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BlogaMental Educational Blog


Lori J. Skurka, M. Ed.
President and CEO
EleMental Learning, LLC


BlogaMental is a forum for expanding on useful education topics.  BlogaMental is managed by Lori J. Skurka, Founder, President, and CEO of EleMental Learning with contributions by our staff and other guests.  The topics we discuss are a mixture of current educational hot buttons, timeless observations about the trials and tribulations of raising school-age children, and some lighter fare as well.

BlogaMental Blog Posts

By Janet Eggenberger

The question I get asked most is about how rigorous of a schedule a student should be taking. In other words, should my student be taking AP (Advanced Placement)/Honors classes and if so, how many and which ones?  I know I have touched upon this topic in the past but I think it might be time to revisit. The basic rule of thumb is your child should be taking a challenging course load for THEM. Don’t worry what others are doing but do what is right for your student. As a parent you know their strengths and challenges, their study habits, and other time commitments so use this in your decision. Just because your child qualifies for all honors/AP does not mean he or she should be taking them all.

Recognize that high schools want their students to be taking AP classes and tests (helps promote the reputation of the school among other things) and they definitely serve a purpose but don’t make your student take them all just because they qualified. Perhaps start off with one or two that your child shows the most interest or ability in, and see how things go with managing coursework and grades before committing to others. Colleges want to know that a student challenged themselves but you don’t need to go completely overboard with 4 or 5 honors/AP classes a semester. The very highly selective schools will pay more attention to the rigorous curriculum and assess the student’s schedule to ensure that a student has challenged themselves. You don’t want to see a student score a 34-36 ACT score who has not taken any AP classes – that would be a red flag. Also, know that just taking an AP class does not guarantee college credit. Students taking AP classes in school can take AP exams in April/May to earn college credit. Scores vary with every college but typically a score of a 4 or 5 will earn college credit (sometimes a 3). That means if a student takes AP Calculus, for example, and earns an A in the class but takes the AP exam and scores a 2 they will not receive any college credit. But on the other side, I know students though who ended their high school career with 30 hours of AP credit to take with them to college (saving both money and time at college).


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BlogaMental is no longer allowing our blog readers to add comments at the end of the posts.  Why, you may ask?  Here's why: approximately 90% of the commenters were spammers, posting links back to their e-commerce sites selling counterfeit designer apparel and accessories...or sometimes certain types of "love aids" if you get my drift.

Combing through these comments and deleting them was just no fun.  So, good-bye spammers!  If something we wrote is interesting to you, feel free to comment on our Twitter page or our Facebook page.


 P.S.  What do you call someone who doesn't pass gas in public?   A PRIVATE TUTOR!


We're nearing the end of the kids' two week Holiday Break. The kids have been fully inundated with new iPads, iPods, Androids, PCs, video games, and other e-devices that probably have some educational and future occupational benefit but which also tend to turn the kids into zombies in the near term.  If I had a dollar for each time one of my kids absent-mindedly said "just a minute..." when I instructed them to turn one of those items off...

The good news is that we've taken advantage of several of the mini-camps offered through the local YMCA to keep the kids active during the break.  Our kids focused primarily on swimming, but there were also opportunities for the kids to sample basketball, ballet and other forms off dance (Zumba is a current favorite), and other sports and activities.  It may be a little late now, but I highly recommend that parents take advantages of programs like this -- at the YMCA, through their local park district, or other local organizations [just check out your local paper's upcoming activity calendar!] -- to keep the kids active and engaged in something other than electronic nonsense during these breaks from school. 


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The internet is awash with purported purveyors of online tutoring.  Some are legitimate, well staffed services dedicated to the provision of professional distance tutoring.  Others can be as clunky as someone with a Twitter handle and a Paypal account offering to guide your kid through the next test, project, term paper, or standardized exam for an arbitrary fixed fee.  The technologies utilized are quite varied as well.   While most adults of a certain age have accepted the legitimacy of online commerce, distance learning, and e-tailing, online tutoring resides at the nexus of all three of these web 2.0 applications.  It beckons the questions:  when choosing an online tutor, how do you choose among the myriad choices, what are you hoping to achieve, and how will you measure success?

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As I typed the title of this post I stopped to wonder how many of today's adolescents would have resisted the urge to put the preposition at the end of the phrase -- i.e. 'A Lot To Be Thankful For'.   I continue to worry about the texting and video-gaming culture America's future leaders are growing up in.  No, actually, the culture in which they are growing up!

Anyway, we've made it through mid-term conferences and at this point most parents have a pretty good feeling for where their kids are stacking up in the classroom.  Even if you've learned that your child has a bit of an uphill climb in order to achieve classroom standards, he or she still has something for which to be thankful.  That of course is you--a parent who is spending time on this site in a search to find what is best for the child's progress.  You taking the time to read this means that you care more about what's best for your kids than the average Joe.

Two of my three children are school age, and their conferences generally went...

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Article Citation: "To Address Behavior Issues, Preschools Turn to Therapy", Wall Street Journal, 9/9/09, written by Sue Shellenbarger.

Link to original article:

Interesting overview of the controversial new push, now offered in 29 different states, to embed mental health workers directly into preschool classrooms.  These professionals work directly with students needing extra therapy or counseling to address behavioral issues at an early age in order to help them integrate better and improve their emotional well being.

Without addressing the funding issue, which we understand to be a fluid and changing situation under new governmental directives, this seems like a wise approach from an educator's standpoint.  Providing hands-on mental health counseling directly in the preschool...

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Although the Obama administration has allocated billions of dollars to the broad category of "Education" in its first (and only?) bailout program, and in its subsequent fiscal budget proposal, it is short-sighted to think that a precision effort at remedying the educational ills in America is underway.  We think that is simply not the case.  Open issues that scream for attention:

Teacher pay:  Merit pay versus the tenure system.  Merit pay seems to be gaining some traction, but two issues cloud the picture:  (1) what is the criteria for judging "merit"?  (2) How can the Obama administration advance a concrete plan for merit pay when doing so will run directly afoul of the NEA and his other supporters in the educational establishment?  These are clearly treacherous waters.  The Administration will find it very hard to build consensus here. Reform of No Child Left Behind: The NCLB plan is oft-derided as being flawed in methodology, unfair in the inclusion of certain student categories in the test...

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What Are The "Best" Schools In Your Area?

By Lori Skurka on 1/1/2009 12:22 PM

Just for kicks we took a look at the list of "best" schools in the areas served by EleMental Learning.  Many of the names which showed up on the lists are the usual suspects.  However many of the schools which showed up on the lists were unexpected, and many schools we assumed would show up on the lists actually did not.

This led us to look a little bit more at the methodology and biases inherent in the way these schools attract pupils.  Clearly,...

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Perspectives From An Educator: All Day Kindergarten

By Lori Skurka, M. Ed.


In November 2007, our local board of education outlined its intention to standardize all-day kindergarten instruction across the district beginning with the 2008-2009 school year. According to the board, their enthusiasm is buoyed by a successful pilot program which has been running within the district, as well as research which supports the notion that all-day kindergarten enhances a student’s self-confidence and independence, leading to higher progress in social and learning skills.


The move represents a significant departure from the traditional half day kindergarten routine (which, in actuality, is not even a half day), which was intended to provide youngsters with an introduction to their elementary years and where they could engage in a few hours of age-appropriate social interaction. That being said, a significant percentage of districts both state-wide and nationally have embraced all-day kindergarten. And...

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Perspectives From An Educator: Building Literacy Skills in Children

By Lori Skurka, M. Ed.


As an educator I have always recognized the importance and benefit of building a solid literacy foundation for our young children. In my years as a classroom teacher I was responsible for many 4th,5th, and 6th graders who came into my class woefully lacking a proper foundation in literacy skills. In order to set the right path for our kids, I encourage all parents to recognize the primacy of developing reading, speaking, and listening literacy skills in our kids from the earliest ages possible.


Although I no longer teach in the classroom, I have been vigilant in transferring my literacy development techniques to my own children. There is not a day that goes by that my husband and I do not read at least one book—and usually quite a few more than just one—to our children. Their rooms are filled with scores of books, as is the rest of our home. The books are kept in cubbies and on shelves...

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