joomla counter

The Learning Zone

Stuff the Bus Event a Sensational Success!

We are happy to announce that this year's Stuff the Bus School Supplies Drive held by Parrish Learning Zone, Spotsylvania County Schools, and Century 21 AdVenture-Redwood, was a huge success! Through the event held at Walmart on August 17th and the ongoing collection of school supplies at Parrish Learning Zone, Century 21, Giant at Harrison Crossing, the Snow Library, and the Spotsylvania County Schools Treasure House, we were able to collect a whole truckload of school supplies for needy students in Spotsylvania County! School supplies will be distributed through the Spotsylvania County Treasure House, located behind Massaponax High School. Students in need of supplies can access these free supplies through their school social worker.DSC 0111

In Spotsylvania County Public Schools, there were nearly 700 homeless students during the previous school year. The number of homeless students has risen by 78 percent in the last six years. This has created a tremendous need for resources in our schools. Homeless students struggle to have the basic necessities and often have to go to school without school supplies. For this reason, the school system is in need of basic schools supplies to distribute to these students so that these children do not have to go without 

supplies and so that providing this large number of supplies does not become a strenuous financial burden on teachers. The Stuff the Bus School Supply Drive collected enough school supplies to provide each of these families with the back to school essentials.

This would not have been possible without the help of the many volunteers who devoted their time and energy to collect and sort through supplies. Generous donations of time, space, and resources by Walmart, Giant at Harrison Crossing, Century 21 AdVenture-Redwood, B 101.5, ATHIOS Technologies, Parrish Learning Zone, and Spotsylvania County Schools. We would like to especially thank everyone in our community for their generous support of our local students! We hope to see you all again at our Stuff the Bus event next August. Best wishes for a wonderful start to the school year!

Browse below for some additional photos from the fun day:

DSC 0090

Many students and local businesses joined us to make the event successful.

DSC 0099

Families enjoyed the day helping us collect supplies.

DSC 0092

Buzzy the Bee from B101.5 was showing his support!!

DSC 0114


-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.
Parrish Learning Zone, LLC
@parrishlearning | | Like us on Facebook
(540) 999-8759




Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Do you spend $600 on Back to School Supplies?

According to the National Retail Federation, the average family does. They estimate that at the beginning of the school year, the average family spends more than $600 on children's clothing, back to school supplies, and electronics. School supplies account for approximately $90 of this total and clothes around $230. This year as many families deal with concerns over the economy's slow recovery, the National Retail Federation estimates that parents will be spending less. This got me thinking, if the average family feels stressed by back to school expenses and finds it necessary to spend over $300 per year on back to school goods, this time must be quite a struggle for students whose parents have a less than average income.

In Spotsylvania County approximately 11% of children under the age of 18 live below the Federal Poverty Line. There are approximately 23,000 students who attend Spotsylvania County Public Schools according to county data. This means that it is very likely that around 2,500 students in our county will have to go without basic school supplies this year. Probably more if you take into consideration that the federal poverty guideline for a family of four for 2013 is $23,550, and that many families who make a little more than this still may not be able to buy all of the school supplies required for each child at the beginning of a new school year.

Want to help? Parrish Learning Zone in conjunction with Spotsylvania County Schools and Century 21 Adventure Redwood are currently holding a Stuff the Bus School Supplies Drive to benefit students across Spotsylvania County. The supplies will be distributed through the Spotsylvania County Schools Treasure House which served nearly 700 homeless students and over 2000 students and family members last year. Place your school supplies donation in the collection box at Parrish Learning Zone, Century 21 Adventure Redwood, Snow Library, Giant at Harrison Crossing, the Treasure House (located behind Massaponax High School), or the Southpoint Walmart. Attend our Stuff the Bus event on this Saturday August 17th to donate school supplies to needy children, hang out with Buzzy and the B-Crew from B 101.5, and help us fill an entire bus with supplies for those in need!
     What: Stuff the Bus School Supplies Drive


     When: Saturday August 17th 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

     Where: Southpoint WalMart 10001 Southpoint Pkwy



-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.

Parrish Learning Zone, LLC |Like us on Facebook
(540) 999-8759



User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

Inactive Summers Could Mean Learning Loss

Do you notice that, over the summer, your kids lose a lot of what they learned during the school year? It's probably not your imagination. As a teacher, I watched each year as students slam-dunked notebooks into trashcans, happily turned in textbooks, and enthusiastically waved goodbye from open school bus windows as they left school for the summer. Some were more than excited to embark on a summer filled with video games, TV, and vacation. However, I could not help but notice that many students came back to school with a little less than they left with. This summer brain drain is a real phenomenon that was revealed through research conducted by Dr. Harris Cooper a Psychology professor at Duke. Dr. Cooper's research recently gained attention in 2010 when President Barack Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan suggested reorganizing the outdated vacation schedule to make the United States more efficient and globally competitive.

For many students, summer is a time of rest, reflection, and renewal, but could too much relaxation actually be a bad thing? Research shows that kids who do not participate in structured and stimulating summer activities lose out academically. So yes, not only is summer inactivity boring, it can also be extremely detrimental to prior learning. According to Cooper's research, after the summer months, test scores reflect, on average, one month's loss in knowledge, as compared to the previous spring. Revealing that, a break from all academics might do more harm than good.

Not all skills are affected. Areas most impacted are those that require repetition and practice, such as spelling and math computation. In fact, regardless of income level, students lose an average of more than two months of math skills over the summer. This may be because unlike reading, math is less likely to be naturally embedded in a child's environment. Consequently, over the summer, they may get very little math practice, causing a significant loss of math skills. Similar to how a musician or athlete must practice to maintain their skills, a student must sustain a certain level of practice to stay in tip top academic shape. However, Cooper's research shows that after three months of lost learning, reteaching must occur. This learning loss and subsequent reteaching time can add up to years of schooling lost by the time students reach high school.

However, there is a lot that parents can do to prevent summer learning loss. A research synthesis by Cooper et al. (2000) revealed that summer programs focusing on remedial, accelerated, or enriched learning have a positive impact on the knowledge and skills of participants. Parents can look for ways to maintain students' academic skills over the summer, especially those that involve facts and procedures like math and spelling. The most effective programs, according to Cooper's research, are those that are small and offer individualized instruction. There are a wide variety of programs like this available in the Fredericksburg area. Taking this small step may save you months of hassle and frustration at the beginning of the next school year.

-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.
Parrish Learning Zone, LLC 
@parrishlearning | | Like us on Facebook
(540) 999-8759

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

College Quest Causes Stress

Helping a teenager get into college can be very stressful for parents. As graduating classes have become larger, and the number of students who are college-bound continues to increase, (by 70 percent in the last decade according to the National Center for Educational Statistics), college admission has become hyper competitive. As a result, students are spending hours and hours applying to more and more schools. With over 4,400 degree-granting institutions in the United States, the array of possibilities is enough to make your head spin, and then there is the scholarship application process to consider! So, what is a good-intentioned but very overwhelmed parent to do?

The reality is, that these days, the college preparation process should start early, freshman year, by making sure that your student is taking challenging classes. In addition, students may want to seek out adult or professional help with the application process. In many situations, the application is the only opportunity that they will have to differentiate themselves from other students. Of course, the level of parent involvement that is necessary depends on your child. Some kids need assistance with every step of the process while others just need guidance. However, even for a very motivated kid, the process is overwhelming and can be very intense. Anything that a parent can do to ease the stress is a gift, and with that in mind, here are some strategies to help your student get into college from the US News and World Report:

1. Get an early start and finish strong-

Make sure that your child makes a four year plan and starts taking challenging courses their freshman year. Colleges want to see that a student has focused from start to finish on getting the best education that their school has to offer.

2. Take on challenges, responsibly-

Encourage your child to take the most challenging courses they can based on their strengths and interests.

3. Don't apply too broadly-

It is much better to be an exceptional applicant at six schools than an average applicant at twelve or twenty!

4. There's room for error, with an explanation-

Make sure to explain any discrepancies in grades or performance instead of just leaving them open to interpretation.

5. Students should be true to who they are-

Make sure that your student is involved in activities that truly interest them. It is better to get involved in a few activities and really make an impact than being superficially involved in a wide array of things. During the college search, they should look for colleges that suit their interests and fit their personality. Encourage them not to pick a college just because of its name or the fact that their friends are going there. It is important to choose a college that has the ideal environment for your student to thrive!

Nina Parrish, M.Ed.
Parrish Learning Zone, LLC
@parrishlearning | | Like us on Facebook
(540) 999-8759

Need help with your college search, essays, or finding scholarships? Visit our college counselor at Parrish Learning Zone. Individual sessions or small groups are available at a reasonable price. We will also be holding a PLZ Get Me Ready For College Workshop June 17-21 and 24-26 and it is limited to 8 students, check out our website for more details.

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Test Anxiety: Is it always a bad thing or could it be an essential ingredient in testing success?

"You will have 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete this test. There are ten separately timed sections: one 25-minute essay, six other 25-minutes sections, two 20-minute sections, and one 10-minute section. Work as rapidly as you can without losing accuracy. Be sure to mark your answer sheet properly. You must use a No. 2 pencil.....Open your test booklets. You may begin."

What do you think of when you hear these testing directions? How do you feel? Does the memory or flashback involve anxiety or fear? If so, you are in good company, as test anxiety seems to be prevalent and on the rise. May is the time when many students will take their Standards of Learning (SOL) tests. This month is also a very popular time for high school students to take the SAT and complete AP testing. With increased pressure and emphasis on standardized testing in our schools, test anxiety is at an all-time high. Having some nervousness may be a sign that your child values the task and could actually be beneficial in making sure that they are well prepared. Test anxiety, which is characterized by excessive fear, is entirely different and can be debilitating, causing students to have difficulty with concentration and recall.

Test Anxiety- What is it?

Test anxiety is a type of performance anxiety. Students with this condition experience severe distress before, during, and after an exam. The stress is not a result of being unprepared. Even though they have the skills to perform, anxiety prevents the student from demonstrating those skills. According to the American School Counselor Association, test anxiety can cause a variety of symptoms such as upset stomach, headache, fear, irritability, trouble focusing, anger, and even depression. Students may also demonstrate behaviors such as difficulty sleeping and a persistent urge to leave the classroom to go to the restroom or nurse. Up to 20 percent of the school-age population suffers from test anxiety. Another 18 percent may have a milder form of the condition, according to the American Test Anxiety Association. Anxiety creates a type of mental fog or static that impairs a student's ability to comprehend, reason, and retrieve information from memory.

I Think my Kid has Test Anxiety, What Can I Do?

Emerging research in psychology and cognitive science is giving us a better understanding of the link between stress and performance. Educational expert and columnist, Annie Murphy Paul makes the following suggestions:

1. Write it Down
Students can use a technique employed by psychologists called "expressive writing" to reduce negative thoughts. Have your student spend the time before a test writing down their thoughts and feelings about the test. This practice allows students to off-load their worries onto the page, freeing up more brain power for the test.

2. Focus on Values
Test anxiety can be especially high in minority and female students. Studies conducted with these groups have shown that test anxiety is reduced and performance improved when students focus on or write about something they value and why it is important to them.

3. Try Relaxation Exercises
If they are stressing the night before the test, kids can do a simple relaxation exercise by lying down, closing their eyes and focusing on their breathing. Then they can focus on tensing and releasing the muscles in their shoulders, arms, stomach, legs, and so on.

Having to take a test is bad enough. If your student is one of the many who struggle with test anxiety, the anticipation, panic, and worry over forgetting everything can make assessment unbearable. Hopefully one of the short exercises above will help to alleviate some of the test-taking stress this month.

Nina Parrish, M.Ed.
Parrish Learning Zone, LLC | Like us on Facebook
(540) 999-8759


Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Study Skills: Just like any other type of SKILL they need to be taught!

I am reading Ron Clark's most recent book, The End of Molasses Classes. If you are not an educator you may be wondering, who is Ron Clark? Ron Clark is a former public school teacher who was named Disney's "American Teacher of the Year. He has written a New York Times Best-selling book on teaching called The Essential 55, and now runs the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta Georgia where tens of thousands of educators visit to learn teaching strategies. I found what Ron Clark had to say about study skills to be insightful and interesting. He encourages parents and educators to show students how to study instead of expecting studying to come naturally.

Very rarely are students taught to study. However, studying is one of the main skills students must master in order to be successful in school. Parents and teachers often assume that students know how to study when in fact they have no clue. How many times have you heard the insistent plea of, "I did study!" after your child fails a test? Often when I have asked students how they study, they reply that they look at their notes (i.e. stare at the page hoping to absorb something); copied their notes (i.e. memorized them word for word with little to no actual understanding); or did very little studying at all (i.e. What? There was a test today!?). Clark mentions a similar experience in his book, noting that after studying in this way, students often still fail the test. This proves to be very frustrating, for student, teacher, and parents.

So, what can be done to make studying more effective? Here are three great suggestions from Ron Clark:

  1. Study notes one page at a time. Read through the page with the objective of trying to retain as much information as possible. Then put the page to the side and try to tell as much as you can to a partner, parent, or aloud to yourself. You can also write down what you remember instead of saying it aloud if that is more helpful to you. Keep reading that page and retelling or writing it down until you can recall all the key facts. Then move on to the next page.
  2. Use color-coding to categorize information. For example, if you are studying multiple battles of the Revolutionary War, assign each battle a color. Then highlight everything having to do with that battle in that color. When you are trying to recall information, remembering the color will help you to remember which battle it went with.
  3. Use flashcards to help memorize events that happen in a certain sequence or steps in a process, for example the scientific method or scenes from a play. Write each step or part of the sequence on a flashcard, shuffle the cards, and practice putting them in the correct order until you can do it quickly and easily.

-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.
Parrish Learning Zone, LLC
@parrishlearning | | Like us on Facebook
(540) 999-8759


Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Redefining Asperger's: The End of an Epidemic?

For many parents, it has been quite a long road to get a proper diagnosis for their child. Some worry that next month that road may just get longer. On May 5th, 2013 when the new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) Version 5 is put into place, autism spectrum disorders as we currently know them may change drastically. In fact, Asperger's Syndrome will cease to exist as a diagnosis entirely. This decision has raised many questions and caused many concerns among parents who have children who are diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.

Children with the group of symptoms currently categorized as Asperger's Syndrome will now fall under the broader category of Autism Spectrum Disorder. As children are reevaluated, their label will change. However, being diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder may prove to be more complicated than in the past. Autism Spectrum Disorder is a term that is already widely used within the autism community, educational settings, and the medical community. Supporters of this change think that it is a matter of education. They reason that the DSM IV broadened the definition of autism causing an upsurge of diagnoses, and that this change will temper the upswing making for a more accurate picture of the disorder. They hope that the changes will clarify the meaning of Asperger's Syndrome within the larger context of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Experts who took part in this decision feel that it is more accurate to say that a student is on the Autism Spectrum and high functioning than to offer a separate diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome. It is also possible that in states where children with the label of Asperger's Syndrome did not qualify for state services, they now will qualify under the new label of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

However, many are much more skeptical about the upcoming change. Parents wonder how the change will affect services their children receive, and many also speculate about how this change will affect the funding for research of this increasingly prevalent condition. The New York Times reported that this revamping of the definition could exclude many children who currently qualify because the new definition is more stringent. Currently a person can qualify by exhibiting any six or more of twelve behaviors. Under the new regulations, the same person would have to exhibit three deficits specifically within the category of social interaction and at least two repetitive behaviors. Many, such as Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, Director of the Child Study Center at Yale, argue that implementing these stricter guidelines will put an end to the "autism epidemic." And maybe that is the intention of the changes, but others maintain that you can't just make autism go away by redefining it.

-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.
Parrish Learning Zone, LLC
@parrishlearning | | Like us on Facebook
(540) 999-8759

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Look Smart, Don’t Make Mistakes

New research conducted by Carol Dwek of Columbia University found that praising kids for being “smart” does not prevent them from underperforming; in fact it may actually cause it.  Dweck spent ten years doing a series of experiments with 400 fifth grade students in the New York Public School System.   The researchers would individually give the students a non-verbal IQ test that was designed to be easy enough for all students to do well.  These tests consisted of series of puzzles that students were required to solve.  Once, the child completed the assessment, students were told their score and given one line of praise.  Students were divided into two groups.  One group was praised for their intelligence with, “You must be smart at this,” and the other group was praised for their effort with, “You must have worked really hard.”  Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round.  The student could take an easy test that would be just like the first or a more difficult test where they were guaranteed to “learn a lot from attempting the puzzles.”  Ninety percent of the students who were praised for their effort chose the harder test for the second round.  Conversely, of the students who were praised for being smart, the majority chose the easy test and with it guaranteed success.

     For me this raises the question, does too much praise based on intelligence, create a fear of failure in students that prevents them from trying?  It seems that as they are praised for being smart, kids internalize the message, “look smart- don’t risk making mistakes.”  A second round of experiments by Dweck seems to point to this conclusion.  In this round, students were given a much more difficult test where everyone failed.  The kids who were praised for their intelligence assumed that their failure was evidence that they weren’t smart at all.  They were miserable.  In the group where students were praised for their effort, the kids assumed that they hadn’t focused hard enough.  They responded by being more involved.  These students felt challenged and positive remarking, “This is my favorite test.”  When both groups were given a third test that was easy again, the group praised for effort showed a 30% increase in score, while the group praised for being smart showed a 20% decrease in score.  Could this be an explanation of why many of our brightest students are underperforming in school, and if so what can we do about it?

     Upon interviewing the students, Dweck’s team found that students who think that innate intelligence is the key to success begin to discount the value of hard work.  This results in a stigma on effort among the “smart kids”.  They think that being smart means that you shouldn’t have to try and showing that you’re trying means that you’re not that smart.   This does not give them a mechanism to cope with failure which can lead to bad behaviors such as lying or cheating to avoid failure.   Conversely, when students are praised for their effort it gives them control and power.  It teaches them that intelligence can be developed and that their effort has an impact on their performance.  So what can parents do to develop this healthy work ethic and sense of control?  Here are some suggestions from the experts:

  1. If you are going to give praise, make sure that it is specific, focused and skill or task-oriented.   When you are giving praise, switch from I to you.   So, instead of saying, “Good job!  I think you are so smart at this!” try “You worked very hard on that math problem to arrive at the correct answer.  You should be proud of yourself.”
  2. Try praise free comments.  For example, “What did you like best about that project?”
  3. Make sure that praise is sincere.  Children can tell when it is not and often take this in exactly the opposite way that the parent or teacher intended.  They think that the adult is giving them this empty praise because they lack skill or are not smart enough.
  4. Teach kids that the brain is like a muscle and giving it a harder workout makes you smarter. Kids who received study skills training along with the information that intelligence can be developed improved their grades and study habits.
  5. Rewards and praise must be intermittent.  If praise and rewards for performance are too frequent, kids will not develop persistence.  The effort will stop when the rewards disappear.  And it is an important life lesson to learn that frustration can be worked through.

-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.

Parrish Learning Zone, LLC  
@parrishlearning | Like us on Facebook
(540) 999-8759

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

How Much Praise is too Much?

How much praise is too much?  Can overpraising kids actually harm them?  Is it possible for kids to have too much self-esteem?   These are just some of the questions being raised by new research conducted by, Carol Dweck of Columbia University. Self-esteem has been a hot topic in parenting books, education, self-help, and even relationship advice for quite some time.   The idea went something like, if you believe in yourself you can do anything!   Reach for the stars!  The key tenet, set off by the 1969 Publication of The Psychology of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden, was that positive self-esteem must beYoure so smart achieved at any cost.  Praise, self-esteem, and performance rise and fall together.  So, anything possibly detrimental to a kids’ self-esteem must go.  Competitions?  No way, too damaging!  Everyone’s a winner and everyone gets a trophy.  Teachers were told to throw out their red pens and adopt a lexicon of approval and positivity.  Parents were told to value the power of positive praise, the more the better; abundant, permeating, undeserved, and ever-present.  But as it turns out, the “science” of self-esteem was not that scientific.  It was flawed and in some cases, flat out inaccurate.  More recent studies have shown that having self-esteem does not improve grades or promote career advancement.  In fact, (gasp) it doesn’t even keep you from becoming a criminal, as it especially does not lower violent or negative behavior like lying and cheating.  So, you may be thinking, like I did, now what?  If I can’t say, “good job, you’re so smart,” then what am I supposed to do?  In fact, it turns out that telling a child they are smart when they succeed may not be wise.  Praising a child as “smart” or by using other nondescript positive praise, builds their self-esteem on a tenuous platform.  One misstep or failure pulls the rug out from under them, calling into question everything that the child’s self-esteem is based upon.

According to Educational Psychologist, Michelle Borba, kids in our society have become very praise dependent.  This over-abundance of praise can be detrimental causing low motivation, poor grades, and low self-esteem.  So, how can you tell if your kid has become praise-dependent?  Look for the following signs:

     1. The child is very self-centered.

     2. The child is dependent on praise to determine if they have been successful.

     3. The child is used to praise, expects it, and seeks it out if it is not immediately given.

     4. The child is over competitive to the point that they need to tear others down.

New research conducted by Carol Dwek of Columbia University found that praising kids for being smart does not prevent them from underperforming; in fact it may actually cause it.  In my next blog, find out more about this new research and what it reveals about steps that parents can take to develop a strong work ethic in their children.




Nina Parrish, M.Ed.

Parrish Learning Zone, LLC 
(540) 999-8759



Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Looking for fun weekend activities? Check out Read Across America...

Mark your calendars!  Friday March 1st is the National Education Association’s (NEA) Read Across America Day.  Read Across America is an annual reading awareness and motivation program that usually falls on or around Dr. Seuss’s birthday (March 2nd).  The purpose of the event is to get children excited about reading as research has shown that children who spend more time reading perform better in school.  The National Education Association offers some great tips for parents as well as a variety of resources related to reading to use on Read Across America Day and throughout the school year.  Check them out here:

There are also many events being held locally for Read Across America Day.  Here is a list of fun local events to attend with your children:


Happy Birthday Dr. Suess!  Read Across America Events

Fun filled activities and refreshments in honor of Dr. Suess’s birthday.

For more information visit: 0159-002


Friday 3/1/13

Salem Church Library



Saturday 3/2/13

Headquarters Library


Porter Library


Newton Library



Nina Parrish, M.Ed.

Parrish Learning Zone, LLC

(540) 999-8759

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Share this

Follow us

About Nina

nina parrish

Nina Parrish graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. Following graduation from the University of Mary Washington, she received the Project PISCES scholarship to attend North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University where she completed her certification in Special Education for K-12 students with learning disabilities, mental retardation, and emotional disturbance. After obtaining her license, Nina earned a Master's Degree in Education for School Counseling in grades Pre K-12 from Virginia Commonwealth University. Nina taught in the public schools in North Carolina and Virginia for 7 years. Nina currently owns, Parrish Learning Zone, a K-12 local tutoring service with her husband Jay, who is also a teacher. They live in Spotsylvania with their daughter.


Pouches' Community Corner

Cooking Autism

Cooking Autism, Inc. is driven to help children with neurological disorders (including autism) learn how to cook. Participants are encouraged to pick up critical communication skills, learn how to work as a team and be more independent. They can build skills in math, reading, and science, and learn about cooking-related topics such as health and nutrition. 



The opinions and/or views expressed on this blog represent the thoughts of individual blogger and not necessarily those of Fredericksburg Parent & Family Magazine or any of its employees or staff.