Angela Ardolino










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Overcoming Test Anxiety

Although standardized testing has changed, and a recent bill signed by Governor Rick Scott now limits the number of standardized tests Florida children will take, they are still causing anxiety and stress in kids. According to the American Test Anxiety Association, as many as 20% of kids taking tests have high test anxiety. This anxiety can actually cause kids to score lower on tests, and cause a whole host of other problems including a loss of appetite and loss of sleep.

Research has some simple and fascinating things to say about how we can boost student performance on standardized test scores. As a parent, it is important to understand what causes this anxiety so that you can learn how to help your child boost their scores and lower their anxiety.

What Causes the Stress?

Unfortunately, with the mounting pressure to increase standardized tests scores, many educators and administrators are unknowingly creating classroom environments that are not conducive to student success. According to educator Kumar Sathy, teachers are increasing test anxiety by resorting to the use of some pretty controversial statements in the classroom:

·         If you don’t pass this test, I might lose my job.

·         This test will go on your permanent record.

·         The school might be shut down if you don’t do well on the test.

·         You’re going to be held back if you don’t pass the test.


There is growing concern about testing and some groups have even gone as far as boycotting the tests around the country. The test is not the problem. The way we talk to children about it is the problem.

Students as young as 8 say they are worried their teachers will get fired if they don’t pass the test. They tell me they are embarrassed already because they know other kids will make fun of them if they don’t pass. Another cause of the anxiety is simple adrenaline, according to Creating a calming environment for learning is key.

We have to change the conversation for kids to start succeeding.

Change the Conversation

The Department of Education suggest that parents should talk to their children about testing. Listen to them without interrupting them. Ask them what they feel and what their concerns are. Don’t correct any misconceptions or succumb to the urge to interrupt until they have let it all out. Let them vent. Let them know they don’t have to bottle up their worries with the cork of optimism and positive thinking. Then work to correct the misconceptions.

If it seems like someone at your child’s school is issuing empty threats or creating a hostile learning environment for your child by being threatening or not encouraging, make it a top priority to talk with that person at the school. Understand, though, that what your child fears may not necessarily be a reflection of what her teacher or administrator is actually saying. It could just be the way your child is processing the situation. Kids have very creative ways of interpreting the world around them. The positive slogans, constant reassurance, discussions, pressure and practice with the big test could just be leading your child to misinterpret what it all really means.

How to Soothe Anxiety

The Washington Post suggests that parents who want to help their kids with test anxiety should let them unload on paper, and should start practicing breathing exercises. Engage in expressive writing. There is quite a bit of research demonstrating that engaging in simple expressive writing exercises about the test and writing about the things those students’ value and are grateful for in life can actually decrease a major source of test anxiety and lead to a boost in student performance. This simple writing activity helps kids vent and then redirects their focus to the things they love and pour their hearts into. Doing the latter portion of the writing exercise in a varied manner, as often as possible, will ensure that students spend more time thinking about the things they are grateful for than on things they are worried about (like how they will do on the test).

Breathing exercises can be as simple as teaching your child to take in a deep breath when they are feeling anxiety and to slowly release that breath. Taking long breaths can slow your heartbeat and give you a few seconds to think so that you can answer correctly. You can incorporate soothing or calming music as well as breathing exercises into study sessions to help reduce anxiety.

Remember, over-emphasizing a test can only increase anxiety in your child. Once they are able to lower their anxiety level you will see a boost in their test scores.

Another great way to lower anxiety is to connect with other families that are experiencing the same issues. The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County has incredible Family Resource Centers that can give your child and you the resources and connections you need to get through testing season. They also support mentorship programs that will connect your child or teen with adults that can help them put their test anxiety into perspective.

For more information and tips on preparing your kids for testing, visit


Behind the Scenes: May Extraordinary Woman Photo Shoot

Every month, we showcase the extraordinary women in Tampa Bay that make a difference in not only the lives of their families, but the lives of those in the community. In May, we met an incredible woman named Katharine Eagan. She is not only the CEO of Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART), but she is also a loving mother and wife. 

We met up with her at the HART office in Ybor City for Tampa Bay Parenting's May Extraordinary Woman photoshoot with our photographer Jeanine McLeod of Cloud 9 Studios

HART transports thousands of people a day through buses and streetcars. 

Eagan modeled some of her favorite scarves while we waited for the streetcar. 

The driver of the streetcar was nice enough to let us jump on-board and snap some photos. 

Eagan was cracking jokes with the streetcar riders and making everyone smile while Jeanine snapped her photos. 

 Jeanine snapped a picture of us before the streetcar departed.

Before we finished, we made a stop at the Jose Marti park in Ybor City. 

I snapped a photo by the Cuba wall in the park. 

Jeanine took a few last photos of Eagan. 

To read Katharine Eagan's Extraordinary Woman feature, click here. For more exclusive photos, visit


Grow an Organic Pizza Garden!

What kid doesn’t love pizza?  The gooey cheese, chunky tomato sauce, bits of oregano, parsley and basil all combined and spread onto an oven-baked flat bread. Usually on pizza nights, parents might call their local pizza restaurant and get delivery or grab a DiGiorno pizza from the fridge. But by taking this option it’s not easy to know what’s really in the food you are eating.

There is a safer solution: growing all these ingredients in your garden. For one, you won’t have to worry about pesticides and hidden chemicals in your food. The dangers of ingesting pesticides can cause damage to the nervous system and live in your kids intestines for years. 

An easy way to get your kids to start gardening is by creating an organic pizza garden with herbs and veggies that are commonly found on pizza. The most commonly used pizza herbs and veggies are basil, parsley, oregano, onions, tomatoes, and peppers which we will be sticking with. So grab your little one and get ready to get messy!

Before you start growing, it’s important to find the perfect seeds. I recommend using High Mowing Organic seeds, which are 100 % organic.

It’s important to think about what soil you want to use. Stay away from soils enriched with chemicals and to opt for healthy soil and compost. I have found healthy soils and fertilizers from Worm’s Way are a great solution.

Bugs can become a problem with growing an organic garden put you can plant a few flowers that beneficial insects will love-- they will help keep the pesky bugs away.

Also, pay attention to the amount of water and sunlight that your seeds will need to grow.

Basil is one of the easier herbs to grow and is relatively low-maintenance. For instructions on how to grow basil visit the link above.

For tomatoes if you can stick with organic Roma tomatoes as they tend to be ripe all at one time. This can be better for kids who tend to be impatient for results. Gardening Know How mentions that these tomatoes are easier to grow because they are resistant to funguses like fusarium and verticillium wilt.

Before planting make sure you leave two feet between each plant to allow them to grow. Make sure buy or make your own tomato cage which are made from chicken wire or concrete reinforcement wire. Prune away any non-flowering stems to help the plant focus its energy on fruit production. Once the Roma tomatoes are 6-12 inches off the ground start staking the tomatoes. Once the tomato is completely red it is ready to be picked.

The next ingredient you need for your garden is parsley, which is great on pizzas as a decorative garnish. It generally take 70 to 90 days for planting and growing parsley to take place so make sure to remind your kids to be patient with this herb. It is recommended that you plant it near a tree so it can receive 6 to 8 hours of full sun and can receive shade during the hottest times of the day. Once the plants reach 4 to 6 inches tall they are ready to be harvested.

Plant oregano in light, well-drained soil. Spacing is very important too, make sure to plant 8 to 10 inches apart. This herb needs to get lots of sunshine as the flavors will intensify when it receives a full day of sun light. Also don’t overwater oregano. Instead water only when the soil is dry to the touch. The good thing about oregano is its tick foliage provides humidity which supports peppers growth, according to The Kitchn. When it reaches eight inches tall, cut back up to 2/3 of the plant as it encourages new growth. Once harvested dehydrating is a good way to preserve oregano which can also be done by hanging up your oregano to dry.

For the last ingredient peppers it’s best to soak your seeds as the peppers will be less stressed allowing them to grow bigger according to On the Green Farms. When the seed is planted, water them with at least an inch of water once a week. Peppers generally need a minimum of 10 hours of light. Try to keep this herb farther from tomatoes as they are prone to the same diseases as peppers.

You can also make your garden look like a pizza by creating a garden in a circular shape and dividing each section into a slice of pizza. If you do this make sure the peppers and tomatoes farther apart. Show off your garden when your friends and family come to visit. Your child will be proud to show off their hard work. Also the attention given to the garden will be the best motivator to keep them continuously involved in gardening.

For additional information on organic food visit

DIY Beautiful Basil

Guide to Organics in the Bay

Organic Products:

Happy Family Pouches

Water Garden