Hard Work Pays Off

Danika has been working very hard to become more fluent when reading. She has also been working on expanding her vocabulary and all of the hard work is paying off. It’s not easy to dedicate that much home time on homework but with the help of our private tutor, Whitney Schouten, Danika is making GREAT PROGRESS!

There was no good news the last time we went to Parent/Teacher Conferences (prior to Halloween 2012). Danika had been chatting with her friends, not completing in-class work and basically goofing off for most of her time in class. She would do a great job at home, ace her spelling tests cause she has to bring them home and then apply no other effort while in school. We had already hired Whitney last summer to make sure Danika was staying ahead and we saw amazing results so it was time to get her back! Through a combination of hard work, renewed dedication from all parties and discipline, Danika is back on track! The results have been so good that I had to share them. This is a post card we just received from Danika’s teacher.

Danika-Spring-Mountain-Elementary-Happy-Valley

How Did We Do It?

It’s a long story that starts last year when Rachel and I were so frustrated after the last Parent/Teacher Conferences that we had to take action. We work so hard to giver her everything, as you probably know, and her education is no exception. That being said, I wrote this next section as a “stand-alone” post right before Halloween of 2012, but I never got around to publishing it. Here is the unedited original article that I wrote over a 3 day period between October 27th and October 30th, 2012:

The Good, The Bad & The Grounded
Our daughter Danika is 7 years old and she is in the second grade. Rachel and I have spent countless hours working with her and tutoring her to improve her grades. We also hire a 3rd grade teacher during summer breaks to help her get ahead of grade level. Danika is able to read 3rd and 4th grade chapter books cover to cover, as well as acing every spelling test with bonus words! We practice at home and ensure she completes all of her homework. As you can see, Danika’s education is VERY important to us. However, we just received Danika’s “in-class” work packet from her school because we have parent-teacher conferences in 3 days and it is very disappointing.

The Bad
Danika’s in class work is not even close to passing. After reviewing her in-class work packets and noticing she did not finish over half of it, it has became very apparent that she thought drawing pretty flower pictures and talking to classmates is more important than completing her work. With the work that she did complete, her handwriting looks like chicken scratch! Her work at home is flawless so we know she understands how to do it, the problem is that she chooses not to. We have spent way too much one-on-one time and tutoring money on her to let this slide. If you are a parent, you understand how difficult it can be to gain ground in certain areas and to see her slipping behind is unacceptable and not OK!

The Grounded
We do not use spanking as punishment and we’ve found that timeout works best as an immediate response to miss-behavior at home. Rachel and I need a solution so powerful, so earthshaking that it will motivate Danika to pay attention in class and motivate her to give it her all even when we’re not around. To address the severity of the problem, Rachel and I developed a drastic plan that will change everything! First, I called her teacher and asked her to print a blank copy of the “in-class” work packet so Danika could do it correctly over the weekend. Then we are going to use that as a baseline of work quality and accountability.

The Plan
Halloween is tomorrow. All children absolutely love Halloween and Danika is no different, so we are going to ground her during Halloween and she does not get to go trick-or-treating with her friends. She already went trick-or-treating at the church this last weekend with grandma so Danika has candy and we have this years costume pictures. To avoid prolonging her agony, Danika has no idea that it’s coming. We are waiting until Halloween evening to tell her, explain why using her work as examples and send her to bed early. Rachel and I will then enjoy a relaxing evening passing out candy to trick-or-treaters who finished their school work.

Why?
Danika is a cute little social bee and she loves holidays, vacations and hanging out with friends. That being said, it only makes sense to use them to achieve dramatic behavior improvements. In addition, as a parent you understand that “punishing” your child usually involves more effort from you which turns into a punishment for you. Our solution is so abrupt and monumental for a 7 year old that it will have the lasting effect we are looking for. Next week Danika has a girls sleep-over party, we are going to Vegas for Thanksgiving, we are planning a trip to Hawaii next year, and much more. Danika knows all of this and we’ve already told her that “Hawaii” is something she has to earn. Taking away Halloween will send a deafeningly loud message to her that we are serious about her grades. We do not argue or fight with Danika, we are the parent and she is the child, end of discussion. However, we do truly care how she feels and tactfully choosing your battles while using positive or negative reinforcement has proven to be the most effective. We have already won the “homework” battle and if her in-class work was good as her homework then there would not be a problem. Hopefully this plan works and I will keep you updated on Danika’s response and progress.

Danika-Halloween-2012

Pre-Halloween Trick-or-Treating @ Church w/ Grandma

Discipline & Schools

We believe that a delicate balance of discipline and school combined delivers the best results. Many will argue that discipline “In” school is the answer, we disagree. Parents are responsible for discipline, or at least they should be. It is true that children tend to do what they want to do and it can be hard to force something important without making it a negative experience. Our answer to this problem is to make “not complying” even more unpleasant than actually doing what your supposed to do and it has been working. Following through is the hard part because I love Danika so much, but that is exactly why I must follow through. The old saying, “Spare the rod, spoil the child” is total BS and I think it should be updated to “Lazy Parents = Spoiled Children.”

More About Our Tutor Whitney Schouten

Whitney is an experienced 3rd grade teacher that was part of last years teacher layoffs. She has several degrees from the University of Oregon including Elementary Teaching, Special Education, Spanish, and she even has a Masters Degree for Teaching and Learning. We are very lucky to have such a great person willing to help our daughter learn above her grade level. Whitney comes over 2 or 3 days a week, after school or on the weekends, to help her with the areas of study that we are not equipped to teach. She creates a customized lesson plan each week/month based on our goals, Danika’s ability and what is being covered in class. The final result is a custom plan that is handcrafted by us!

Whitney Schouten Portland-Private Tutor

Meet Whitney

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