Finals are Coming Soon

It is the second week of May. How can I be talking about finals? Truly, final exams are less than a month away. It may be hard to believe, but if your children are in middle or high school they need to start thinking about finals. Most students are now in the last weeks of the second semester of school and that means end of the semester or end of the year finals are quickly approaching.

Finals can be a stressful time filled with too little sleep and too many tears after spending late nights cramming. Preparing ahead of time is essential to alleviate some of this stress. Help your children get organized now.

First, have your children find out from each teacher if there will be a final exam. If there is a final assessment planned, determine what material will be covered and what is the scheduled date for the exam. Second, use that information to help your children with a study plan. Work backwards to allow enough time to review and if necessary re-learn the material for mastery. Have your children write these extra study times in their student planner as additional daily work.

After they complete the study time and feel confident in their knowledge, it is necessary to take and grade a practice test. Practice tests are often found in the student’s textbook or the teacher may be willing to provide a practice exam. Discovering how well they do on a practice test allows children to build confidence in their mastery of the material. This method also helps kids discover where they still need to spend time working on mastering the material.

Cramming is done in days, true knowledge and confidence takes weeks.  Thus, have your children start soon to prepare for finals in June.

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Own Your Education, Own Your Life

The invitations are out, the media has been informed, the food has been ordered – it’s official, my book launch party is next week.  It is hard to believe that after months of working with different editors and my publisher my book is out and ready for sale. I get asked many questions and here a few of my responses:



This book is about helping people to take Ownership over their lives through their education.  To own their successes and failures.  To learn from the tough times (yes, even children MUST have tough times), and the easy times.  Experiencing all parts of your life and taking ownership of these experiences is the only way that people can become all they are meant to be and have control over their future.


This book took me four months to write or my whole life….it depends on what your definition of writing is.  The journey to get to this place started when I was in elementary school.  I always knew that I was different than the other kids – I struggled with school and they didn’t.  All I wanted to be was “smart”.  I longed to be in the gifted group and worked so hard to do my best.  At 29 I was diagnosed with a learning disorder.  This was not a surprise but a welcomed confirmation that I really am smart – I just learn differently than others.  I realized then, that I had taken ownership of my life at a very young age – adopting different techniques to help me learn and do well in school.


The path to get to this book was long but planned.  It included 4 years of teaching, 6 years of creating the curriculum for my company, 6 years of growing Stone Foundations of Learning, Inc and helping thousands of people, 6 years of speaking, traveling and spreading the message of ownership, 4 rejections letters, 4 editors and countless prayers.  Was this easy – no, but I believe there is a reason for this book to be published now.


I do not like to write….but if that is what I need to do to help others develop, grow and take control of their life – I will do it.  We are not always asked to do what we love to help others – many times by helping others we also learn more about ourselves.

The bottom line is this is a great book to help people learn to take control of their life.  It is not a quick fix to solve all of life’s problems, but instead a philosophy of how to take control of your life, weather the storms, and become confident in your abilities to “do life”.

If I can write a book, anything is possible.  I hope you see this story as one of determination, grace, and faith.

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When Do Compliments Become Harmful?

What are you really good at doing?

In what areas are you weakest?

Most of us find these sorts of questions difficult or at least uncomfortable. Very few people want to appear either boastful or self-defeating. As an author, speaker, and business owner I have had to learn to sell myself. I’ve had to answer these questions honestly with others in interview situations. It’s important to recognize what we are good at, using our gifts and talents, to be successful in our careers.

What about our children? Do they know where they excel? We as parents have been told to constantly build our children up with praise to increase their confidence and self-esteem. Experts have urged us to feed kids compliments for every little thing they do. Too much of a good thing can be harmful.

Yes, we need to make sure our children know we love them. And we should tell them we are proud of them when they do a great job. But we also have a responsibility to help them develop self-awareness and self-confidence. Schoolwork is a great place to start, as it’s a child’s vocation. Begin with asking questions.

Here is a typical scenario.

You’re scanning your son’s grades online and notice the teacher just posted the scores from the recent math test. He received his first A. You are so proud of his accomplishment and cannot wait until he walks in the door after school. The desire is to tell him what a great kid he is, what a wonderful job he’s done, why he scored better this time because he studied for more than a day, because he went in for help, and… STOP! He needs to determine why he did so well, on his own.

Your heart can be happy but start the conversations with “I saw an update online for your math grade today. Please tell me about it.” Then listen. Follow up by asking why he thinks he did better this time. With each reason, agree and praise his efforts. Give him a hug! He’ll know you’re proud of him.

This type of interaction, rather than gushing praise, will help children develop self-awareness and bring about a change in study habits. As a result, confidence will soar!

Megan Stone

If you want to read more – Dr. Peggy Drexler, PhD supports this idea in an article for Psychology Today.


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The Joy of Learning

We would like to welcome our guest blogger Josh Hoekstra who has written an interactive curriculum to be used in school or at home

This time of year is always exciting.  You hear people talking about it at the grocery store, gas station, work, and beyond – “How are your brackets” “How about that upset” “Sweet sixteen” “Final Four”….yes it is NCAA basketball national tournament -March Madness.  This time of year allows even the smallest basketball enthusiast to participate in picking teams they believe will win and lose.  We watch as teams move forward in this college basketball tournament to finally determine the national champion.


I have had the great fortune of teaching U.S. History to high school students in Minnesota for the past 14 years. During this time, one thing has become crystal clear; the more interesting, high-quality and in-depth information I bring to the students, the more they learn and the more they enjoy learning. Just like the excitement that comes with March Madness- I wanted to capture that enthusiasm about US history.  This led to the development of Teach with Tournaments.

Teach with Tournaments involves the simple process of taking people or events that you want to study and placing them on a tournament bracket board (similar to the NCAA March Madness Tournament) in an effort for students to decide, for themselves, who/what was the Most Courageous American in history, or What was the Most Important Scientific Discovery in history, or Who was the Most Influential Founding Father in American history – just to name a few.  The educational opportunities are endless!

Teach With Tournaments can enliven the learning process for your children. Children you think have very little interest in learning suddenly become participants in their own education. In fact, students whom I rarely heard from prior to this lesson became some of the most active and engaged participants. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, students communicated with each other and demonstrated a deep passion for material that has real value. Seeing students research, debate, vote and celebrate victory or mourn defeat is something that I will always cherish. When students are engaged, their body language and the look in their eyes says it all. They sit up straighter, ask questions and actually linger after class to ask more questions. For a teacher, there is nothing like it.

This is an exciting time of year in my classroom but you do not need to wait for March Madness time to create this excitement in your home or classroom.  As parents and fellow educators we can take this principle and use the ideas of Teach With Tournaments to inject life and joy into the learning process. Allow your children the opportunity to debate and research things that excite them.  It is ok to have a little competition in the learning process.  It helps to give children personal accountability and you will be surprised at the amazing learning that occurs.


Josh Hoekstra

Teacher, husband and father

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Is It Spring Yet?

Across the United States, this winter may go down as one of the harshest winters on record. My home state of Minnesota has seen record-breaking cold temperatures and snowfalls. We still have many feet of snow piled up around our streets and homes. All this cold can cause a person to want to slow down, cuddle up, and stay inside.  Don’t get me wrong, I love winter and the fun activities that this season brings, but I have noticed an increase in sluggish behavior in my home and with Stone Foundations of Learning clients.

Is It Spring Yet (1)


Being a student is a full-time job. We need to make sure that our children are making school a top priority – even with the “slowed down” winter attitudes. Even though it may not feel like it now, spring is coming. But don’t allow your children to wait for the season of excitement to get going on their work. We need to help our children dig in to do their best before those warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours get here.

Stone Foundations of Learning, Inc. offers tools for success in school. Here are a few to consider.

1.Planner System Make sure that your child knows how to use the planner to keep track of all responsibilities in and outside of school. Record everything from homework due dates to music lessons and basketball practice.

2. Weekly Meeting Have your child run a formal meeting with you once a week explaining his progress in school and discuss future plans in school and as a family. Add these dates to the planner and your calendar too.

3. Folder System With any folder system, you need to make sure that your child can find his homework within 30 seconds. This test will help to show if your child has every paper in the correct place. Try hanging files in an office crate. Label each file for a particular class. Staple unit materials together to keep information neat and easy to find.

Help your child begin again in this long winter season by providing tools for success. This can be a new beginning, brimming with opportunities. A fresh start, just like springtime!

Learn more about services available for students, parents, and learning institutions from Stone Foundations of Learning, Inc.!

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Getting Help

Getting Help

Do your children know how to get the help they need from teachers or are you their main source of answers to school related questions? How often have your children said “I’ll ask my teacher about it tomorrow” and you later find out the teacher was not available?

Getting Help (1)

To be a helpful parent, your next action may be to contact the teacher to see how you or the instructor can help your child.


This is a big mistake! It is the child’s job to get the assistance he needs from the teacher. These interactions can be exhausting and frustrating for a parent and except for special circumstances are unnecessary. (If your child has special needs, more adult intervention is needed.)

The first place to start is to have the child investigate when and where he can get help from each teacher. Most teachers are required to be available before or after school to help students and usually set specific “office hours”. This concept of knowing when help is available does not end in the traditional classroom, but will be routine in post secondary education, the workplace, and in life. It’s important for children to learn how to determine when help is available and adjust to other’s schedules instead of assuming people will always adjust to their needs. Equally important is for students to realize they are accountable for schoolwork and need to be responsible to get assistance when necessary.


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Self Reflection

As adults it is often clear what needs to change when we’ve done poorly on a project or work assignment. It’s easier for us to discern what caused us to do well too. This is usually not the case with children. Most children do not know the skills of self-reflection and goal setting. When questioned about a poor grade, they often respond with “I will try harder.” “It wasn’t my fault.” or  “The teacher doesn’t like me.” They have difficulty identifying their strengths and weakness too. Repeating positive actions and changing negative habits in school becomes difficult. Thus, children are not realizing their full potential.

Self Reflection (1)

This time of year marks the end of the first semester grading period in many school districts. It’s the perfect time to help your child practice self-reflection and goal setting. First, have your child be responsible for organizing his end of semester grades including all assignments in each class either by asking the teacher or from the school district’s electronic grade system. Ask your child to highlight the assignments, quizzes, tests, and projects he is most proud of in one color and least proud of in another color. This will help him to truly see where he excelled and fell short. Next, have your child answer these questions for each class.

1.  What did I do well this semester?

 2. Where did I fall short and need to improve?

 3. What is my goal for next semester in regarding a target grade in each class? What actions are necessary for successfully meeting my goal?

Children will typically have very short answers! The parent’s job is to help determine what specific actions are needed to meet the stated goals. Ask open ended questions, “Why?” or “How?” until the child comes up with repeatable actions that will assist him in attaining his goal. Here’s a sample conversation.

PARENT: Where did you fall short this semester?

CHILD: Tests.

PARENT: Why did you not do very well on the tests?

CHILD: I did not study enough.

PARENT: How do you think you can improve your test grades?

CHILD: Study more.

PARENT: What does that mean? How will you study more?

CHILD: I think I should study for more than one day before the test. I get help from my teacher if I have questions.

Repeating positive actions and changing negative habits help children reach their goals. Keep the goals your child has set handy as a reference throughout the next semester. In setting personal goals and determining how to achieve those goals, your child will be encouraged to do his best.

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