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Welcome to the Engaging Minds Blog!

Each week, we will be posting about pertinent articles on educational and school-related topics, how they relate to Engaging Minds students (and parents!), and how to apply this information to your child(ren). We will also be posting original content pertaining specifically to the Engaging Minds approach and philosophy with tips on how to improve and enhance your child(ren)’s learning experience.
Our hope for this blog is to make it a valuable resource for parents. To that end, if you read any interesting articles or have any suggestions for topics, please feel free to email Dan Levine at Also, please comment on posts in the section below with your own input, ideas, and experiences. While we can’t promise we will be able to use all of your suggestions, we would very much appreciate your contributions and thoughtfulness!

Executive functions, and the difficulties some students face with executive function, are not as familiar in the greater sphere of education, learning disabilities, and specialized academic programming, as compared to well-known learning disorders like dyslexia or ADHD. As such, the fine differences and nuances that separate executive function deficits from learning disorders can often be confusing. In fact, some of the primary signs of attentional disorders in children are the same indicators used by clinicians to identify executive function inefficiencies. So how can we make sense of EF as it relates to and differs from ADHD?

Flexibility: more than just "going with the flow"

Flexibility is one of the more subtle and lesser known facets of executive function. While difficulties with planning and organization often have obvious signs like messy backpacks or forgotten assignments, difficulties with transitioning and flexibility can manifest in ways that seem more attitudinal than skills-based. For example, does your child stubbornly try the same strategies again and again, even when they don’t work? Does she struggle to move fluidly from one task to the next? Does she get upset when things go differently than planned?

One size does NOT fit all

Imagine if every student used the same problem-solving methods, the same test-taking strategies, the same note-taking schemas, and the same organizational structures—what would happen? In such a uniform educational system, some students would succeed, while others would falter, because every student is different and “one size does NOT fit all." What works for one student may not work for another, and vice versa. While there are certainly strategies and approaches that frequently work for a large number of students, we know that the human brain is dynamic, complex, and specialized for each person's optimal functioning. As a result, for many students, those "one size" strategies and approaches will not work. Moreover, each student comes with their own personality, set of strengths, affinities, interests, and needs that make them who they are. So—with all these individual differences in play—it becomes incumbent upon the adults in a student’s life to help him identify which educational strategies and approaches will work for him.

Reward effort, not just achievement

Every family has a way of rewarding each other’s achievements. Some families celebrate important milestones with dinner out at a favorite restaurant or a trip to the movies. Parents, in particular, may offer their children a break from chores, a new iPhone, or words of praise for improved grades or behavior. The reason we use these incentives is because they can really work! Rewarding or celebrating positive actions, on both incremental and long-term bases, contributes strongly to habit formation and the development of intrinsic motivation. However, new psychological inquiries suggest that motivation is more nuanced than we thought: Rewarding effort, not just achievement, has far-reaching effects on willingness to accept challenge, and on three major components of long-term motivation.

Hit the reset button and start anew!

Fall semester can be tough for students of all ages; students make the “back-to-school” adjustment in September, have only short vacations through October and November, then find themselves in the shortened month of December, prepping for comprehensive exams and term papers. Luckily, the spring time offers a wonderful opportunity to renew and refresh your students’ goals, work ethic, and study skills. However, every great plan needs to start from the beginning, which means preparing early and preparing well. So, with the 2015 New Year approaching, let’s all resolve to make second semester better than the first! Here are some tips to help your student get a head start:

Engaging Minds Boston Learning and Tutoring Center
188 Needham Street • Suite 215 • Newton, MA 02464
190 N. Main Street • Natick, MA 01760
Tel: 617-964-3100 •

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