Changing Schools - How to Navigate This Tough Decision

As a Learning Specialist, school placement frequently comes up as an important issue with the families in my practice.  When a child is falling behind and is showing clear signs of  resistance to going to school, it is time to consider whether the fit between the child and their current school is right. 

As stressful as considering changing schools can be, there are real guidelines that can help determine if a new school placement is necessary. In my work, I guide parents through a decision funnel that looks at 5 important factors.  If more than two factors are present, a school change is possibly needed.  If three or more factors are present, a school change should be made if at all possible.  The factors I use are:

  •   A child is a non-traditional learner 'as defined by their OptiKode' and is   struggling
  •    A child  has learning disabilities that can not be  supported with an IEP  at   school
  •    Despite attempted academic interventions, the child's well-being is      deteriorating
  •  There is an intractable power struggle between school staff and the  child/family
  •  The child and  family have a sense that another school would ignite a love  of learning

Once these factors are considered and a parent sees the need for a school change, the next important consideration is obvious - which school? The good news is that in the surrounding area there are a variety of schools to consider.  One is Eagle Peak Montessori in Walnut Creek. Eagle Peak is a free, charter school that does a marvelous job combining the best of the Montessori philosophy while still addressing the California State Standards. Nonetheless, Eagle Peak is not  the best fit for a child who has attention deficit or another processing disorder which makes being self-driven and independent difficult. Horizons Home School is another good free public school option which has helped many non-traditional students get the most out of high school.  However, Horizons Home School would not be the best fit for a highly social child who needs a great deal of peer interaction to thrive.

 Currently I have a family with 6 children, 2 of whom in my mind would do better in an alternative school placement.  We are beginning the process now and I suspect that these 2 children will be attending another school before year's end.   I know how hard it is to go through this process; thankfully  I have not as yet had a 'fail' - a placement that wasn't a good fit, or worse yet, was a disaster.  As a former psychotherapist I enjoy attuning to and supporting families as they navigate this tough decision.  I also use the individual OptiKodes of each student to find the right school that will ignite each child's love of learning. 

How OptiKodes Breathe New Life Into School Success



 I did a phone intake today with a a mother who is seeking new solutions for her 11th grade daughter's school difficulties.  It didn't take long during the intake to determine what underlies this high school girl's struggles - she has all three risk factors working against her academic success: 1) she has a late October birthday and therefore is young for grade level; 2) her OptiKode shows she is a non-traditional learner; and 3) she has recently been diagnosed with a learning disability as well. In looking at her OptiKode pictured above, both the gold Reading Modality and the dark blue Thinking Modality are 'dormant' in her OptiKode.  This means that both reading and math are not her natural strengths. As the word dormant implies, she has had to work quite hard in school to make the grades. The problem now is she is running out of energy to sustain this battle and she still has two more years to go.

Cases such as these are very heartbreaking, but as I explained to her mother today, the power of OptiKodes is how  quickly they create learning breakthroughs regardless of how long a student has struggled.  As I briefly explained to this mom, there are 120 different OptiKodes, with multiple variations of each one. Yet all that is needed with each student is to dial in  their particular OptiKode for it shows which tools and techniques will unlock each student's full learning potential.

The image of this new client's OptiKode above  tells me just how to work with her. The light blue outer ring shows that she is very image or picture oriented. A picture literally says a thousand words to her and this can be used to help her in all her subjects.  One of several tools I will use to help her with reading comprehension and vocabulary will be a visual  story boarding technique instead of using traditional, written notes.  The second ring in her OptiKode shows she is very Moving Dominant - no wonder she is such a talented athlete.  When the red, Moving Dominant Modality is first or second in an OptiKode you almost always see a student who plays year-round sports.  Unfortunately most of the time this same  Moving Dominant OptiKode will also be Reading Dominant and this is true of 25% of all OptiKodes. These are the non-traditional learners who confound teachers year after year.  If only the education system at large knew about Functional Styles and how to empower these equally gifted students with a fine-tuned understanding of their OptiKode.

 I will meet with this high school student and her mom and brother in two days time.  As is always the case, this family will go away with a very deep understanding of the similarities and differences in all their OptiKodes and how to keep this understanding at the forefront of their interactions with one another.  For the 11th grade student who is the real focus of treatment, my goal is for her to leave feeling real hope that the next two years of high school will be entirely different. 


How We Learn – don’t Bribe or Beat – Ignite the Flame of Curiosity

Neither Children nor School Districts need the ‘Carrot or Stick’ Approach

In over 15 years of working with struggling students, I know one thing for sure – All children are natural born learners. Curiosity is wired into our DNA and consciousness. The old adage, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink’ is dead-on with children and education. You can’t beat education into a child and it’s very challenging to try to bribe them to learn as well.

Our current carrot and stick approach to education totally misses the point. Parents can give kids $5 for every A and ground them for every D, but this approach encourages cheating and grade grubbing, not learning. As every parent knows, positive reinforcement (bribes) may sometimes work. Punishment, especially if it is not a natural consequence, rarely changes behavior. read article»

I read hundreds of articles every month on many aspects of education and education reform. Most of what I read focuses on the glass being half empty with very little creative and practical insight into how to get the glass full. It’s a joy to come across someone like Vanessa Ralph, a USF biomedical science graduate and high school chemistry teacher, with real insight.

More on Vanessa later, but first…

Many children are returning to Common Core classrooms this year. While I believe every child is a unique individual, education does require some standardization to be effective and affordable, but we do not have to sacrifice individuality, nor create standardized children in the process.

Two-thirds of American Federation of Teachers’ delegates voted in support of the standards’ potential but called for them to be guidelines, not straightjackets. Our members also called for school officials to be held accountable for proper implementation, for teachers and parents to have real input in the process, and for a different and more meaningful accountability system for educators and students not based on testing every child every year. Finally, teachers supported a moratorium on the high-stakes consequences of Common Core-aligned assessments until, at the very least, the standards are properly implemented. read article»

As I see it, the biggest issues with Common Core right now are: it has become a cause celebre for divisive politics and a ‘pot of gold’ for businesses that want nothing more than to exploit changing tests and texts for profits. The only real hope for education reform is for parents and educators to align for ‘what works for every child?’ Is this even remotely possible, give that ‘our children, not the others are our main concern? This is exactly why we need an education system that is fair to all and is really about education and not politics or financial status.

Now, back to Vanessa –

Vanessa is spending her time hand drawing a chemistry textbook stylized for people who prefer to learn visually. She is implementing wisdom and insight that I employ day in and day out with multisensory learners – meet them where they learn best, or as I like to say – sync the learning to the student.

It’s chock-full of illustrations that help reiterate the point in a way that will make sense,” she said. “The problem with textbooks is they explain a concept over five or six pages of really small text that can be broken down into a sentence and an image. read article»

Vanessa offers us a real example of how educators and parents can rally around what we now know, through neuroscience and cognitive development, about the learning process – it’s not about the right carrot or an effective stick, it’s about – what does each child need to light and fan their unique flame of curiosity.

End of Year Challenge?

OptiKodes Make Parents the Experts in Their Children’s Success

Not all families look forward to the end of the current school year. For many parents, it has been a grueling 7 or 8 months to this point, with the remaining weeks promising more tension and homework stress.  

I have seen the burden of school support grow heavier and heavier for parents over the 15 years I have been a Learning Specialist. Now more than ever, parents are expected to carry the load at home and make sure homework gets done and tests are prepared for.  Amazingly, very little is available to help parents become the experts in their children’s success which is a key role they are being asked to fill. 

Depending on the personalities of various family members, homework wars and the tension of nightly homework consume family life in most households. Even in families where children are getting good grades, homework has been hijacking  family well-being since school began last fall. Is this inevitable?  Do parents have any recourse to this brutal education marathon they have to run with their kids all year long? Is there any way to finish the year with sanity and even harmony between everyone?

OptiKodes Academy is set up to offer parents resources which  make them true experts in  creating learning breakthroughs and stress-free homework each night.   It's not too late in the year to try OptiKodes on for size. A simple, free test on our website at will reveal your children's OptiKodes. The results of the test are best used with the  The Struggling Student OptiTuning Guide available on the site. The Guide  quickly dials in  tools and techniques which are a custom fit for your child.  This is what 'turns upside down learning right-side up' for your children and will help lighten the load on your family for the rest of the school year. 

Families who use OptiKodes consistently report that  using them has quickly transformed their child’s learning and family life.  Knowing your child’s – and your own – OptiKode streamlines your support and gives you customized tools to reach your child and preserve everyone’s well-being. Getting a taste of OptiKodes now will make you a believer and convince you to support your children with  them from day one of the next academic school year.