How to Support your Child Academically at Home Without the Battles
December 7, 2021
I don’t know about you, but the last 18+ months have been tricky for our children (and parents) who have had to change up their normal learning environments. I’ve heard from a number of parents and have felt this pain point myself. Even before all of the shifts in the last couple of years, helping our children with homework can sometimes be quite the battle.
Today on the My Child Will Thrive Podcast, I sat down with public school teacher and CEO for Study Help, Aimee Buckley. Aimee is a veteran school teacher with over 20 years of experience teaching students with mild to moderate disabilities. Aimee saw a need for children to receive help from qualified teachers outside of the normal classroom hours. In this interview, Aimee takes us through her recommendations for creating a happy homework environment, how to support our kids without the battles and what to do if you just need help. I hope you enjoy this episode with Aimee as much as I did!
- How children in different situations have responded to the changes in the last 18 months. (5:08)
- Has this new change impacted the parent-child relationship? (10:06)
- Ideas and strategies for parents to implement a healthy homework environment that cuts out the hassle and fights. (17:36)
- How to find educational help and expertise outside of the home if parents decide they need more help and more about Aimee’s company, Study Help. (24:55)
- Aimee’s biggest pieces of advice for children and parents who are struggling right now. (31:04)
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More about Aimee Buckley
Aimee Buckley is a veteran public school teacher and founder of Study Help Inc – a tutoring platform that connects top-quality teachers with students who are looking for a better understanding and stronger academic skills. For the first 5 years of her career as a teacher, Aimee taught students with emotional issues due to neglect or trauma and eventually moved to teaching students with mild to moderate disabilities in her current position that she has held for 20 years. Most teachers are experts on the content they deliver, Aimee is an expert at teaching.
00:01 Tara Hunking:
This is My Child Will Thrive and I'm your host, Tara Hunkin, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Certified GAPs practitioner, Restorative Wellness Practitioner, and mother. I'm thrilled to share with you the latest information, tips, resources, and tools to help you on the path to recovery for your child with ADHD, autism, sensory processing disorder, or learning disabilities.
My own experiences with my daughter combined with as much training as I can get my hands on research I can dig into and conferences I can attend have helped me to develop systems and tools for parents like you who feel overwhelmed, trying to help their children. So sit back as I share another great topic to help you on your journey. A quick disclaimer, before we get started.
My Child Will Thrive is not a substitute for working with a qualified healthcare practitioner. The information provided on this podcast is not intended to diagnose or treat your child. Please consult your healthcare practitioner before implementing any information or treatments that you have learned about on this podcast. There are many gifted, passionate, and knowledgeable practitioners with hundreds if not thousands of hours of study and clinical experience available to help guide you.
Part of our goal is to give you the knowledge and tools you need to effectively advocate for your child so that you don't blindly implement each new treatment that comes along. No one knows your child better than you. No one knows your child's history like you do or can better judge what is normal or abnormal for your child. The greatest success in recovery comes from the parent being informed and asking the right questions and making the best decisions for their child in coordination with a team of qualified practitioners in different areas of specialty.
Today's podcast is sponsored by the Autism, ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder Summit. In order to learn more about the summit and to sign up for free, please go to www.mychildwillthrive.com/summit.
2:03 Tara Hunkin:
Hi, welcome back to the My Child Will Thrive podcast. I'm Tara Hunkin and I'm excited to bring to you today an interview that I just recorded with Aimee Buckley.
Aimee is a teacher and she's been working in education for more than a couple of decades and in particular, she is an expert in teaching kids that have learning challenges. So we're gonna dive right in to help you identify how you can best support your child academically, while you're working on all the other things that you're already doing with your child. And when you can identify to get outside help to help you do that as well.
Before we dive into the interview, I just want to remind you if you enjoy the My Child Will Thrive Podcast, please recommend it to a friend. And if you have time, if you can take the time to rate and review us on your podcast platform, that would be great. The more people that do that, the more those podcast platforms will show the My Child Will Thrive podcast to other parents like you and me. So without further ado, let's dive into that interview with Aimee Buckley.
3:23 Tara Hunkin:
Hi everyone. I want to welcome you back and welcome today Aimee Buckley to the My Child Will Thrive podcast. Aimee's a veteran public school teacher and founder of Study Help Inc, which is a tutoring platform that connects top quality teachers with students who are looking for a better understanding and stronger academic skills. For the first five years of her career as a teacher, Aimee taught students with emotional issues due to neglect or trauma, and eventually moved to teaching students with mild to moderate disabilities in her current position that she's held for 20 years.
Most teachers are experts in the content they deliver, but Aimee is an expert at teaching, which is why I was excited to have her here to talk to us today because our children often have different types of learning challenges that they have to navigate through the years and some are more severe than others, but all of them need an individual approach to learning in some way, shape or form. So I'm really excited to have you here with us today to talk about that and some other things, challenges that we've come up against in the last 18 months.
4:36 Aimee Buckley:
Thank you for inviting me. I'm excited to be here.
4:39 Tara Hunkin:
So let's dive right in and talk about that, which is how do you think, and what are you seeing in your students that the events of the last 18 months where we've had kids that have been online, offline, isolated from their peers and having many, many different learning circumstances or lack of learning. How has that impacted the students that you're helping today?
5:08 Aimee Buckley:
So all children are different and they all responded differently to what their situation was. Some kids were home a hundred percent of the time, some were hybrid, some were in-person masked, some were in-person not masked so every child is going to have a different situation. Now, given the situations, there's different responses to this situation. So a lot of students that had autism when they're home, this is like the greatest thing ever because they don't have the social pressure of being at school, but they've also not been practicing the scripts that they've been learning to interact with other people.
So academically they may have really grown because they didn't have that stress and pressure of being in person, but socially they didn't. Then we have students that may have ADHD, where looking at a screen is very difficult because as a teacher, I can move up and down my classroom around my classroom. In fact, if by noon, I don't have 10,000 steps, I'm beating myself up as being not a very good teacher that day. So I can put my hand on the shoulder. I can say, how you doing? I can say, let's look over here. I can't do that when they're on a screen, because I don't have that presence that I can just be right there with them.
So that makes it much more challenging for those students who academically, they're not getting that same refocusing that I can do in the classroom. I think when our students, so I am a public school teacher continually, and I know in the beginning of the year, when we came back full time, I was having to do a lot of resocialization in the classroom.
So getting them to talk to each other was a big challenge and I've really tried to add a lot more interpersonal activities in the classroom to get them working collaboratively. So I think the social emotional component was definitely lacking last year. And then academically depending, like some, some children have parents who they can sit there, they're patient, they can be with them, but let's be honest. Most parents have other responsibilities besides sitting with their child for the entire school day, which makes it very difficult especially if you have littler children that really need that.
And they also had the peer pressure, right? When a second grader is in a classroom, it isn't just the teacher that's engaging them. It's all their peers around them. They're looking at see, oh, this is what Bob's doing, so that's what I'm going to do. So there is definitely a mixed bag academically, but I think social emotionally very much so, we need to really work on those skills.
8:45 Tara Hunkin:
I know from talking to lots of parents, you're right, everybody's circumstance was different depending on where they live and how their children were schooled at the beginning of the pandemic versus what they're doing now. And the other thing is that there are those kids, it was interesting to see the kids that really did flourish all of a sudden being at home and being online and the extremes that we see in the students.
Like you said, kids that typically struggle with ADHD really struggled with that model because of the true lack of, well, like you said, physicality of the classroom. And also just that ability, I mean, they need that engagement with their peers and being present typically in order to stay focused, as much as that also can be a distraction as well. Because a lot of parents became teachers over the course last year, whether they wanted to or not, how have you heard from those parents that you've interacted with? How has that changed the family dynamic and how that either helps or actually hurts the child-parent relationship?
10:06 Aimee Buckley:
Well, first of all, the parent is the number one teacher, always, whether we had a pandemic or not. From the very beginning, you're teaching your child how to talk, how to walk, how to eat, how to tie their shoes. So in that sense, it's nothing new. But when we add the academic element of sitting down, doing worksheets, doing activities on the computer, that's when it adds that extra layer. And I think there were a lot of blurred boundaries for kids.
So mom is usually the person that you go to, to complain about school. Oh, it was so hard today. I really struggled with math. I mean, they might not say struggle. They'd say, oh, it's so hard, but now mom is the person helping them with that. So even for the sweetest, calmest children, with the most giving, loving parent, you're going to have battles. I think that's just part of the process. And it's a little bit different for me in the classroom because I'm not mom and I'm not dad, I'm not grandma. So there isn't that overlap of I'm the person that provides comfort. I'm their teacher. So when there's a struggle happening and I address it, the reaction from the student is going to be different, right?
So one of the subjects I teach is math. So there's a lot of math anxiety because I teach students with special needs math. So how do you become a student that gets special ed services? Well, you have to be two years behind. So the system has already let you fail just to allow you to have these services. So they're coming with all this baggage with them. And I spend a lot of time as a cheerleader, encouraging them, telling them to take a deep breath, but I'm not mom. So it's a different perspective that they have when they view me, because I'm not going to negotiate with them over the assignment. This is what we're doing. This is what everyone's doing. This is what you're going to do. Whereas at home it might be a little different, right? Because every day is different.
So I know there's a lot of battles. I have had many texts and phone calls from my siblings, teaching their young children. And they are very sweet kids with very loving parents and yet I would get pictures of like the hair being torn out of the head from the kid, with the tears. And I'm like, okay, this is when you need to stop. When it becomes a battle and it's negative, it's not going to develop a positive relationship with that academic skill. Then they're going to go into it every time being afraid and that's something that we don't want to have. You think about anything else in your life.
Let's take food for example, if you get the stomach flu and you've just eaten something specific, then you don't want to eat that thing again, right? You're like, oh, oh, the smell. It just makes you think of that. And it's the same thing with an academic skill. If it's a battle at home to practice multiplication, then they're going to carry that long-term like, oh, I'm just bad at multiplication. Oh, I hate multiplication. So you don't want that to happen. Now, what can you do to make that not happen?
14:11 Aimee Buckley:
First of all, I would say always approach homework schoolwork in a very calm fashion, which I think when you are at home 24/7 with your family, it can be very, very hard. I know because I was stuck at home with my family. And there were moments where and I have to say as a special ed teacher, I'm very easygoing. Like that would be one of my traits is that I don't get ruffled easily. It takes a lot to get me frustrated and I was frustrated. So when that happens, you need to get yourself out of that situation because it's not a positive for you. It's not positive for your child. You need to remove yourself.
Gamifying any activity at home is going to make it more fun. I can take something that I would give as a worksheet and I turn it into a game and it goes from, oh, do we have to do this to woo, we get to do this. So turning things into a game is always a great idea. I'd say, if you get to that point and it's still not working, that's when you call in the reinforcements. That's when you say, okay, this isn't working for us, let's have grandma help them, or let's have big brother help them. Or if it gets to the point where you need professional help, that's when you call in someone like myself as a tutor to come in, who's a credentialed teacher and really help build that skill because it's not just the skill that's important, it's the confidence around the skill because they can learn the skill and still think they're bad at it. So you want to have both those things. They're really important.
16:14 Tara Hunkin:
Yeah. I mean, you brought up a lot of really good points there. A lot of the parents that are listening will also have things, certain types of therapies that they're doing with their children too. And a lot of times we have to become therapists at home. And I think that there's a lot of parallels in terms of how we manage those things with this new learning at home if you're still having to do that. I mean, we always have to support our children at home with their homework typically, regardless of the circumstances, the unusual ones we've had the last 18 months, but it's been much more intensified. So a lot of parents are dealing with carrying on therapies and carry on schooling and everything else. And I think it's really helpful to hear that even the professionals get frustrated and need to step away as well. And it's great to have some strategies as to how to reframe things so that we don't have quite as many challenges like that along the way.
Homework in particular is something that a lot of us struggle with. So if we're back to more of a regular routine and we are just dealing with that nightly homework session, are there certain strategies that you tell parents to employ in order to make that as successful as possible without the hassles?
17:36 Aimee Buckley:
Yes. So first I would definitely have a designated homework area. Doesn't need to be like a standard desk, but it should be a space where there is less interruption because specifically students who have like ADHD, they might become hyper-focused. And if they're hyper-focused on an assignment, the last thing you want to do is break that focus, right? Because then it's so hard to get back into what they're doing. So having that designated spot where you're not cooking dinner at the same time, people aren't coming in and out.
Removing the phone, I think is really important for older children, because I'm an adult and I still have those moments where I'm like, why am I looking at my phone right now? I'm not 16, 17 years old and Snapchats are popping up all the time. I can't tell you how many phones I take and the kids don't actually mind when I take their phone because they're like, yeah, that was bad and they know they're going to get it back. I'm one of those teachers that usually leaves them a funny selfie. So it's just helping them. You're not doing something bad to them and I think a lot of parents worry about that they're like taking away that this is some sort of punishment.
You're not punishing them. You're teaching them how to be responsible adults. Like if you need to focus on your work, it's best to have your phone someplace else, set times designated times, okay, we're going to work on this and then we're going to do something else. I would say also alternate harder things with easier things so that students feel like they're accomplishing things. I know there's the old saying, eat the frog, right? The Mark Twain saying, but you don't want to do all the hard things first. You want to alternate them with easier tasks so that there's a sense of accomplishment.
Now, a student with ADHD, isn't going to have that same sense of accomplishment as a student with something like dyslexia or dysgraphia because of the difference in the dopamine levels. So they're not getting that push to do those things. So you really need to set them up for them. Think of it, like setting up like dominoes where you just push and then doing. What you don't want to do is stop the domino when it's going, because then you have to get it all back focused and oh, good grief, that's tough, right? It's tough for you as the adult. It's really tough for them as a kid because now they've lost all their momentum.
20:51 Tara Hunkin:
Yeah, it's a really good point. It's interesting, sometimes we talk about the kids as if all the strategies out there are right for all of these kids that might have learning challenges, but really you've pointed out one that's very different when you have a child and some of the kids have sadly, have they have overlap. We have comorbidities, right? So it then becomes very interesting about what the right thing is to do. But it's so true though, with the child with ADHD, if they have attained focus to change their focus is never a good idea. So even if they aren't necessarily working on the best task at that particular point in time, you might as well get what they're working on done.
21:43 Aimee Buckley:
And providing a lot of positive feedback because it doesn't matter what your disability is. That's something that all children appreciate and are willing to work harder for when they know that you as the adult are congratulating them, that you're like, wow, what a great job! So I start with my students as freshmen and I usually have them in some manner or another, until they're seniors. And I really see that growth because of our relationship that they're willing to do more for me because they know that I respect them and I care about them and so they want to have that positive feedback from me.
I'm going to tell you a cute story. So I've got a freshman this year and he has Down Syndrome and I have him in my math class and we did a Kahoot. And I'm sure most of the children of families that you have on here are familiar with Kahoot because it's like kid crack, right?
They'll do pretty much anything for a Kahoot. And he won the Kahoot. And I said, wow, what's it like to be so awesome? And he says, well, I really can't tell because I was just born awesome and I was also born cute. It was like, okay, well, you just made my day, right?
I mean, I gave him that positive. He gave me that positive. It's just building that relationship where his work ethic at the beginning of the year, coming in, not knowing me. And we're only, we started in August and we're in November. It is twice what he came in with because he wants to do well. And I think that's really important is that wanting to do well and feeling like you can do well. I think both of those things are really work together to create a positive academic environment for our children.
23:58 Tara Hunkin:
Yeah. It's, I mean, it is true especially I find children with ADHD are needing that internal motivation or needing to find it. Other children tend to have it already, but the external validation is incredibly also important to a child with ADHD in terms of getting that reward response.
24:18 Aimee Buckley:
24:19 Tara Hunkin:
So, you ultimately want them to develop the ability to self reward in terms of congratulate themselves on what they've done, but I love that story though. Let's say your child was not thriving in their current either school environment, or you're struggling to support them at home in the way that you know they need. What can parents do in terms of how do they go about finding someone outside the home and outside the school to support their child's academics in this individualized way that you're just been talking about.
24:55 Aimee Buckley:
This is something that I struggled with for many years, how to help children at home. Because honestly, like in my math class, I have 56 minutes and I have 13 children all with different special needs. So I'm sweating in that class trying to run around and help everyone. Like I literally, the children are like, why is it so hot in here? I'm like, because I'm hot or so cold in here. I'm like, because I'm hot. I have to have it cold.
But that is actually why I set up Study Help because I know that kids need more often than what is available to them. And so I created this platform and I recruited the best teachers I know, and they're teachers from all over, they're not just local teachers, to help families. So when a family signs up with me or they meet me, I do consultations with them and I ask them questions.
What is your child's strength? That's the first question I always ask, what are their strengths? And it takes a lot of parents off guard. They're not expecting that. They think I'm going to say what's wrong with your child? And that's not a question I'm ever going to ask, because there's nothing wrong with your child. What are their strengths? What are their interests? What are their challenges? A challenge is different than something wrong with your child. What are their challenges? How can we help your child be successful?
So our process is a little different than other tutoring companies, because I am a teacher and the CEO of Study Help whereas other companies, they don't have any teachers as board executives. And when you get a tutor from us, it's not a college student who's making a little bit more than minimum wage. You're getting a trained credentialed teacher who does this, who's a hero at it because I'm only going to get the best. I don't want you to sign up with me and then feel like you're not really thriving.
The whole goal of the platform is to focus on being student centered. And I think that's something that we're missing a lot in education these days. There's a lot of let's do this fancy program or this fancy program or this or this and these theoretical models, we're very practical in our focus in that session is your child. And I have found that parents at home, the first session, it's hard to get that kid on because they're like, ah, more school. By the end of the session, they're having a great time. They don't want to get off the session. The next session they show up early, they're waiting for the teacher to show up.
For my younger kids it's been hard to say goodbye because at the end of the session, they want to tell me about their little sister and what they had for dinner and their new bike and they want a high five on the computer screen. So what is so wonderful about it is they get 50 uninterrupted minutes with a real teacher. And that is so important because if you're really struggling skill-wise, that's what's going to bring you up to that level where you feel confident, especially in an area like math or writing that tends to build on itself, right?
So like history, if you don't do so great in world history, it doesn't necessarily going to affect your next year's history class, right? Because it doesn't build, but math and language arts really do that. So you really want to develop those skills so that you feel confident the next year and the next year, because it just kind of rolls over and lingers and can really make a child feel like they're not good at something when it really has nothing to do with their aptitude. It has to do with having that skill and that history of confidence.
29:43 Tara Hunkin:
Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. I'm assuming that since well, given everything that we've gone through, that you do this primarily online now?
29:54 Aimee Buckley:
It's all online.
29:55 Tara Hunkin:
Yeah. So that makes it much more accessible to lots of people.
30:00 Aimee Buckley:
That was the whole point when I started it, is that I wanted it to be accessible to everyone everywhere. And as you know, a lot of students that have special needs, like if you have cystic fibrosis, this isn't just a pandemic issue. There's many times when those children can't come to school for different reasons. So this makes it accessible to everyone everywhere. If you live in an area where you don't have access to a credential teacher to help you, you can just pop online. And it's great for parents because you don't have to drive somewhere. You don't have to bring someone into your home, you're not going into somebody else's home. It really is very safe, very accessible to everyone. And as a special ed teacher, accessibility is really important to me.
30:52 Tara Hunkin:
No, that's great. To wrap up, what would be your best advice to parents that have a kid that's struggling right now and how to take the next steps forward to help them?
31:04 Aimee Buckley:
If they're interested in working with us, they go to Study.Help and there's two things that they can do. If they just want to find out more information via email, there's a button they can click. If they'd like to talk directly with me and have a consultation, there's a consultation button that they can click and schedule a time with me. If that's something they're not really ready for that point, then they can use any of those other tactics that we've talked about and try those first. And if those aren't working, that's when you can go to getting extra help.
And look, if you're a working parent and it's become a issue where your quality time is spent working on homework, I say, hire someone because in 50 minutes, I'm going to be able to do what's going to take you two, three hours to do, because I've done it thousands of times before. Think about a new recipe that you do. It takes longer than a recipe that you've done for years because you don't have to think about it anymore. You know the techniques that are going to work, you know the ingredients that you need, you have everything right there. So use the help that's available to you.
32:30 Tara Hunkin:
It makes a lot of sense to me and I have to tell you. For all of the help that we've given our kids over the last 18 months, in addition to what we had done previous to it, I mean, I am not for relearning some of the things that we had to learn in school in the first place. So like you said, new recipe, I'd say it also is just the time you have to prepare to be able to help them properly is really challenging as well.
So thank you so much for being with us here with us today and all the great advice that you've given and the work that you do with our special population of kids to help them be their best selves throughout their schooling.
33:14 Aimee Buckley:
Thank you for having me here today and thank you for your wonderful podcast. I think there's so many things that you have talked about and discuss that are so important to the health and growth of our children.
33:25 Tara Hunkin:
Thanks again, Amy. So that's a wrap. Thanks for joining me this week on My Child Will Thrive. I'm so passionate about giving you the tools and information you need to help your child recover.
And as they say, it takes a village. So join us in the My Child Will Thrive Village Facebook group, where you can meet like-minded parents and stay up to date on everything we have going on at My Child Will Thrive. This is Tara Hunkin and I'll catch you on the next podcast or over at mychildwillthrive.com.
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