Monday, June 1, 2009

An Introduction to Guest Authors

I hope to keep a fresh supply of articles written by others who have had experience in the area of parenting, marriage and relationships in general. If you would like to submit an article or know someone who might be a good contributor, would you e mail me at with an article or name of someone to contact who might be interested in contributing.

Joe Bruzzese, MA, is the author of A Parent’s Guide to he Middle school Years and co-founder of Thinking Forward, the online resource for parents navigating the middle school years. Visit the web site at

Chapter 3 – “Getting Ahead in Class and Staying There”
Building strong ties with teachers and connecting with a positive peer group set the stage for your child’s successful middle school experience. After the school day ends, kids face the reality of a full night of studying. Some middle schoolers report spending upward of five hours a night completing assignments and studying for tests. Creating a plan for tackling the rigors of a middle school day begins weeks ahead of ever setting foot on the school campus.
Mind mapping the road ahead
In the weeks leading up to school, find thirty minutes of uninterrupted time to share with your child in mind mapping. The goal of this activity is to create a vivid picture of your child’s year-long goals. Ask your child to choose a location for the mind mapping activity. A trip to the park or a favorite restaurant for lunch may set the stage for a productive brainstorming session.
A road map is most useful when you can identify two things: where you are and where you are going. Knowing what you have already accomplished is a valuable step toward achieving a goal. Most teachers, parents, and students focus on where they’re going, often beginning with the end in mind. However, there is great value in first thinking about where you are now, and then setting your sights on where you would like to be—the goal.
Choose the medium (talking, writing, or drawing) that best fits your child’s personality then guide him through the following steps:
Step One: Ask your child to think about his experiences as an elementary school student. Brainstorm ideas in the following areas: learning strengths, weaknesses, challenges, interests, and dreams. When your child begins to run out of ideas, ask if it would be OK for you to share any additional ideas.

If the brainstorming format doesn’t produce any ideas, consider free-writing for five minutes, in response to the following questions. If talking seems easier than writing, consider recording your child’s ideas on a voice recorder.

1. What do I really enjoy about school? What do I like to learn about?
2. What has been easy for me to learn or do in school? What challenges me?

3. Where would I like to see the greatest change in my academic success?

4. If I could study anything at all, and learn about it, what would it be?

The ideas from your conversation, free-writing, or brainstorm will become the road map for defining your child’s year-long goals.

Step Two: Take all of the ideas from step one and suggest that your child choose one of the following activities: write a letter, create a collage, or draw a picture that includes her ideas. Encourage your middle schooler to post her mind map in a visible location as a continued reminder and source of motivation for achieving dreams and meeting challenges. As new ideas and achievements emerge, your child can add them to the map.

Step Three: At the end of each academic quarter, take thirty minutes to review the map with your child. Add any recent accomplishments as well as new challenges for the coming quarter. A mind map has incredible power to focus a child’s activity and achievement during the year, much as an atlas has the ability to guide us on a direct course toward our destination.

Step Four: At the end of the school year, take a few moments with your child to reflect on the many challenges, goals, and achievements that added up to a successful middle school experience.

[sidebar begin]Coaching Tip
Follow your child’s lead during this activity. If you sense he would rather write than talk, give him an opportunity to jot down his thoughts on paper. Even kids with a preference for talking about ideas need a chance to record their thoughts in writing or in pictures, so remain open to a variety of different strategies for collecting and recording the information.[sidebar end]

Creating a plan for the future will help your child plot a smooth path to achieving her goals in the coming year. But plans alone won’t be enough to complete the journey. Move from planning into the action portion of the middle school year with an efficient and economical trip to the school supplies store.

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