Sylvan Learning’s Dr. Rick To Answer Your Questions

By Dr. Rick Bavaria

Age Groups

Navigating your child’s education comes with many unknowns, especially with standards changing and new technology being incorporated into the learning process. We are excited to announce that our very own Dr. Rick will be answering questions submitted by parents on our Mom Minded blog. Parents, we want to hear any questions you may have about your child’s education.

We welcome you to submit your questions in the comments section of this blog post. Dr. Rick will choose three of those questions to answer in his next blog post. If your question is selected, Dr. Rick will include it in the post (but will not share your name). Check back on Nov. 12 to see if your question was selected by Dr. Rick!

With more than 40 years’ involvement in the public and private sectors of education, including experience as a high school English teacher, Dr. Rick currently serves as Sylvan’s Senior Vice President for Education Outreach. A powerhouse of educational know-how and an established scholar, Dr. Rick holds a master’s degree in Liberal Arts from The Johns Hopkins University and a doctorate in English Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Maryland.

Dr. Rick is deeply passionate about identifying the practical ways that students and their parents can prepare for school success, making him the perfect ally for parents trying to navigate the ever-changing world of education.

Remember, there’s no such thing as a stupid question! We look forward to seeing and answering your questions. Ask away!


Teenagers are notorious for their laziness. Mine is no different. While she is great at school, sometimes we fall short of completing chores at home and finishing projects. Is there a way to motivate her in both school and at home?

Teenagers have lots of energy, but they don’t always expend it in the ways we want.  A tornado in her own activities, she may slow way, way down when she’s engaged in yours.  So, first, be grateful that “she is great at school,” and let that be your starting-off point.  (Start with the positives first, I always say.)  She’s probably great at school because you’ve set high expectations for her, have insisted on healthy homework/study/play/family routines, and have rewarded her for successes.

Do the same for those home chores and projects.  Let your expectations be clear and realistic.  Straightening up her room, helping with dinner, guiding a younger sibling, getting school and home projects done on time, whatever your family’s needs are, let her know her work is important and you’re counting on her.  Routines help keep kids on track, and they help to organize typically chaotic teens.  Together, find the routines that work best for you – the right times to complete these chores, the best ways to attack jobs – and stick to them.  Routines give kids structure, and boy, do teens need structure.  Finally, have small rewards and consequences. These don’t need to be extravagant – in fact, they shouldn’t be – but they let teens know we’re watching and paying attention.  Small rewards could be a few extra minutes added to a curfew, some quality, unplugged, alone time with you, or the occasional “bonus” at allowance time.  Consequences should be meaningful, too.  A faculty colleague recommends prohibiting anything that plugs in or needs batteries for a certain length of time.  You laugh, but it works.

Most importantly, keep your focus, as you seem to have done, on how great she’s doing in school.  Stay positive, stay determined (teens are organized one day, slobs the next), and keep your sense of humor.  Sounds like you’ve got a pretty good kid.

What are some ways or signs that help parents see what learning preference children have?

Everyone learns uniquely.  That’s the most important realization educators have come to in the past generation or two.  “All kids learn,” a wise mentor told me years ago, “but not in the same way and not on the same day.”  Sometimes kids learn by listening, sometimes by reading, sometimes by doing.  Sometimes they learn quickly, sometimes they make you want to pull your hair out.  It’s important to know how your kids learn, but it’s also important to know that no one learns in only one way.  We’re all hybrid learners.

Watch as your children learn from their earliest days.  Some learn by watching.  Some learn by listening.  Some by speaking.  Some by doing.  Some use logic.  Some prefer being alone.   Some prefer group-learning.  Most of us do a little of each but have one style that we prefer over the others.

Kids who love to hear the same stories over and over enjoy learning by listening.  Kids who can’t sit still, can’t wait to get up and try for themselves, enjoy learning by doing.  Kids who need their study buddies with them when it’s study-for-test time are group learners.  Kids who seclude themselves and don’t come out until the work’s done are solitary learners.  There are even “musical” learners (songs help us learn) and “nature” learners (a hike in the woods teaches biology).

As you begin to recognize what styles of learning your children prefer, encourage them to try as many styles as they can.  Solitary learners, for instance, will need to be team players at some point in their schooling or work life, and those of us who can’t sit still will find a time when we have to hush up and listen.  Just as athletes who have mastered diverse skills are the most successful on the field, so students who’ve mastered diverse learning styles are the most successful in the classroom.  And in life.

What are some techniques on how to teach younger children respect?

The three Rs – reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic – should have another one added.  Respect.  As they navigate from family to school to work, kids learn that life gets complicated.  There’s one surefire way to smooth the rough edges that occur when more than one person is in a room.  Respect.

Young kids can learn about respect in ways they can understand easily.  We respect one another when we take turns, listen, share, control our temper, play fair, and try to understand another person’s point of view.  That’s why primary school teachers spend so much time on these behaviors.  Believe me, teachers can tell right away which kids come from families where these are important.

For example, talk matter-of-factly about what toys he wants to share when his friends come over this afternoon.  When you’re standing in line, talk about why it’s important for everyone to take his or her turn – what would happen if they didn’t?

The absolute best way for kids to learn respect is for them to grow up with it.  We parents and teachers are more important than we often know.  Kids do what we do more often than they do what we say.  So, when we show respect, when we listen with kind attention, when we keep from flying off the handle, when we’re fair, and when we treat each other the way we want to be treated, we’re giving lessons in respect.  The golden rule still works wonders.