Why I Co-Read with my 8th-grader

In my opinion, a love of reading is the single biggest academic skill a child can develop prior to high school. A child's relationship to reading impacts their academic trajectory more than any other single factor. 

In a prior blog post, I offer 10 Tips on how to raise an avid reader.

Today, I have to admit that I have failed to achieve this goal for my 8th grader. He will read when he has to, but there is no spark - there is no love of reading.

I have tried many of the techniques and failed. Maybe I wasn't disciplined enough, or I assumed he'd be like his brothers, or I was just too tired to follow-through on the technique.

As a former Navy SEAL, giving up is not in my playbook, so I began looking for more options.

Here are some things I considered:

  1. Bribery: I'll pay you $10 for every book you read
  2. Punishment: If you don't read a book every month, you're grounded
  3. Negotiation: No IG time until you read 20 pages
  4. Fear: If you're not a good reader, you won't get into a good...
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How To Select, Prepare, and Perform on the SAT & ACT

Your number #1 priority this summer is to prepare for your official standardized test at the end of August or beginning of September.

This is what you should do:

  • Select a standardized test to take (SAT or ACT)
  • Register for the exam
  • Study your face off
  • Take the exam
  • Never look back

Let me remind you why I recommend this strategy in case you start to waver on implementing any of these steps:

  • An SAT or ACT score is a top 3 criteria for college admissions
  • Summer provides maximum time and flexibility to study
  • Studying for this test in the middle of junior year is a disaster
  • Ability to maximize energy, sleep, and hydration before test
  • Fewer distractions and potential scheduling conflicts
  • Less-crowded testing sites
  • Results provide an early indicator of what tier of colleges to consider
  • Potential to score well and never take test ever again
  • Ability to re-test later in the year if things don't go as planned
  • If a re-test is necessary, the bulk of studying is already done
  • Ivy League...
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How Heather Finally "Got It"

A lot of my days are spent trying to help teens unlock their "potential". If you are a parent or teacher, you know that this can make for some long days. 

Most teens are content to operate at 50% capacity. A few strive for more. 

The teens who care about their development, progress, and improvement are my oxygen.

Every once in a while, I catch wind of a PrepWeller who has figured it out.

Such was the case with a PrepWeller we'll call "Heather".

Heather started PrepWell Academy as a freshman and wasn't the most diligent PrepWell student of all time. She watched a majority of the videos but not without cycles of skipping and binge-watching. All totally normal. The program was designed with this dynamic in mind.

However, in early sophomore year, the proverbial lightbulb went off for her. All of a sudden, the terminology, advice, and guidance within the videos took on new meaning.

Heather "got it".

It wasn't long before Heather was engaged in the college admissions process as...

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The Chore Wars

My wife and I understand the importance of chores. They teach responsibility, accountability, discipline, pre-planning, and the value of money.

Our four children, apparently, never got the memo.

We have tried many times, unsuccessfully, to create a chore system that works. Each attempt has gotten progressively more serious.

The length of this email is reflective of the months it took us to get it right.  If you value chores - but haven't quite cracked the code - it may be worth the read.

In military terms, we have now reached DEFCON 2 (Defense Condition 2: one step before maximum readiness for nuclear war).

Here is our journey to the brink of a nuclear chore war:

DEFCON 5 (lowest state of readiness): Just Tell Them
At first, we just told our kids what their chores were and expected them to do them. What a rookie mistake. Who were we kidding? It was a disaster. They claimed they didn't know what to do, wondered why they had to do X when their brother could do Y, insisted they...

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Best Summer Job: Career Shadowing

In addition to last week's question regarding How do I build a list of colleges? the next biggest challenge I hear from parents (and kids) seems to be:

"What should my child do this summer?"

Of course, the standard, generic advice is:

  • find a job
  • find an internship
  • volunteer

I like to provide more unconventional advice to my PrepWellers.

Cast a Wide Summer Shadow

If your child wants a unique summer experience, encourage them to "shadow" as many people in as many careers as possible.

These days, kids have no clue what people do at their jobs.

They see people rush into buildings, shuffle around the streets with their Starbucks coffee, and sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway.

What happens the other 97% of the time?

My 8th-grade son is obsessed with the question:

"Dad, what do people do all day at work?"

He is fascinated by the whole concept.

Unfortunately, I haven't the foggiest idea what to tell him.

I haven't had a conventional job for many years so I find it difficult to...

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11 Ways to Help your Child with Homework

By the time your child gets to high school, they should be completely self-sufficient when it comes to homework.

This skill comes more naturally to some children than to others (first-born children seem to "get-it" a little sooner than second or third, for instance).

As parents, it's our responsibility to ensure they have this skill mastered by the time they reach 9th grade.

Consider these factors when helping your child build this important habit:

Same time: Establish a specific time to complete homework and stick to it. Ideally, this would be right after school and prior to sports, social activities, and entertainment. My favorite quote is "Do the hard stuff first".

Same place: Identify a place for homework and make it the same spot every time. (e.g. kitchen table, bedroom, home office, Starbucks, etc.)

Clutter free: Clear the workspace of non-homework related items - even if it means moving items into a different room temporarily during homework time. The fewer things on the desk...

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How a Navy SEAL studies for the SAT

If your son or daughter is taking the SAT or ACT in the coming weeks, here are some tips to help them maximize their score:

Common (but good) advice

  • Register for the exam
  • Prepare well in advance
  • Match study style with learning style (e.g. book, online, classroom with students, tutor, etc.)
  • Learn tips and tricks to help manage time, guessing strategies, etc.
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before

PrepWell's "uncommon" advice

Take practice tests under real test-taking conditions - over and over again!

Let me elaborate. Many students spend a lot of time looking for hacks, tricks, and shortcuts to improve their test scores. They also normally study in "short bursts" (e.g. Study Math for 40 minutes every M, W, F) - when they really should be spending a lot more time and effort simply taking more full-length tests.

In my opinion, a large component of how well you perform on the test will be based on how much mental endurance you have built up by test day.

Most high school students aren't...

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Our Family's Smartphone contract

In this post, I share our personal experience introducing smartphones to our 14-year old twin sons for the first time.  If you're grappling with how to deal with this issue, maybe it will give you some food for thought.
 
Admittedly, our 8th-graders were behind the power curve when it came to smartphones. Until two weeks ago (on Christmas Day), our twins had been using slider phones with no data. This was atypical for their peer group and they had to find ways to deal with the blowback (e.g. Dude, what's with the slider? That thing's ancient).

We knew we were treading on thin ice. Teenagers are more concerned about impressing their friends than their parents - and our sons were on the wrong side of that trade.

We struck a deal with them a few years ago. If they could demonstrate maturity, responsibility, and patience with their slider phones, we would consider upgrading someday. 

That someday had finally come. We couldn't justify leaving them in the Stone Age for...

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7 Repeatable Skills To Change Your Life

case studies study habits Dec 04, 2016

7 Essential Skills for Teens

I believe professional success is directly related to how well we master 7 essential skills. If we master these skills, it won't matter if we go to Princeton University, Wichita State, or East Lansing Community College.

It won't matter if we ultimately enter the private sector, public sector, or outer space - we will succeed in life.

I deployed (and re-deployed) these 7 skills hundreds (if not thousands) of times during my 30-year journey from Yale University, to Investment Banking, to the Navy SEALs, to Harvard Business School, to Firefighting, to Entrepreneurship, to Shark Tank, to PrepWell Academy.

The daily roles and responsibilities in each of these fields were dramatically different. The skills required to get into each of these fields were dramatically similar. And that's the point.

The reason these skills are so "essential" is because they are so "repeatable".

Learning these repeatable skills will allow you to adjust, change, regroup, and...

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How to help your child do hard things

For children, trying new things can be hard. Whether it's acquiring a new skill, making new friends, dealing with a new environment, or taking direction from a new coach - it's hard to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

This ability to push through discomfort at a young age is an early and accurate signal of how well children will do in high school, college, and life. Children with this type of "grit" fare better than those without.

Angela Duckworth, an expert on this topic, defines grit as "perseverance and passion for long-term goals".  Duckworth found that students who made a regular practice of doing "hard things" during their childhood, were better prepared to deal with the challenges and obstacles of adulthood.

How do we, as parents, manage the balance between supporting our children to push through hard things and forcing them to do so?

Below is one method, based on Duckworth's extensive work, that can be adopted by any family.

The Hard Thing Rule

Rule #1
Each member...

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