Monday 26 September 2011


When I think about the word inspiration, I think about what has motivated me to work hard my entire life, what has led me down the path towards success and what has pushed me to accomplish my goals. As far as I can remember, I have always had one goal: to make a difference. Every action that I have taken has helped me move closer to this goal. I look at all of the children that I have helped through tutoring, teaching, coaching and being a positive role model. I look at all of the families that I have provided support to. And I hope that this blog is able to act as an extension to this work that I am so diligently trying to provide. I have always believed that children should be encouraged to develop a passion and strive towards it. I firmly believe in the expression FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS. And the goal of today's blog will be to provide strategies about how to help your child figure out what their passion is and how to pursue it. But first, I must share a story that has recently inspired me, one that has put a whole new spin on how I approach communicating with children. If you ask me today to link a name to the word inspiration, I am drawn to a child named Ellis Goldsmith, a child that I have never even met.

Last week, I went to the Montreal Families Special Education Fair. I figured that it would be an excellent opportunity to become informed about the available resources for families who have children with special needs in Montreal. What I found were kiosks of people who were extremely inspiring. One project, The Big Blue Hug, was particularly inspiring. In a time when community resources are slim and funding is even slimmer, I was extremely inspired by Jason Goldsmith, the father of an autistic child, who has demonstrated the sheer definition of being a proactive parent. When his son Ellis was 5 years old, Jason figured out that he thought in pictures and began using drawing as a tool to communicate with him. He discovered that he was able help his son attach meaning to words through this method. He has been communicating with his son, now 12 years old, through this method and his son's language skills have increased as a result. He decided to use Ellis' drawings as a method for sharing their story with others, has used the drawings to create a family business so that Ellis will be able to sustain himself when he grows up and to teach other families about how to picture talk as well.

When I stumbled upon this kiosk, I had to stay and chat with Jason. He was selling beautiful and inspirational glass paintings based on the picture talking that he has done with Ellis. I listened to his story intently, asked a bunch of questions and became motivated and inspired. How exactly does one explain what inspiration feels like? I felt a warmth in my heart, a motivation to make a difference and a sense of 'right'-- this is something that I should be involved with. I felt like I could add a new depth to the projects that I am already in the process of working on. I felt empowered.

I believe that all children should have the opportunity to follow their passion, their dreams and accomplish great things. Here are some strategies about how you can support your child in becoming inspired and how to motivate him/her to accomplish their goals:

  • Expose your child to a variety of activities. Enroll your child in sport programs, art classes, dance classes, visit your local library, take trips to museums; help your child become aware of what he/she loves to do!
  • Listen to your child! If your child says that they 'hate' basketball, but 'love' hockey, then help them get involved in hockey, even if you have your heart set on basketball. As Khalil Gibran says, "You may give [your children] your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you."
  • Believe that they can succeed in what they love; be their greatest supporter! Help them build their confidence and self-esteem so that they believe that they can succeed too!
  • Lead by example: follow your own dreams! And tell your child how it makes you feel when you do! Explain the self-satisfaction that you feel when you have accomplished one of your own goals!
  • Teach your child to think with their brain and calculate risks, but also to follow their hearts!
As you start working to help your child become inspired, motivated and to follow their dreams, I will be doing the same for myself. Jason Goldsmith's next training session is on December 4th, 2011 at College TAV, 6333 Decarie. Please visit for more information. I hope to see you all there!

If you have an idea for my next blog or would like to send me any comments/inquiries, please feel free to contact me at .

Monday 12 September 2011

Ask questions to get what you want---

Last week, I received 5 telephone calls that sounded like this:

Parent: “I need a tutor for my child.”

Robin: “Okay, can you tell me what subject your child needs help with?”

Parent: “He needs help with math.”

Robin: “What types of difficulties does he have in math?”

Parent: “He’s unmotivated and homework time is really difficult in our house. He just won’t listen to me. I think it’s because I’m his parent. What should have taken 20 minutes ends up taking 3 hours and there is always crying, screaming and fighting while we do homework. His grades suffered last year because of this. I don’t know what to do. He actually understands the math, I just need someone to help me get him on track, focused and make sure he completes everything that he needs to do. I need someone to motivate him.”

Robin: “Does he have any other areas of difficulty?”

Parent: “Yes, he does not know how to study, take notes or organize himself. I just can’t go through this frustration every day again this year. I don’t know what to do.”

At this point in the conversation, I assure the parents that I can work with their child and get him motivated and on track; this is my specialty. The parents all continue telling me the same story after that: they’ve hired tutors in the past. They’ve come to help with math or science or English or French, but nothing has worked. How do I know that I can get their child on track?

My answer: I do not believe in subject-specific tutoring for all children; it does not always work. I use the course materials to help children learn the skills they need to know to succeed academically and help build their academic self-esteem.

At this point, I let parents know that whether they choose to work with me or someone else, they need to ask particular questions when looking for a tutor. And before doing so, they need to figure out exactly what they are looking for:

· Is your child having difficulty with subject-specific content?

· Is your child unmotivated?

· Is your child succeeding in concept-based math but not word problems?

· Can your child easily understand a text and answer questions about it?

· Do you want someone to do homework with your child every day?

· Do you need the tutor to be in regular contact with your child’s teachers?

Now that you know WHAT you’re looking for, it’s time to figure out WHO you’re looking for. When parents who are looking to help their child become motivated, complete homework regularly and become organized tell me that tutoring doesn’t work, it is usually because the previously hired tutors have been subject-specific. Often times, it is appealing to find a university student who is majoring in mathematics to help your child in math; the rates are cheaper and the student seems like a specialist. BUT the problem is that your child does not need specific help in math like you originally thought. Since you’ve gone through your checklist of what you are looking to get your child help with, you’ve realized that you are looking for an actual academic coach/teacher. You are looking for much more than math help. So when you are calling tutoring organizations, it is very important to ask who will actually be working with your child, what their qualifications are and why you think they can help. It takes someone who is qualified, experienced and on-the-ball to make sure that your child’s needs are being met. And by experienced, I don’t mean “ I’m 20 years old and I have lots of experience with children; I’ve been babysitting since I was 15 and I was a counselor at a summer camp.” I’m referring more to: “I have 5 years of solid teaching experience, I know how to teach the same concept in many different ways according to the way your child learns, and I will help your child to become an independent learner.”

Parents, this is your chance to take responsibility for finding the right person to work with your child. There are no more excuses when it comes to finding a tutor that does not meet your child’s needs. Don’t forget: you are your child’s cheerleader and ultimate supporter. Make your support count!

Thursday 8 September 2011

The Suburban's Education/Activity Fair

The Suburban's 2nd annual Education/Activity Fair is this Sunday at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel, 700 Place Robert Joncas, St-Laurent, facing the Spheretech. This is a great opportunity to find out what resources are available in Montreal and for you to be proactive in understand what is going on in the education sector. I plan to be there and so should you!

Tuesday 6 September 2011


Sigh of relief. School has started. That last week of vacation was chaotic: getting all the school supplies together, re-integrating the concepts of routine and scheduling into your household. You’re exhausted. But you can’t relax yet; life is chaotic and you are just sooooo busy! It seems like it never stops; there’s always something to do; a child to drive to an activity, dinner to prepare, homework to do, showers, bedtime stories. And then there’s our day jobs. Overworked and overbooked seem like understatements at this point.

But even with the busy-life syndrome that we all face, you still want to take responsibility for your child’s educational path. You don’t want to make any excuses when it comes to academics. So you look at your checklist to see what’s left to do:

School supplies: CHECK

Schedule: CHECK

Routine: CHECK

Supportive heart-to-heart conversation: CHECK


I’ve heard parents complain time and time again that they go to their child’s ‘meet the teacher night’ and have homework time every (or most) nights. But that when report cards come out in November, their child’s grades are not necessarily up to par. Let’s get organized and take preventative measures to get your child on track NOW!

The first step is maintaining regular communication with your child’s teachers. Parents sometimes think that they’re doing this by reading their child’s agenda every night. But this is not always enough. Has your child written down everything he/she was supposed to in the agenda? Instead of playing a guessing game, maintain regular contact with your child’s teachers to make sure that you and your child are on track. By contacting your child's teachers by email or telephone on a weekly basis, you will be able to find out what is happening in the classroom. You will also be teaching your child about how to get information that he/she needs to be successful. Some questions to ask are:

· What is the homework for the upcoming week?

· What does my child need to work on?

· Are there any tests/group projects coming up?

· What needs to be studied for these tests?

· Who is my child grouped with for his/her project?

· Is there an outline to follow?

· Is there anything else I should know?

Remember: When you are contacting a teacher, you want to keep a positive tone. You are asking the teacher to work with you to ensure that your child succeeds. YOU NEED THE TEACHER TO BE ON YOUR SIDE. Also, don’t forget that teachers are very busy too, so if they do not respond to you in a timely manner, don’t be afraid to follow-up politely.

By working with your child’s teacher, you will be provided with valuable information that will help him/her to succeed. You will also be able to better organize homework time, which may even shorten it. Lastly, since the expectations of the school work will be clearly defined by the teacher, you will find that the time you were spending playing the homework guessing game will quickly transform into extra quality time with your child.

If you have a specific question or topic that you would like to see in my next blog, email me at