It’s May, and school is wrapping up. How was your child’s school year? Now is the time to evaluate your child’s education. Dr. Leman dives into the question – “How do we finish the school year well?” Learn more about Dr. Leman at



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Doug:                       Well, welcome to Have a New Kid by Friday with Dr. Kevin Leman. I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea:                  And I’m Andrea.

Doug:                       And we are so glad to be back with you. It’s so much fun. If this is your first time with us, just to let you know, this is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you or your child, please go seek a local professional for help. I just want to start off again by saying thank you Baker Books. I say that wrong. What is the correct title of the company? I’ve got to learn this. Dr. Leman?

Dr. Leman:           Baker Publishing Group.

Doug:                       Baker Publishing Group.

Dr. Leman:           They have many imprints, different. Like Bethany House is one of their publishing groups. I’m part of the Revell team, Revell Publishers. They’ve been good people. They’re just good people. They’re a privately held company, and Dwight Baker is the CEO. His brother Dan is involved in the group. His dad started the group years ago. They’re just good people who want to put good resources in peoples’ hands. We’ve been part of their lives since, let me think. First book published by them was probably back in about 1984, so we have a long history with Baker. They’re good people. We’re just glad that they’re sponsoring this. Help us out, would you? Go on Facebook. By the way, you can reach me at Facebook, Dr. Kevin Leman. Don’t put in just Kevin Leman, okay. You’ve got to have Dr. Kevin Leman to get a hold of me. But spread the word. Go on Facebook. Tell people you’ve found these podcasts that are fun to listen to. Hopefully they are fun and meaningful for you.

Doug:                       And it’s L-E-M-A-N. No H in there. When this podcast is gonna be released, it’s gonna be towards the end of May, so school is gonna be starting to wrap up here, the middle of May actually. I’m wondering, how do I finish the school year well with my kid? Is there things that I should be thinking about now A, to wrap up, and then B, to get ready for next year?

Dr. Leman:           Well, I think it’s important to look back on this year and ask yourself what kind of a school year has it been. Are you exhausted? Are you exhausted with all the meltdowns and the drama that kids are presented over schoolwork and trying to get you to do their homework for them and having stomach aches, not wanting to go to school. Just reassess what that last school year was like. Here’s a prediction. Whatever last year was like, it’s gonna remain the same or get worse. That’s the best prediction. Now if you look back on your kid’s school life and it’s been a dream, it’s been great, wonderful. Well more power to you. You’ve done well. You’ve done well to stay out of things that you need to stay out of. Your kid’s motivated. If your kid is a voracious reader, I would put your fears to rest. That kid’s gonna do very, very well in life.

Now let me speak to the kid who has just literally failed, quite frankly. She hasn’t performed the way they should. And let’s make them an eighth grader just for fun. Well what are you gonna do? You gonna pass that kid into the freshman year? I’m here to tell you right here in Tucson, Arizona, where I live, one of the biggest school districts in the state, took about 900 eighth graders who failed and they promoted them to the freshman year. Let me say, I think that is a disrespectful act. I think it’s one of the worst things you can do to a kid’s education. I believe if a kid really didn’t master some basics in eighth grade, that he should revisit eighth grade again.

Andrea:                  Is that what you do in your schools?

Dr. Leman:           Yeah. Kids who don’t pass, they don’t pass. Well we have no problem with not putting people forward. Sometimes kids need an extra year, especially in the younger grades. Little boys don’t mature as quickly as little girls, and sometimes a kid needs another run at it. You might be looking at the school setting. I mean, what kind of a school does your son or daughter go to? There are a lot of people who don’t like charter schools. They think charter schools are just Satan in themselves. They just don’t like them for a lot of reasons. I happen to like charter schools. And since I’m the founder of Leman Academy of Excellence, I’m here to tell you that we knock it out of the park. We have all kinds of success stories where kids who have failed in other schools systems and thrive in ours, but we go way out of our way to make sure kids know that we care about them, that we listen to them, that we give a rip about them. We find the best teachers we can possibly find. We have accountability built into our system.

Some of you may want to consider maybe looking at a different school setting for next year, but my mother, god rest her soul, I mean some of you know my story. I graduated fourth from the bottom of my class in high school. Every summer, from my freshman year on, I did summer school. I flunked elementary algebra. I got a 57 I think on my final exam. My mother sent me to summer school, where I took that same course over again. As I recall, I got a 22 as a final grade. So, summer school was a drag for me. She tried to do the right thing, but I wasn’t motivated. I was more in love with making other people laugh and having fun. I didn’t wake up until I couldn’t get in college, and then finally got in college. And I got thrown out of college and got a job as a janitor. So, I was a late bloomer. Some of your kids will be late bloomers.

To answer the question, you’ve got to do some things different. If things aren’t working, then let’s, after a full year. I’m not into moving kids at midterm and all that. I think you wait until the year is over, then you make the appropriate move if you have to. Some of you need to go hire a tutor. If you have an eighth grade boy that’s not doing well, I would for sure hire a young woman, about age 16 or 17 to tutor that eighth grader. That opposite sex thing sort of works.

Andrea:                  Can’t it be distracting?

Dr. Leman:           Well, I think a boy is gonna be more apt to listen to an older girl. I think a girl’s gonna be more prone to listen to a 16 year old boy, and she’s an eighth grade girl. But tutoring is a good option. Some of you can work with your kids well, but most parents report to me they don’t work with their own children very well. You all know each other’s soft spots and it ends up with tears.

Doug:                       Dr. Leman, I’ve got a fourth grader, early elementary, and they didn’t do so well this year. They failed. Let’s just say they didn’t do so well. They got some D’s and some C’s and some B’s. What would you say to me as the parent then, if that’s my kid?

Dr. Leman:           Well the first thing I would ask is, does your child read? Well, of course they read. Well by that I mean, do they read for pleasure? Well, actually Elizabeth is a voracious reader. She loves science fiction. She loves mysteries. I would tell that parent face-to-face, I wouldn’t worry about your kid’s education. But Leman, she struggles in math and she struggles in here. Well, I understand what you’re saying, but you asked me a question. I’m answering it. Because she’s a voracious reader, this is a kid that in time will do well in school. Now, let me ask that question again to another parent of a fourth grader. Does your child read? No, hates reading. Doesn’t read for pleasure, right? Right. That kid I’m very concerned about because in fourth grade, the curriculum has changed. Things are getting tougher, and if we don’t make a recovery in fourth grade, what’s it gonna be like in seventh grade or eighth grade? That’s where I’m willing to invest in a tutor to go one-on-one with my kid.

Can you make a kid learn? No. I’ve got a book called Making Children Mind without Losing Yours. Can you make a kid mind? No. But you sure can set up situations where a kid figures out they’re money ahead to behave than to misbehave. And so it is with school. There has to be some kind of priority system. I think in a priority system, number one, a kid’s first priority is to his family. That means he does work around the house. He gives back to his family. His second priority is guess what, school. That’s really number two. That’s high on the list of things that kids have to do. I think we have to expect the best of kids. If the kid is a great little soccer player or baseball player or hockey player, whatever it is, I would use that as a tool so that he can devote more time to his studies. In other words, he wouldn’t play hockey. He wouldn’t play on the basketball team. Is that drastic? Yes, but drastic measures are needed in drastic times.

I think in fourth grade, a kid who doesn’t read and who’s failing, you better do some things. You better pull some magic dust out from someplace, parent.

Andrea:                  Dr. Leman, what if you have a high schooler or middle schooler who, they do really well in most of their subjects, but they’ve got a couple of subjects that they’re not very motivated in and getting lower scores in just those classes?

Dr. Leman:           Well again, I don’t think you need a PhD in anything to figure this one out. I think admitting that most of us function in specific areas pretty well, and some of us who succeed very well in some areas don’t in others. I was in a sixth grade math class at our school. They had mathematical problems up on a math. I’m not kidding you, sixth grade. I wouldn’t know what to do with any of them. I’m not a smart person when it comes to math.

Andrea:                  So what I hear you telling me is I shouldn’t be so worried that this is going to affect his GPA, and by the time he graduates, just because math and science have lower scores, it’s not gonna ruin his … I mean, it may make his GPA lower. He’s not gonna be valedictorian, but that’s not the end of the world?

Dr. Leman:           It’s not. But again, as a parent, our inclination is we want to fix things. So if a kid is really poor in math, wouldn’t it make some sense to find a good math tutor for the kid? I think it would. Or not well in science. Science and math are so basic to higher education. If that was the downfall, I would go out of my way to find a fun, young tutor to help my son or daughter.

Doug:                       My sister, who’s not young, but she’s a tutor as well. She does an amazing job of helping the kids feel confident they can do it. I’ve seen kids that are horrible at math do amazing things. I do agree. If my kid finishes the school year and hates school, right. I’ve got a couple weeks left. Is there anything I can do to change his attitude or that perspective on school?

Dr. Leman:           Well, I think you take the positive. You pull aside the kid. Let’s just add some flavor to this question you’re asking. Let’s just say that there’s two brothers above, younger brother and a sister as well. And there he is, the baby of the family. You’ve probably been a little lax with him, not as strong and firm as you were with the other ones. I think you have to reaffirm for the kid, “You know honey. I have to tell you something. I’m proud of you. I’m proud of the fact that you’ve made it through the school year. There’s only two more weeks to go, and you’ve made it. Now you and I know you probably could have done a little better, but you didn’t quit. You’re still in there slugging away. You’ve got a brother up there, in fact both of those brothers above you do well in school or very well in school. They do everything right. You know honey, there’s times I thought that maybe those two are a little over the top. Do you ever feel that way?” “Yeah, I feel that way all the time.”

“Do you feel like you have to compare yourself to them?” “Well I don’t know.” “Well let me hazard a guess. I think you do. You know, I’m just proud of who you are. You have a sensitivity to other people that, quite frankly, they don’t have. They’re much more selfish than you are, and you’re the youngest in the family. Lots of times, youngest children in the family are fairly selfish, but you have a good heart and you want to help other people. You’re the first to pitch in, but school right now is a little tough on you. I don’t know. What do you think? Do you think it’d be helpful if we got you a tutor to help in some of these areas next year?” You can throw it out there and see, but the basic message is what? I’m affirming this kid. I’m looking for the positive things this kid does. I’m not saying that school is the most important altogether thing in the world, because certainly it isn’t.

Doug:                       That’s really good. My last question is, if I have a struggling middle schooler, what would you tell the parents, never do this. Avoid this. Don’t do this.

Dr. Leman:           Well, with a struggling middle schooler, I would make sure that the environment my son or daughter is living in is a healthy one. Middle schools today can be pretty hurtful places. Kids are mean spirited. I think if there’s a drastic change in a school setting for a kid, it’s probably best effective in the fourth grade because curriculum tends to change in the fourth grade. In middle school, for the same reasons, and in high school. And there are schools around that have, quite frankly, better environments than maybe the school your son or daughter goes to. Some kids just need a change of environment. They need to get away from that crowd that they’ve run with. Again, it’s an individual thing, but someone once said, “All things are fair in love and war.”

I think in this day and age, where the peer group can be so destructive to kids, there are times. Now listen to what I’m saying. I’m the guy that says tell your kid to suck it up and deal with it. There are times, because of the social milieu in the school, the culture is toxic for your kid, that you’re best to look at other alternatives. Why do you suppose home schooling is such a huge phenomenon in our country? The parents know what’s going on in a lot of those schools. They don’t want any part of them. What makes Leman Academy so attractive, how can we build a school and it’s filled immediately? We have long lines of people trying to get in our public school. Because we teach respect. We put authority in the classroom teacher’s hands. We hold kids accountable for what they do.

Again, look at some other opportunities. There’s a plethora, one of my favorite words in life, of opportunities for kids.

Andrea:                  Dr. Leman, what I hear you saying overall is when we reassess the school year that we’re looking back on, there’s several categories that we should think about if the child has been struggling. Was it the teacher? Was it the peers? Was it home life? Was it the school work? That we should consider all of those aspects and not just blame the school.

Dr. Leman:           You guys are the judgment callers. You have to make a judgment call. Andrea and Doug have to make vital decisions about their kids’ education. Hopefully in concert with their kids. But you look at your own kids. They’re not all the same. They’re different.

Andrea:                  Do you think the kid themself, if we sat down with them and said, “Hey we really want your opinion on how the school year went,” do you think they would be able to identify the areas that made their year hard, if it was a hard year?

Dr. Leman:           Basically, no. They’ll take a few stabs at things. You may have to lead them a little bit. Kids that are in a peer group are not acutely aware of the damage that the peer group can do. Okay. You’re the adult. You’re gonna have to surmise some things. You might, for example, say, “Honey listen. I could be way wrong here, but there’s that new charter school down the street. I know some moms whose kids go there and they seem to like it. Would you ever want to go down, just take a look at it?” That’s how I’d approach it with a kid.

Andrea:                  Give them some direction.

Dr. Leman:           Yeah. I think you have to give them direction. I’ve said this before, but one of the funny moments in life in eighth grade is they pulled me in the guidance counselor’s office. And they say, “Well what do you want to be in life?” I say, “Oh I want to be a dentist.” Oh, you’ve got to take Latin. Well, Latin took me for five years. Passed it twice. Once because I copied off the kid in front of me on the final exam and he was pretty smart. And the reason, this is what you have to understand, the reason I wanted to be a dentist was I went to an orthodontist. And by the way, I took my own braces off my teeth. I did.

Doug:                       Ouch.

Dr. Leman:           But I went to an orthodontist who could speak like Donald Duck. Oh phooey, you know. I was so impressed that this guy could speak like Donald Duck. Oh phooey. Best hamburger. That I taught myself to talk like Donald Duck. But I’m telling you, the reason I told the guidance counselor I wanted to be a dentist is because my orthodontist could speak like a duck. How much sense does that make?

Doug:                       Lots. Lots and lots and lots.

Dr. Leman:           Now you know I’m dumb as mud, right?

Doug:                       Oh funny, funny.

Dr. Leman:           I’m just saying, when you’re dealing with the planet middle school people, and that’d the book. If you’ve got a kid that’s in the hormone group, sixth, seventh, eighth, grade, do yourself a favor. I’m telling you. You read Planet Middle School. You’ll accuse me of looking in the windows of your home or apartment. It’s a good one.

Doug:                       Well, that was really fun that we both wanted to do this topic together, and that it came together. And Andrea, I thought your summation was perfect, and the way you said, look at the last year of school and say, what was working well and what wasn’t. You’re telling us, have the courage to do drastic changes for your kid’s sake. Don’t be afraid of that to help them out to see those things, and make sure they’re readers. Figure out how to make reading a part of this. If your kid’s a reader, you’re gonna be fine. Thank you.

Dr. Leman:           And again, Andrea, I want to say this. Doug and I both need you on this podcast.

Andrea:                  Oh. Well, thank you.

Dr. Leman:           Because only you can give that true perspective of a mom, and because we both know you pretty well, we know there’s that soft pleaser inside Andrea where, and it speaks to so many women. Can’t we all just get along? I mean, can’t we please?

Andrea:                  Can’t we?

Dr. Leman:           We appreciate your insight, trust me.

Andrea:                  Oh good. Thank you. Thank you. Well, I’ll keep speaking up.

Doug:                       Well, it was great to be back with you. Again, go get the book Planet Middle School if you have middle schoolers. It will help you tremendously, tremendously. You’ll be blessed. We look forward to the next time we get to hang out together again, and hopefully adding to your parenting toolbox.

Andrea:                  Have a great week.

Doug:                       Take care. Bye, bye.