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SAT or ACT? Or Both?

Juniors in high school are busy students.  Adding to their academic and extra-curricular burden is the prep for the SAT or ACT tests.  Which test is best for me?  Do I have to take both?  Most college applications require SAT or ACT scores so students need to map out when they are going to take these tests before they send their applications in the Fall of their Senior year.


Most colleges that we encounter will accept either SAT or ACT scores.  College advisors at area high schools often recommend that you take both.  Many students also respond to the desire to do well on both tests.  However, you only need an acceptable score on ONE test to be accepted.


We recommend that you take a free practice SAT test and ACT test.  (Students usually have PSAT scores that we can use in place of a practice SAT test.)  The SAT and ACT tests have different sections and different timing issues for the students.


Students who are better at math may gravitate to the SAT because the SAT score is 50% math.  Whereas, students who are more talented in Reading/ English may prefer the ACT because it is only 25% math and the other 75%–reading, English, and science—relies on stronger reading skills.


Many of our students are studying to improve their SAT/ACT scores to earn scholarships to out of state schools, like Oklahoma State, University of Oklahoma, and U of Arkansas.  Other students are trying to earn scholarships at private colleges–TCU, Baylor, SMU—or gain acceptance into the honors programs.  It is common for students to earn $32-40,000 in scholarships by raising their scores.


Give us a call and set up a free 15-minute consultation to help you choose which test is best for you.  Our program can help you prepare for both the SAT and ACT and we will guide you through your Junior/Senior years as you test and apply to college.




Before you add those test scores to your pile of papers on the kitchen counter, note how your student scored on the test and formulate a study plan for the SAT.

Myth 1: My student is smart or a good student and will do fine on the SAT.

Their SAT scores will mirror their PSAT scores and now that you have those PSAT scores, plan to increase those scores 100-200 points.   If you study for tests at school, why would you not practice and learn the strategies to get YOUR top score.

Myth 2:  The PSAT is not important.

It is your Junior year.  The PSAT scores from the Junior year are used to identify National Merit Scholars.  If your student is a high scoring student, increasing those scores can lead to an opportunity to be a National Merit Scholar. National Merit Scholars benefit from full ride scholarships to colleges across the country.

Myth 3:  My PSAT scores will improve each year.

Not really, not that much.  Students who do not study the PSAT/SAT will see little or no growth in their scores.  Students often say they plan to take the SAT test again to improve.  Statistically, they will not improve unless they practice.

 sportboy Study Skills page

Most students take the SAT their Junior year and many take it more than once.  With our prep program, students return to classes free to continue to improve their scores.  Some students return Senior year, to earn scholarships or admittance to the honors programs at their chosen colleges.

Getting Back the Joys of Learning

“Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them…”

—Charles Dickens, Hard Times

In “Joy: A Subject Schools Lack” (The Atlantic; Jan 2015), Susan Engel – a mother, teacher, and developmental psychologist – points out the troubling truth that, for many schools, the last thing they’re concerned with nowadays is “what it feels like to be a child, or what makes childhood an important and valuable stage of life in its own right.” Thus, we now see many elementary and high schools (and even some colleges) focusing on the needs and wants of parents rather than students, pitching buzzwords and slogans about getting kids prepped for college and high-stakes careers rather than for adulthood, lifelong learning, and – I don’t know – their upcoming grade level. Or, as Engel puts it, “This may explain why so many schools that I visit seem more like something out of a Dickens novel than anything else.”

As a kid, my husband attended a private elementary school in Ft. Worth for his K-8 – a school that’s principal was often fond of telling parents, Third grade is the best preparation for fourth grade, fourth grade is the best preparation for fifth grade, and so on. In other words, a child’s education should really be just that: an education for children that takes one step at a time, not an education for future college students or CEOs that constantly leaps forward without regard to the here-and-now. What’s more, it seems to me that instilling and focusing on the joys of learning for students would be a tremendous means of also increasing and enhancing the joys of teaching.

As feminist philosopher and writer Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés wrote in Women Who Run With the Wolves, people’s

“psyches and souls…have their own cycles and seasons of doing and solitude, running and staying, being involved and being removed, questing and resting, creating and incubating, being of the world and returning to the soul-place. When we are children … the instinctive nature notices all these phases and cycles. … Children are the wildish nature, and without being told to, they prepare for the coming of these times, greeting them, living with them, and keeping from those times recuerdos, mementos, for remembering ….” (pg 276-277)

What joys might we all better experience and live with now – not simply remember – if we’d allowed ourselves to learn and grow with these instinctive, wildish, soul-fulfilling cycles, rather than elbowing our way out of them in some abstract desire to one day be “successful”? How much more successful and joyful might we all be if we’d let ourselves continue to love and enjoy learning, if we’d been encouraged to experience and embrace feelings of awe and wonderment rather than to push constantly ahead, constantly faster, and to act “cool” and unimpressed with the world, ourselves, and each other?

Engel inspired and started us off in this post, so I’ll let her end it as well:

Before you brush this argument aside as sentimental fluff, or think of joy as an unaffordable luxury in a nation where there is dire poverty, low academic achievement, and high dropout rates, think again. The more dire the school circumstances, the more important pleasure is to achieving any educational success. … The more difficult a child’s life circumstances, the more important it is for that child to find joy in his or her classroom.”

Further Readings & Videos:

Say, What?

Sloan Creek: Learning Community

Considering the arguments of Kids Growth’s “Why Won’t My Child Talk To Me?”, the answer becomes deceptively simple: They’ll be thrilled talk and share with you, so long as you’re prepared to listen and share in return.

The difficult key here is being able to remain patient and respectful even when your child seems to be acting unreasonably, disrespectfully, or irrationally. As Kids Growth explains, “You can accept and respect your children’s feelings even when you don’t see things the same way. You also can accept their feelings without necessarily accepting how they handle them (for example, it’s okay to be angry, but not to hit).”

Kids Growth lists a number of useful suggestions on how to steer you and your family onto a path of clear and effective communication, but we’ve got a few more to add to their collection:

  • Set aside time to talk — sometimes creating time for…

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Getting Gritty

The latest and hottest education buzzword is Grit.

Consider Tovia Smith’s “Does Teaching Kids To Get ‘Gritty’ Help Them Get Ahead?”: “Around the nation, schools are beginning to see grit as key to students’ success – and just as important to teach as reading and math. Experts define grit as persistence, determination, and resilience” – it’s one of the hardest qualities to instill in people, and perhaps especially so in today’s American culture of extremes (where parents are often labelled as either helicopters or completely checked out, and where nearly all students are made to feel entirely risk-averse when it comes to their education (such that they are either labelled as uncreative test-taking machines or as lazy, dumb, and/or entitled brats)).

But still, it’s grit that has everyone up in arms in the education world right now, and it’s grit that has everyone scratching their heads as they try to find new means of supporting and encouraging grit-development in themselves and their kids.

Dr. Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, received a MacArthur Foundation genius grant for being the first to coin “grit” as the next step, as that special mystery ingredient needed to better prepare new generations for the future. Much of Duckworth’s story and work is laid bare in Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character. In How Children Succeed, Tough discusses not only Duckworth’s research, but also the work of other prominent grit-studiers like Dr. Walter Mischel of Columbia University. In particular, Tough is careful to explain Mischel’s (now famous) Marshmallow Test (it’s a fascinating chapter!). The marshmallow test is deceptively simple: In his test group, Mischel gives each child a single marshmallow and then tells them that they can either eat the one marshmallow immediately, or wait a few minutes and get to eat two marshmallows. It’s a test of delayed gratification, of self-control, and of being able to imagine a new, perhaps sweeter future. But there’s more to grit than having the willpower to delay gratification—grit also encompasses the ability to face down and persevere against mistakes, setbacks, and rejection.

Grit is also, in other words, the ability to accept failure as a part of life and learning, rather than as a source of shame or stupidity.

Take, for example, the ability to expertly play an instrument. Many people have this dream or desire, but very few have the ability. Why? Most people likely could become at least decent musicians if they chose to practice often enough—but that’s just it. The choosing to act. The deciding to act. The act of taking purposeful action.

While many people may go into music lessons with the understanding that mastering an instrument takes time and practice, few people have the ability to handle the kind of delay in gratification necessary to really put in all that time, and perhaps even fewer have the ability to then also persevere despite any and all roadblocks that might crop up: lack of natural talent, consistent mistakes that may feel embarrassing, not wanting to practice for feelings of embarrassment, not placing in a music competition, receiving bad reviews, etc.

Grit, as the popular argument now goes, may be the answer to these challenges.

After all, what is natural talent worth if someone’s not willing or doesn’t feel able to put in the work necessary to let said talent flourish?

As Jonathan Rowson, Scottish chess grand master, once wrote: “When it comes to ambition, it is crucial to distinguish between ‘wanting’ something and ‘choosing’ it.” (qtd. in Tough 130) –An idea that hits directly on Duckworth’s theories regarding grit and success: “The problem with self-control techniques like the ones that the most disciplined marshmallow resisters employed is that they work only when a child knows what he or she wants.” (Tough 64)

But how can we as teachers, friends, parents, and students begin to better foster this element of grit in ourselves and each other?

While there’s no hard and fast way to “teach” grit, people are coming up with some pretty interesting and inventive techniques for trying to foster this elusive trait. Here are just a few ideas to consider:

  • According to Vicki Zakrzewski’s “Two Ways to Foster Grit” (with Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, University of California, Berkeley): 1) “Teach students about the impact of thoughts and beliefs on their ability to succeed. Students who have created a habit of telling themselves that they are bad at everything and that failure is inevitable will have a hard time with grit.” And 2) “Teach students how to work with their emotions. … For example, when a student who holds the belief, ‘I am bad at math, therefore I am a bad person’ (a common belief amongst some students who fear failure) faces an obstacle, emotions such as fear, despair, or anger may arise so quickly that the student doesn’t have time to change his or her thinking to fend off the emotion. … To help these students, educators should first teach them to recognize and label emotional responses so that they become aware when their emotions are spinning out of control. They should then follow this with methods for calming difficult emotions.” (This really is a fascinating article. You can (and probably should) read the entire thing: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/two_ways_to_foster_grit)
  • Create safe spaces for you and your kids to learn, take risks, and make mistakes. Risks and mistakes should be thought of as simply a natural part of the learning process – not as a sign of failure, weakness, lack of talent, or stupidity. As Smith further explains in her “Does Teaching Kids To Get ‘Gritty’ Help Them Get Ahead?”: “One way to make kids more tenacious, the thinking goes, is to show them how grit has been important to the success of others, and how mistakes and failures are normal parts of learning — not reasons to quit.” –and Jason Baehr, professor of philosophy at Loyola Marymount University, agrees, stating that: “‘You can create a classroom culture in which struggle and risk-taking is valued more than just getting the right answer.’” You can also try talking with your kids about who their heroes are and how grit has helped those heroes succeed—perhaps an avid reader of Stephen King might look to the years when King struggled with rejection letter after rejection letter from publishers; perhaps a sports fan might look to some of the losing games his or her favorite players have endured during their athletic careers; and so on and so on.

Works Consulted:

An Added Bonus

First, thank you, Math Universe, for posting on this important topic of peer tutoring. Peer tutoring is an intensely interactive and often immensely effective means of learning and mastering new materials. I love especially that this post is coming from Math Universe, since many articles and posts often focus on writing-related opportunities for peer tutoring (not that these opportunities aren’t very important as well; my own tutoring experience is grounded primarily in the world of writing). Peer tutoring and classroom-organized study groups are terrific tools for helping students discover ways of both understanding the materials for themselves and from the perspectives of others.

It’s this diversity that I find especially appealing about in-class study group systems. Friends often study together or forge their own study groups outside of class. However, while this is great, it can also be beneficial to work with people you wouldn’t normally otherwise consult. In colleges, such systems are alive and well. Take Southwestern University (Georgetown, TX) for example. They’ve long been experimenting with the Paideia Program, where accepted applicants are grouped into diverse cohorts that will stick together, serve together, and learn together from their sophomore year to their senior year. This enables students from all departments and backgrounds to come together and benefit from each other’s unique perspectives. Of course, the program has changed dramatically since I was a student there (it’s now a requirement of all Southwestern students rather than a program for students to apply into), but the core purposes and goals remain the same: interdisciplinary collaboration, civic engagement, intercultural experience, and learning to apply one’s education beyond the classroom. (For more information on the Paideia Program specifically, visit: http://www.southwestern.edu/paideia/)

All of this is to say that peer tutoring and formalized study groups can be as diverse, challenging, and beneficial as you want to make them. Studying and mastering new skills is always difficult, but taking the time to work through these challenges with others not only fosters greater opportunities to learn, but greater opportunities to form lifelong friendships, leadership qualities, and collaboration skills.

The Math Universe

Something that I really like about science classes is that during lab you get the opportunity to interact with classmates.  In lecture only classes, it seems as though people just show up to class and then leave, but when you have lecture and then lab after a short break – or viseversa – there is that additional time to get to know each other.

The reason I bring this up is because sometimes it’s helpful to study with another person.  Some more introverted students (such as myself) may have difficulty meeting friends in class.  But when you are sitting in tables that seat four people and told to work with a partner, it’s like a built-in study buddy.  Or it could be a horrible nightmare if your partner is completely incompetent, but even then that can have its positive side, as I will discuss later.

My Trigonometry teacher would always…

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Albert Einstein’s Reply to a Female Fan’s Confession Should Be in Every Science Textbook

“If you have ever been called defiant, incorrigible, forward, cunning, insurgent, unruly, rebellious, you’re on the right track. Wild Woman is close by. If you have never been called these things, there is yet time.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run with the Wolves


Thank you for this post, Central Oregon Coast NOW — this is a tremendous and succinct comment on the continued and pervasive problem of women and girls being culturally and socially discouraged from pursuing their interests in math and science.

As German artist, Käthe Kollwitz, once said, “I am in the world to change the world.” Women and girls need to know this in their bones. And women and girls need to remember that anyone who would suggest otherwise or suggest that women are somehow less valuable because of their gender is someone afraid of losing power, is someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, and is someone attempting to break down and smother out the multitudinous nature of others.

Don’t ever let yourself be broken down, and don’t forget these wise words from Albert Einstein to a young female scientist:

“I do not mind that you are a girl, but the main thing is that you yourself do not mind.”

Central Oregon Coast NOW

By Smriti Sinha  July 1, 2014

“I hope you will not think any the less of me for being a girl!”

This plea was sent to Albert Einstein by a young South African in the 1940s, and was recently unearthed as part of Alice Caprice’s Dear Professor Einstein: Albert Einstein’s Letters to and from Children. Although brief, Tyfanny’s words capture the self-consciousness and self-doubt that have for so long plagued women who aspire to careers in science and technology.

In the letter, dated Sept. 19, 1946, a seemingly agonized Tyfanny admits to Einstein that she has left out a potentially damaging detail about herself. “I forgot to tell you, in my last letter, that I was a girl. I mean I am a girl,” the young scientist writes. “I have always regretted this a great deal, but by now I have become more or less resigned to the…

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