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  • Top Six Things Teachers Need from Parents

    pic by DeepCWind

    If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to educate them too. Studies show that parents who get involved in the education of their students see much better results in confidence and grades. Of course teachers understand that parents have hectic schedules and very little time to share with their kids, but setting aside just an hour or so a day to dedicate to academics can make all the difference in your child’s life.

    Read to your children

    Reading helps you to open communication as most children will have questions about the text. Reading to your children encourages them to read and this is one of the best gifts you can give since effective reading will make studying and getting through all those text books so much easier. Your children are never too young or too old to learn to love reading.

    Introduce yourself

    Get to know your children’s teachers and make sure that you touch base regularly. Don’t be the parent who only contacts the teacher when they have a problem; instead keep the channels of communication open and offer help as often as your schedule allows. Teachers have a tough job and it’s nice for them to feel like you are on their side.

    Conflict resolution

    Encourage your children to socialize with their classmates outside of the classroom and guide them in problem solving with students that they don’t get along with. If students are able to resolve conflicts on their own, teachers don’t always have to be the referee.

    Take part

    A great way to help the teacher out is to get involved in school activities when your schedule allows. Helping to organize events, raise funds or with maintenance around the school will help you to form a relationship with the very important educators who are responsible for your child’s schooling.

    Teachers can accomplish so much more when they have the support of parents and a team they can count on. There are many benefits for you too; you get to meet other parents and many of the teachers and children with whom your child spends their day.

    When you participate in school activities, your children will be encouraged to do so too and they will feel like you care about their education and success. Getting involved helps to illustrate just how important education is and that it is something worthy of investment.

    Make learning fun

    Reading books at home, teaching your children how to measure ingredients and bake, playing educational games together, taking courses outside of school and discovery the art, history and science museums together shows your family that learning is an essential, lifelong pursuit that can be fun too.

    Pitching in

    Teach your kids the skills they will need to navigate classroom life like cleaning up after themselves, taking responsibility, following instructions and being able to work in a team. Each child and teacher are different and the best way to navigate each school year is to be open to communication with your teachers and your students so that you can resolve issues before they grow.

  • Winner Winner Family Dinner!

    pic by Loren Kerns

    If you wish to instill family cohesion, encourage siblings to get along or get your kids to talk to you more, one excellent way to do this is through family dinners. Of course it’s not always easy to coordinate busy schedules, work and after-school activities, but just two or three nights a week is all you need to change the dynamics of your family.

    Why it’s a good idea

    Studies support the theory that families who eat together enjoy a happier life and better relationships. Students who ate family meals had higher academic scores and fewer behavioral problems. 19% of teens whose families did not share meals reported feeling alienated from their families compared to the 7% of teens who did enjoy family meals.

    Students who ate more meals at home suffered less from obesity and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at the University of Columbia discovered that students who eat with their families are less likely to drink, smoke or use drugs.

    Best practices for family meals

    Meals at home with the family can be beneficial, but you must follow some best practices in order to achieve success. Start with a ban on electronics at the table. This means the dinner hour is a tech-free one (that goes for parents too!)

    Schedule your dinners and give them as much status and importance as studies, afterschool activities and work engagements. Aim for three meals a week and these can include weekend breakfasts and lunches. Every family can set aside three hours a week to share together no matter how busy you are.

    Make it fun! Be inclusive so that your kids look forward to these experiences by allowing them to choose what they want to eat for family dinners and allowing them to help with cooking, music selection and table settings.

    Family meals should be a fun, positive experience, so don’t use this time to criticise, fight, argue or talk about issues. If you have an issue to discuss, wait until after your meal. Mealtimes should be positive family experiences or you will create a very negative atmosphere that makes meals unbearable.

    Add to the positive experience by having themed dinners, including desserts, telling jokes and sharing all your funny stories from the day at work or school.

    It can be really tough to find the time to enjoy a meal together when family members have such busy schedules. However, taking just a couple of hours out of your week can really help to foster positive relationships between family members and keep communication channels open. Make meals a fun and positive event that your family looks forward to sharing. Family meals can be really great places to make memories and share stories of your life.

     

  • Can we praise our children too much?

    picture courtesy of Nick Nguyen

    The power of positive parenting is amazing and parents who grew up with little praise understand that children respond better to positive encouragement than they do to reprisals or the promise of punishment. But sometimes, praising your kids becomes such a habit that we tend to overdo it.

    “Somehow, parents have come to believe that by praising their kids they improve their self-esteem,” Paul Donahue, PhD, founder and director of Child Development Associates, says. “Though well-intentioned, putting kids on a pedestal at an early age can actually hinder their growth.”

    It’s ok to lose

    Sometimes you need to praise the process rather than the outcome. If your child’s baseball team lost, but they went to every practice and tried their little hearts out, then you should praise their resilience, their tenacity and their effort. But take care not to pretend that they didn’t lose. Losing is part of life and they have to learn to deal with the disappointments.

    Teach self-motivation

    When you over-praise, your kids lose the value of a positive word from mom or dad and the good feeling that comes with achieving something noteworthy. This will mean that you will have to find other ways to motivate your child. Some parents here turn to cash or material incentives but, warns Jenn Berman, PhD, a marriage and family therapist and author of The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy and Confident Kids this will lead to kids who can’t self-motivate: “I believe that we want children who are self-motivated. If you tell your daughter, ‘If you get an A on the test I’ll give you $5,’ then you are creating a situation in which your child is motivated by money, not by the positive feelings of success.”

    Steps to proper praise

    Each child and situation is unique and as their parents, you know best how and when to praise, but the experts do agree on a few pointers:

    Be genuine: Focus on praising when you are sincerely impressed. If words like ‘good job’ and ‘that was great’ pepper your every sentence, it may be time to cut back.

    Be specific: Pick out the exact things that you thought they tried really hard at and praise those for example, instead of saying “You are great at science” try “I was really impressed by the work you put into your science project. I know the other kids didn’t do their share so you had to work a little harder and you did a great job of managing your team.”

    Say it like you mean it: To praise your children’s every action, even when you aren’t impressed, is to reduce the value of their efforts, so choose wisely.

    Praise younger children more: In a study of 24-month old children (Kelley et al 2000), researchers recorded how mothers responded to their toddlers while they attempted a challenging task. A year later the same families were invited back and kids were tested again. Researchers found that the 36-month old kids who were most likely to take on new challenges were the ones whose mothers had praised them more.

  • Five ways to overcome Middle Child Syndrome

    picture by Brad Flickinger

    Being the middle child is living between a rock and a hard place. While your firstborn has already had the benefit of years of attention, and your youngest child needs more from you, your middle child may feel a little left out. This can lead to middle children acting up or going out of their way to be a people pleaser in order to garner attention. Middle children often feel that life is unfair and this fosters sibling rivalry and resentment. But there are ways to overcome the middle child syndrome and raise a happy, healthy child.

    Be their biggest supporter

    Try to show as much enthusiasm for each of your children’s events, even though you may be less excited about the third ballet recital as you were about the first one. Displaying fairness will help to alleviate some of the injustice that middle children feel. Whenever possible, divide your time and energy equally between the events, projects and sports that your children are involved in.

    Spend some quality time

    Once a month, arrange a special activity that is just for you and your middle child. My friend Bill has three daughters and he takes each of them to Sunday brunch each month. Over pancake stacks or waffles, they catch up on each other’s lives and spend quality time together. The girls love these ‘daddy days’ so much, that they insisted on keeping the tradition alive until they moved away to attend college. It can be difficult to always find the time, but keeping in touch will help your middle child to feel important.

    Doling out decisions

    One of the best ways to fight feelings that life is unfair is to share decisions. Each child gets a turn to decide which movie to watch, dessert to eat or which radio station to listen to. You can also help to forge a stronger bond between your middle and youngest child by asking your middle child to make some decisions about their younger sibling like choosing a toy for them or which book you should read them before bed.

    Talk about it

    Ask your middle child how they feel about their role in the family and what you can do to help. Keeping the lines of communication open is essential, even if your questions go unanswered. It doesn’t matter if you only get an ‘I don’t know’ or a shrug of the shoulders, continuing to ask questions will show that you are interested.

    It’s a family affair

    It’s natural for family members to dote on the younger sibling or give older children more responsibility. Middle children often act up and this may exacerbate the fact that the other children get more positive attention. When you notice this happening, ask family members to treat all of the children equally or to spend a little more time with your middle child.

    While it may take some time for you and your family to adjust to new additions, by being fair and attentive, you can raise a really happy middle child.

  • Born Just Right

    April is Limb Loss Awareness month and if you have never spoken to your kids about limb loss, this is a great time to broach the subject. Some people lose limbs through illness or accident, but an increasing number of children are being born with limbs that are different. During the month of April we wish to draw awareness to this special group of people who are determined, resilient and born just right!

    The Amputee Coalition

    The Amputee Coalition estimates that there are about 21 amputations occurring every hour in the US which accounts for more than 500 a day and approximately 185, 000 annually. Diabetes is the leading cause of amputations followed by injury and cancer.

    This is of growing concern because it is estimated that one in three Americans will have diabetes by 2050 which will, in turn, vastly increase the number of amputations.

    Not only do families have to deal with the trauma of amputations, but it was estimated that the cost of amputations in 2009 totalled more than $8.3 billion. The families are further burdened by the cost of prosthetic limbs and alterations to the home to help amputees stay mobile.

    “Amputees are part of our communities,” said Kendra Calhoun, president and CEO of the Amputee Coalition. “It’s important for our communities to know that amputees are not defined by their amputation and that they are living life to the fullest. That’s why we encourage the 2 million Americans living with limb loss to participate in Show Your Mettle Day on April 27.”

    From Peggy Chenoweth, National Spokesperson for the Amputee Coalition: “People often feel uncomfortable or shy when broaching the subject of limb loss. I am excited about this unifying event which will foster opportunities to educate others about amputees living within the community.” The Amputee Coalition is raising funds to help members afford prosthetic limbs and they are raising awareness through a number of Run/Walk/Roll events. You can visit their website to see events in your area.

    What your kids should know

    It’s important for your children to understand why people lose their limbs and how prosthetics work. You should also discuss and role-play situations so that they know how to react to people who have lost limbs. You can show them positive role models who have lost limbs and continue to excel like wheelchair basketball players and Paralympic athletes.

    From Representative Rob Matzie: “The general public is largely unaware of the challenges faced by the amputee community. While the visible effects may be easy to see, the emotional difficulties and financial stress can be equally as challenging. This awareness month is meant to draw attention to those challenges, but it is also meant to recognize the strength and fortitude of the amputee community.”

    Join communities across the world during Limb Loss Month to talk about this issue with your children, to recognize the difficulties faced by amputees and their families and to donate money or participate in events near you.

    The Born Just Right Foundation offers help and support to parents of children. You can find their website here: http://www.bornjustright.com/about/

  • Understanding Learning Styles

    pic by Collegedegrees 360

    Your learning style is the way you acquire information. Students learn faster and retain more when information is presented to them in their learning styles of choice. Most people have a dominant learning style, but they can still learn when information is presented in another learning style. Teachers should present information in ways that appeal to all learning styles, but they may not always have the time to do so. When you know what your student’s learning style is, you can tailor information so that they can understand and process it better.

    The Seven Learning Styles

    Verbal (linguistic): Verbal students prefer using words to communicate, both in speech and writing. They like to read and take notes.

    Physical (kinesthetic): These students prefer using their body, hands and sense of touch. They enjoy learning that is action-based like science experiments, making projects and working with their hands.

    Visual (spatial): Spacially-oriented students prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding. They work well when information is presented in graphs, pie charts, infographics, pictures or video.

    Aural (auditory-musical): These students prefer using sound and music. They like listening to lectures or talks.

    Solitary (intrapersonal): These are independent learners who prefer to work alone and use self-study.

    Logical (mathematical): These students prefer using logic, reasoning and systems. They are great with math and science.

    Social (interpersonal): Social students prefer to learn in groups or with other people. They love organizing study groups and collaborative projects.

    Consult your Teachers and Tutors

    Ask your teacher or tutor to help to determine your student’s dominant learning styles. Most students use a combination of styles to assimilate information. While they will have a dominant style, it’s important to remember that styles are dynamic. That means that with practice, your student can adjust to any style of learning.

    Once you know what your student’s preferred learning style is, you can teach them to arrange material to suit their style. For example, if your student prefers a visual learning style, organize information that they need to understand into graphs, infographics, mind maps and pictures. Let them watch videos on the subject and allow them to create videos and visually-oriented presentations for their projects. Presenting information in their learning style will help them to understand and remember.

    Your tutor can help to teach your students how to arrange information into a more favorable format and how to tailor study skills to suit different subjects. Ask your tutor to give a brief test to determine learning style preferences.

    Here are some resources for finding out your learning style online. Most of these resources are short tests which help you to see which learning style suits your student best. Do two or three to get a better idea of the learning styles that your student prefers:

    NC State University

    Vark

    How to Learn

    Education Planner

    LDPride

    Edutopia

    Accelerated Learning

     

     

  • Create your Family Emergency Plan Today

    Whether it’s a fire, bad storms or personal injury, every family experiences an emergency at one time or another. When your immediate and extended family members know what to do, you can increase the likelihood of getting the help you need when you need it and making it safely through any situation.

    Make a phone tree: Each and every member of your family must have easy access to emergency phone numbers and know who to phone next on the phone tree. This should include emergency services as well as the numbers of friends and family members who can help in a pinch.

    Program these numbers into your phones so that they are on speed dial and store a hard copy of the phone list in an easy-to-reach place like on the fridge. If you have smaller children, practice dialing emergency numbers and make sure they know their address. Share emergency numbers with teachers, schools and other care givers.

    Evacuation plan: Discuss how to exit the home in the event of a fire. Make sure they know how to get out of every room in the house (including basement and attic). Practice climbing out of windows or getting down safely from second floor windows. If you live in an apartment block, ensure that they know where all the fire exits are.

    Meeting point: Have a meeting point which is a safe distance from your home where all family members go if get separated. It can be a school, a sports field or a favorite restaurant. Ensure that your child knows how to get to the meeting point from your home, their school and other locations.

    Emergency bag and first aid kit: Pack a bag which is easy to grab in an emergency. This should include a basic first aid kit and any other medications vital to the health of your family members. You should also pack blankets, food, flashlights, extra batteries, water for three or four days, rain gear, pet food if you have pets and photocopies of all your vital documents. Make sure everyone knows where the emergency bag is. Consider getting a bag with wheels which would be easier for younger children to carry.

    Shelters: Do you know where the dedicated emergency shelters are in your neighborhood? Look these up online and visit them with your children so that they know where they are too. Many shelters do not take pets, so if you have a family pet make sure you know the location of nearby pet-friendly hotels and motels.

    First aid: Make sure that everyone in your family knows basic first aid. Do refresher courses every year and practice often so you will know what to do in an emergency.

    Regularly discuss what you would do in an emergency situation and practice dialing emergency services or exiting buildings in the event of a fire. Ensure that you reinforce these practices each year so that all your family members are prepared. You should also check your emergency bag once a year to see that none of the medication or food has expired. Being prepared won’t prevent accidents from happening, but it may make all the difference in your family’s ability to deal with adverse situations.

     

  • Overcoming Test Anxiety

    pic by Collegedegrees 360

    Many students suffer from anxiety when they have to prepare for and write tests and exams. Some get nervous because they are ill-prepared, while others get bogged down in stress regardless of how well-prepared they may be. When students are anxious, they are unhappy and their stress can negatively impact their ability to prepare for a test and their performance on the day. You can help your students to overcome their exam anxiety for a happier, healthier learning experience.

    Symptoms of test anxiety

    Anxiety may be accompanied by physical symptoms like head and stomach aches, nausea, fatigue, sleeplessness, loss of appetite and vomiting. There can emotional symptoms too like irritability, anger and fear. When students have to operate under this kind of duress for extended periods, they lose focus.

    Anxiety can inhibit their ability to concentrate and affect their memory. Higher cognitive functioning also suffers, making it harder for them to solve problems and comprehend complex data. Anxiety also impacts their ability to sleep and reduces appetite. Not getting enough rest or healthy nutrition affects memory and overall academic performance.

    Stress busters

    Start from the very beginning by setting realistic academic goals for your students. Help them to get organized by scheduling sufficient study time to prepare adequately for upcoming exams. Don’t do all the organization for them, rather teach them how to record all their upcoming papers and tests and how to organize their time.

    Ascertain whether their anxiety stems from a genuine feeling of being overwhelmed. Are they struggling with a subject? If they just aren’t coping, help them to catch up and keep up by getting them an in-home tutor. One-on-one tutors can discover the missing building blocks in your student’s knowledge and skill set and can remedy this so that your student has a solid academic foundation to build on.

    Tutors are also able to teach study skills and time management while showing your student how to organize information in a way that suits their learning style. They can help them to build confidence and provide the skills your student needs to work independently.

    Happy thoughts

    A positive attitude and confidence are two of the most vital arrows in your student’s academic quiver. If they have an inner dialogue that says they are dumb, just can’t do it or that they are bad at math or science, then that has to change.

    Help them to recognize these negative thought patterns and to catch themselves when they fall into bad attitude traps. When they have a negative thought, they need to stop, take a deep breath and replace it with a positive one. You can help by focusing on positive reinforcement when they are on the right track.

    Sweet dreams and healthy meals

    Getting enough sleep is essential to a stellar academic performance. Ensure that your student doesn’t stay up too late studying, limit sugar intake and make sure they get enough sleep.

    While most students like to live on sugar and junk food while they hit the books, opt for healthy, nutritious meals. The brain only takes up 2% of your body mass, but it uses 20% of the energy. So give your rocket the right fuel to function.

    For More Information

    Family Education Network: www.familyeducation.com/article/0,1120,66-2127,00.html

    The American Institute of Stress: www.stress.org

     

  • Why Handheld Devices are Dangerous for Children Under 12

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    pic by brad Flickinger

    France has banned TV programs aimed at children under three and says babies and toddlers should not be exposed to screen time at all. “Television viewing hurts the development of children under 3 years old and poses a certain number of risks, encouraging passivity, slow language acquisition, over-excitedness, troubles with sleep and concentration as well as dependence on screens,” the ruling said.

    This was followed by a statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Society of Pediatrics that children under two should not be exposed to any technology whatsoever.

    These organizations go on to recommend that toddlers from 3-5 should only get an hour a day and children aged 6-18 should only get 2 hours of screen time a day. While TV has always been a popular way to occupy children, new handheld devices such as laptops, tablets and smart phones have dramatically increased the amount of time children spend in front of screens.

    The consequences of this increased screen time are serious for developing minds and bodies.

    Brain Growth

    In their first two year, babies’ brains triple in size and the brain continues to develop until the child is 21. Brain growth is determined by environmental stimuli and when that is limited by technology, the child can suffer reduced executive functionality, attention deficit, learning disorders, delayed cognitive development, inability to self-regulate and behavioral disorders.

    Developmental Delays

    Movement learning theory shows that movement enhances learning and memory. Now, one in three children are entering school with delayed physical development and an associated lack of attention and ability to learn which affects academic achievement and literacy.

    Childhood obesity

    Studies have found a correlation between obesity and too much screen time. A study by Feng (2011) found that children with a device in their bedrooms who were under 12 were 30% more likely to be obese.

    Sleep deprivation

    A study by the Kaiser Foundation found that 75% of children between the ages of 9 and 10 are sleep deprived to the point where it affects their academic performance. This sleep deprivation is a direct consequence of too much screen time and TV.

    Attention Deficits

    A pruning of the neuronal tracks to the frontal cortex caused by too much exposure to technology can lead to attention deficits, reduced ability to concentrate and reduced memory in a phenomena known as digital dementia.

    The radiation from technological devices (especially smart phones) has been shown to pose a health risk for all users.

    It’s vitally important that you pay careful attention to the amount of screen time your children are exposed to in a day. You can set alarms on tablets, smartphones, computers and TVs which will turn these devices off once screen time limits have been reached. That way you don’t always have to be the bad guy and you can control screen time even when you are not there.

  • Great March Break Recipes for Kids

    Teach your kids to cook with these great no-bake recipes. Learning to cook is a great March break activity for your students. Not only do they get to learn a valuable life skill, they also get to practice their reading, measuring and cooking techniques. Following recipes is good practice for science lab too! Here are some fantastic and easy recipes they can try on their own.

    Chocolate ice cream sandwiches

    1 pint chocolate ice cream, softened

    8 Chocolate chip cookies

    Chocolate sprinkles

    Method

    Place 4 cookies on a baking sheet. Spoon about ½ cup of ice cream onto each cookie. Make sandwiches by placing the four remaining cookies on top. Smooth out the sides by sprinkling chocolate sprinkles onto a plate and rolling the ice cream sandwiches in the chocolate sprinkles so that they stick to the sides. Place in the freezer for 1 hour. You can wrap the sandwiches individually in plastic wrap and keep in the freezer.

    Cake Batter White Chocolate Fudge

    2 cups and 2 Tbsp white cake mix

    2 cups powdered sugar

    1/2 cup salted butter

    1/4 cup milk

    2/3 cup white chocolate chips

    1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles

    Method:

    Spray an 8-by-8 baking pan with non-stick spray.

    Mix together cake mix and powdered sugar in a large bowl. Cut butter into 4 pieces and add to cake mixture with milk (don’t mix them in, just add them on top). Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Take out of microwave and mix everything together. The mixture will be very thick, so younger students may need a little help here. Fold in white chocolate and sprinkles. Don’t mix it too much now or the sprinkles will start to melt.

    Spoon mixture into the baking sheet and rub a spoon across the top to make sure that its level.

    Place in the fridge for 2 hours. Cut into squares.

    No Bake Lemon Cheesecake Squares

    Ingredients

    200g packet Rich Shortbread biscuits

    ½ tin condensed milk

    1 cup coconut

    60g butter (melted)

    Rind of 1 lemon, finely grated

    1 cups icing sugar

    15g butter

    Method:

    Grease a cookie tin with butter or spray with a non-stick baking spray. Crush biscuits in a food processor. Add lemon rind coconut, melted butter and condensed milk. Mix well. Press into tray.

    Sift icing sugar into a bowl and stir in butter. Add lemon juice from lemon one teaspoon at a time until the icing is smooth.

    Spread icing over the biscuit mixture. Place in the fridge for 1 hours and then cut into squares.

    This summer vacation, you can keep your students busy and help them to maintain their academic skills with fun cooking family time.