Why Study Groups Work

I’m sort of a lone wolf. I really enjoy time on my own, I like my own company, and I only really like to work in teams if I absolutely have to. But two years ago when I went back to university, I had a bit of a rude awakening. Every single class on my roster required me to either be in some sort of study group, or I had to work on a number of projects or presentations with a group of individuals. Now, I don’t want to sound like a grumpy old fart, but most of the students in my class were a good decade younger than me, and I almost had nothing in common with them. They were all still living at home with mommy and daddy, driving around cars they hadn’t paid for, and at school because they’re parents had given them an ultimatum, not because they wanted to be. I was there for another reason. I was an adult, who wanted to finish my education, and every drop of blood, sweat and tears was going into that degree. I was living on an executive assistant salary, and they had bottomless ATM cards. Having to sit in a classroom full of a bunch of kids that could care less about the class material, felt daunting at the very least, but luckily, I did managed to carve myself out a spot among my younger peers and it all worked out in the end.

Working on a team can either be incredibly beneficial, or a complete waste of time. It’s really up to you to utilize the time wisely. At first, I had serious reservations about studying in a group, but when midterm time rolled around, when my classmates started getting together and really getting serious about the subject matter, and actually feeling concerned about upcoming tests and exams, I adjusted my attitude, dove in headfirst and formed a series of study groups. Studying in a group not only allowed me to see different perspectives of the course material, but it gave me the opportunity to teach the material to my classmates, which in the end, is one of the best ways that you can get to know the material thoroughly. A study group is also great to be a part of because if you fall sick one day, and you’re unable to make it to class, one of your group members will be willing to help you catch up. Also, if you’re having trouble trying to understand the material, you have the support of the group to help make it clear, so when you go into an exam you can feel confident that you know the material inside and out.

If you take advantage of a study group, that is, get everything out of it that you put in, it can be your ticket to good grades and great success in your degree!

Ace the Test..Then Party!

There are those of us who can sit in class, absorb it all, write the test, and walk out with a respectable grade. And then there are those of us who need to go the extra mile and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, to those students who don’t need to crack a book to take a test, I think a lot of it is pure luck. Anyone can take a test and get an A, but a test is only a small snapshot of what you’ve learned over the course of the semester, and if you don’t have a good solid foundation, you can kiss that A goodbye. June is graduation month for high school seniors, and you know what that means right? Yes, yes, it means it’s time to celebrate, but before all of that, you need to be preparing for some of the most important tests that you’re ever going to take. These tests will determine whether you get into that top university, or if you’ll be spending a couple of years at a community college just trying to catch up. I don’t mean to sound like a total party pooper, but when you toss that cap up in the air, I want you to feel confident and proud that you gave your future everything you had in you. So here’s how:


Because we’re already well into June, you should have put together some sort of studying schedule. While I was at university, I would list the subjects from most difficult to the easiest and alot time accordingly. Naturally the harder subjects would receive a larger chunk of time. DO NOT PROCRASTINATE! For pete’s sake, this is your future we’re talking about! Besides, if you get sufficient study time in, you’ll be able to throw in some fun activities in the between so you’re not trying to cram everything into your brain last minute.


Most students find out what material will be covered on the test and then they wander off and struggle on their own. Look, it’s not in your teachers best interest to watch you fail, so if you don’t understand something, or you’re unclear, ask if you can spend some time with them before or after class. Better yet, approach other classmates, and ask if they’re having the same issues. If they are, bring the group to sessions with the teacher, it’s much easier to learn that way.


This is a a technique that I’ve used from elementary school, all the way up through university. At the beginning of every semester, we would form study groups on our own. We would meet periodically throughout the semester to study for exams or even just to discuss class assignments and bounce around thoughts and theories. Study groups are a great way to sort of self-regulate when it comes to studying, and the power of the group will often curve procrastinating.


This is probably my favourite tip and I’ve used it in both my professional and as well as academic career. Talking about what you’ve learned actually helps you remember it more effectively. So whenever I was writing a paper, or preparing for an exam, or even trying to retain information from a class session, I would ask my boyfriend, my friends and m study group members for a few moments of their time. I’ll literally reteach a class to them, or I’ll teach them about a particular area that I’m studying. Just use the notes you’ve taken in class, and repeat yourself over and over until the information sticks! I know this may sound silly, but trust me, you’ll be amazed at how supportive friends and family can be when it means you’ll succeed!

Ace it, Don’t Sweat it

I don’t know about you, but in high school, I was the world’s worst test taker. I loved school, and I was a good student, but it didn’t come easy to me. While most of my friends could pull an “A” out of their hat on any given subject with little or no effort, I dedicated hours upon hours to studying, researching and being tutored in the subjects that I struggled with the most. I could come to terms with what I thought were academic short-comings, but when it came to tests or final exams, I exhibited all the signs of someone about to meet their maker! I would get sweaty palms, my heart would race, I’d get nauseuos and there would always be imaginary cloud of dread that would perch itself just above my head. Exams spelled out nervous breakdown every time!

As I matured through high school, and then moved on to college, for some reason I thought that my little cloud would be left behind. I thought that age and maturity meant, greater intelligence and better coping skills to help grapple with my own inabilities. Boy was I wrong. In fact, my anxiety around test taking worsened with the added stress of trying to put on a brave face amidst my peers who seemed to float through their academic careers effortlessly.

I had to do some serious soul searching, before I realized that in order to be successful, I had to get out of my own way. So this blog is going to be all about overcoming that all important hurdle. I have yet to meet a college graduate who made it through without taking a test, so why spend the next four years living in complete agony every time you have to test your knowledge. Let’s learn how to conquer an exam, and look forward to showing off our knowledge, rather than fearing the myth of our inability.

Kids Love to Draw

When my son was a baby, he would sit and babble and coo at everyone. If you sat him on your lap facing you, he would literally try to engage you in conversation by smiling, cooing, and squeaking at you.

He’s 2 now… and he is one of the loudest, most articulate 2-year-olds I’ve ever seen. He talks almost in full sentences, yells when you ignore him, and yells back if someone yells at him. He’s also in love with coloring on the walls… and himself.

So, what purpose does drawing and coloring serve in a child’s development?

I was at a birthday party today, chatting with one of the other moms about how toddlers all seem to go through the “color on the wall” phase. Both of my older kids did it, and my son is following in their footsteps religiously. He just loves to draw!

I decided to do some research on the topic because I found it pretty interesting. Kids develop in such cute little ways… from cooing and babbling to trying to refine motor skills, it is just adorable to watch.

I came across an article online about kids’ drawing being a developmental thing. That would definitely explain why all toddlers love to draw, wouldn’t it?

“Cratty (1986) termed scribbling “motor babbling.””

This stage of development is a full-body experience for most toddlers. The paper is so big to them! They settle into a sort of rhythm when they’re drawing, their fine motor skills not yet fully developed or controllable. Usually it looks like they try to color or paint with their entire arm, which in turn leads to them moving their entire bodies to get the drawing utensil to do what they want it to.

There are a lot of theories about why kids love to draw, and many attempts at interpreting kids’ drawings. It’s interesting to see how kids bring to life what they see and experience.

My older kids are fascinated by horror lately. I’m not sure if it’s because I told them that was what I loved when I was 8 and 9 (R. L. Stine ruled!), but they adore horror and thrillers. It was no surprise that they wanted to watch Supernatural with me… later on, they decided to draw demons. Go figure, right?

All three of my kids have always been extremely fond of art. Drawing, painting, coloring… they just never liked the lines, although they would still try to do a “good job” of coloring what was there, they always wound up adding their own little characters, shapes, or elements to a coloring book page.

I have a few of my daughters’ paintings hung up in my hallway that I’d love to have matted or framed. They deserve it! Those kids did some of their most colorful work in preschool; giant paper covered in so many colors you had no idea what to make of it, but appreciated the color. They still draw some of the most awesome stuff… I can’t begin to tell you how great their art is to me. I’m sure everyone feels that way about their kids, right? =)

So, they already know how to become an artist…. But what will they really want to be (or really become) when they grow up? I have no idea… for now, though, they can create all the art they want and enjoy every moment of it. I’ll hang the pictures.

One Man’s Trash is a Kid’s Treasure

Remember as a kid how you would always want your mom’s old stuff? I used to get my mom’s old wallets, purses, and eventually clothes and shoes, and I loved it. Every time she would sort through her files I would get old file folders; if she found random notebooks, I would inherit those.

Ah, to be a child.

My kids do the same exact thing. In fact, I just gave a bunch of old shirts to my oldest daughter because I used to be much skinnier and she’s growing like a weed, so it worked out for the best. The rest went to the clothing bank.

I also recently found a whole bunch of kids’ books and handed those over… and my younger daughter is obsessed with arts and crafts, so anytime she sees a container, box, or other discarded materials she thinks she can use to make something, she pesters me until I let her have it and then proceeds to raid my scissors, tape, and glue.

Why are kids so fascinated with our stuff? I remember when I was small, my mom got me a little fake check book because I saw her writing checks all the time and wanted to do it, too. I figured that would make me more grown up, more like her.

And that’s exactly it.

Kids want to be like their parents. They want to have similar things, they want to be able to do what they want, they want to act just like us… I guess that’s why they say that setting a good example is so important, right?

That’s perfectly okay with me. Aside from a couple of bad habits, of course. But as far as the kiddos wanting my old stuff goes? I am so fine with that!

I am a paper person. I have a lot of journals, full and yet to be filled, and I’ve been writing song lyrics and stories since I was young. That means lots and lots of old notebooks, half-filled journals, a million different kinds of pens, and scrapbooking stuff galore. I also have an art set with crayons, colored pencils, and three different types of paint (watercolor, oil, acrylic). Not that I know how to use all this stuff, but who cares? It’s all part of getting creative in the kitchen.

Every time I decide to paint, journal, or do anything craft-sy in the kitchen, all three of my kids are right there by my side, watching my every move. They observe very closely, and it doesn’t take long for them to decide that they want to write/draw/paint/cut/glue, too.

My younger daughter used some weird-shaped plastic from dessert packaging to make the nose of a little character she cut out. Kind of funny that the person is so flat with a sizeable nose… but it was still cute!

I have a lot of stuff that I either never use or am just about ready to sell or give away.

If my kids want it and are going to use it, then why not let them? It just means that I don’t have to buy them wallets and purses because they simply use the ones I don’t anymore.

Now I need to go get an iPod or an MP3 player so that I can use all of my old CDs for crafts….

Lent is a Good Excuse

Though not all of us are practicing members of a religion that observes Lent, my personal opinion is that it’s a great excuse to limit – or even eliminate- some of the bad habits we and our kids carry around.

Because we live in a time of such excess… of everything… we could all benefit from a little reflection and self-denial. I always think of Lent as a good reason to get the kids to give up candy or TV, or at least limit themselves.

There are a lot of college students now that are giving up Facebook and other social media sites. That’s another idea, if you don’t need them to make money.

There are other reasons why Lent is good for your family. Kids are still learning about gratitude and appreciation, so the opportunity presents itself to teach them more about it over the course of 40 days.

Asking the kids what they would want to give up is a good way to open up a discussion about gratitude and appreciation. This will get their minds going about what they feel like they can live without as well as opening up the floor for discussion about what they should appreciate in their lives and in the lives of the whole family.

For example, the above article I linked to has the example of that special on TV about entire families becoming homeless due to the economy and its effect on jobs and families. This was an awesome point in my opinion, so I think I’m going to look something up online that presents a similar story and show that to my children. I hope that will inspire some appreciation in them.

If you’re not sure what to give up for Lent, try considering what some of your bad habits are, what you do that you know is bad for you or that you shouldn’t necessarily be doing in excess, or what you’d like to change about your life that would make it ultimately better. There are a lot of things that people can give up for Lent; each individual has to make their own choice for that, though, and everyone is a little different.

For my kids, I let them choose to give up candy or their Wii, or even our Netflix… for now. Once they see more on being grateful and I find an appropriate clip to show them regarding families losing their jobs and homes, I hope to inspire more in-depth results.

The truth is that money isn’t free, and it is becoming few and far between. People are losing jobs, homes, and cars on a consistent basis now, and unless unclaimed scholarships start paying for peoples’ rent, we have to work very hard to earn money and be independent. Though unemployment isn’t the end of the world for some people, it is for others and their families. If you’re fortunate enough not to be in a hard financial situation, then it seems only right to be grateful.

So what are you and your kids giving up for Lent? Even if you don’t attend church, this is an excellent opportunity to better your family, yourself, and your life.

The Temper Tantrum: Surviving the Terrible Twos

It happens to every parent. Your child gets to the age of 18 months or a little older and suddenly they run the universe. They’re worse than cats! I know cats like to take over the household as soon as they arrive, but toddlers literally think they rule the world… at least their world.

I’m dealing with a 2-year-old right now, and he is something else. I don’t remember either of my daughters having this much of a temper, but my son? He’s all over the place emotionally.

One minute, we’ll be discussing what TV show he wants to watch, and the next he’ll scream about it being the wrong one. We have Netflix, so I literally have to pause on each show’s icon and wait for him to say, “That one!”

Don’t even get me started if he wants a particular snack and then changes his mind. The world ends each and every time.

So how in the world do you survive this time in their little lives? The messed up thing is that they call them the terrible twos, but these “twos” last anywhere from 18 months on up to 3 or 4. How do you stay sane?

First, keep in mind that the child is a child. Though they may be testing their boundaries and gaining a sense of independence, they still need love, nurturing, support, and play time.

Want some practical tips? Keep reading.

1. There is no past and no future, only NOW.

And no, I am not trying to sound like Jack Bauer, but as far as toddlers go, there is nothing beyond the here and now. This means two things for you, the parent: you cannot praise r punish a toddler unless you do it right away, as soon as the behavior warranting each response is performed. If they do something unacceptable, the disciplinary action must be immediate. If they do something praise-worthy, the praise must be immediate. If it isn’t, they can’t connect the behavior to the consequence, and it doesn’t serve much of a purpose.

2. Ignore tantrums.

Yep. You read that right. Ignoring a temper tantrum is the best way to let your toddler know that the behavior isn’t getting them anywhere. Any kind of attention will do, be it bad or good. That’s all they’re trying to do with a tantrum: push the boundaries (and your buttons) and get your attention in some way.

3. Don’t fight with your toddler.

There’s nothing more frustrating than arguing with a toddler when virtually all responses will be the same. It’s a toss-up between “no!” and “why?” and “mine!” There’s no arguing with that! The best bet is to ignore your toddler and let them wear themselves out. You may also get the same statement or question over and over: “Mommy! Hungry!” – “Wait just a few, I have to make something.” – “No! Hungry!” Hm….

4. Time-outs are suitable for toddlers, too.

Making them stand in a corner is a great way to punish them, even if they are only 2. They usually understand if they’re in trouble, so putting them in a corner is an excellent way to communicate to them that you mean business. The general rule is to make a child stay in time-out for the number of minutes that matches their age, so for a toddler at age 2, it would be 2 minutes. Doesn’t seem like a lot to us, but remember how 20 minutes seemed like an eternity when you were 7? To a toddler, 2 minutes is a lifetime!

5. Take advantage of using positive reinforcement.

Just as there should be punishments for negative or bad behavior, i.e. behavior that is unacceptable, there should always be praise for a job well done. I don’t care if it’s something as little as identifying a color or naming something they see on a walk – the response should be, “Good job!” or, “Awesome!” My experience with this has been pretty vast – by now, my son is beginning to learn colors and numbers, can tell me what a handful of animals “say,” and can follow basic directions such as putting his socks in his hamper and his dirty dishes in the sink. Smart boy! And every time he does something like this correctly, I praise him for it because I want that behavior to continue.

Sometimes it can be difficult to overcome that annoyed and frustrated feeling in your head. However, try to keep in mind that your toddler is just a learning baby – they don’t know any better than to copycat behavior and words they see and hear and apply what they have learned to their everyday lives on a subconscious level. It’s important to encourage that without encouraging the bad behaviors.

The Value of Playtime

There are so many aspects to parenting that sometimes we forget the simplest thing: enjoying our kiddos!

Taking a few minutes to half an hour to simply play with your kids every day or two can work wonders on their behavior. They get positive attention, have fun with the most important people in their lives, and are relaxed for hours after that.

Not only do I know this from my own personal experiences with my kids; I also know this from research I’ve done to explore more concrete information related to kids and parents playing together.

“Play is a powerful way to build and maintain a deep emotional bond between parent and child.” – Dr. Suesser

This is absolutely true, in my opinion. Playing and doing activities together with your kids makes them feel like they’re more connected with you, as well as making them more comfortable in the relationship they have with you, their parent.

Anything from sitting down to paint with them to baking cookies together can be a fun experience. Taking a little time to do something together during the day – from board games to tickle time – can make kids stop begging for negative attention as well. They tend to be more content when they’ve had a little playtime with their parents, making the rest of the day less stressful.

“Play reduces destructive behavior in children, and also reduces TV and video-game addiction.” – Dr. Suesser

Playing with your kids can also mean less stress for you. Parenting is hard – between work, responsibilities, chores, and whatever else may be in your life such as homework for college-going parents, the levels of stress during the week can be astounding for some people.

Though there are other ways of handling stress, you can think of playing with your kids as taking care of several things at once: lowering your stress, lowering their stress, and strengthening your bond.

To take it one step further, especially in the spring and summer months, it’s actually good for kids to play in the dirt – which many of them do with great enthusiasm.

“In our germaphobic culture where we have entire aisles of cleaning products at the grocery store, some children are being raised in “overhygienic” conditions. Without enough exposure to different bacteria and microbes, it is thought that the immune system doesn’t learn to recognize its own cells, and this could be a reason for higher rates of asthma, eczema, and other diseases.” – Katie Fox, Simple Mom

There are actually many more benefits to playing in the dirt – for adults and children – including naturally-occurring bacteria that help raise serotonin levels. Dirt can actually make people happier!

So, the next time you need to apply for scholarships, do some reading, or get some cleaning done uninterrupted, try preceding it with some play time with your kids. It could mean the difference between a productive couple of hours or distracted ones.


Ah, parenting. A never-ending onslaught of giggles, chaos, and time-outs. The misbehavers: this is our new nickname for the small gaggle of children we call ours.

What age is appropriate to begin using time-outs as punishment? Why do kids do so much crazy stuff, especially in groups?

Mine do everything from sneaking chocolate to stashing sodas in their room to taking random bites out of fruit in the fruit basket. What gives?

I can’t believe half the stuff these kids do and get into. I almost regret painting the walls because they are now accented by my toddler’s scribble-art. As a work-at-home mom, it’s hard for me to chase him around all the time, otherwise I would never get anything done. Never!

So I decided to check out some resources on parenting to see if they have any good ideas about how to stop some of this behavior as well as take off the pen and market from the wall (without taking the paint with it this time).

The toddler throws tantrums on a fairly regular basis. This is usually categorized by whining, screeching, or screaming, throwing himself on the floor, or hitting something… or someone. Not okay!

Not only does he do this, but he also laughs when he knows he’s in trouble. He thinks it’s hilarious! It’s crazy. So what’s the best method to change his behavior?

Consistent positive reinforcement for good behavior. What?! Seriously?!

So what am I supposed to do with his temper tantrums and hitting and throwing stuff?

One tip that really struck me was to plan ahead for consequences and post them to the fridge or something in writing. I’m going to do this with the older two so they know exactly what will happen if they don’t do as they’re told. This could definitely work for them, but that still leaves me with the boy. The screecher creature. Crazy small humans….

Fortunately, there is the awesome time-out idea. The older kids already know the drill, but the younger one is still clueless. He thinks a time-out is being trapped in his room with his TV and toys for a few minutes.

And no, 2 years old is not too early to begin implementing the time-out rule. This is awesome news for me! Those kids have a knack for driving everyone crazy.

This is one of those times when I really wish that each kid came with a user manual. Unfortunately, every child is different, and every home is different…. most of the time, it’s a “learn-as-you-go” scenario. Good thing we have access to the internet!

Helping your toddler’s speech develop

There’s nothing more amazing than watching your toddler begin to speak. For me, my son has been especially intense because he soaks up knowledge, words, and behaviors like a sponge – this can be a bad thing when he’s around people who have some weird or not good habits, but the fact that he’s 2 and almost speaking in full sentences amazes me.

There are certain things that I feel are common sense with young kiddos, but have seen ignored and resulting in a child that doesn’t speak as well. That’s why I wanted to write this blog post – to share what I’ve been doing to help my son’s speech develop more quickly and accurately.

Last night at dinner, he repeated a word that blew me away. My 9-year old says this wrong, but my son doesn’t: Raphael! Crazy, right? He’s also repeating words in German and Spanish as my mom is a translator and knows snippets of several languages and is fluent in German, and he tries really hard to put sentences together… even though he skips some words, but he’ll be there very soon.

A couple of weeks ago, he sang Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star almost all the way through. I started cracking up because I was so impressed! What a little sponge!

His sisters teach him things on top of me and my fiance teaching him, so he’s getting 4x the instruction compared to an only child… but there are some key things that I like to keep in mind and point out to help kids’ speech develop more quickly and accurately. These things are compiled through personal experience.

NO Baby Talk.

DO NOT speak to your child in baby talk or let other people do it. This is the worst thing you can do for your toddler’s development because they will try to repeat it as they hear it. If you say, “Who’s my wittle handsome man?” you can’t expect your toddler to say, “little.” Making noises at them doesn’t do too well, either, although it is pretty entertaining when they figure out how to growl – growling kids are hilarious =). But they need to know that growling isn’t a good communication method…. unless you’re John Casey, but his are more like grunts than anything else.

Unfortunately, toddlers will copy everything. If they’re exposed to a child who cries loudly to communicate and that works for them, then they will copy it. If they’re exposed to a child who fakes crying and over-exaggerates it greatly, then they will do that. If they’re exposed to a child who repeats swear words after their parents, chances are your toddler will do that, too.

This is why baby talk can be detrimental to your child’s development. What I’ve always done is speak to my kids – even as newborns – like I normally speak, maybe just with a slightly higher pitched-tone. No fake words (although I have always called a diaper, “butt…” so I ask, “Hey, do you need a new butt?” so that’s a little off. But “butt” is still a word, in my defense!), no incohesive babbling, nothing like that. No, “wooosjeewoosjeewoo,” or, “goo goo ga ga,” (and toddlers are too young to know who Lady GaGa is), just plain English (or whatever your native tongue is – or both because small children can learn languages very quickly).

Speaking words clearly – and sentences, especially when they’re beginning to put their own sentences together – helps a great deal in a toddler’s development.

Ask Questions.

If your toddler knows what they want and tells you when you ask, then ask more questions! My son is a pretty rowdy one, so when he gets a time-out, he gets sent to his room. I put a door knob cover on the inside so he can’t get out unless someone lets him. I know, it sounds a little harsh, but if he were to be able to open his door, he would likely throw the cat litter all over the house, do more artwork on all the walls, and rip up as many books as he could get a hold of. Plus… the best punishment for this little man is to feel trapped. When I used to swat him on the butt or even on the back of the hand, he laughed in my face and hit me back… so this is the happy middle ground.

The reason I bring this up is because my daughter literally just asked him why he was in time-out for a few minutes. The girls had been cleaning their room and one of them started bawling like crazy, so I had my oldest put him in his room for a time-out. Several minutes later, my younger daughter opened his bedroom door and said, “Do you know why you were in a time-out?” and he replied right away, “Hitting!”

He may be a bully, but he’s a smart bully.

Repeat What They Say.

I don’t mean when they tell you, “Milk” you repeat the word. What I do mean is repeating the word they use in a sentence, preferrably in the worm of a yes or no question. For example, let’s say your toddler runs up to you and says, “Mommy! Hungry!” (mine does this all the time… lol)

I always repeat it back to him: “Are you hungry, baby?”

Then he yells: “Yea!”

Simple conversation, but he’s learning about sentence structure without even knowing it. You can make this a habit so easily – not only does it help you to understand exactly what they’re saying, but it also helps your toddler to develop their language skills more accurately and quickly.

Him: “Dog! Pet it!”

Me: “Do you want to pet the dog?”

Him: “Yea!”

There are a million different things that this works for, and it’s obviously helping because he’s 2 and weeks away from full sentences. Now if I could just get him to stop being such a meanie….

Whatever the case may be, these are three things that I do consistently to help him develop verbal skills. Other proven and strong methods include reading to your baby, letting them see the words and associate them with what they are as an image (like in, “Your Baby Can Read!”), and singing songs with them.

The only issue I’m going to have is when he gets to the really hard questions like, “What is forensic science?” or “Why do I need to go to college?” By the time those questions hit your influence is weakened and they start to think for themselves…. but maybe, if adequate skills are developed in toddlerhood, the rest won’t be so hard… right? Let’s hope =).