homework, Math, reading and writing skills

How to help your child so reading, writing, and Mathematics becomes fun.

Reading, writing, and doing Mathematics: How not to help your child.

Think back to when you were a child and being told that you would like something you had already got to dislike. Do you remember how annoying and unhelpful those talks were? You didn’t believe them. You wished they would stop trying to convince you. You avoided talking with them about it if you could.

In my memory that well-meaning adult would just keep on trying to convince me that understanding Physics, eating lumpy porridge, or throwing a baseball was fun and easy.  I have stubbornly persisted in not finding lumpy porridge or throwing a baseball easy. Fortunately I am learning to be very interested in Physics, but I have had some good coaches along the way who have persisted in discussing ideas with me, shown me how Physics ideas work, and believed I’ll understand physics ideas over time.

Here is what I find works when helping your child read and write and do Mathematics – and anything else, even Physics and skateboarding.

having fun learning reading, writing, and MathematicsDon’t ‘just tell’ them something is fun and interesting. A mistake adults often make when helping their children learn a reading, writing, or Mathematics skill or any other skill, is to ‘tell’ them encouragingly how much fun and how interesting a particular skill or topic is that the child doesn’t yet like and can’t yet do. They won’t believe you, and why should they? Their experience is that that skill or topic is very difficult and quite boring.

Show them how fun and interesting you find a reading, writing, or Mathematics skill or topic. When you truly do like that skill or topic, you can show them it is fun and exciting by smiling as you do it, even glowing with enthusiasm and excitement. You can also talk enthusiastically about the topic. Just don’t over-do it, and keep enthusiastic comments brief. You can gently continue to say and show that you really enjoy/like/love that type of mathematics, that book, that topic, each time you work with them. They don’t have to like it yet but you already do.

Tell the truth. If you don’t like a reading, writing, or Mathematics skill or topic, be honest and tell them how you managed to learn it anyway, or how you will now learn it with them. If you also find that skill or topic difficult, please tell your child. You can let them know you will both learn how to do it together so that you both get to like/enjoy/master the skill. This means that you can  work on an equal footing together, as two students, to understand and master difficult reading, writing, or Mathematics skills. I have personally found this a very powerful and useful way to coach a student when I am unsure yourself about a topic or skill.

As a coach, I have found that being honest about my thoughts and feelings when coaching reading, writing, or Mathematics skills is always the best policy. Some of my best coaching sessions have been when I was not comfortable with teaching the topic or skill, and we worked together to master it. As I tell them – the best way to learn something is to teach it.

Thank you for any feedback. Love hearing from you!


coaching, homework, learning and remembering, Math, reading and writing skills

Chunking. A better way to help your child learn and remember.

Help your child learn and remember by chunking.

Why chunk your child’s work and time?

Chunking is when you break  down skills or knowledge into small, careful coaching steps that your student can learn and remember with a little effort. It is the same process a wise person uses when when they begin to exercise their overweight and unfit body. They plan for little, achievable,  spurts of effort, and then a rest, rather than a marathon effort every exercise session. Motivation to exercise and the body’s level of fitness has to be built gently in small steps or we usually stop exercising. Your child’s motivation and level of fitness to learn has to be built gently and in small achievable steps too, so they continue to want to work with you.

As your children attempt to learn and remember new skills and information, imagine that you are walking alongside them up the learning hill at their pace, reassuring them, and walking up in small steps with them.

helping your child learn and remember

Chunking is when you break a task into smaller tasks and break time into smaller chunks of time. The time they spend on learning, and the amount they complete, will stretch as they stay more focused and gain confidence. For example, you could suggest, “let’s only read for 10 minutes” or “ let’s only do five of these Mathematics problems”.

When they can’t seem to stay focused to learn and remember – chunk more. Chunking amounts of time or the amounts of work helps support children who lose their concentration often, who don’t want to ‘do’ the work, and who are afraid of how hard the work is.

 When they are reluctant to work with you – chunk more. Chunking time or amounts of work is particularly effective when coaching children who are afraid of failing and refuse to learn that skill or subject for very long. Often children who are reluctant to work are afraid they can’t learn and remember that particular skill, so they won’t spend much time, or take many risks, when learning and remembering that skill or subject.

When they have no confidence they can learn and remember a skill or subject – chunk more. They may have also developed a strong dislike and fear of that particular skill or subject. Their fear and dislike is based on their past experiences, and is real to them. You can help them learn and remember by chunking their work and time, and continuing to work with them gently, firmly, and with respect.

Chunking or breaking down the skill or knowledge into smaller pieces or amounts of time can encourage your child to use more effort to learn and remember it because it isn’t forever. They know they only have to work for that short amount of time or that short amount of work. I say to reluctant writers for example, “You can only write 10 minutes.” If they are reluctant to write 10 minutes break it down even smaller to 5 minutes or take turns writing. Check out this post on ways to help your child without fights.   You are the one who can help them stay steady – and continue to walk through their fear and dislike to mastery of a particular skill or knowledge. You are the one who can get them regularly practising skills so that they  learn and remember them more easily, and master them.

My next post will talk more on how to chunk. You will enjoy working with your children more when you break down their homework, or reading or Maths practice, or any other skill they need to learn,  into small digestible pieces.

Please send me any questions or comments you have. I love receiving them!

Feel free to share my coaching ideas with as many people as possible so hello fellow Twitter user! Don’t forget to Tweet this post if you like it. Keep spreading my ideas and share this post and the excellyourchild.com website with other like-minded families, so they develop the skills to create exceptional students in their families.



coaching, homework, Math, reading and writing skills, Uncategorized

Learning and remembering new skills and information is easy: Part two use the senses

When they use only their ears to learn and remember reading, spelling, Mathematics skills, children learn and remember very slowly.

Unfortunately we adults often talk too much when teaching our children reading, spelling, and Maths skills.We often use a lot more than three simple sentences to explain something and our children’s minds go somewhere else, and they stop listening to us. Pay attention when you are explaining something to your child and notice when they switch off and stop listening. It is probably sooner than you think!

The more the brain makes new connections with sensory information, the more easily your child will learn and remember reading, spelling, Mathematics information and skills.

How to use your child’s senses when helping them learn and remember 

Learning and remembering: Using the senses

Brief talking (they listen) combined with showing how (they see) is a more powerful combination than just talking. Your child will learn and remember reading, writing, and Mathematics skills and information even faster when you ask them to show you how (they do it) while explaining to you what they are doing (they talk).

When you actively encourage your child to use their senses they will learn new reading, spelling, maths information and skills faster. When your child is seeing, hearing, talking, and doing as they learn, there is even more intense activity happening in the brain as more brain pathways connect with each other. Their brain becomes very busy making connections with what they are seeing, doing, hearing, saying. The more connections, the easier and faster your child can learn, and also remember what they have learnt.


At first you might find it difficult to remember to use their senses. We are so used to hearing the sound of our own voices.

  1. Deliberately help your child connect with two or more of their senses: For example they can see it, smell it, hear it, talk it, do it, taste it. Getting your child to see, talk, and do is a nice sequence you can use for most learning.
  2. Keep your explanations brief and combine the explanation with your child using another sense. For example ‘seeing’ something (a drawing, words to read, demonstration of something) or get them to ‘do it’ as you talk so that you give the next instruction as they complete the last one.

Check out my posts on helping your child learn to read and write to give you more ideas how to help your child be an excellent students.



coaching, homework, Math, reading and writing skills

Learning and remembering new skills and information is easy! Part 1 – Connect.

How to make learning and remembering new skills and information easier

Most of us have found that learning new skills and information, then remembering those same skills and information, a slow and difficult process. Learning and then remembering what we have learnt has taken up too much of our time and energy in the past, and so we think it has to be a long, tiring, and difficult experience for our children as well. It doesn’t. We made some simple mistakes when learning new knowledge and skills and then committing them into our memory. Our children don’t have to make those mistakes.

There are 3 key reasons why people find it difficult, time consuming, and tiring to learn and remember new information and skills.  

  1. We don’t actively spend time thinking about how to relate this new learning to other information and skills we already have learnt.
  2. We don’t relate it to the senses by seeing it, talking out loud about it, hearing someone else explain it, and doing something with it in some way (e.g. writing, drawing, making, moving it around).
  3. We don’t focus most of our attention when learning and remembering. Instead we ‘mindlessly’ repeat the new learning over and over, believing that then we will learn and remember it. How can learning and remembering happen easily and fast when our mind is absent? When we are distracted? How often have you been listening to the noises outside, feeling hungry, or worrying about someone, while spending time attempting to learn something new?

You will find it difficult to learn and remember new information and skills when you make no connections to what you already know, you aren’t involving your senses, and you don’t pay close attention to what you are learning.

How does making connections with what you already know help us learn and remember?

 The neurons or memory pathways need to find ways to keep communicating for their new relationship or learning to become permanent. “Use it or lose it” takes on a deeper meaning when viewed from this perspective. This is why repetition and drills don’t work on their own. Check out this lovely explanation about how connections are created in our brain.

learning and remembering

We learn best and remember better when we make connections. We learn much faster and more easily when we associate information and skills we already know, with the new information and skills we are learning about. This is because our existing memory pathways which we created when we learnt to ‘do’ a similar skill or parts of the new skill, connect to the new memory pathways we are forming, helping them stay strong and stable.

“Learning is the new relationship created between neurons, and remembering is keeping that relationship socially alive.” P. 185 Dispenza, J. 2007.

If your child is having trouble learning and remembering basic Mathematics or reading and spelling skills, they might not have enough brain pathway connections to known facts and skills. I have often experienced the joy and discovery in a child’s eyes when they have one of those eureka moments when a brain pathway makes a new connection to something already known and they suddenly understand a skill or fact they had never been able to understand before. Check out my easy to use guide on how to help your child make connections.

My next post continues to give you information on how to help your child learn and remember new skills and knowledge more easily and much faster. Our powerful brain is an exciting place to explore. I hope that you give me feedback about this post.




coaching, Math, reading and writing skills

First the reading, writing, and Math goals – then how you work together

Win-win or no deal: Only agree when you are both happy.

In the previous posting I gave you ways to create reading,writing, and Math goals that you can both agree with.  The goals you set decide your success. The more thoroughly and seriously  the goals are decided between you both, the more you both  will take the  coaching seriously,  and when the inevitable moment comes that you both find it harder to work together, you will still persist because you both want to reach those reading, writing, or Math goals so much! 

So take all the negotiation time necessary to create reading, writing, and Math goals with your child, and any other goals you both want them to reach. Then take your time agreeing to a deal that works for both of you.

image001A deal is how you will both work towards those goals every week. Use ‘what, when, where, how, and who questions to make a watertight deal with your child and with yourself. For example:

  • How many minutes/hours/days will we work together?
  • When do we start work?
  • What happens if we don’t coach the amount of time we agreed upon?
  • What happens if we coach all the time agreed on?
  • What reading, writing, Math skills do we cover?
  • Where do we work together?
  • How many reminders it is time to coach together?
  • Who is responsible for what? E.g. who reminds, who sets out the coaching gear, who organizes the work to be done. Only give your child responsibilities they can handle successfully. The general rule is: The older they are – the more responsibilities they can handle successfully.

You will know when you have a win-win agreement. Negotiating goals and how the goals will be reached (the deal) can take from an hour to a week or more. 

  • Wait for the moment when you both are  happy about how you will both work consistently towards reaching the reading, writing, Math and any other goals.
  • Maybe your child is not happy about every part of the deal. They mightn’t want to read more or complete more Math problems, or learn spelling words at first. However they are happy about enough parts of the deal to work in a solid win-win coaching partnership with you.
  • Make sure you can meet your end of the deal. For example that you can coach when you said you would, and be able to coach with respect.
  • Check out this post for more ideas on how to set reading, writing, and Math goals and deals with your child. Buy The Guide and get more information about how to work with your child.

In partnership with you,


coaching, Math, reading and writing skills

Win-win agreements make coaching your child reading, writing, and Mathematics skills more fun!

Create agreements that make you both happy.

This week I’ve asked permission to share an email from a concerned family coach who is working with me. She has a young boy who is working on improving his Mathematics and reading and writing skills and he is a very skilled negotiator – even though he is only seven years old.

Hi Anne

 I just thought I would give you a heads up that we have had some real challenges with my son this week, to get him to do his reading, writing, and Mathematics  work.  He has been really pushing back about doing it, and has flown into “tantrum” mode at the drop of a hat.  We have persisted and through a lot of negotiation (which feels a bit like black mail) managed to get him “eventually” to come back to the table and do the reading, writing, and Mathematics work (all be it very messy and under a cloud of resistance and stress). 

Basically we have said – if he says no to his reading, writing, and Mathematics homework, then we will need to say “no” to something he wants, for example last week we said if he didn’t do his reading, writing, and Mathematics then he couldn’t go to his friend’s party.  This week he has a school disco on Friday and we have said if he doesn’t do his reading, writing, and Mathematics without fuss then no disco, and then next Friday he is going to a footie game if he does all his reading, writing, and Mathematics without fuss.  This usually gets him back to the table and doing some work. But my question/concern is – is this the right sort of precedent to be setting?

Also, with using the lure of a reward or something he really wants, he eventually does come and do the reading, writing, and Mathematics work, but not without tantrums and a huge fuss – so should we take the reward away the minute he makes a fuss?  We would then have no leverage to get any  reading, writing, and Mathematics done the rest of the week!?  I suspect there is also something (?) in the way we are approaching his reading, writing, and Mathematics homework that sets him off, but I don’t know what, or if he is using “us” as an excuse to try and get out of it?  He says we confuse him and put too much pressure on him.   Is this just “a stage” and we need to persevere? He seems to put up barriers to working on reading, writing, and Mathematics no matter what we try (making it a game, making it fun).

From concerned family coach

Dear family coach,

I agree that blackmail/bribes never work for long, and they feel wrong too. I think it is a stage all coaches and students work through – the time when the honeymoon is over and the student wakes with a start and thinks, “What am I doing extra reading, writing and Mathematics for? I don’t want to do more reading, writing and Mathematics after school.” This is a time when the extra attention, new reading, writing and Mathematics skills, and new and amusing reading, writing and Mathematics activities no longer intrigue. Your son is very good at the art of negotiation and so we have to be skilful when we negotiate how he will work on his reading, writing and Mathematics skills with you.

Create a bottom line – the reading, writing and Mathematics coaching will happen regularly. From there you can create positive and negative consequences for when he is willing or not willing to work on his reading, writing and Mathematics skills. I’ll support you and him to find consequences he agrees to so they are part of a mutual agreement, and not punishments or bribes. He has to be very clear about our bottom line – that the reading, writing and Mathematics coaching is happening, for this long, and in these skill areas – but within that, he has to have some leverage, some choices. What about before we meet you explain to him that any fun thing that happens is not a right, it is something he earns, and it happens after the reading, writing and Mathematics work is done. So instead of saying you can’t go if you don’t do this reading, writing and Mathematics work….which is a threat….try – when you have practised your reading, writing and Mathematics skills …then we can…. Make consequences immediate for now rather than something that happens at the end of a week, for example he can play Lego, watch television, or play, you can read a story to him.

Examine your own thoughts/attitudes towards the reading, writing and Mathematics coaching and your son’s learning. Perhaps something needs to change there. As a coach I usually find that it is my thoughts about how a student is learning to read, write and do Mathematics that needs to change first, then everything else falls more easily into place. Spend time examining your responses to his avoidance behaviours when learning reading, writing and Mathematics skills.

Never shake on a deal immediately. Negotiations on working with reading, writing and Mathematics at home, especially win-win negotiations, take place over time, which allows both parties time to examine and change the agreement until they are both happy. After you have re-examined your own fears, hopes, beliefs, attitudes, relating to your son’s reading, writing and Mathematics learning, talk with him so he can realise that he will still be doing the reading,  writing and Mathematics practice, no matter how many tantrums or blocks he puts up. Don’t argue with him. Instead if  if you quietly and clearly explain why you want him to have good reading, writing and Mathematics skills and how exactly you want him to learn them, he will gradually become more willing to learn reading, writing and Mathematics skills with you.

His point of view is also valid. Who wants to do extra reading, writing and Mathematics work at home when  you have never enjoyed this work?  However, that doesn’t mean we are ‘soft’ on him. Instead we are creating  a workable win-win situation for all of us. In the process we ensure he will do extremely well with reading, writing and Mathematics skills at school.

I hope that these thoughts are helpful and check out my blogs on www.excellyourchild.com and see if there are more ideas there you can use.



coaching, Math, reading and writing skills

Coming from left field when coaching reading, writing, or Mathematics: The importance of surprise!

Coming from left field: How to use reverse psychology when coaching reading, writing, or Mathematics skills.

Surprise works! Your main aim when teaching your children is to encourage your student to stay alert, or in optimal learning mode while learning reading, writing, or Mathematics skills. So I often do the opposite of what an adult teaching a child normally does.

For example: Is it useful to remind a child who doesn’t concentrate well to concentrate when working with reading, writing, or Mathematics skills? Try it. They concentrate briefly on the reading, writing, or Mathematics they are doing, then they stop concentrating again.

Instead, I try to beat them at a simple game called ‘First up to 5 points’. I assure them I should win because they can’t possibly concentrate enough to beat me. Play while they are working independently on completing reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks.

  1. Randomly check whether they are concentrating on their reading, writing, or Mathematics work or checking out the room. Take a sneaky peep or look at them suddenly while they complete the reading, writing, or Mathematics task.
  2. If they are working on the set reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks I have to give them that point, which I do with a show of reluctance or disappointment.
  3. However if they are not concentrating on their reading, writing, or Mathematics task at that moment, I gleefully give myself a point!

I have played this game with off-task students from five years old to teens as they complete reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks. They love to beat me. I hate losing and love to beat them. Sometimes whoever wins gets a sweetie. I have often sucked it with enormous pleasure in front of them. It is amazing how fast children who didn’t seem to concentrate well when working on their reading, writing, or Mathematics, keep their heads down throughout the reading, writing, or Mathematics task, or when there are distractions around, look up, check out the situation, then get on with their reading, writing, or Mathematics work.

Warning: Take your child’s disposition into account the first few times you play this game when they are working on reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks. They should never feel greatly discouraged, just convinced that if they concentrate when completing reading, writing, or Mathematics activities, they will beat you. For easily discouraged children you can subtly ‘cheat’ in the beginning by noticing slightly more when they concentrate on completing reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks.

Tips to help your child concentrate when working on reading, writing, or Mathematics activities:

  • Competition is a good thing for all of us – when we have a reasonable chance to win. Teach them the rules so they understand exactly what they have to do.
  • Play like a foolish gambler. Always give them the impression that you believe you will win every game you start when they are completing their reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks; and when you lose, show surprise.
  • Play each game wholeheartedly. Be disappointed when you lose and pleased when you win. They will deeply enjoy and indeed gloat when you lose, and when they lose to you, they will be determined to beat you the next time.
  • Play more than one game if possible. While they complete reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks you can play several games in a row. I often say, “Darn! Thought I’d beat you then. Let’s have another game!”
  • Don’t give up playing if your child cries or tantrums when they lose. In the long run losing isn’t bad for them, but not playing the next day or making the game too easy so they always win is bad for them. I have played this game with students who usually were ‘bad losers’ but who learnt to handle losing after a few games.

Other possible situations you can use reverse psychology:

  • Play ‘first up to five so they use the correct hand-grip while completing reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks.
  • Trick them with wrong reading, writing, or Mathematics answers when they tend to say ‘yes’ without checking (many children do this so watch out for it).
  • When they are reluctant to read and/or write or do Mathematics, show your keenness. For example, be super keen to have your turn when you share-read or share-write with them. If they read or write more than agreed-upon, you can indignantly say, “You just took my turn!”
  • When I want children to write I tell them they are only to write for ten minutes.
  • Be surprised when they write more than expected, or master a reading, writing, or Mathematics skill faster than you thought. I tell them that I didn’t know they could do that so well or so fast.
  • Congratulate them as one intelligent human being to another. Tell them that they have mastered a particular reading, writing, or Mathematics skill and shake their hand.

Don’t act like many other ‘kind’ adults who usually:

  • Praise children as they work on reading, writing, or Mathematics skills using a kind voice.
  • Earnestly tell children that, “You can do this reading, writing, or Mathematics skill if you just try.” It hasn’t worked for them before, why should it now?
  • Tell them how well they are doing with learning reading, writing, or Mathematics skills when the child knows perfectly well that they aren’t achieving well in relation to their peers.
  • Call them ‘good children‘. Calling them ‘good` can be manipulative and patronising. ’Good’ generally means that they are doing exactly what you wanted them to do. Your child is actually an ‘intelligent child‘, when they master a reading, writing, or Mathematics skills.  What I want children to do most of all – is to think for themselves so call them intelligent rather than good and see what happens.
  • Check out further advice here