Educational Counseling and Consulting Services from Preschool to College

collegemagnetsMelody Lowman is available to assist individuals and families with the process of selecting a pre-school, public or private elementary school or high school. She also assists in the challenging process of college selection and the application process.

Melody can work with families and schools to solve learning or behavior problems within the child’s current school. She can assist families in identifying enrichment programs that will be supportive of the students’ interests and exploration.

Melody can also assist families seeking remediation resources for students who are falling behind or have learning problems. Melody is especially interested in gifted and twice-exceptional students. She is a member of National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), SENG, and the California Association for Gifted Children (CAG). She has worked with gifted and twice-exceptional students since 1964.

Melody is interested in working with students from other countries and cultures. She is one of the founding parents of a thriving internationally-oriented K-8 Montessori school in California.

As a fencer, fencing mother and fencing grandmother, and member of USFA and USFCA, she is familiar with the fencing programs in United States colleges and universities, from Division I to Club fencing. She is Safe Sport Certified and a member of the Positive Coaching Alliance. Melody can guide the young fencer and family through planning, searching and applying processes. (She does NO recruiting and does not represent any specific program)

See the Advancing Toward College website page.

If she is not an appropriate resource for your family, she will assist you with a referral to an alternative consultant.

As you prepare to choose a school or college…

Choosing a school or college for yourself or your child? First ask: what are your priorities?

  • No school is perfect: which weaknesses can you live with or supplement?
  • Look for goodness of fit with your family’s style and beliefs.
  • Be realistic about your young person’s academic ability and maturity.
  • Let the student know that schools and families choose each other.
  • Do not suggest to the student that he or she alone will choose the school; he or she will have input, but will not make the final choice.
  • If possible, visit during school, drama productions, sports events.
  • Make the visits positive and relaxed.
  • Let your student be him or herself. The student will be more relaxed.
  • Let your high school or college-bound student take the lead on a visit.
  • Be honest with yourself about what is financially realistic.
  • Be truthful with the school; answer all questions honestly.
  • At many schools both the student and family are being considered for goodness of fit.
  • Be courteous and discreet with school personnel and other parents.
  • At the high school and college level act as an “executive assistant” to your child.
  • Keep communication with your child and the schools positive and open.
  • Keep good records!
  • Follow directions! (This is a constant complaint from schools and colleges)
  • File all paperwork and make payments on time.
  • Don’t ask for special favors from schools unless there is an emergency.
  • Utilize free resources such as the College Board and ACT Websites.
  • Don’t limit your options or count on anything until it is in writing.


Help Your Child Be Ready for Kindergarten

Help your child develop the following large motor skills: Hopping, jumping, skipping, walking around things on the floor without stepping on them, hanging from a climbing structure for a few seconds, climbing up onto a bed, walking up and down stairs one foot at a time, pedals a tricycle, throwing a ball, catching a ball, getting onto and off a swing, beginning to “pump” and not just be pushed.

Help your child develop the following small motor skills: Holding a crayon, marker or pencil with fingers (not fist), cutting with scissors, lacing cards with holes, writing letters in name, pasting. Your child should be able to copy a circle and an X when asked.

Help your child learn to take care of him-or herself: Using the toilet without help, unless ill, putting on and taking off a sweater or jacket, putting on and taking off socks and shoes, eating food using fork and spoon, drinking from a regular cup or glass, using a tissue, and throwing it into the trash, beginning to brush teeth, asking before touching something that belongs to someone else, and verbally asking a caregiver/teacher for help.

Help your child be ready verbally: By the time children enter kindergarten they need to be able to speak clearly enough so that other children can understand them. They also need to be able to speak clearly enough so that non-family member adults can understand them.

  • Children need to be able to give his or her name when asked.
  • They need to respond to their name. They need to be able to call other children by name.
  • Children need to be able to ask another child to play, and ask for a turn on the swing, or with a toy.
  • They need to be able to say “Please don’t throw sand at me” or the like.
  • They need to be able to name most common objects in their home and school environment, by the correct name.
  • Children need to be able to ask a teacher for help (tying a shoe, or getting a toy down from a shelf, or solving a problem with another child).
  • Children should be able to use words to identify major emotions: happy, sad, angry, scared, confused.
  • They need to be able to ask to go to the bathroom, using language that a teacher could understand. (Cute words are fine at home but teachers won’t necessarily know the expressions.)
  • They need to be able to answer simple questions about a story that has just been read to them.

Help your child be ready socially: There is a great deal of overlap between language readiness for kindergarten and social readiness for kindergarten. Children need to be able to solve social problems with words and ask for help in kindergarten.

  • Additionally, Children need to be able to initiate play with others:
    • “Do you want to ride in my boat?”
  • Children need to be able to use language to take turns:
    • “You can be the captain now, and then I will.”
  • Children need to be able to report a problem to a teacher:
    • “I hurt my finger.”
  • Children should be able to use and respond to simple greetings: good morning, good-bye, see you tomorrow.
  • Children should be able to ask the “W” questions:
    • “Who has the ball?”
    • “Where is the bathroom?”
    • “When is mommy coming back?”
    • “What is that big thing across the street?”
    • “Why can’t I run in the hallway?”
  • Children should be able to able to listen to a series of two to three requests:
    • “Please take your book and go sit on the rug.”

Help your child be ready intellectually: This is a long list, but ideally you have been working on it since your child was a baby.

  • Your child should be able to look at objects and identify big and little, big, bigger and biggest, small, smaller and smallest, long and short, high and low, hot and cold. Ideally, make this a fun game.
  • Your child should be able to point to and name: red, yellow, blue, orange, green, purple, black and white.
  • Your child should be able to match colors, objects and shapes, perhaps by playing a child’s lotto game.
  • Your child should be able to point to a circle and a square when asked, maybe while you play with chalk.
  • Your child should be able to recite to 10 and count objects up to 10.
  • Your child should be able to point to objects in a picture book: “Where is the mouse hiding on this page?”
  • Can turn pages of a book without tearing.
  • Can name the letters of the alphabet when you point to them.
  • If your child can, begin to introduce the sound that the letter makes.
  • Can name up to 10 zoo animals and 10 farm animals. If you can, go to a zoo or a farm park; if not, look for picture books with photographs, not cartoon drawings.
  • Can repeat a sentence of 6-8 words. “Today, we are going to the park.”
  • Can recognize his or her own printed name, even better can begin to write it.
  • Can listen to a story or book for 5 or more minutes (Questions and comments allowed, and welcomed!)
  • Can identify a day activity and a night activity (Go to school; Go to bed)
  • Knows his or her own birthday, and how old he or she is, with words, not just fingers.
  • Demonstrates the following correctly: up, down, in, out, front, back, on, under, top, middle, bottom, beside/next to, hot, cold, fast, slow
  • Can complete a simple puzzle. (I like Lauri foam rubber puzzles; they are washable and the company replaces missing pieces)
  • Can draw a simple figure that resembles what he or she names: “It’s a dog!”
  • Has an attention span of 5 minutes of doing what you want and 15 minutes of doing what he or she wants.

Wait a minute, you might say, I thought that these are the things that children learned in Kindergarten! You are right, they used to be. Kindergartens now generally expect children to have most of these skills before they begin kindergarten. Children who have not developed many of these skills might not be ready for Kindergarten and would do better and be happier in a Young 5’s, a Pre-K, or a Transitional Kindergarten. Parents should not “drill” their children on these skills but rather use the pre-school years to integrate these skills into daily family life. Parents should also make sure that either daycare or preschool is helping their child develop these skills


Helping an Anxious Student

Behavior driven by anxiety can look like willful misbehavior. The important and useful thing to keep in mind is that the anxious child is afraid. He or she is going to misperceive ambiguous interpersonal interactions or unexpected situations as dangerous. When a child experiences a situation as dangerous this can lead to misbehavior, which at least in part, is driven by the sense that he or she must escape or protect him- or herself. Consider the following suggestions for an anxious child.

  1. Positively reenforce compliant behavior.
  2. Identify situations which typically lead to anxiety and noncompliance.
  3. Try to recognize early warning signs of anxiety such as physical agitation.
  4. Give the child an opportunity to leave the classroom by using a secret signal you and the child have agreed upon.
  5. Discreetly offer the child reminders to try to relax muscles, breathe out slowly or use other techniques he or she has learned.
  6. Minimize attention for minor misbehavior.
  7. The student will be most successful in structured, predictable situations.
  8. The student will be most successful working alone or with one other student.
  9. Start the day with a warm greeting. Reassure occasionally with a smile or gesture.
  10. Agree on a “secret signal” to remind the student to compose him- or herself.
  11. When possible, try to warn the student of unusual upcoming events, such as fire drills or teacher absences.
  12. Get the student’s attention before delivering short, direct instructions.
  13. Quiet, slow speech can reduce anxiety.
  14. When possible give directions in both verbal and written form.
  15. If the student is overwhelmed by the size of assignments break them into smaller pieces.
  16. After the student calms down after an incident the student should be asked what led to the problem, and what could have been done instead.
  17. The teacher and student should target specific behavior for improvement. The behavior should be positively reenforced each day, part day or hour until it becomes habit.
  18. Identify the student’s strengths and provide opportunities to demonstrate them.
  19. Offer the student opportunities to help the teacher or librarian if the student enjoys those tasks.
  20. Get consultation from the school psychologist or by reading about children and anxiety.


How Parents Can Help a Young Person Get Ready for College

Ideally, parents help their children prepare for all aspects of growing up. Getting ready to choose and apply to college is complex and confusing for many families. The selection and application process has changed in recent years, so even parents with college experience themselves and with older children might find the process different from what they expected. I strongly recommend that families help their children think about their future education and careers as an integral part of family life, rather than as a rushed, urgent process junior year of high school. I recommend beginning relaxed conversations about college and career beginning by the end of eighth grade. I list below several suggestions of how families can help their children get ready for college without pressuring them.

  • Throughout your children’s lives, look for opportunities to teach life skills such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, money-management, basic first aid, and basic repairs around the house.
  • Take an interest in hobby and career interests even if they seem unrealistic.
  • They are part of self-exploration so keep an open mind.
  • Invite family friends and neighbors with positive attitudes to talk about their college experiences and careers.
  • When on excursions and vacations visit college campuses; athletic events, museums, open campus days, even interesting buildings and gardens on campuses.
  • If financially possible, give your student opportunities to attend summer programs and camps to strengthen weak areas as well as explore or expand interests, or even to eliminate them.
  • Encourage participation in a variety of sports and artistic activities.
  • Beginning in middle school or junior high encourage sustained participation in their favorites.
  • Get your young person help for weak or problem areas sooner rather than later. Beginning in about eighth grade create a time line of school years and summers between then and college entrance.

Go to the College Board website or the book College Match for recommended activities for each school year and summers. When the college selection process begins in earnest in junior year, assist your young person by managing details such as due dates and check lists. Many parents find it is helpful to think of themselves as “executive assistants” assisting their young person, but never writing applications or essays for them. Recognize that even with the best preparation not every young person is interested in, or ready for college as soon as they finish high school. If your young person is ambivalent about college, assist him or her to plan a constructive “gap year” engaging in exploration of a possible career interest.


College Selection and Application Myths

“Private colleges are harder to get into than public colleges” Not always so!

“Private schools are too expensive” Many private colleges offer generous financial aid

“Famous colleges are better” A regrettably common myth that causes students to miss out on some wonderful educational opportunities.

“Excellence in a sport will result in a scholarship.” Not necessarily! Grades come first and Ivy League schools don’t grant athletic scholarships and colleges have limited athletic scholarship money.

“If parents, grandparents and siblings went to a college then a student will automatically be admitted.” This is not true. While having a close relative who is an alumnus might help, it does not guarantee an acceptance.

“A coach will get me in.” “A coach promised I would be accepted.” A student should not consider himself/herself accepted until an official letter of acceptance is received from the Admissions Office of a college or university.

“If I have a bad grade or a bad semester I won’t be able to get into a college.” Many colleges allow a student to explain unusual circumstances that led to a lower grade or a poor semester. Sometimes colleges will admit a student provisionally and allow the student to make up a grade or demonstrate ability to do college work. Don’t give up without trying!


What Do College Consider in Applicants?

Each college takes different factors into consideration, and give different weight to each factor. The list below represents most of the factors colleges tend to take into consideration. When you work with a college advisor or educational consultant he or she can help you research which factors apply to the colleges you are considering.

The first three factors are usually weighed most heavily by most colleges:

  1. High school grades, 9th through all of 12th
  2. Test scores (Some colleges are “test optional, which means that the student can take and submit scores, but is not required to do so)
  3. Quality of writing (very important)
  4. Extracurricular activities-especially long-term participation and relatedness to possible major or career
  5. Demonstrated leadership
  6. Letters of recommendation Immediate family member/s graduated from the college
  7. Family history of alumni participation and donation
  8. Athletic achievement-heavily weighed for recruited athletes
  9. Artistic achievement-heavily weighed for fine and performing arts majors and special colleges
  10. Research internships or jobs, especially related to the student’s academic interest of objective
  11. Interview with Admissions Representative or Alumni Representative
  12. Evidence of visiting and touring the campus, which demonstrates serious interest in the school
  13. Evidence of good character (no suspensions, arrests etc.)
  14. Good explanations for a period of lower academic performance
  15. Geographic distribution (if the college is interested in admitting someone from your home state or country)
  16. Your strong preference for the college
  17. Some unusual personal achievement
  18. For colleges with religious affiliations-your statement of faith and evidence of our active participation in your faith community

Did you know…?

  • Famous name colleges are not necessarily better for every student.
  • Where you live can increase or decrease your admission chances.
  • Freshman year and second semester senior year of high school “count” toward admission to college.
  • Admission officers and college coaches sometimes check a student’s social media.
  • A family’s financial aid application information is frequently cross-verified with the IRS.
  • You are NOT admitted until the college and the student have signed admission documents.
  • Sometimes private colleges can cost less than public colleges.
  • When you receive your financial aid packages, you can negotiate for more if you need to do so.
  • A very common reason for not being admitted, even when qualified, is failure to follow application instructions.
  • Students do not necessarily graduate in four years.
  • Elite colleges don’t look for “well-rounded” students, they look for “oval” students who have demonstrated long term interests and achievements.


Making the Most Out of Visiting College Campuses

Trips to visit colleges can be expensive and time consuming. There are many things parents and students can do to make the most of campus visits.

Before you leave, read the website of the college. Read student reviews such as those on College Prowler. Read the information in a college guidebook such as Fiske or Barron’s. Don’t judge a school prematurely on the basis of what just one person says about a school. If you are seriously interested in the college, print out the information to take with you on your visit.

Try to visit at least one day when the college is in session. It is hard to judge the character of a college when students are studying or taking finals, or on vacation. If the website gives information about tours for prospective students make notes about when tours are offered, where the tour begins, and if you need to make a reservation, then do so. Check the weather prediction to see if you need to take a coat or umbrella. Wear comfortable shoes. If you have a car, when you first arrive at a school, drive around the local community and the campus to get oriented; look around. Do you generally like what you see? One of the best places to visit while you are on campus is the Admissions Office where you can often get booklets and other handouts that are not on the website. Be sure to get a map of the campus if you haven’t printed one from the website. Take a guided tour, or a self-guided tour. Ask if you can see something that is of special interest to you, such as a dorm room, a music practice studio or the area where your sport is practiced. If there is an instructor or coach you would really like to work with, see if you can make an appointment with that person. Find out if you can eat on campus where students eat. Go to the library and the Student Center. Pick up a campus newspaper. Reading it will give you an idea of what is of interest to students on that campus. Go to the campus bookstore. An especially good area to visit is the textbook section. In the textbook section of the department you are especially interested in, you will see what kinds of books are being assigned. Notice if the books are current or out of date. Notice if the books represent a balanced perspective or a rigid point of view. You can also judge the general workload of assigned reading.

As you walk around the campus look at the posters and announcements of speakers, performances, athletic events, student clubs and activities. Do you see anything that is interesting to you? See if you can get a copy of the current course list or catalog. If you are interested in a particular field, or subject, look in that section. Do the courses seem interesting to you? If you have a major (main subject area) in mind, does the college offer a major in that subject? If you want the freedom to choose most of your courses does the college have that flexibility? Or, is there a prescribed course of study with few choices? Do you like the anonymity and range of choices at a big school, or the close relationships with teachers and other students of a small school? Does the school offer the opportunity to (cross register) take courses at nearby colleges? Do you think you could be politically and philosophically comfortable at this school?

If, after visiting, you think you are interested in the school, visit the Financial Aid Office. This is a good meeting to attend with your parent or parents if they are going to help you finance your college education. The tuition, fees and room and board cost listed on the website are a starting point, but many schools offer scholarships, aid, loans, work-study and student jobs to students who want to attend the school but don’t have the means to pay the full fees. If your parents are going to help you pay for your college education they will need to gather and photocopy some of their financial documents that will need to be sent to the colleges to which you apply.

Remember that your grades, test scores, arts and athletic accomplishments, as well as volunteer work related to your field of interest, will all increase not only the likelihood of your getting into a school, but also can increase the likelihood of financial help from the school.

Finally, see if you can wander the campus for a while without your parents.