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Student Success Without Stress

Childhood Development and Education Q&A For Parents and Teachers

Dr. Linda Silbert has dedicated over 45 years to the enhancement of children’s cognitive, emotional and social development.

Having served as classroom teachers, administrators, and private tutors, Linda Silbert, Ph.D. along with her husband Al Silbert, Ed.D.  have written over 50 books, including the award winning, Why Bad Grades Happen to Good Kids, and developed learning games and activities that provide students with repetition and review of academic subjects in an environment that is fun and engaging. They have lectured and lead numerous workshops and webinars about how to help children succeed in school and beyond.

Here Dr. Linda shares some of the questions posed by teachers, parents, and even grandparents.  Feel free to send her a question at, she may post it here.  Note that generally, we do not publish full names.

How To Teach Vowels

Dear Dr. Linda, I’m in my second year of teaching, and I teach the second grade. Teaching vowels is one of the most challenging parts of my job. I’ve had many courses on the history of education and educational theories, but I never had a course simply on how to teach vowels. My Master’s degree is in teaching math, so that’s not helping. I don’t think I ever had a course on any of this. What do you recommend I do?   Elissa — Dear Elissa, I’m going to give you a quick course on vowels. Hopefully, this will help you get started. Then, go online and find a more detailed book on vowels. Vowels in a Nutshell Every word in the English language is made up of the 26 letters in the alphabet. 21 of the 26 letters are called co…

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College Rejection Letter

Dear Dr. Linda, Please put in the column you wrote about college rejections because it helped us get through a very difficult time. I’m happy to report that Kim is doing well and is extremely happy! I’ve included the email I sent you. Happy Parents — “Our daughter Kim, applied early decision to Cornell, and was just rejected. I graduated from Cornell, and therefore thought she had a good chance at getting in because of legacy. However, we did not rely on legacy alone. She worked hard! She took every AP course offered, her SATs were high, she’s on the varsity soccer team, plays the flute, etc. We’re in shock. My husband and I can’t figure out what went wrong. Do you have any idea what happened?” Perplexed Parents — Dea…

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Overbooked Student

Dear Dr. Linda, My son is in the 10th grade. He is bright and works hard. He always does his homework and likes school but still has a B average. He’ll get an A in a course and then a C in another. He goes to sleep around midnight every night because of homework and tests. Then gets up at 6:00 am. He doesn’t get home from school most days until after 5 pm because he’s doing some sport or is in some other after-school activity. I’ve encouraged the after-school activities and sports since he needs those things for his college applications. My husband thinks I’m causing the problem by pushing him into all these activities. He thinks his grades are simply a result of doing too much without enough sleep. What’s your opinion?  Elizabeth …

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Does My Child Need to be Tested?

Dear Dr. Linda, I was working with my son Colin on his homework. I became upset when I realized he had no idea what had been going on in class. I don’t know if it’s because he’s not listening or because the teacher is not explaining things well. Colin, a 7th grader had to fill in a worksheet on the branches of science. When I asked him about the worksheet, he said he thought they were learning about trees but he wasn’t sure. I asked to see the homework sheet, knowing he couldn’t do an assignment about the branches of science if he didn’t know that’s what the worksheet was about. He had skipped most of the questions and told me the ones he’d filled in were what the teacher did with the class. I drew a tree for him and filled in biology…

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National Grammar Day

Dear Dr. Linda, I’m not one to criticize—at least I try not to—so how do I tell my son and daughter-in-law and my granddaughter, a freshman in high school, that she needs to learn grammar? Her writing is atrocious! She speaks well but when I read her papers, I’m in shock. I’m not a retired English teacher, but I know enough to be concerned that she will not know how to write a paper with correct grammar by the time she finishes high school. Concerned Grandma — Dear Concerned Grandma, Your email couldn’t have been timed better! March 4th is National Grammar Day. It was created by Martha Brockenbrough to encourage the use of correct grammar in both verbal and written language. Grammar is a set of rules for understanding l…

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Alphabet Phonics

Dear Dr. Linda, Our son Guy is in second grade and is still not reading. It’s the second half of the year and I’m really concerned. His teacher told me that he needs a good phonics program that follows Orton-Gillingham. Then I talked to my friend whose daughter has trouble with reading because she has dyslexia, and the school has her in something called the Wilson Program. I went online and bought phonics flash cards. I’ve used them with Guy, but he hasn’t improved one bit. I’m really stressing out because I’m afraid he has dyslexia. I think my husband does. It was just never diagnosed. We’re open to any suggestions. Thanks, Madison and Matt Hi Madison and Matt, In general, if a child is in the second half of second grade a…

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Average Child

Dear Dr. Linda, My husband and I had a conference with our daughter’s third grade teacher and I’ve been upset ever since. She told us that Julie’s a lovely little girl and does well in school. She also added that all her scores are average. I asked what I could do to get her scores above average and she looked at me and said, “She’s fine.” Since kindergarten I’ve been told that Julie’s a good student with average intelligence. Every year I ask what I should do to help her get above average and I always get the same answer, “She’s doing just fine.” My husband thinks I’m awful because I work with her all the time in hopes of making her above average. I don’t see anything wrong with trying to help her improve, and I’m scared that if I don’t…

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Cursive Handwriting

Dear Dr. Linda, Our fifth-grade son’s handwriting is horrible. We can’t read a word he writes, not even on homework assignments. He can’t read them either once he’s home. He only prints, and when he does, it looks like a chicken walked across the page. The school psychologist told us that he has dysgraphia, a writing disorder. She recommended that he be classified with a learning disability and be allowed to take notes on his laptop and use the computer to write all his papers. This means he’s never going to learn cursive, even though I think our school doesn’t teach it anymore anyway. Aren’t we doing him a great injustice not having him learn to write so people can read it? How’s he going to sign his name? Do you have any suggestions?  …

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Mother’s Day

Dear Dr. Linda, I love my mother and my children love me, but I don’t love Mother’s Day on many fronts. To begin with, it’s a made up holiday created by Hallmark to make a lot of money. Secondly, it forces mothers and children of all ages to be part of a holiday which has no meaning to them and may even be a heartache for them due to death, relationships or lifestyle. In addition, elementary school teachers spend hours of valuable time having their students make Mother’sDay cards and gifts when they can be teaching them a host of other things that will help them succeed in school. Finally, I feel that Mother’s Day is teaching our children that there’s one day a year they need to be nice to their mothers and then they can be rude and …

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Family Traditions

Dear Dr. Linda, Over the years you wrote about Groundhog Day which occurs every year on Feb.2. I love those traditions. I know they’re silly, but I still wait for them because it makes think about spring. This year my children are finally old enough to understand why Groundhog Day exists. Is it possible to write this year about it again, so I can share the information with them?  Thanks so much, Love Groundhog Day Mom Dear Love Groundhog Day Mom, As I said in the past, in spite of those who look down their noses at old traditions that are not scientifically proven, there is nothing wrong with it if—as an adult—you are capable of knowing and separating fact from fiction while preserving the fun of the fiction. When your chil…

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Dear Dr. Linda, I’m a grandma with four beautiful children. My husband died a few years ago so I’m thankful that I have my daughter living near me with her family. I feel very close to them and see them often. I get them off the bus, do their homework with them and seem to be on call 24/7. But my problem isn’t those things—it’s that I feel used. My daughter and son-in-law never include me in other things—like going out to dinner or the movies or occasionally on a vacation. In fact, they never invite me over for anything other than what I can do for them. Just last week my daughter was talking to me about the birthday party she was making for my granddaughter, but I’m not invited. Am I alone or do other grandparents feel used? There’s mor…

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Help for struggling students

Dear Dr. Linda, My daughter Zoe is in 6th grade and is really struggling. She has had a hard time since kindergarten, but this year things are worse. The school has been very helpful—she has been classified and is receiving help in the classroom, but she’s still struggling in every subject and homework takes hours. We shared Zoe’s test results with my sister-in-law, who told us she’s at a third-grade level in both reading and math. We looked into private schools and there’s no way we can afford that. I’ve even thought of homeschooling, but I have no idea how or what to teach her. Where do we go from here? Thanks, Carolyn  Dear Carolyn, If your daughter is reading at a third-grade level, it’s not surprising that she’s having tr…

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Holiday Homework

Dear Dr. Linda, Last year my kids had so much homework over the holiday break, it basically ruined the holidays for us. We go to my mom’s in Vermont, and all I can remember is my daughter being stressed out because she wanted to be with her cousins. Instead she shut herself up in a room upstairs to write her English paper, do her biology labs and whatever else she had to do before going back to school. Our other daughter had forgotten her binder at home and spent the whole time panicked that she would not have enough time to finish everything when she got home. She pestered me the whole time to leave so she could get home to do her homework. As I watched my brother’s kids playing games, sledding and giggling, I felt horrible that my two …

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Going to college

Dear Dr. Linda, My husband and I never went to college. We have three little kids, Ryan, the oldest is in kindergarten. Emma, six months old, is the youngest, and Jordan, our three-year-old is the middle child. We both feel that we missed out on becoming who we could be by not going to college. Our families didn’t push us, and I guess neither one of us ever met someone who would steer us in the right direction. We know many successful people who never went to college, and lots of people we know who did go to college are less successful than we are. But, in many of your articles you made the point that even though going to college doesn’t guarantee success, it can open up more doors. What can you recommend that we as parents should do so …

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Dear Dr. Linda, I’ve been a high school math teacher for over 35 years and I’m happy to say, I still love my job.  Are things different from when I began? Of course. Are there days that I’m so stressed out that I want to throw the towel in? Yes, but the bottom line is I love teaching math. It’s one of the most satisfying careers I could have gone into. I’m upset that many people aren’t going to go into this profession because of the bad rap it’s getting. I teach a math course at a local college at night. Many of my students tell me that they were thinking of becoming teachers but have spoken to people like a retired aunt, a neighbor who’s a teacher, or someone else who’s told them not to go near it. Please let teens and college kids…

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Q&A Studyskills

Dear Dr. Linda, I know you’ve written about this numerous times, but please do one more column on study skills! My kids are in 8th and 11th grade. Once again they’re bringing home not such great grades. I know they’re not rocket scientists but they do try and the grades don’t reflect the time they’re putting in. I’m convinced they’d do better if they knew how to study. I think many parents would appreciate another column on study skills. Thanks, Cindy Dear Cindy, I’m sure you’re right. Many kids put in a lot of time studying and yet don’t get very good grades. These students don’t know how to review what they’ve learned so the information transfers into their long-term memory. Effective strategies and techniques for doing this proc…

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Dear Dr. Linda, “Math-a-Minute” is one of the worst nightmares in our house. Our eight-year-old daughter Sydney is a bright little girl but works slowly. Last year, her second grade teacher loved “Math-a-Minute,” where she had the children do 100 addition or subtraction problems within a minute. There was no way Sydney could do that. She knew the answers but got so nervous she’d freeze. This year, her third grade teacher is doing the same with multiplication facts. I spoke to both teachers and the principal. They told me they want the math facts to be automatic. It is automatic for Sydney, but she can’t go that fast. It’s making her upset over nothing. She understands numbers and I think would love math, but because of “Math-a-Minute,” s…

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Dear Dr. Linda, Let me begin by saying that I value what teachers do. I wouldn’t want to spend all day teaching kids. But sometimes they act as if they have all the answers and they don’t. My daughter is in third grade and I know she has dyslexia, but her teachers tell me she doesn’t. I have dyslexia so I know she does. Here are her symptoms: she still writes her b and d the wrong way. She doesn’t capitalize anything. She doesn’t use any punctuation marks, and I can’t read a word she writes. It simply is not legible. Doesn’t this sound like dyslexia to you? Thanks, Barbie  Dear Barbie, You are describing a learning disability but not dyslexia.  What you’re talking about is dysgraphia, a writing disorder. Many children …

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Dear Dr. Linda, I’m a retired teacher and grandmother of six. I read your column every week and decided it’s time to add my two cents. I’m concerned that no one is teaching our children and their parents that they need to follow rules of etiquette ranging from saying “thank you” when you hold the door for them or saying, “I’m sorry” when they bump into you with the shopping cart at the supermarket. I walk every day on a trail with my friends. The other day a young mom was walking with her little one who was riding a bike. He went right in front of me and I almost fell. I politely said, “He is supposed to be riding on that side of the trail. That’s the rule.” She didn’t hear what I said because she was on her cell phone. When she finally …

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Reading to Toddlers

Dear Dr. Linda, My Mother, my next-door neighbor and I have been having an ongoing conversation about the merits of reading to toddlers every night before bed. Every evening, my mother read to me and my brother when we were little, and I have to say that we both enjoyed it. It was just part of our routine. My neighbor and I aren’t convinced that it really fits today’s busy schedules. And more learning opportunities are available for little kids than when we were children. After all, our mom didn’t work outside our home until we were both in school. My neighbor and I both work. Our children are lucky to be in an excellent pre-school which they enjoy. And we know that preschool teachers read to the kids every day. Isn’t that enough? Does r…

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Dear Dr. Linda, I was listening to a podcast about the importance of developing creativity in children and why it’s essential to child development. My kids love LEGOs, but this researcher argued that LEGOs don’t develop creativity. Then the same researcher said organized sports don’t develop creativity. My kids love their sports. I thought I was doing everything right, but I sure lost my confidence by the end of the podcast. What should I make them do to encourage creativity? I don’t want to have uncreative kids.   Uncreative Mom Dear Uncreative Mom, You’re not as uncreative as you think. Instead of simply accepting what you heard on the podcast, you’re thinking about it and asking questions. Congratulations on your first step…

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