Tag Archives: students


Tips for Focusing


Just like in the cartoon we all struggle with focus. Some of us more than others. Last month we posted resources for focus on all our social media pages (Facebook, Tumblr, Google Plus, and Pinterest)

Here are some highlights from those November posts:

Areas to look at when trying to gain focus:

Refocus strategies

  • Use a timer or alarm to remind you or your child to stay on track
  • Have your student (or you) keep a log of how often they find their mind wandering. Being aware of times where you are not focused can begin to trigger your brain to stay on track more.

Taking breaks

  • Breaks should be meaningful. This means that a break is not a chance to watch TV, or play a video game. Rather it is a chance to do something to help keep your brain focused.
  • Examples:
    • Physical exercise (stretching, yoga, jogging in place, jumping jacks, push ups, squats, etc.)-be on the lookout for a more detailed post about this
    • Brain Training Games
    • Write a quick journal entry about your day
    • Snuggle with a pet
  • Time frame: When trying to get something done, meaningful breaks should last 2-5 min, and happen every 30 min. to an hour. Encourage your student to set a timer for themselves (or do this for yourself). If they are working on a big project and they have been on it for a while, try having them take a 15-30 min. walk or physical activity break to rejuvenate those brain cells. Getting a snack and water work too!


  • Stay hydrated and eat protein snacks when extra focus is needed
  • For children (and adults) limit caffeine intake, refined sugar intake, processed foods, and foods with yellow and red dyes.
  • Eating healthy can instantly improve focus.
  • Vegetables, fruits, and nuts can give a lot of the nutrients you may be lacking, and need for focus. These are great for snacks, or adding a healthy side to a main meal.

Things that are distracting

  • Clear work area of distractions
  • Put cell phone in another room, or at least on vibrate
  • Limit excess noise level in the area where you or your child is working. You can use noise canceling headphones for this, or play instrumental music (see the next main point)
  • Ask others not to interrupt you except in the case of emergency.

Listening to instrumental music while working can increase focus. Some of our favorites are:

  • Classical Music (genre)
  • Montgomery Smith Instrumentals (music artist)
  • SonicAid (scientifically formulated music)
  • Balmorhea​ (group of instrumental artists)
  • Focus at Will (website with scientifically formulated music))
  • Ambient Music (genre)
  • Focus, Meditation, and Spa music (can find these on Youtube, or most music apps like Spotify)

Its also important to get the right amount of sleep for you. This is different for each person. Try to pay attention to how long you slept on the days you feel more rested. Make that time your target goal. Also deep relaxing sleep is just as important as how long you sleep. Some natural things that may help getting a deep restful sleep are:

  • Soothing teas such as chamomile
  • The vitamin supplement melatonin
  • Listening to a “sleep talkdown” (you can find lots of good ones on You tube. We recommend “The Honest Guys”. Here is a link to one of our favorites.)
  • Keeping a small mixture of “sleepy dust” next to the bed for when you wake up in the middle of the night. (We have not tried this one, but have heard it works well.)

I want to give everyone reading this post an actionable goal to try out. Pick one of the topics (a-e) mentioned in this post,or the sleep tips, and try applying just one of the tips to you or your student’s daily routine over the next week. See what happens.

Remember it is not how many changes you can make at once, or how big of a change you make. Take it one small step at a time, and you will find you have started climbing the mountain and are looking at a beautiful view!

“Don’t think about what could happen in a month. Don’t think about what can happen in a year. Just focus on the 24 hours in front of you, and do what you can to get closer to where you want to be.”HPLYRIKZ.com

We would love to hear the success stories and the lessons learned by any non-successful tries. Do you have any other focus strategies you would add to this list?

Amanda Avery 🙂



What Do You Do When Positive Thinking Isn’t Working?? (especially before a big test)

Lightbulb Cartoon

Think Positive!

What if I can’t?!

As we pull into the last few weeks of the traditional school year, many kids have either taken their EOGs, or are getting started on some form of standardized testing. One of the top test taking skills we can teach is to think positive.  But what if that isn’t the best answer.

So many kids and adults have dealt with difficulties in learning, remembering material, and test taking for so long, that thinking positive feels impossible. When you have worked your tail off studying, practicing, and reading over material, only to sit down to a huge test and have your mind completely blank, positive thinking just seems ridiculous.

However, there is some real science behind the idea that positive thinking can make a difference. When we allow negative thoughts, or self defeating ideas to overtake our brains, we condition ourselves to expect the worst and we often get it.

So what if I proposed to you a middle ground?

Positive thinking is the end goal. We want kids to be able to picture themselves being successful, remembering the material that has been studied, and succeeding on the exam. But there is a lot of pressure out there for these tests, and for a child that struggles, or who has experienced failure on a test before, positive thinking is almost impossible.  Instead we can suggest for them to start with not thinking negatively.

Even if the student who has fought an uphill battle all year in Math, can’t reasonably say to himself that he is a Math expert and he is going to pass the Math EOG (especially if it will be one of the only Math tests he will have passed all year). He CAN stop saying he is bad at Math, or that he is bad at taking tests. The negative thoughts aren’t necessary even if the student can’t bring themselves to say something positive because it feels false.

For the student that struggles with reading, she may not be able to say positive things about reading, or think that the stories she reads on the EOGs are going to be interesting. She CAN stop saying she hates reading, and that writing is awful. She can instead focus on doing her best and using the strategies that her teacher taught her this year.

What is the real goal?

Essentially the goal is not so much to create false positive thinking, because it often gets us nowhere. If we can’t truly believe those positive thoughts, the negative ones are always waiting in the shadows to remind us of our failures when we feel stressed. Instead we stop putting our energy into the negative, and focus on our next steps to a reasonable goal.

Sit down with your child before the big test and discuss reasonable goals for the test. This could be making sure to make notes next to what they are reading, underline key words in the questions, trying to come up with some kind of answer or information before looking at the answer choices, and really checking back over their work (not just seeing if they filled in all the bubbles). The goal shouldn’t be to pass (although this is definitely a hope!). The goal should be a tangible thing they can do, a step they can take in a positive direction. It needs to be something they can take action on. “Passing” is not tangible and it is not a step towards success. It is a score that is assigned based on a percentage of correct responses. Passing is a result not an action.

When you and your student are dealing with negative thoughts, and trying to turn them positive (or at least not think them at all), you need a tangible goal that starts you in the right direction. This goal can be built upon later. Don’t focus on the score. Trust me they are very aware of what it means if they pass or fail. Focus on the success of achieving the tangible goal they set, and eventually the little goals will add up to the achievement of the bigger result. This can be applied to so many things, and I will talk more soon about using the smaller achievements to build motivation, overcome anxiety, and build self-esteem in kids that have lost hope in academics.

But for now, during this stressful time, just help them set that first goal and to end negative thinking, even if they can’t quite bring themselves to do the positive thinking yet. You can even set up a reward that they can give themselves/get at the end of the day if they complete their smaller goal during the test. This could be their favorite dinner or dessert, or even extra time outside or on their favorite video game. You know your child or your students best. Come up with something together to work towards as a goal and a reward, and you just might see a little more positive thinking as a side benefit. 🙂

For more test taking tips check out this page on our website:



I wish the best of luck to all of your students in achieving their smaller goals and switching off the negative voices in their head. Who knows maybe if we all tried cutting out the negativity and setting small achievable goals, it would help us adults to head in a more positive direction too!

We would love to hear any stories of how this helps your student (or you) in the comment section.  Or if you come up with any helpful hints to others as they are trying this, please leave those comments as well!


Amanda Avery 🙂



Love These Resources!!!!

Boy with Math Book and Symbols

Well January jumped off with a bang for us here at Avery Learning Lab! Lots of new wonderful clients, a great blog post on Lifelong Learning, partnership in the works with Carolina Biological for some awesome science and math kits, two successful family communication workshops at the local libraries, and the unveiling of our new Learning Evaluation. Not to mention all the great work with our new and continuing Learning Program and tutoring students!

Along the way we found and created some great resources. I want to use this blog as a time to share 10 of our favorites with you! (these are in no particular order)


  • Our Learning Evaluation:

The Learning Evaluation is perfect for getting a better understanding of how your student thinks, learns, and what sparks their interest. We use 3 assessments with student, parent, and teacher participation to compile a report about your students learning style, multiple intelligences, and neurodevelopmental strengths and weaknesses. We then take that report and create a plan complete with strategies for how to help your student become a successful independent learner.


  • Online Learning Success Program:

This program is similar to ours and based in some of the same principles and research. However, it is one that parents can implement at home with or without the addition of extra help from a professional. This is a great option for parents that want to try to make changes on their own, or who want to use it in combination with tutoring to see faster results. They also have great resources for students with Dyslexia (reading) or Dyscalculia (math).


  • Teachers Pay Teachers Store (great place for parents to get resources too)

This is where we post our paid products. We will be developing our own online store, but for right now this is a great place to go to find our latest products. You can also check out all the other resources that other teachers put on here. The teachers get a percentage of all your purchases, so its a great way to support educators.


  • K5 Education

This website has great paid and free resources for leveled readings, phonics, and math. This link is going to send you to the main page for free worksheets. The documents listed for each grade are free. They also have options for you to purchase their fair priced Leveled Reading books (2-3 dollars each with at least 10 stories with questions), and other paid resources and programs for reading, math, writing, and phonics. I love that they have free options available, and that you can pick and choose if you decide to buy items from them as well.


  • Study Stack

Fantastic online studying resource for Vocabulary words, review questions, and more. Create a login and your first stack, then play games with your questions or words! They have flash cards, matching, quizzes, tests, a bug game similar to “snake” that we used to play when we were younger, and more! Not to mention its FREE. Enjoy!


  • Multiplication Practice Site:

This one is self explanatory whether looking for practice, games, or lessons on multiplication, this is the place to go. They also have games for addition, subtraction, and division!


  • Reading Assessments to see what grade level your child is at

There are directions on the site for where to start and how to proceed depending on the results. I wouldn’t suggest doing more than one test every couple of days. This is a great resource to figure out what level your child is at, and what they need to be able to do at their appropriate grade level.


  • All Kinds of Minds Parent Toolkit

This is a wonderful guideline of strategies to help with specific learning concerns in areas such as Attention, Math, Reading, and Writing. This is on the website for All Kinds of Minds, a revolutionary group started by Dr. Mel Levine that focuses on the 8 main neurodevelopmental functions. Many of their ideas are included in our own evaluations. Their program helps teachers to identify specific learning areas that students need help with. This particular resource is geared towards parents. Take a minute to explore the rest of their website as well.


  • Fun Clipart for kids and teachers

Looking for some fun free pics to use on projects, classroom posters, or your own documents. Here are some good websites for that




  •  PDF converter:

A free resource for converting word docs, jpg, powerpoints, and excel docs to pdf form. You can also convert from pdf to jpg, compress your pdfs, and even merge pdf docs. Absolutely fantastic, easy to use, and free. You have the option of donating to them through Paypal as you like, which I do because I have used them so many times and find it a resource I can’t do without.



I hope you enjoy these. We are still refining the free resource for when people sign up for our email list (and will send it out to those of you already on the list). The free resource is called “7 Ways to Motivate Your Student and Jump Start Their Love of Learning”. We are doing extra research to make sure we are including the best and most up to date findings of what is proven to work. Currently I am reading  a book that has inspired me, and with further research we will be expanding the number of ways to motivate, to 10!

We are committed to helping families achieve growth and a love of learning. We want that to be evident in everything we provide you. Including our free email list resource, our blog, our Learning Evaluation and Program, and our workshops, activities, and the upcoming summer camps.

For more information on any of these things contact us or check out the links provided in this post.

Have a great day!

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!


Why Should You Understand Learning Differences and Promote Life-Long Learning?

Why promote life long learning

Stop and think for a minute. Where would you be without knowledge? Would you even be able to answer that question if you didn’t have the skill to learn?

So many of us take learning for granted. We don’t stop to think about how we gained that new skill, how we remembered to make breakfast this morning, or how we are able to routinely tie our shoes.

We don’t think about the fact that the learning technique that worked for us might not work for our friends, family, students, or children.

Every learner is an individual and every brain works just a little differently. The pathways and connections we make aren’t always the same.

Think about it this way. how many ways are there to get to the beach? Is there one way that is faster than the others? Sure, the highway is probably the fastest route, but it is very monotonous with little scenery, and you have a higher risk of getting stuck in traffic because of an accident. But, it’s supposed to be FASTER. Therefore, most people pick that option even if it isn’t always right for them.

Another option would be to take a more scenic route. It might take longer, but you would get to see lots of different houses, farmlands, maybe a quaint town or two. You might decide to stop at a local diner or ice-cream shop and take a break from the drive. You also might get stuck behind a tractor going super slow, or bikers out for their morning ride. This way is usually slower, but it has the added benefit of less monotony.

One is a straight shot that is meant to be endured and put behind us, while the other path is more of an experience in it’s own right and provides the chance to actually enjoy the drive. There isn’t a right or wrong answer here. Just like there isn’t a right or wrong answer to learning.

The most important thing to take away from this is that one of these choices is going to work better for you, and for the other people riding with you. One of these choices is going to help you to love the drive more, even if your choice may be harder or take longer

When we first start learning in we are all taught to count our numbers, say our ABCs, and what different colors and shapes are. We learn to speak, how to do basic everyday things like eating, brushing our teeth, taking a bath. These are rote skills and for most of us can be learned in the same pattern as for other people. But even at these early skills their are kids that have brains that don’t recognize patterns, and even brains that have a hard time wrapping around numbers (This latter difficulty can come from a condition called Dyscalculia).

Imagine yourself being plopped down in a country where everything is backwards from how you understand and learned it. Everyone else around you learns things and does things a certain way and you just can’t seem to understand how and why they are doing things a particular way.

That is what it is like for a lot of learners today. We have a school system that teaches kids in a very limited fashion. There are many schools and teachers that do a good job of differentiation (using different ways of teaching to reach more learners). I am in no way discounting the huge efforts taken by all the fantastic teachers out there to reach as many kids as possible, I used to be one. However, routinely there are other things that get in the way. Such as overcrowded classrooms, limited resources, stressful conditions outside of school, and so much more.

It is important as both parents and teachers to find ways to empower yourself, families, friends, and others to learn about the different ways that people learn.

Learning becomes easier if you develop a love for it. It is hard to love something you don’t understand, or that gives you negative reinforcement every time you pursue it.

Understanding how you learn and how others learn is crucial to developing the lifelong ability to learn new things (and remember them). Developing a love of learning hinges on appealing to the ways of learning that click for an individual, in order to enable them to become an independent learner, want to explore new things, and develop the skills for lifelong learning necessary for successful, happy, fulfilled lives.

It is never too late to figure out the details of your learning style or your child’s.

Here at Avery Learning Lab we have developed a Learning Program that is geared towards each individual learner. It involves an assessment of their learning style, strategies for growth, a plan of how to reach their goals, implementation of the plan and strategies with one of our skilled employees, and feedback to help students grow and become independent learners. Contact us if you are interested in more information on this, and share this post with friends or family that you know could benefit from a program like ours.

You can also go HERE for more information on our learning program

Don’t think your child needs the program, but you want to be steered in the right direction for strategies that appeal to their learning style? Try our learning evaluation which includes the learning skills assessment, key strategies, and a take home plan for moving your child forward. This gives you the opportunity to try it with them first, and if you need more help you can always contact us for sessions to address any problems that you encounter. Know someone who would be interested in the learning evaluation? Share this post! We want to make this available to everyone and make sure no one gets left behind.

Spread the importance of understanding learning differences, and promote awareness to help create more successful life-long learning experiences. Do your own research into this and make sure to share anything you find on differences in learning in the comment section!

What ways have you noticed that you learn differently from others? What are some successful things you have tried with your child to help cater to their learning style? I always love to hear ideas, and feedback, so please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading,

Amanda 🙂

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!



Which is better reliability or consistency?

Reliability vs.consistency

These are two terms that at first glance seem to mean close to the same thing. Little did I know there is a big difference between the two.

It can mean the difference between stress and a sense of flow or continuity, as well as making things easier instead of complicated.

As I have said before as much as I absolutely LOVE working for myself and building a business I believe in, it comes with a lot of work and stress I wasn’t expecting.

One of those things was this idea that I had to tell my readers exactly when and how often I would be writing blogs or posting newsletters. I had read all of these better business practices articles and every one of them talks about consistency.

I am familiar with consistency, as it is one of the things we strive to do in our classrooms as teachers or at home as parents. Children respond to consistency. This is actually related to how the neurons make connections in our brains. The more often you do something the stronger the connections (see the blog posts: Growth Mindset, and Productive Homework and Study Time Part One).

Therefor, with children and other people in general, being consistent usually gets better results.

So I strove to be consistent. I said I will turn out a weekly newsletter and a weekly blog, and I did. However, it was often difficult to find all the good content I wanted to for the newsletter and write a meaningful blog, while also trying to serve my clients and do all of the behind the scenes work it takes to run a successful business.

Something had to give.

Then I talked with another small business owner that does coaching. She asked me why do you feel that you have to crank out a newsletter and blog every week? Do you feel like you are producing the best material for your readers if you are writing under pressure?

The answer of course was no, I didn’t. I was only doing it because someone else said it was a best practice.

So she proposed to me that sometimes it was better to be reliable than consistent.

We use the term consistent to mean so many things. It can refer to performing the same discipline or having the same expectation for each child, and for events or actions that are the same or very similar. Like giving an allowance for completing home responsibilities, or giving silent lunches for not following directions repeatedly in a classroom.

It can also mean doing the same thing at the same time each day or week, and following set schedules. It can mean doing things in a certain pattern in order to form new habits. The list could go on.

I think there are times when we really need to be reliable more so than consistent.

Consistency is based in timing, reliability is based in quality. They are both important, but the distinction is critical.

When we are referring to producing good content, a good class, or good family time it really isn’t about consistency it is about being reliable. We want others to rely on the fact that we will give them something worthwhile.

So I decided it was better to focus on being reliable in my content. I can take the time to research and put effort into all the resources I provide to my clients and readers. This is what it should be about!

Isn’t this what we are all striving for? To be reliable and meaningful to others and ourselves?

If so why do we pressure ourselves to always be consistent?

Probably because someone told us that being consistent is the key to success.

I can guarantee that your students and children would rather you be reliable than consistent. They need to know there will be consequences for certain actions and that there will be rewards for the good decisions they make. They need to know that when they come home or walk into your classroom that you will be providing them with quality time and meaningful instruction. They need to know they can depend on you to be fair.

That doesn’t mean the discipline action, the reward, or the time will always be the same. In fact children flourish when able to experience variety.

For example, I wrote a month ago about good study practices. I said students do better with a scheduled study time soon after they get out of school. This is true, but they don’t have to sit down and do their homework in the same order every time. Their study routine should vary. One night they do flash cards or studystack.com, the next night they watch an instructional video on youtube.

Even though the content changes the reliability is there! This is a good example of co-mingling reliability and consistency.

My eyes were opened by that simple statement that the other coach made. In being able to see the difference between reliability and consistency I feel freer in my expectations of myself. I feel like things can flow more naturally. I am able to be reliable to myself, my clients, my students, and my readers. Others know they can count on something meaningful from me when I am working with them. Yet I don’t feel pressured to produce a newsletter each Friday or a blog post on Thursdays.

This realization has opened a lot of doors for me to exploring new ideas and strategies that I look forward to sharing with you.

So I propose to you the following:

-Stop and think about whether the actions you are taking should be of a consistent nature in time and in practice, or would they be better if they were reliable?

-Provide reliable time for your students and children

-Provide meaningful discipline and rewards, as well as doing them consistently.

-Have some schedules, but be flexible in changing them if the changes still provide reliable or meaningful time.

What do you think? Is there a difference between being reliable and being consistent?

Do you feel that it will make a difference for you to be more reliable and provide more meaningful time and resources to your students and children?

Let me know your thoughts and if this post was helpful. I would love to hear your suggestions of ways to be more reliable.

Thanks for growing with me!

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!


Scary Truth: Are We Raising Helpless Kids?

helpless 4

Does promoting rewards, hovering, giving them instant gratification, and fixing problems for our children make things easier or harder for them?

For some this is a hard question to answer. Tim Elmore the founder of Growing Leaders, addresses this question and the concerns it ignites in the must read article at the end of this post.

Before you read I want to share my thoughts on this and open this up to a discussion of your thoughts and concerns as well.

  1. Perspective: It is important to remember that as you think about each of the things in this article it is all about the perspective that you and your child or student have, and how they are different. Ex. You may see praise as a positive force behind increasing self-esteem, however your child gets no real meaning from that same praise if it isn’t attached to a factual accomplishment, or overcoming a struggle. Children (and adults) need details for why they are being praised for there to be meaning behind it.
  2. Growth: How to grow from lessons learned is the most important gift you can give your child or student. It shouldn’t only be about the accomplishments or “failures”, but about how they grew from the experience and what they learned. (More on this in the Growth Mindset blog post)
  3. Internal vs. External Motivation and Gratification: Both of these are part of life. Too much of either can lead to difficulties later. It is important to foster internal motivation and delayed gratification for children (and adults). It is also important to give the external rewards as well. We are surrounded by instant gratification in our highly technological world. There is no avoiding that. However, you can provide for yourself and your children/students opportunities for delayed gratification, and give a lot of focus to them. This way they see the importance of both. Ex. Starting a family or class garden and caring for it each day. Then making a delicious meal using the food that you grew. Making sure to have a conversation with your child or students about all the benefits of eating healthy foods and knowing what is put into what you are eating.
  4. Responsibility: Children and adults have to be shown responsibility for their actions, and the positive or negative things that come from those actions. If you fix things for others, or don’t hold them accountable, you are simply fostering non-growth, and they can’t learn if they don’t grow. It is a disservice to the other person and it benefits no-one.
  5. Dreams and Gifts: It is important to allow children to pursue all their areas of interest (and you should too!) You never know where the spark will burst into flame. Caution: make sure you help them to be well rounded and pursue multiple interests. Even if they know what they want to do for the rest of their life at a young age, encourage them to try other things in addition to their passion. Passion will fizzle and become obligation if focused on all the time. Human nature causes us to need other interests as well. It helps us to learn and grow so that we can give the best of ourselves to our dreams, gifts, and passions. (See more in the Share your Gifts blog post)
  6. Steps and Details: Focus on every aspect of the goals that your children and students want to accomplish. We all need a better understanding of how the steps achieve the final result. I know I often find myself setting a goal and then realizing I am completely stumped on how to get there. Often when faced with this situation we just give up instead of pushing through, because it is “too hard”. Demonstrate the importance of struggle and figuring out the steps and details, and your children/students will follow. (More on this in the Behavior Equation blog post)

What are your thoughts on this article? What do you agree or disagree with? How do you think we can all increase the self sufficiency of children and ourselves? Come back and put your thoughts in the comment section below after you read (it will open in a separate tab for easy access)

Article: Are We Raising a Generation of Helpless Kids?

After reading these thoughts you may be wondering how to start taking steps to make a change. See my blog post from last week about Cause, Effect, and Change to help you start thinking about what the causes are for some of the effects in your life.

I am available for personalized coaching to help you and your child connect and understand each other better. We will use the coaching to develop plans for learning and behavior that can help both of you achieve growth and success, while reducing stress. I also provide coaching for teachers on how to use these skills within your classroom to foster growth and independence.

For those of you who wish to work through these issues on your own, I am developing a course on growth that will cover many of these topics in a more in depth way. The course will walk you through the steps to personal growth and development for both yourself and your child. This allows you to work at your own pace, and you can still utilize me for coaching whenever you feel you need some extra help or insights. This will be within the new coaching division of Avery Learning Lab. I am excited to share the course with you in a couple of months!

Thanks for growing with me,
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!


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 🙂 

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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!



The Merits of Taking Breaks Between School and Homework

To Break or not to break that is the question.

“Have them start working on homework soon after getting home from school. There have been numerous studies about the merits of students taking a break between school and homework. Many studies have shown that the sooner a student starts on their homework and studying after school the quicker they will get done, and the more focused they are. Basically, it boils down to the fact that if their minds have a chance to stray too far from academic thought, it takes longer to refocus.”

That is what I wrote last week during a series of blogs about creating a productive study and homework environment. I wanted to expand a little more on it.

Breaks are a highly debatable topic for most parents and students. Although we understand their need for release, the biggest benefit of getting homework done sooner, is that it gets done quicker. This gives them more free time in the evening! Their brains are freshest as they get home from school. The longer they wait to do their homework the more “fuzzy” they will become.

This topic was touched on in another article I linked to in my newsletter last week: http://www.howtolearn.com/2011/10/how-to-be-more-productive/ She says: “Start homework within one hour of coming home.  It is important to get a snack and take a break.  It’s been a long day!  But, keep the break short so you can get homework done while your brain is fresh.  The later you wait, the more fatigued your brain will be.  In other words, the earlier that you do homework, the less time it will take.”

A short break is good, and short breaks while doing homework or studying for periods of time longer than an hour, are also good. You may want to set up a schedule with them where they have a snack as soon as they get home (brain food). You don’t want this to take much longer than 15 minutes. The temptation to not get started on work if they go outside to play, talk on the phone, or play a video game will make homework/study time very difficult for both them and you. Schedule short breaks approximately every hour that they are working on homework. You should do this too when at work, or working at home. These short breaks give your brain a chance to relax and focus better upon resuming the activity. This also applies to exercises, for example when weight lifting you should always take short breaks between sets with weights to give you (and your muscles) a chance to breathe. 😉

Physical Activity During Breaks

It is also helpful to have your child (or yourself if you are working for long periods) do some sort of physical activity periodically during those short breaks. So for instance if they have been doing Math for an hour, have them take a five minute break to take a walk around the yard with your dog, do some jumping jacks, or do a chore. The physical exercise is a form of release, and can help the brain focus better on the topic at hand when they come back to work. Short physical breaks are a topic of wide discussion in the work and school world as well, with the goal of increasing productivity and making you smarter. 🙂 See the following short Forbes article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jennifercohen/2012/05/08/6-ways-exercise-makes-you-smarter/

Setting up this schedule may not be easy, but it has a lot of benefits. Many kids want to take a long break in between school and homework. They want to go out and play with their friends (or play video games) and enjoy their childhood. I totally agree. So find a way to have them get their work done early and still have time for fun activities the rest of the evening. Make it a point to allow them to invite a friend over for dinner (after their work is done), and set up fun activities in the evenings and on the weekends that you can do together like ghost stories around a fire pit.

What if I can’t monitor homework time because I am at work?

I think you will find that once the habit is in place, all of this is much easier. The hardest part is making the change. If you aren’t at home when your child gets home, you will need to work out a system with them where they will be able to show you what they did during the time you weren’t there. Reward them for honesty and for following the guidelines you set forth about homework time. (More ideas for parents who work in the evening soon to follow in later posts) Here is another article I included in my newsletter last week. It’s written for students with 18 ways to get yourself motivated to do homework: http://www.wikihow.com/Find-Motivation-to-Do-Homework

What about after school activities?

Now, sometimes the break is forced because of after school activities. There are a lot of sports teams that allow students to work on homework for the first 30-45 min of practice, and sometimes even provide tutoring or other types of help. If this isn’t the case the best thing to do is to have a set time that your student always sits down to do homework, so that their brain knows it is time to focus. For instance, if they are involved in lots of after school activities, you may want to have study/homework time start at 7 pm (or right after dinner). It isn’t optimal, but a schedule and consistency will go a long way to helping your student focus, and your child being well rounded is important too!

I hope you have gotten some helpful information from this blog about how to encourage your child to get started on homework after school, and how to incorporate breaks into the studying schedule. Maybe you even took a little of this advice for your own working schedule. You would be amazed at how much it helps. I downloaded a spinwheel app to my computer and every hour I spin it to tell me a 3-5 min. exercise to do (i.e. 10 pushups, 50 jumping jacks, 5 min. meditation, etc.) It has made a huge difference in my productivity and my health!

As always you can sign up to receive these blogs in your email to the right of this post, and subscribe to our free weekly newsletter.

Thanks for reading!

Amanda Avery 🙂





Productive Homework and Study Time (Part Three)

And now for the last post of the series!

So I started you off discussing how our minds make quicker connections with practice. I hope you have started encouraging your student as they struggle with their homework. Maybe you have even tried out a few of the ideas I gave for different ways to study. If you are just joining us and haven’t had a chance to read the first post here it is. Productive Homework and Study Time (Part One)

Then Monday, I talked about freeing your student (and yourself) from distractions when working. Focus is key, and multitasking has been proven not to help. I hope you have started laying out those expectations for phones to be in a safe place away from the student while work is being done. Same thing with the laptop unless they need it for work. Plus hopefully they are starting on homework and studying soon after getting home from school, that way their minds haven’t disengaged too much from academics. If you haven’t read the second post in the series here it is. Productive Homework and Study Time (Part Two)

Now to wrap it up, lets talk about why it is good for your student to struggle and face challenges with homework and studying

Fact three: Our brains get stronger through overcoming obstacles and facing challenges

child on climbing wall

It is important that we challenge our students and children and praise them for overcoming the obstacles in their path. (see my blog post on The Growth Mindset for more details)

Remember the brain is a muscle, it needs to be worked out. Not just through practice, but also through challenges. Lifting weights everyday doesn’t get you stronger it just keeps you at the same level. Changing the number of reps and increasing the weight to challenge your muscles, makes you stronger.

The same thing is true for our brains. They need to be challenged, and yes we need to fail a few times. So that we can get back up, brush ourselves off, and be even better the second go round. Our kids NEED this mindset. They have been taught over and over that it isn’t OK to be wrong. We test them for correct answers, but we also praise them for quick and easy correct responses and successes in every day life. They will never grow if they are always taking the easy (or lazy) way out, or if they are always frustrated when something challenges them, so they just give up.

Ways to help:

  1. Support your child as they struggle through homework and studying. Praise them for their effort, and stick by them until they get through it (that doesn’t mean do it for them). They need to know their efforts when completing the hard stuff, get praised even more than how quickly they succeed at the easy stuff (what is easy and what is hard will be different for every child!).
  2. Challenge your student to do more. If they don’t have homework, challenge them to use one of the ways I talked about to study a topic in the first post of this series. You can also have them come up with their own game, comic, story, skit, picture, or anything else creative they can think of that has to do with what they are learning right now. Then, encourage them to share it with you, so they can “teach” you about what they are learning. (Hint: this is yet another way to study!)
  3. Find fun educational activities for you to do as a family or with friends. This helps your child see that there is more to what they learn than just sitting at a desk, or doing homework. They can apply their skills in real life, or see how someone else uses it in their job. Plus, it has the added benefit of helping you to learn new things and think outside of your box too!

Examples: Go to the science or history museum near you. Most of these have tons of fun activities for kids to do (like scavenger hunts). Look up local art, music, and sports events near you. You can show your child how Math is used at a baseball or football game. Find local maker’s fairs and technology expos. These are great places for your kids to see what they are learning in action (especially in math and science). I will share more ideas soon, but use your own creativity (and the internet of course). You can find a ton of stuff for cheap or even free. It is a great opportunity for everyone in your family!

To sum it up:

  1. Practice helps a student’s brain make better, faster connections. So encourage them to study in different ways and to complete homework!
  2. A distraction free environment helps students focus and complete tasks to the best of their ability. It is our job to help them design their space so that they are focused (i.e. no cell phones or unnecessary media), and help them to see the benefits of working soon after getting home, so that they are done faster.
  3. Our brains get stronger from facing and overcoming challenges. So challenge your child, and support and praise them when they struggle through tasks.

While writing this series I came up with ideas for many other things I want to research and share with you. Homework and Studying have been at the forefront of my mind for a while now. Thanks for sticking with me through these posts and I hope you find some great ideas here. Do you have ideas I didn’t mention for creating a productive homework environment? Please share them in the comments below. If you use anything I have shared here let me know how it works for you!

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Thanks for reading!

Amanda Avery 🙂