Tag Archives: learning


What is the true meaning of winter break?

What is the true meaning of winter


“Winter Break….YAY…..no school….freedom….no work….lots of free time….HAPPY!!!”

This is what is going through the minds of most students (other than those that got assigned a project or makeup work over the break).

Honestly this is what goes through the minds of most teachers (except that they still have some work).

What we need to focus on  is the real purpose of the break. How and  where can we find hidden opportunities for learning?

By now if you have been reading my blogs you know that our brain is in constant need of exercise so that it can grow and stay strong. Whether young, old, or somewhere in between, it is important to always learn new things, strengthen old skills, practice, and find new ways to grow. It is necessary for both our survival and happiness.

Yet, we fall into this habit of believing that since it is a break, no learning is necessary.

Think about what taking an extended break from work does to you. When you head out on that vacation and don’t even think about your job for a week. Are you eager to go back the next Monday? Do you have an easy time working your way back into your daily routine?

If you are anything like me your answer is no!

The same thing applies to learning.

On that vacation you likely learned new things and explored new ways to grow, so your brain didn’t take a break from learning.

During winter break your kids still get learning opportunities as well, but it is up to you to help them make the best use of them.

It is crucial that they continue exercising their brains. Finding new creative, entertaining ways to do this is a key goal. Helping them to push themselves while also pushing yourself to learn new things. Finding joy in the exploration of new tasks and hobbies is a great way to grow. It helps them to not see school breaks as a break from all learning, but rather as an opportunity to explore things they don’t have time for during the regular school week.

For example, if your child struggles with Math, taking two weeks off from Math skills is going to make resuming school even harder for them. It is important to keep those neural pathways connected to solving math problems, working and practicing math skills.

You can do this in a number of ways. You can have them play math games on the computer, iPad, or their phone if they like video games. You can take them to the store with you and make a game of them keeping a running total of the bill, and have them help you brainstorm ways to save money on certain items. You can look up fun math activities online to do with them. These are some of the multitudes of ideas out there for helping math to be more fun.

It is also a good idea to keep your child reading throughout the break. Pick things for pleasure such as sports articles, articles on celebrities, articles online on a favorite topic of theirs, or read a book together. If your child loves to read make sure you take them to the library to pick out some books, or buy them one as a treat for the break.

Encourage all forms of learning for yourself and your child. Find a new hobby to explore, or take a family trip to your local science, history, or art museum. The museums usually have some great events over these break times for just this sort of learning opportunity.

If you keep yourself and your children engaged and looking for ways to learn over the break, you will be amazed at the opportunities that open up for all of you. Not to mention how much more readily and easily they will get back into the school routine.

I plan to use this time to really come up with some great resources for you in the coming year, iron out my goals (big and small), and continue creating a super beneficial free resource that will come with signing up for our email list. Don’t worry, if you are already signed up you will be getting that resource too!

I know that there are a ton of ideas for keeping kids engaged during their breaks while still giving them that much needed break from the traditional classroom. I am always amazed by some of the innovative ways parents dream up to keep their kids occupied while making learning fun. Please add comments of ways that you have attempted and experienced success with this in the past.

Many of these ideas could make it into my free resources to distribute the love of learning even further. I know the activities you have tried are custom tailored to keep your child engaged, so be sure to discuss how you used your child’s interests to get them excited.

If you are having trouble finding something that will work for your child please contact me and we can brainstorm ideas together tailored to your child’s interests.

Want a hassle free way to keep your kids and yourself learning over break? I can provide that as well. We can come up with a fun learning workshop or lab activity that can be hosted in the RTP area or designed for you to set up in your own home. I can be available either in person or via skype and look forward to speaking with you.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful break full of growth and fun learning experiences!

Amanda Avery 🙂

P.S. If you haven’t already take a moment to sign up for our email list here. I can promise that the emails you get will have meaningful content!



Effects, Causes, and Change: The Steps to a Better Outcome

change clipart

Change…that scary, but invigorating word. It is a fickle concept. In one case it can strike fear into your heart. In another it causes you to jump for joy. Each of us is affected differently by change and it all depends on what exactly is being altered.

I have been struggling for the last few weeks with my vision for Avery Learning Lab. I have several directions I want to go. Everyone I am working with to help me build the business keeps saying FOCUS! Well that is hard when you really can’t decide what to focus on.

In my particular case the lack of focus came with the inability to change how I was thinking. I have been dreaming about opening this business for years. My plans were always for tutoring and helping kids do better in school.

When writing my mission statement though, I started really thinking about what I wanted. I want to help the whole student and the family to create a growth mindset, and a love for learning. There is so much more to this than just treating the effects of low grades, low motivation, inability to focus, and frustration with school. It is also about looking at the causes and really understanding how to transform the whole situation. 

I went to a fantastic seminar yesterday at our local community college. It was a round table discussion between several other budding entrepreneurs and the head of the small business school at the community college. We were all talking and giving suggestions, and at one point I was pushed in a direction I didn’t want to go. I responded with, “but that isn’t what I really want”. This resulted in the question of “OK, what do you really want then.”

That was a changing point in my life. That was when I stopped and realized sometimes we have to step away from all the plans we have made and all the routines we have created. This allows us to really look at what is helping and what isn’t? What inspires us, and what doesn’t? What will truly make us happy?

That is what it all boils down to. Being flexible enough to change. To think about what really matters, what the real issue is, then take the steps to fix it. Take the steps to pursue what you really want. This is in the case of a child struggling to learn, or an adult struggling to find the right path.

For me, the effect was the inability to focus. I constantly felt pulled in different directions, and was unable to choose a path. The root cause or issue was not taking the time to really look at what I wanted, and then being flexible enough to change my original path of thinking to satisfy these new revelations. My current change is to adjust my thinking and take actionable steps to pursue what I am most passionate about. My true desire is to help the the whole situation, helping both the student and the parents to change the entire environment and culture of understanding. I am going to provide resources and coaching to inspire growth, a love of learning, and the flexibility to change. If something isn’t working, why keep spinning your wheels on the same path. Stop, think, and change direction. 

Here is an example of how a different mindset can be effectively used to change circumstances:

Yesterday afternoon I was tutoring, and the student and I were discussing her struggles. She was expressing to me all the effects: frustration, hating school, etc. ( among other more personal issues) In the process of this conversation I said, “Stop. what is really behind all of this? What do you really want? What will make you happy?” (Other than quitting or giving up)

At that moment she had to stop and really think about what the causes were for her. Her situation involved difficulties in class, and a few other personal things. At that moment she was able to stop thinking about all of the effects and start thinking about the causes. This is going to help her take the steps to identifying the changes she needs to make to get the results that she wants.

It is important when someone, particularly a child, is struggling, to strive not to just focus on the effects. You need to be willing to change your mindset from thinking it is just laziness, or being unmotivated, to really probing to find what the true root causes are. You can first help them to discover the causes and what they really want. Then you can help them make a plan for taking steps to achieve it.

Change. It comes in so many different forms. Changing of a mindset, changing of plans, changing of actions. But in the end if something isn’t working you need to stop, think about the causes and effects, then change the outcome.

Thanks for reading!

Amanda Avery 🙂 

P.S. if you would like to follow my blog sign up to the right and/or sign up for our free weekly newsletter to get blog updates as well as other helpful tidbits from Avery Learning Lab!


Share your gifts and allow kids to share theirs!

Share your gifts, whatever they may be!

Students, parents, and teachers: I read a blog post by one of my favorite bloggers yesterday, James Clear. He is absolutely amazing and if you don’t already follow and read things by him you should!

His article “Email is Where Keystrokes go to die” was by far a  wake up call for me to make every day count.

The post in general is about making every word you type count. But, its not just about making your words count, its also the moments of your days, and the sharing of your gifts.

James wrote: “It is not just about finding the guts to share your work and to contribute something to the world around you. It’s about doing it now because every moment is eating up what you have left to give. Time is precious. Share your gifts.”

As some of you know I lost my father in April, just a few weeks after losing my aunt, and just a week before losing another dear family member. Those events are what jump started me into wanting to change my life. I was unhappy in the traditional education system. There was so much I wanted to share with my students. I knew there was a better way to do it than standing in front of a packed classroom following standards that were about kids memorizing a ton of information each year, only to forget it by the next year, because they never truly learned it. Always having to move on when a genuine, enlightening discussion was happening, because the topic wasn’t quite in line with the standards, and we had so much to cover in not enough time.

The joy of learning and the process of how to learn had been lost, and with it the joy of teaching was lost as well. This was not acceptable to me anymore. I was and am a great teacher. I enjoy engaging my students and helping them to see learning as a beautiful gift and tool that they can use for the rest of their lives. Yet I had allowed myself to lose some of my passion for teaching, and was just going through the motions day after day. My father’s and the other deaths jerked me out of that. It reminded me that you never know what is going to happen, and you need to enjoy life not just go through the motions.

So I decided to start Avery Learning Lab in pursuit of a better way to share the joys of learning and education, not only with students and parents, but also to hopefully support teachers. I didn’t leave the public school system because I don’t believe in it, I left because i knew there was something else I needed to pursue.

I have been working hard to build the foundation on which I hope a very successful and beneficial business will rest upon. Playing the role of many people (accountant, marketer, employee, boss, legal representative, website designer, organizer, and creator) has been an adventure. One thing I have found while doing this is that I have been spending so much time focused on the business that I have gotten away from my reason for starting it in the first place.

James’ article reminded me that I am in this to share my gift with others. That if I lose sight of that and how I can do it, I have lost the purpose with which I started. It has also reminded me that my life is not entirely about this one gift. What about all the rest of them? I have been so wrapped up in school, then in this business, that I have forgotten about the joy of sharing my other gifts with people.

Don’t let yourself or your children be so focused on work or school that you forget about your other gifts. Maybe you enjoy telling stories, playing music, playing a sport, writing, or cooking. Its important that you still share those gifts with as many people as possible (especially your family and friends). Also it is even more crucial for you to help your kids explore what their gifts might be. Uplift them in their ideas and let them be free to try new things. You never know what gifts they may have. Encourage them to try new things and to pursue things that bring them joy.

All of this only makes us stronger learners and better people. Those that find their happiness are more likely to share that happiness with others. Students who are happy in other aspects of their lives will be more open to learning, and trying new things even if they are difficult.

It is my wish to reach as many people as possible. To share the joy of education and learning through my business and blog, and the gift I have in understanding children and what they need to be successful. But also to share my pleasures in music, the outdoors, the arts, books, animals, and all things water with people too. Whether I do this through my business or in other parts of my life doesn’t matter. What matters is sharing all of my gifts so that I can be full of life and bring those pleasures to others as well.

So go out and share your gifts. Let your kids explore their gifts and find what brings all of you joy. Enjoy life and don’t let another day pass where you just go through the motions.

Please share your joys, gifts, thoughts, and comments below. It would bring me great pleasure to hear about them.

As always, thanks for reading

Amanda Avery 🙂

P.s. if you want to hear more from me follow my blog to the right of this post, and/or subscribe to my free weekly newsletter, so that I can continue to share my gifts with you!



Growth Mind Set

I have found an amazing post that talks about how we communicate growth and learning. Read the article here:

Khan Academy: “The Learning Myth:Why I’ll Never Tell My Son He’s Smart”

For those of you that haven’t used it, Khan Academy is a great resource for video lessons on a wide range of topics. They embrace the internet as a learning resource. I have used lessons from their website numerous times in my classes and for tutoring.

Salmon Khan wrote this article and I found it so powerful. It is every teacher and parent’s wish to promote learning and growth for their children. Yet we don’t always understand at a fundamental cognitive level how to do that. Salmon says it best in this part of the article:

Researchers have known for some time that the brain is like a muscle; that the more you use it, the more it grows. They’ve found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones.


What this means is that our intelligence is not fixed, and the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail.

We all know this, we all tell our children that they need to think to make their brain stronger. But how many of us have used positive reinforcement in a way that doesn’t promote this. We tell our children/students “good job” when they learn something new. Or “you are so smart” when they come up with an insightful thought. According to Salmon and the research he talks about, this is actually taking away from our children’s growth as learners. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t praise them (heavens no). It just means that we need to praise them in the right way. For instance:

The good news is that mindsets can be taught; they’re malleable. What’s really fascinating is that Dweck and others have developed techniques that they call “growth mindset interventions,” which have shown that even small changes in communication or seemingly innocuous comments can have fairly long­-lasting implications for a person’s mindset. For instance, praising someone’s process (“I really like how you struggled with that problem”) versus praising an innate trait or talent (“You’re so clever!”) is one way to reinforce a growth ­mindset with someone. Process­ praise acknowledges the effort; talent­ praise reinforces the notion that one only succeeds (or doesn’t) based on a fixed trait.

I found this article helped me to start thinking about how I praise my tutoring students. I feel that this is important for all of us to read and to use, not just with children, but with others we encounter.

They have found in other studies that males, in particular, respond better and find more meaning in praise that has reasoning behind it. Saying “Thank you for ________________”, or “I love you because you __________”.

For example when saying thank you to a child for being polite, you would say “Thank you for being patient in waiting to ask your question. That was very polite”. That tells them exactly what they did to please you instead of leaving it open ended. Another example would be, saying to your significant other, “I love you, because you take the time to listen to me and give me your attention, even when you have also had a long day.” This clearly states what you love in that moment (of course we love many things about our partner).

Both of these examples help to give the other person a concrete sense and value of what you are praising them for. It also helps to encourage them to repeat this behavior.

For males especially this gives a logical explanation for the emotion that you are feeling (i.e. gratitude or love). I will talk more in a future blog about this.

I hope that you found this article as useful as I did and that my thoughts here in this post help as well. Let me know what you think of the article, and share any stories you have of using these ideas in your own life. What do you think are some other ways to praise and encourage our children?

Have a positive, enlightened day!

Amanda Avery 🙂




Official Opening

So excited to be officially opening as of Mon. Aug. 4th, 2014. We have already been providing summer tutoring, and starting in August we will be signing up for school year tutoring sessions, home school classes, and educational adventures/programs. The educational programs will be held at Avery Learning Lab and other locations starting in September. School and in home programs, labs, or field trips can be scheduled with us as well.

We are looking forward to all the learning adventures and activities that will be happening! We plan to offer everything from Science and Math activity days to hiking and nature activities.

Also keep checking back on our free resources and store pages for labs, activities, lesson plans, parent cheat sheets, and more.

The primary focus of this blog will be updates on the latest happenings and topics focusing on helping parents and teachers bring the joy of learning to their students.

If you have suggestions, questions, or any other thoughts about any of this, please leave them in the comments section or email me at averylearninglab.com

Thank you for supporting us!

Amanda Avery 🙂