child's teacher? Here are a few ways to get there:
Talk to Your Child
Before your conference, check in with your child. See if he has any questions or concerns he'd like you to address with his teacher, and get a sense of his attitude toward the class and teacher. Is your child falling behind, feeling unchallenged, or struggling socially? Knowing this at the onset will help you make the most of your time with his teacher.
Come with Questions
Coming prepared with questions ensures that you leave with all the information you need, and the teacher will appreciate your engagement. Rank your questions from most pressing to least, in case you run out of time to discuss them all.
You will likely have questions about your child's performance in class, academic strengths and weaknesses, and skill levels. However, don't forget about the social element of education. It's essential to talk with your child's teacher about how your child responds to feedback, how she behaves in class and how she gets along with other children. If your child is displaying any behavioral or social issues in class, it will be important to address them at home so she can thrive in the classroom.
Here are some helpful questions to ask during a parent-teacher conference:
Maintain an Open Mind
A good teacher will talk with you honestly about both your child's strengths and her weaknesses. These weaknesses may not be negative, but merely areas for improvement. Take advantage of the opportunity to help your child improve.
If your child's teacher has noticed academic or behavioral problems, don't become defensive. While it can be difficult to hear negative feedback, your cooperation is essential to your child's success. Advocate for your child when needed, but be prepared to take on a supporting role, as well.
If you feel disappointed or frustrated, know that there's no pressure to respond to the teacher's feedback right away. Thank her for the information, and let her know that you're processing it and will follow up.
Create an Action Plan
The most important question you can ask your child's teacher is, "How can I support your efforts at home?"
Work with the teacher to create a short list of goals for your child. Then, decide how you will both contribute to those aims.
For example, if your child is failing to complete and turn in homework, you might instate a "no TV until homework is finished" rule. If she's struggling to make friends at school, you may sign her up for a soccer team or community theater.
Once you have your action plan, check in with your child's teacher throughout the year to measure progress. As long as you're respectful of the teacher's time and expertise, he will appreciate your involvement and support. This type of plan ensures that the goals you discuss in the parent-teacher conference turn into real, measurable progress for your student.
If your child is struggling with academics, your action plan might include outside tutoring. For information on iLearn Academy's certified tutors and personalized learning plans, browse our curriculum.