These days, there are many questions running through parents’ minds. Some of the biggest ones are centered around the re-opening. We have divided these questions (and some answers!) into the biggest areas:

Online or In-Person School?

Parents ask – should I let my child continue with online school? If so, where is a good local Austin online program they can enroll in?

If you end up choosing online education for the fall, and have a high school student in Austin, then we recommend checking out the University of Texas at Austin. They have a UT High School program that is currently celebrating 21 years of online education. They offer online school to all residents of Texas. You can enroll here. And, the best part is: it’s free. It’s completely online and a full course schedule. The program is funded by the great state of Texas.

There are just a few things you need to supply as the parent:

  • personal computer
  • reliable internet access
  • graphing calculator – this is important for most high school mathematics courses

Masks or No-Masks?

Should I send my child back to in-person education? Should they be wearing a mask? Will other students be masking?

This depends on the rules at your school and also on personal preference. Some families want to wait and see how COVID-19 evolves before they let their child go mask-less. But still others say they don’t believe in masks. One thing is for certain: the data overwhelmingly shows that masking reduces the spread of COVID-19. But we understand many families concern. Masking is really uncomfortable and many young kids are struggling with mental health issues due in part to social isolation – and likely the increase alienation and isolation of mask wearing itself. It’s harder to be social, make friends, and read facial expressions when everyone has a mask covering their face. It can be distracting and hard to learn. That’s why we think this is largely a matter of personal preference. You and your family has to weigh the costs and benefits.

It’s also important to think about and try to protect others. We are all Americans. And we are all in this thing together. Even if your family doesn’t have any serious illnesses in the family, that might not be the case for everyone. Some other kiddos parents might have cancer or diabetes. If you are concerned about them, then it might make sense to have your children wear a mask at school — in an effort to keep everyone safe. But we get it. I probably wouldn’t want my children to have to go through the burden of wearing masks at school. These are really tough and difficult times. If you want, you can always send us an email and we’d be happy to help try and think of a good solution of your and your family.

How can our Austin family make peace with all the uncertainty?

School years are supposed to be a time or renewal. A time when students get new shoes and load up on pens and pencils for the year. It is usually a time of hope and renewed faith. But this year many families are struggling to cope with the uncertainty of it all. The delta variant has complicated matters. Parents are worried about how safe school is right now. And students are worried about their social lives and their health. Many kids and students aren’t fully vaccinated—and some families have chosen to forego vaccination all-together.

There seems to be some generally good guidelines for kids these days … however politics and partisanship have clouded the issue. The simple advice is this: yes, your student should probably head back to school. They should wear a mask inside. And they should be vaccinated as soon as they can.

How can I help my children cope with their anxiety about returning to in-person school?

One thing you should encourage in your children is mental flexibility. A NYT article discussed this concept. The idea is based on research showing that people with higher levels of mental flexibility have fared better during the pandemic. Ok—you might say—that sounds great, but what the heck is “mental flexibility?” The idea is to take a more easy and “chill” approach to dealing with your thoughts & emotions. Don’t try to control them. Don’t get stressed about your own thinking. It’s fundamentally a meditative approach. You aren’t trying to control your thoughts. And, therefore, you aren’t allowing your thoughts to control you.

The idea is to encourage awareness over judgement. For example, let’s say you or your kiddo is having some intrusive thoughts constantly popping into their mind: “I’m sad” or “I’m worried.” Instead of getting mad at themselves for these thoughts, you can encourage their mental dialogue to immediately respond with: “Oh, that’s interesting. Just had that “sad thought” again.” Just note it. There it is again. Do you feel how there is less attachment with this?

If your kiddo is still struggling, we recommend trying some local Austin pediatric therapy or counseling centers. Here are a few we like:

Should I enroll my student in kindergarten?

Research shows that there has been a massive exodus out of kindergarten. Great reporting from the New York Times has shown that many school districts lost 20 percent or more of their students. Kindergarten is a time when kids are supposed to learn the fundamentals. But many families question how important it really is. That being said, the biggest decreases in kindergarten attendance were from the poorest neighborhoods and school districts.

Many parents have asked: what about virtual kindergarten? This is a fair question. But a significant body of research from Stanford has shown incredibly poor educational outcomes and results from online kindergartens. These kids may have learned how to operate a computer… but they didn’t improve their math & reading skills. Students who attended an online charter school suffered dramatically lower math & reading levels. And for students who attended an in-person charter school, their reading skills did improve at a somewhat similar rate to that of a traditional public school – but their mathematics did not. Their math skills really suffered. We might be a little biased here at Math Tutor Austin, but we believe that math is the single most important and fundamental skill that any student can master—whether you’re in kindergarten or college.

General Resources:

We really like the work of Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, MD. She is a medical doctor, practicing psychiatrist, and frequent contributor to the New York Times. She wrote this great article about how to handle anxiety about back-to-school decisions.

References:

Kashdan T.B., Rottenberg J. Psychological flexibility as a fundamental aspect of health. Clinical Psychology Review. 2010;30(7):865–878. doi: 10.1016/J.CPR.2010.03.001.

For many families in Austin, getting their child into LASA High School is a top priority. LASA stands for the Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy. It is an extremely selective high school located in Austin Texas. It is a public school with about 1300 students. It’s an urban school and falls within the AISD school district. The goal of the school is to create young leaders and problem solvers. But getting your student into LASA is no easy task. Families spend thousands of dollars preparing for their student’s application to LASA.

About The Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy

There are a few important things to note about LASA. It is open to Austin residents and does not charge any tuition.

LASA is known for its academics and student clubs.

The Curriculum

The curriculum at NASA is considered to be tough. Three years of a foreign language is required. You will be please to know that LASA offers eight different foreign languages for students to chose from. The school requires four years of English. Additionally, students must take four year of math! This we love! But it’s the elective courses at LASA that are truly remarkable. LASA offers elective courses for students including offerings in creative writing, forensic science, amateur radio, and “how to be an adult.”

Student Clubs & Organizations

The Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy is also famous for its great student clubs. These clubs are great. They really set the bar high. Some of the most beloved clubs are the Debate Team and Quiz Bowl. The debate team is nationally ranked. And the Quiz Bowl team, no slouch itself, has won multiple national championships. Can you see why so many parents want to their kids to go to school here? I’m already thinking about how I can get my future children into this school! It’s awesome.

LASA Rankings

LASA is ranked the best school in Austin and is widely considered to be one of the best schools in Texas. It is also highly ranked nationally. Often it is considered to be one of the top 10 best public high schools in the nation. With all this said, the school is known to be extremely competitive. But we can definitely give you some tips!

Getting Into LASA

Earning a coveted acceptance to LASA is not easy. Applications are open to all students who reside in Austin. But the school requires students to submit their prior academic record along with taking a Cognitive Abilities Test (known as CogAT). You can read a little more about the CogAT test if you’re interested.

We generally recommend that you start preparing your student for LASA High School early. Normally we suggest parents should be thinking about this at the beginning of middle school. It’s very important t make sure that your kids are earning strong grades in all of their courses because it has been said that LASA places significance importance on the academic record of students who are applying. We also encourage students to be active and engaged with their middle school. This can take the form of band, sports, debate, or school government. We like to encourage students to have at least one club or sport where they can demonstrate a deep and committed involvement spanning many years.  It is helpful if this activity is also offered at LASA! Then your child can write about how that club is important to them—and how that’s one reason they really want to attend LASA High School.

When it comes to academics, we think that all areas on your student’s application should be strong. For example, they shouldn’t only have strong English grades but weak mathematics grades. This does not reflect well on your student. They need to be well-rounded, possibly with 1-2 subject areas that they are super interested in. If your child is doing poorly in one area, we highly recommend that you find a tutor. Many times students need to find a math tutor because their grades are just too low. At Math Tutor Austin, we can help your child raise their mathematics grades and improve their understanding of every level of math. This will show up on test scores and help your child improve their grades.

There is a lot happening these days in Austin Texas. Covid is surging among the unvaccinated and the young. And schools across the state are trying to plan a good way to handle it. Some districts have even stated they will ignore Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent banning of mask mandates. We know that many schools in Austin, Texas will not be implementing a sweeping mask mandate in the fall of 2021. However, it is expected that masks will be mandated on school-busses and highly recommended in classes for non-vaccinated students.

Many parents are worried that the speed and strength of this recent surge will continue or even worsen. Parents are aware that vaccination rates vary greatly throughout Texas — and even within Austin and the different neighborhoods and school districts that we have. Parents are also concerned about potential vaccination mandates for their kids. We have started seeing vaccination mandates in restaurants popping up in cities across the US. Some parents believe that vaccine mandates are going too far. In fact, the vast majority of families in Austin oppose a vaccine mandate. Many households, however, are more open to the idea of a mask mandate.

Certain school districts are offering the option of online on in-person education. We just know from experience that kids have lost so much ground this last year with COVID. Students in Austin Texas are way behind on mathematics. And this isn’t split evenly between school districts. Some districts, with more income, have done better. But the reality is is that almost everywhere students have struggled to learn math and reading online. Those skills seem hard for students to master over the internet. That’s one reason why we have seen students’ test scores in mathematics plummeting quickly.

What are some things that you can do as a parent to help your kid?

One of the things we recommend is considering an in-home math tutor in Austin. Our math tutors are based here locally and will drive out to your home. We will do whatever we can to create a safe level of comfort for you with regards to COVID. If this means wearing masks and having a tutor who is vaccinated, we will absolutely accommodate that. Many students have benefited from having an in-home mathematics tutor during COVID. It has helped some students improve their math and even catch-up with other students. Paradoxically, this great challenge for you and your family can be turned into a stepping stone to success. We can help your child improve at math and learn to love it. It will make class much easier for them to understand. Math no longer has to be stressful for them. We believe that students today have enough stress on their hands as it is!

An important thing you can do is check which Austin school districts are currently mandating masks.

Depending on the age of your child, you can consider if you’d like to take advantage of Austin’s virtual education offering. We’ve read that virtual school will be offered this fall for Austin students from kindergarten through 6th grade. The plan is for this virtual program to be made available for all Austin students within these grade levels. But you need to apply soon. A waitlist will likely form for students from outside the Austin districts.

As of now, we are hearing that Austin will require masks on busses. They won’t require masks in schools. But if you request it, they can ensure that your child wears a mask while she is at school. The Austin Independent School Districts (ISD) have also released general guidance for covid. They have a covid dashboard where you can view recent updates and also find the general guidance as a PDF file.

However, some sources indicate that Austin may in-fact require masks for students this fall. This is an article from Dr. Elizalde, who is the superintendent for the Austin Independent School District. So it sounds like the Austin ISD is going to be requiring masks this fall. We know that many parents are upset with this. They say it’s unfair to require all kids to wear masks.

This is certainly an ongoing issue and will depend on how COVID behaves. We will keep you all updated with more helpful blogs and articles as the year gets underway.

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Most mathematics courses and tutoring sessions are taught the wrong way. Teachers stand at the front of the classroom lecturing. Tutors tell their students exactly how to solve problems.

This is old and outdated and simply doesn’t work.

But there is a new proven method to learn mathematics. It’s called “active learning.” Active math education revolves around the core idea of engagement. Students learn math when they are active and engaged in the activity.

Picture this: a teacher standing at the front of the room, but instead of lecturing, they are asking questions. They are encouraging the students to talk. Students sit, 4 at a table, discussing mathematics amongst themselves. The teacher is walking around the room and from time-to-time engaging in these conversations as well.

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