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  • Is your Child Gluten Intolerant?

    Is your child gluten intolerant

    pic by Zaqqy

    Gluten intolerance or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) affects one in ten people. Sadly, due to the long list of symptoms, many of these sufferers go undiagnosed. Little is known about gluten intolerance and there is much debate about the causes and even the existence of this condition. While scientists disagree, there is colloquial evidence to support the notion that cutting gluten from your family’s diet may alleviate the symptoms.

    Causes of Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

    Because so little is known about this condition, scientists and nutritionists have not come to a consensus about the cause of gluten sensitivity. Some point to GMOs and pesticides while others focus on modern baking methods.

    In traditional bread making, dough was left to ferment for hours which allowed time for the gluten to be converted into digestible sugars. However, when the modern Chorleywood baking method was introduced in England in 1961, it meant that bread only needed 45 minutes to be made from start to finish.

    While this was good news for the baking industry, it was bad news for bellies and the gluten no longer had time to convert to digestible sugars. This means that baked goods are filled with more gluten than our digestive systems can handle.

    Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance

    If your child is suffering from one or more of these symptoms, they may be gluten intolerant.

    • Feeling tired after eating goods with gluten
    • Irritability, lack of concentration and focus
    • Headaches
    • Joint pain
    • Numbness or pins and needles in arms and legs, hands and feet
    • Stomach pain and bloating
    • Gas, diarrhea and constipation
    • Depression, anxiety and mood swings
    • Keratosis Pilaris which is a bumpy texture to the skin on the back of the arms
    • Rashes, hives or canker sores
    • Anemia, dizziness and vertigo
    • Nausea and vomiting

    From Dr. Julian Whitaker: “The good news is that gluten intolerance is one of the few medical conditions for which we have a cure that is 100 percent effective for 100 percent of affected patients. All you have to do is eliminate gluten from your life. This is the only thing that will allow the villi to recover and regenerate.”

    It’s best to consult your pediatrician or dietician before changing your child’s diet. If you are going to follow a gluten-free diet, ensure that your child gets all the nutrition and whole grains they need for healthy development. Just because a product is gluten-free, doesn’t mean it’s healthy so read all labels before you spend money on products that are high in sugar and other chemical additives.

    Get advice on how to add gluten-free foods to your family’s diet that provide them with the carbohydrates and proteins they need. Fill up on fruits, veggies and whole grains.

    You may also need to inform teachers and school staff of your child’s gluten-sensitivity so that they can avoid foods which contain gluten.

  • Learning Styles: Learn Smarter, not Harder

    Learning Styles The Key to Academic Success

    pic by  College Degree 360

    Every child can learn, but they don’t all learn in the same way or at the same time. While teachers try to cover as many learning styles as they can with each lesson, the traditional classroom set up doesn’t lend itself to some learning styles. Knowing your child’s learning style will help you to present information in a way that makes it easy for them to understand.

    Is your child not fulfilling their potential?

    Do you know that your child is smart, but their grades just don’t reflect their potential? It may be that the learning style that best fits your child is not being utilized at school. Your child will lag further and further behind each year. Get a one-on-one tutor to find the right learning style, and fill in the missing blocks in your child’s knowledge and skill set.

    An in-home tutor can also take the time to teach your child to convert information so that they are better able to understand and remember it. This will help them to be effective independent learners.

    What learning style suits your student?

    Auditory learners

    Students who prefer this style of learning would do well in a traditional classroom where the teacher explains things at the front of the class. Auditory learners like to hear explanations and retain more information this way. You can encourage an auditory learner by getting them to:

    • Read aloud from text books
    • Record lectures and lessons and play them back
    • Download sound files from the internet that pertain to the lessons they are focusing on
    • Remember new information through word association
    • Create songs and rhymes to remember large volumes of new information

    Visual learners

    Visual learners love pictures, graphics, videos and maps. They understand things better when they see visual representations of information and concepts. Visual learners will have great difficulty focusing in a purely auditory classroom. Without visual aids, they will not be able to concentrate. You can help a visual learners by:

    • Providing pictures, maps, photos and illustrations
    • Showing videos and movies about new information or when discussing new skills
    • Highlighting or underlining important information
    • Creating flow charts and mind maps to present new information and show the connection between concepts
    • Flashcards are a great way to remember new information

    Kinesthetic learners

    These learners need to move, touch and feel. They have trouble sitting still and staying focused. In order to engage the kinesthetic learner, you must keep them moving. You can help kinesthetic learners by:

    • Getting them to write notes or draw while learning
    • Doing experiments, building models and making things that demonstrate new concepts and skills
    • Reading aloud and tracking words on a page
    • Frequent breaks with exercise and movement will help them to study
    • Playing games and performing tasks are the best ways to get these learners to retain new information

    Understanding how your child learns will help you to present lessons and information in a way that best suits them. You can ask your tutor to test your child for learning styles or you can do an online test like these:

    Education Planner

    LD Pride

    VARK

  • Common Core 101: What Parents Need to Know

    Common Core 101

    Pic by Robert Couse-Baker

    The New York Times touted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as being: “clearly the most important education reform in the nation’s history.” Intended as a measure to standardize the knowledge and abilities students have by the time they graduate in order to better prepare them for college, the CCSS has met with mixed reactions.

    What are the Common Core State Standards?

    Previously, each state was responsible for creating their own curriculum and implementing education standards. As a result, the disparity between the abilities of students from different states was huge; leaving some students at a disadvantage because of the school system they had been through. Data collected in the 1990s showed that as much as a third of college students had to take remedial courses to catch up to their classmates.

    Why Implement the CCSS?

    The CCSS is meant to level the playing fields and set standards that all participating states must adhere to. Decisions about the curriculum and teaching methods are still left up to each state. The CCSS also differs from previous standards in that it is focused on career-readiness and is benchmarked with international standards so that American students can compete with the leading academic nations.

    How will the CCSS Affect You?

    Any big shift in education standards is going to be tumultuous. As each state struggles to create curricula and train teachers in the new teaching methods, ensure that your child doesn’t get lost along the way.

    The best way to ensure that your child is keeping up is to be involved. Carefully monitor their progress and make sure that you have a good relationship with their teacher so that you can catch problems early. If there are gaps in your child’s knowledge or they are having difficulties transitioning to the new methodologies, consider an in-home tutor who is familiar with CCSS.

    The reason for this is that the way material is taught is fundamentally different from the way you learned at school. Now the concepts behind the functions are taught from the first grade. Traditionally, math and language skills were taught by rote in the early grades with the underlying concepts being taught later. This often led to students floundering on the conceptual ideas in later grades.

    Now the concepts behind mathematical functions and language skills are taught first. Parents often find this confusing, as the answer to 7 + 3 can’t just be 10. The student must communicate the underlying mathematical concepts rather than just the answer. They must explain why 7 + 3=10, not simply that it does. This has left many parents frustrated at not being able to help more with homework, but it does help students to grasp concepts and therefore excel at mathematics.

    The shift in teaching methods is still in the implementation phase and testing starts early this year to gauge the success of the program. “The most important indicator of a student’s success is parental involvement,” says Chris Lien from Tutor Doctor. “When parents support their child, have a good relationship with the teacher and try to understand the new CCSS, the child has a far greater chance of a seamless transition.”

  • Homeschooling for Special Needs Students

    Homeschooling for Special Needs Students

    Pic by Iowa Politics

    All children can learn, just not in the same way. If your child has special needs, you find that the school system is not fulfilling their particular academic requirements. Whether the traditional class structure means the teacher doesn’t have the time to address your child’s needs or they are being bullied by other children, homeschooling may be able to provide them with the tools they need to succeed.

    Parents who are facing the option of homeschooling often feel overwhelmed; will homeschooling mean their children aren’t properly socialized? Will they cope with all the extra work? The answers may surprise you. Thomas Armstrong author of “The Myth of the A.D.D. Child”: “Kids who are labeled ADD are those who can’t or won’t put up with the (school) situation. And that may not be such a bad thing, because they’re telling us this isn’t working. They’re harbingers of whatever we need to reform in our schools. It seems to me that homeschooling would be tailor-made for the child who is having trouble in that worksheet wasteland and getting slapped with the ADD label.”

    You aren’t Alone

    Your child may just need a different learning method and some one-on-one tutoring to unlock their potential. The personalized attention your child will get at homeschool will mean they have the time and space to work things out at their own pace. They can ask questions without the fear of embarrassment and you can take the time to present information in different formats until you find a learning style that works.

    Homeschooling is not uncharted territory; there are tons of resources at your fingertips, there are homeschooling coops in your area where you can share ideas and classes with other parents as well as online resources that will help you every step of the way.

    How does Homeschooling help?

    Homeschooling allows your child to lean at their own pace and in their own way. Your homeschool will provide a safe, non-competitive classroom which caters to your child’s particular needs. Without the meaningless busywork of the classroom, your child can really spend their day productively and will have more time for hobbies and interests.

    With homeschooling, you also have the opportunity to teach the important executive skills your child needs to be a successful student. Things like study skills, organizational skills, task prioritization and time management are all important life skills to learn.

    Socialization

    Homeschooled kids are can be as social as they like! With homeschool groups in your area, kids can get together to play, can join clubs like the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides and can pursue dance, music, sports and other hobbies.

    I’m not good at Math

    Many parents are concerned about their own abilities to teach high school subjects that they may not excel at themselves. The good news here is that you don’t have to take on everything yourself. You can work with other homeschooling parents in your area and homeschooling coops to share lessons. You can also get an in-home tutor for subjects that you aren’t familiar with, or for SAT and ACT test preparation. This means your child is getting the very best education in the loving and supportive environment that helps kids with special needs to thrive.

  • 4 Tips for Preparing your Child for High School

    4 Tips to Preparing your Child for High School

    pic by J.K. Califf

    High school is a big transition for students; they will have to be more independent and will need to take responsibility for their own academic work. They will also be subject to more social pressure and will have to adjust to new friends and activities. If your child struggles with change, is not performing well academically or isn’t an independent learner, there are steps you can take now to prepare them for the transition to high school.

    Participation helps foster enthusiasm

    Allowing your child to be part of the process will help them to commit to their new school. Include them when selecting the school that is right for them. Investigate your options together and list the pros and cons of each choice. Align schools with career choices i.e. select schools that have strengths in areas your child may be interested in pursuing as a career.

    Go to the orientation days of schools on your short list and look online for reviews by other parents and students. Then make a final decision together; including your children in this will help them to commit to their new school.

    Fill in the Missing Building Blocks

    High school is far more challenging academically, so if your child is missing some foundational building blocks in their knowledge base, they will fall further behind as teachers don’t have the time to go over things learned in earlier grades.

    Start with a private in-home tutor a couple of months before school starts. One-on-one tutoring will give tutors the opportunity to find the gaps and fill them so your child has the perfect jump-off point and the best chance for success.

    Instill Independent Learning Skills

    In high school, teachers are far less likely to nanny their students. That means each student is responsible for organizing everything they need to bring to school and take home to complete assignments. Students must be independent learners and for this, they need to have executive skills.

    Executive skills are the ability to organize time, to ensure that they have everything they need for school and to complete homework and assignments, to prioritize tasks, study skills and self-discipline.

    Ensure that your in-home tutoring service offers an executive skills program. This means that the tutor should not only be helping your child to fill in the missing building blocks of their knowledge, but that they should also be teaching executive skills that your child will need to succeed in high school, in college and in life.

    Reading Skills

    Every year in high school (and then on to college) the volume of reading that your child has to do will increase exponentially. If your child struggles with reading or language skills, their ability to get through the course materials and then communicate their thoughts effectively in assignments and exams will be compromised.

    That will mean that even though they have all the answers, their academic performance will not reflect their abilities simply because their language skills don’t allow them to communicate effectively. Work on language skills by getting your child to read as much as possible in the months leading up to high school. Reading books they enjoy will help to improve vocabulary, sentence structure, comprehension and reading speed.

  • Does your Child have Seasonal Affective Disorder?

    Does your Child have Seasonal Affective Disorder

    Pic by Zach Dischner

    Seasonal Affective Disorder (aptly called SAD) occurs during fall and winter when there are reduced daylight hours. Children suffering from SAD will display a distinct change in behavior correlating with the seasons. During the winter they can become depressed, irritable, lack focus and suffer from fatigue. Sleep patterns and appetites can also be affected. While researchers haven’t completely solved the puzzle of SAD, they suspect it is due to the lack of vitamin D as well as reduced levels of serotonin in the brain.

    Symptoms of SAD

    It can be difficult to distinguish SAD symptoms from regular mood swings. Children can become depressed, irritable, moody, disinterested and can have difficulty concentrating.

    They may suffer from fatigue and lose their appetites.

    Sleep patterns will be disrupted and they will have trouble falling asleep and getting up in the morning.

    Their academic performance will suffer as they lack motivation, always feel tired and won’t be able to concentrate in class.

    Activities that they usually enjoy will no longer interest them. They may not want to go out or exercise.

    Students who are suffering from SAD may display some or all of these symptoms in varying degrees of severity.

    Treatment and Prevention

    As the days begin to shorten and your children start staying indoors more often, focus on prevention to keep their winter blues at bay. Encourage exercise and play and get them outdoors as often as possible. Everyone craves carbohydrates and ‘comfort foods’ over the colder winter months, and while these are fine in moderation, stick to a healthy diet.

    Make an effort to include plenty of vegetables, fruit and whole grains in your family’s diet. Try to include natural sources of vitamin D like fish oils, salmon, cheese, egg yolks, and milk. You can also consider giving your children a vitamin D supplement to make up for missed sunshine. Our bodies use sunlight to create vitamin D (that’s why it’s called the sunshine vitamin!) If you have a warm, sunny spot in your home, get them to roll up their shirt sleeves and soak up the sun.

    Light therapy (or phototherapy) is also suggested as a preventative measure. Here just twenty minutes a day under a special light to simulate sunshine can help to beat the winter blues. You can get phototherapy home kits for convenience.

    Plan special events so that your children have something to look forward to. This will help to keep a positive attitude.

    Bundle up and get outside every day. Whether you are enjoying winter sports, making a snowman or having a snowball fight, being active and getting outside can help to alleviate SAD symptoms.

    Like all forms of depressions, symptoms can range from mild to extreme. If you think that your child may be suffering from SAD, speak to your paediatrician or psychologist immediately.

  • Tips on Moving From Public to Private Schools

    Tips on Moving From Public to Private Schools

    Pic by Ragez

    If you have decided to move your children from a public school to a private one, the transition can be jarring. Aside from the emotional and social adjustments your child will have to make, you are likely to find that private school students are streaks ahead in academic development.

    Studies show that the negative social impact of holding students back a year often outweighs the academic improvements they are likely to gain by repeating a grade.  Instead of holding them back, consider delaying the move until they are up to speed. Before you enroll your children in a new school, it is imperative that you help them to improve their academic performance so that they are at the same level as their new classmates.

    The most effective way to do this is through an in-home tutor. Find a tutor that is able to work with your child’s new teachers and school so that they understand exactly what your child needs to achieve in order to excel academically.

    Personalized tutoring will mean that your child is able to fill in the missing building blocks in their knowledge and learn the requisite executive skills they need to be successful independent learners at their new school.

    Make them part of the process. Explaining why a move is necessary and including them in the selection process will make it easier for them to accept their new school.

    Attend orientation together and take them on a tour of their new school so that they know exactly where all their classes are. Show them to the cafeteria, to the bathroom and how to get from their lockers to their classes. Younger students may need more than one tour to get their bearings.

    Be prepared. Ensure that your child has all the school supplies, uniform requirements and equipment they need before they start school. Knowing that they have everything they need will help to relieve their anxiety.

    Encourage your student to sign up for extracurricular activities from the start. These help to foster new friendships and a sense of community and belonging.

    Discuss their fears and all the things that they think can go wrong. Discussing ways to deal with potential problems will help your child to feel more confident.

    Stick to your routine at home and set aside a little extra time to spend with your child. Having a predictable home life and a little added support will help them through their transition.

    Get involved with the school. Volunteer and participate in school activities. Integrating with other parents and getting to know your child’s teachers is the best way to know what they need. Getting involved will mean you can provide the most comprehensive support structure for your students.

    Moving schools is always a challenge, but you can ease their transition by being supportive and really listening to their fears and anxieties.

  • Can Music Enhance Brain Functioning?

    Can Music Enhance Brain Functioning

    pic by Audio Luci Store

    “Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents.” –Ludwig van Beethoven

    The “Mozart effect” was born in 1993 when a study by Gordon Shaw and Frances Rauscher found that just ten minutes of listening to Mozart can enhance your spatial-temporal intelligence. In the same year, a study by Lamb and Gregory of the University of Manchester found that beginner readers who had been exposed to more music were better at learning to read.

    The reason for that seems to be linked to phonetics. From the study: “Children achieving high scores on pitch discrimination also did well on phonemic awareness and showed good reading performance.” A second study by Shaw and Rauscher found that preschoolers who were exposed to keyboard playing and singing lessons displayed a 34% improvement in spatial-temporal intelligence over a control group who had no exposure to music lessons.

    A study by Martin F. Gardiner established the Kodaly method in which young children play rhythm games and sing songs which become increasingly difficult. This method helps first and second graders to excel significantly at math. It is thought that this is, in part, because it helps children to understand number lines.

    What all these studies find is that learning music before the age of seven helps to enhance brain development. A German study found that 95% of musicians with perfect pitch started music lessons before the age of seven and have a planum temporale (that part of the brain responsible for pitch recognition) twice as large as their non-musical counterparts. Other studies found the corpus callosum and the right motor cortex (also responsible for music) are more developed in musicians.

    Not only has music been linked to math and reading abilities, but it is also tied to improved language abilities, concentration and memory. The Johns Hopkins School of Education suggests that all schools integrate music into the classroom, especially in kindergarten and the early grades. They outline the many benefits of music as follows:

    Music helps us learn because it will–

    • establish a positive learning state
    • create a desired atmosphere
    • build a sense of anticipation
    • energize learning activities
    • change brain wave states
    • focus concentration
    • increase attention
    • improve memory
    • facilitate a multisensory learning experience
    • release tension
    • enhance imagination
    • align groups
    • develop rapport
    • provide inspiration and motivation
    • add an element of fun
    • accentuate theme-oriented units

    When choosing schools and kindergartens, make music lessons one of your top priorities. Encourage your schools to include music in the curriculum or take your child to private tutors for lessons. You can also play music at home and teach your children songs from the Kodaly method.

    If your students are studying for an exam or working on a project or assignment, classics like Mozart can really help to enhance their ability to think outside of the box. Encourage them to listen to some Mozart just before walking into an exam so they will perform at their peak.

  • What Parents Need to Know About the Common Core

    Common Core

    Pic by Randen Peterson

    The Common Core State Standards are a national US program which outlines what students should know and the skills they must master for each grade in English/language arts and math. The CCSS also addresses standards related to reading in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects for Grades 6-12.

    The CCSS was created to ensure the standardization of education across states and to ensure that graduates are ready for life in the workforce or to enter college or a trade school. Assessment of the student’s abilities is still up to the individual state and the CCSS is not yet aligned with English Language Proficiency standards.

    The CCSS are based on research and benchmarked to what students need to learn in order to compete in a global job market. With the new curriculum comes new testing methods which are designed to more accurately assess student’s abilities and whether they have the skills they need for their careers or further studies.

    While students and teachers adjust to the new standards and new testing methods, an initial drop in grades is expected. This is expected to be a short term drop as teachers and students adapt to the new standards.

    The CCSS is only designed to create a student body that is better prepared for post-school studies and careers; it only covers the skills that students need and doesn’t dictate curriculum or the content of assessments. The teachers will select texts, assignments and tests.

    In order for parents to effectively help their students to acquire the necessary skills, they must have a good understanding of the demands that the CCSS place on students at each grade. There are a number of resources available for that including:

    Being informed will help you to support your students through the transition and will also mean you understand which skills they must master to score well on the assessments. If you are unsure how to help your child, ask you teacher or in-home tutor for advice on how to effectively implement the CCSS.

  • Is Homeschooling Right for You? 10 Things to Consider Part 2

    Is Homeschooling Right for You 10 Things to Consider Part 1

    Pic by Iowa Politics

    Thinking of homeschooling? We are preparing a two-part guide of questions you should ask yourself before you make the decision to homeschool your children. You can see the first part of the guide here. Homeschool is a very challenging task for parents to take on, but it can be extremely rewarding too.

    What are your goals for homeschooling?

    Stating your goals for your homeschooling practice will mean that you have a direction and path to follow. Some goals you may want to consider include exceeding your local requirements for curriculum, spending more time with your children, and giving your children the individualized, personal instruction they need to excel.

    How will you deal with detractors?

    While most parents will be curious as to why you chose to homeschool or how you manage to get everything done in a day, others will feel defensive about their decision to send their children to schools and yet others will disagree strongly with your decision to homeschool. It’s helpful to think about how you will answer criticism or curiosity before you set out on a homeschooling course.

    Dealing with opposition from other parents, friends and family members with understanding and patience will make the transition easier for you and your children.

    What about socialization?

    One of the biggest concerns for most people is that their children will become isolated by homeschooling and they won’t learn to socialize properly. This is really up to the family and I know some homeschooled children who are far more sociable and involved in their communities than their school-going counterparts.

    Start by finding other homeschooling groups that share your ideas and values and join them. Ensure that your children are encouraged to participate in after-school activities at clubs, and encourage dance, art, music and other interests. There are all sorts of sports clubs and activities where they can meet other children and engage in social activities.

    When should you take your children out of school?

    If your children are already in school, make a timetable to take them out when it will be the least disruptive for them. Perhaps at the end of the academic year or at the end of a semester will suit you or when you feel organized and ready.

    How long will you homeschool?

    This is a question that is best left open to discussion. Try to give yourself a solid year of homeschooling as it really does take a long time to settle in and adjust. Then, take it either year by year or semester by semester. Circumstances change and your children’s needs may change too, so keep the lines of communication open and be flexible enough to adjust so that you are always doing what is best for your children.