Location, Location, Location

We don’t make decisions lightly or quickly. We have spent the last two years casually looking at other locations within Brockville that will meet our criteria for the centre. We recently decided to get off the fence and make a move uptown.

I had a very lengthy pros and cons list! We sat down and mapped out the distance from schools, from long-term clients homes, from local amenities and settled on five possible locations.

Commerce Court won!

At this new location we will still have four private classrooms for our individual lessons. But what tips the scale is that we go from the Mount Everest of stair climbs down to about ten stairs. We go from a hallway waiting room that is bookended by stairs and entrances to a larger square space that will let us greet clients without stepping on people. We also get central air so no more debate between listening to sirens and traffic, or listening to a rattling air conditioner.

But the two things that will make our clients the happiest involve parking and convenience. Downtown parking can be an absolute nightmare and circling the block is often an effort in futility. Now we will have two entrances and two lots for parking. Even better we are mere minutes from the power centre so parents can more easily take advantage of the hour to run errands without the white-knuckle drive back downtown followed by the inevitable block-circling. No more worries about endless red lights or surprise parking tickets!

Having said all that, I will still miss downtown. I like running to Tait’s for lunch, visiting the market, watching the tulips bloom, and seeing the Christmas decorations that light up our snowy streets each winter.

But when we really weighed the pros and cons we knew that this move will allow clients to more easily use our services.

A good number of our clients tried the convenience of in-home tutoring before coming to us, but knew that their kids would be better off in a more structured environment without the inherent distractions of the home. We have always provided the right space, but getting in and out of it was a challenge.

Hopefully we have addressed that issue and can move forward into the upcoming school year in a new space that works for everyone!


Exams. Most of our kids here at Leeds are close to finished this round of exams and you can see that they are ready to be done with this semester.
Shane teaches only high school kids so his last few weeks have been exceptionally busy with students coming in for exam review. Becky and Jennifer currently have elementary students whereas I have a mix of elementary and secondary.
I love exam time. I get very excited about exam review sheets. For some bizarre reason,  I hoard these things.  I like how they break down a whole term into smaller units of study. They make studying seem easier because you can tackle one item at a time and not feel so overwhelmed.
I don’t remember getting review sheets when I was in high school. I do, however, remember making the best cheat sheet ever for chemistry 11. It was beautiful. We were allowed one sheet, double-sided. This was in 1993 so computers were not readily available or as user friendly as they are today. But we did have photocopiers! I wrote as neatly as possible and then photocopied each section and reduced its size when I photocopied it. By the time I was finished I had an amazing amount of hand written work shrunk down to the smallest size that I could still read. I must have had every definition, every equation, and every common element on that sheet. I was so proud of my ingenuity.
It is much easier to get the same result today. Shane’s students are all in math and science so they have been working away on their own cheat sheets. They are very impressive- neat, small, and perfectly clear.
No matter how the cheat sheets are made, I think they are actually great review tools. You must find the information, write it out, and review its value before it can be added to the sheet. By the time the exam comes around you have probably read every item dozens of times! So after spending agonising hours creating it, you may never even need the sheet. The wily teacher tricked you into exam review by letting you think you were getting away with “cheating.”

Best of luck to all the exam writers out there!



The Power of Procrastination.
I will freely admit that the only reason why I am even writing this blog entry is because my Kobo needs to recharge.
I promised myself that I would write one blog entry every two weeks this year. Feel free to count on January 1, 2015 to see how well I did. I am betting on five entries. It isn’t that I don’t like to write the blogs, or that I can’t find the time. The problem is procrastination.
I am the type of person who expects the planets to align before I start a task.
To write a blog entry I need the following:
a) Inspiration for a topic
b) Quiet space to work
c) A minimum of four hours
d) A computer hooked up to the internet so that I can fact check
e) A computer not hooked up to the internet so that I can’t find ways to distract myself
f) A room with the exact right temperature
g) Sunshine
h) A hot beverage

Not too many requirements, eh?
Procrastination is one of my greatest weaknesses. I will put things off knowing full well that I will wake up in the night stressing about them. Once I finally fall asleep, that is. Even better is dealing with the guilt that comes with knowing you made a bad decision.
Many other people are in the same boat as me. We try to avoid dealing with certain tasks often completely aware that the time and effort required to accomplish the tasks may be far less than the time and effort we put into stressing about them.
So why do we do it? (Hold on while I check the internet. I will be back in about an hour. Those cat videos don’t watch themselves, you know).
According to a few different articles on Psychology Today, there are three main reasons why we procrastinate:
Fear of failure
Fear of success
All three of these reasons link back to the root problem- the inability to self-regulate.
According to these articles, the cost of procrastination can be greater than we think. It isn’t just about getting a job done. The stress that comes with procrastination can have a negative effect on your health including insomnia (I can attest to that) and a weakened immune system. It can also hamper you in your professional life because you are not reliable or willing to pull your own weight. If you are a student then procrastination can keep you from reaching your academic potential.
I don’t really think that I procrastinate for the reasons listed above*. I think I have a more obvious reason- I would just rather be doing something else. Sure, I make myself feel sick by putting off the tasks that need to be done but at least I am getting something out of it, right?
There is where self-regulation comes in. I believe that many of us lack the ability to balance the want-to-dos with the have-to-dos. We all seem to want instant gratification and hate having to put off doing the things that make us happy.
For me, it might come down to needing an attitude adjustment (you were right mom!). If I can change my mind set to see that no matter what choice I make, it is MY choice therefore I am in control. I am choosing to file those folders, I am choosing to make those phone calls, I am choosing to write those programmes. Maybe then, when I choose to read a book or watch cat videos on the internet, I can do so knowing that I have already finished the have-tos and can now relax, guilt-free, with some want-tos.
*full-disclosure- I do sometimes put off submitting certain writing projects because of editing. For the sake of trying to overcome this potential problem, I am just going to read all 2014 entries over a few times and not get caught up in every comma and semi-colon. Please forgive any errors.
My favourite procrastination story involves one of my best friends from school. I love to tell this one to my high school students here at Leeds.
Here is how it goes. We were in grade 12 academic English with Mrs. Sampson. She was a fairly strict teacher who didn’t fall sway to sob stories and she would not let you get away with shoddy work. My friend was a good student who typically made the honour roll, showed up for class, was well-behaved, and generally an ideal student. Her one flaw would be that she did often wait to the last minute to work on major projects. She could pretty much always pull it off. Not so much this time. It was our year 12 Independent Study Project. This was a big deal and worth a large portion of our mark.
My friend Jaime and I walked into the downstairs girls’ bathroom at RDHS to see Ann (name changed for her protection) camped out on the floor surrounded by papers. This was the morning our ISPs were due. She was doing her project on honey. A major English project-on honey. I still laugh when I think about it. Apparently, she decided on the topic that morning when looking at her mom’s cookbook titles. When I asked her why, she simply said, “I panicked.” So she had to do a major essay and a presentation that was due second period and her only reference was a cookbook.
She got a zero.
This was back when spelling counted and late projects would not be accepted. There was no extra-credit work that would be given in order to help her bring her mark back up.
She paid a pretty big price for her procrastination. But the question is, was it worth it?
Nine Tips to Stop Procrastinating
Why We Procrastinate
Why Do You Procrastinate?

Do you have a story about how procrastination came back to bite you? Share it on our Leeds Learning Centre Facebook page at



First Day of School

It is time for school again!

Who doesn’t love back to school time? Okay, maybe a few
grumbly kids out there are not quite as excited as I am.

As a kid, I loved the first day of school. My sister and I
would have everything ready for days before- the pencil crayons were sharpened,
the new erasers were out of their packages, and I had binders bursting with
lined paper. My sister, seven years younger, seemed fascinated with ball point
pens and white out. We were only allowed to use them starting in grade seven so
she would still have years to wait. We would pack our lunches, pose for the
first-day picture, grab our new backpacks, and then walk to school. Hoping our
summer-weakened brains were ready for the next grade’s challenges, we would
enter the school and head off to our classrooms.

Growing up in the country, back to school time was also when
we would see the majority of our friends again. Summer was wonderful but anyone
further than a bike-ride away was lost to me for July and August. To make
matters worse, everyone outside my village was 
long-distance so I had to leave the phone on its hook to avoid my
father’s wrath.

As an adult, I really haven’t lost my love for the first
Tuesday after Labour Day. I still buy more paper than is really necessary, but
now I also get to buy books- textbooks, student daybooks, new novel study
books, and yes- more pencils, pens, erasers, and post-it notes. The stockholders
at Staples must love me. I still giggle with excitement when I see the
September flyer.

To me, this is a more natural time for fresh starts than New
Year’s Day. I feel invigorated and refreshed. I am ready to learn, to teach, to

Sure, in a few months I may be back to my more relaxed
habits but this rush gets me started on the right track.

Do you have a special back to school memory or traditions
that you would like to share? Find Leeds Learning Centre on Facebook and share
it with us!

Young Writers

I have always been a voracious reader and I try to instill a love of reading in my students as well. Many of my teachers over the years have commented on how they would never see me without a book in my hand. This remains true today.
I also love to write. I have a tendency to write stories and never do anything with them. I have a children’s book that I wrote six years ago that is still being edited (and edited, and re-edited). Part of the problem is that I am nervous to share my work with others. What if people hate it? What if it is boring? “What if?” is something that we all need to get over.
I have recently been inspired by two particular students who have been working away on their first novels. I feel that I should do my part to help them, and kids like them, share their work and beat the what if problem at a young age. I want them to grow as writers and to enjoy the process and the result.
So, here we go- Leeds Learning Centre is happy to announce our first Young Writers’ Contest!

The Details:
Open to local students in grade five to eight
Story must be:
• between 500-1000 words
• written independently
• received by 6:00 on Monday, 1 April
• previously unpublished
• typed and double-spaced

Each story should have a title page with the story title, author’s name, age, school, and parent contact information. The author’s name should not appear in the story.
Entries will be collected by Shane Granger and judged by Melanie Chisamore and Becky Mitton.

Mail to:
Leeds Learning Centre
3 Court House Avenue Brockville, Ontario K6V 4T3
or email
By submitting a story you agree to the online and print publication of the story, student’s name, information, and picture.

I am very excited to see what our local talent has to offer! Who knows, maybe your courage will finally inspire me to get that book published!
Best of luck!

The Great Debate 3

The Great Reading Debate

Part Three of Three
We have recently looked at the two sides of the reading debate.
There are positives and negatives to each side, but this post is all
about our style.

At Leeds Learning Centre, we use a balanced approach. Our
programmes are built upon the phonics model; however, we take the
best parts of whole word instruction and use them to supplement the
phonics-based approach when appropriate.
Since our classes are one-to-one, we can modify a programme to best
suit each student’s particular need. Every reading lesson has phoneme
practice, reading from lists, reading from stories, workbook activities,
and comprehension questions. This lets us make up for the limitations
and challenges that occur in classroom phonics or whole word
instruction. Students are taught to clearly articulate sounds and identify
patterns and combinations that occur. Rules and exceptions are taught,
as well as coping strategies for tricky words.
In general, students receive 90% phonics-based instruction and a
modified whole word approach for the remaining 10%. The phonics side
teaches kids about the grapheme-phoneme relationship, blending
skills, reading rules, long and short vowel sounds, and other
fundamentals of reading. We use a combination of whole word and
phonics for a handful of words that can be sounded out but are far
easier to memorize.  These words include “though”, “would”, “one”,
and “because”.  

When parents ask me how they can help their child at home, my advice
is to use whole word instruction. Unless a parent has been trained in
phonics, the whole word method is the most straightforward way for
them to help their child and keep reading as relaxing as possible.
Overall, I feel that a solid, structured, phonics-based reading
programme taught by a trained instructor is the best way to teach a
child to read. The whole word method has its place in reading, but I feel
that it should only be supplementary to phonics. I have not yet met a
student who didn’t, at one point, stare at a word and say, “I can’t
remember that word”. I always remind them to sound it out using our
technique and then presto- they say the word.
No matter which method is used, it is very important to read aloud with
children. Read to them, read with them, have them read to you. The
more often a child simultaneously hears, sees, and says a word, the
sooner it will become fluent.
There are few things I love more than teaching kids to read. The whole
world suddenly opens up before them and Christmas lists are never
safe again.

The Great Debate 2

Part Two of Three

Last post was about whole word instruction- today’s post is about the
other side of the debate.

Phonics instruction is a “bottom up” method of reading. Students learn
the sounds (phonemes) that each letter (grapheme) makes. Rather
than teaching just one letter-one sound, phonics also incorporates the
combination letters (digraphs) that take two or more letters and make
an entirely new, independent sound. These sounds are combined to
make the word. Although there are 26 letters of the alphabet, there are
over 40 separate phonemes that combine to make words. Once a
student has been taught the sound-symbol relationship and a few
rules, they can start sounding out and reading words. Decoding skills
allow students to use patterns and recurring combinations to figure out
large or unfamiliar words.
Phonics instruction is not easy for a parent to teach at home. There are
many rules and exceptions and good phonics instruction requires
consistency and practice.

*       good building blocks for solid reading skills
*       better for students who have language development
*       once students learn the basics, they can start to apply
         strategies immediately
*       less guessing and therefore greater word accuracy
*       gradually builds skills/vocabulary until sounding out is not
*       does not rely on memorization of thousands of words- even
         unfamiliar words follow patterns and can be decoded
*       improves spelling because students look for patterns
         between sound combinations and letter combinations

*       difficult for parents to help out at home
*       rules and exceptions to rules can be confusing
*       irregular words are hard to sound out
*       may know the word but not the meaning

Next post- what method we think is best!

The Great Debate

Whole word or phonics?

Part One of Three

Like anything else, education goes through cycles. Whole word
instruction used to be the dominate way to teach reading. Then
phonics usurped the reading throne around 1970. Whole word
instruction has once again come around in many North American

You have most likely seen Word Wall words coming home from school.
These words are part of whole word instruction. This method is also
known as sight words or look and say.  The idea behind the whole
word method is for readers to memorize the appearance of words. It
does not teach isolated sounds or blending skills. It is a “top down” way
to acquire reading skills. It teaches the entire word and then allows the
reader to attach a meaning to the word.
Whole word is the easiest method for parents to assist with at
home. As a parent you do not need special training or a tremendous
knowledge of how to teach reading, you just need to know how to say
the words.
Word Wall words are compiled from high-frequency lists. These words
are introduced in the classroom, read aloud, spelled aloud, used in
spelling dictation, sent home for review, and usually posted for
reference in the classroom. It makes sense that if these words occur
often, we want the kids to be able to identify and read the words.
*       easy for parents to help out at home
*       easy for children with good recall
*       avoids dealing with tricky reading rules
*       focus is more on meaning of word rather than word
*       difficult for students with dyslexia or other language
         processing disorders
*       promotes guessing
*       relies on strong visual memory
*       might work well with high usage words, but what happens
         when tackling unfamiliar words?

One last thing…
The Word Wall words your child brings home are most likely
from the most common list- the Dolch list. Edward William
Dolch PhD created this list in 1936 and it was published in
1948. The words are divided by grade into five categories
ranging between pre-primer to grade three. It consists of
220 service words and an additional 95 word list of nouns.

Next Post: Phonics instruction!

EQAO Testing

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