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  • Tips for Teaching Gratitude to Your Children

    Pic by Lori Hurley

    You want your children to have everything they need and so it’s only natural that we do all we can to keep them happy. Unfortunately, the result of this generosity is all too often a sense of entitlement and dissatisfaction. Instilling gratitude in your children is a wonderful gift. Knowing and really feeling how lucky they are will make them happier and healthier.

    Why should kids be grateful?

    While you may prattle on about how children in Africa don’t have new toys or vegetables to eat, it’s completely understandable that this has no effect on your children. They don’t really understand how lucky they are because their only points of comparison are the other children and families in your neighborhood.

    Giving your children a real sense of gratitude means changing their outlooks and attitudes and studies show that it makes happier children. “When kids recognize that the things they own and the opportunities they have come from someone other than themselves, it helps them develop a healthy understanding of how interdependent we all are — and they may be more inclined to treat others with genuine respect,” says Andrea Reiser, happiness coach. Being appreciative also improves your kid’s manners and their relationships to other people.

    How to instill gratitude

    Count your blessings: Every day, encourage younger students to list a couple of things they are thankful for and why. Get older kids to keep a gratitude journal. Make this a part of your daily routine over dinner or on commutes so that you highlight gratitude as a daily necessity.

    Be a good example: Be gracious when accepting gifts and constantly talk about all the things you are grateful for. You should also make it a regular occurrence to remind your children that you are grateful for them so that they understand how wonderful it feels to be appreciated.

    Less is more: I know you want to give your kids everything, but resist the temptation. When you shower your kids with too much stuff, gifts lose their value and they never seem quite satisfied. Instead, resist the urge to spoil them and get them to pitch in for the things they really want.

    Learning to give: It really is better to give than to receive so encourage your kids to give generously to friends and family members and to people less fortunate than themselves. Getting them involved in volunteering, charity drives or holiday toy collections makes their good fortune far more tangible. When they are working with or helping people less fortunate, they have something new to compare their lives to that helps them to realize how fortunate they are.

    An ‘attitude of gratitude’ is a wonderful way to make your kids happier, healthier people who have great relationships with others because they are able to express appreciation and sincerity.

     

  • Ways to Better Parent-Teen Communication

    Pic by Audio Luci Store

    Do you sometimes find your teens difficult to reach? Teens are often reticent to talk about their day at school or about their lives in general. Your questions may be met with ‘I don’t know’ or monosyllabic answers that make conversation a chore. However, it is essential that you ask questions and remain interested to keep those lines of communication open. There are ways you can encourage sharing and help facilitate conversation.

    Listen more than you talk

    Your natural instinct is always to offer advice, to comment or to criticize in order to help your teens make the best choices. Their lack of desire to converse may be because they don’t want your advice right now. One of the best ways to encourage communication is simply to listen, without offering any kind of judgment or advice unless these are specifically solicited.

    Clear the path

    Another good way to encourage communication is by making time for the two of you. Offer to go shopping, watch a movie, have brunch, play a sport or participate in any activity that your teen loves without other family members. Just making time for the two of you will help your teen feel like you are really interested in them and that you are taking an interest in their lives.

    Timing is everything

    Bombarding your teen with questions after a long school day is probably not going to end well. Teens are tired when they get home and may need some time to recharge before they are ready to talk. If they seem uncommunicative, let them unwind a little at home before you fire away.

    Ask the right questions

    If general questions like: “How was your day?” render only superficial answers, try asking more specific questions.

    You can ask about specific friends and classmates and how they are doing. Ask about teachers, assignments or classes. Show that you really do listen by bringing up previous conversations for example: “I know you were worried about how Mr. Smith would react to your science fair idea. Did he like it?”

    If school topics are fraught with tension, talk about other subjects and things that are of interest to your child.

    Mutual respect

    Most teens have a tendency to be self-centered or perhaps they are just a little too touchy or emotional for you. But you must remember that their feelings are very real and valid. Whether you agree with their opinions or reactions, always be respectful. Dismissing their feelings will only serve to alienate them and make them feel like you can’t relate. As with all situations and people, teenagers will respond best to patience, kindness and love.

  • Should your Student Take a Gap Year?

    Picture by Jason Priem

    From Harvard to MIT, many of the most prestigious colleges are recommending a gap year. While most North American parents cringe at the mention of a gap year, it has been standard practice for most European and Australian scholars for years. The thinking here is that a gap year gives high-school students who are burnt out from ACTs, SATs and college applications a chance to recharge. It also gives those students who aren’t quite mature enough or aren’t sure of their career path a little more time to find their feet.

    Gap Years can be a Good Thing

    For most parents, the biggest concern is that a gap year will turn into gap years and their students won’t fulfill their college dreams. College admissions officers disagree. They claim that there are very few students who are a no-show after a gap year.

    They support gap years because they feel that students who are better prepared are more likely to complete their degrees. Most colleges allow newly accepted students to defer for a year while they complete public service or internships.

    This is in an effort to reduce the relatively high dropout rates (30% for first year students). According to the Collage Board, three out of five students don’t manage to complete their four-year degrees in the first five years of college. The thinking here is that students who have taken a gap year will be more prepared and better equipped to deal with their studies.

    Structure your Gap Year

    Travel, volunteering and internships are all possibilities for gap years, but encourage your students to take on these tasks by themselves and to plan their gap years carefully. You can also ask them to make a budget for the year; just because you’re paying for college doesn’t mean you have to fork out for a gap year too. Most students take on part-time jobs to fund their gap years.

    If you and your student have decided on a gap year, don’t let this be the reason for delaying the ACTs or SATs or for delaying college admissions. Students should stay on track and gain college admission which they can defer for a year. They have a far greater chance of going to college if they have already secured admission.

    If your student didn’t get into their college of choice, a gap year can offer them a second run at it. While gap year experience is no guarantee of college acceptance, it may help to bolster admissions that were not successful the previous year.

    If your student is considering a gap year, be sure that this doesn’t give them an excuse to drop the academic ball in their last year. Try to ensure that they secure a college admission before heading off and make sure that their year is planned and structured so they get the most out of their year off.

  • Should your Student Take a Gap Year?

    From Harvard to MIT, many of the most prestigious colleges are recommending a gap year. While most North American parents cringe at the mention of a gap year, it has been standard practice for most European and Australian scholars for years. The thinking here is that a gap year gives high-school students who are burnt out from ACTs, SATs and college applications a chance to recharge. It also gives those students who aren’t quite mature enough or aren’t sure of their career path a little more time to find their feet.

    Gap Years can be a Good Thing

    For most parents, the biggest concern is that a gap year will turn into gap years and their students won’t fulfill their college dreams. College admissions officers disagree. They claim that there are very few students who are a no-show after a gap year.

    They support gap years because they feel that students who are better prepared are more likely to complete their degrees. Most colleges allow newly accepted students to defer for a year while they complete public service or internships.

    This is in an effort to reduce the relatively high dropout rates (30% for first year students). According to the Collage Board, three out of five students don’t manage to complete their four-year degrees in the first five years of college. The thinking here is that students who have taken a gap year will be more prepared and better equipped to deal with their studies.

    Structure your Gap Year

    Travel, volunteering and internships are all possibilities for gap years, but encourage your students to take on these tasks by themselves and to plan their gap years carefully. You can also ask them to make a budget for the year; just because you’re paying for college doesn’t mean you have to fork out for a gap year too. Most students take on part-time jobs to fund their gap years.

    If you and your student have decided on a gap year, don’t let this be the reason for delaying the ACTs or SATs or for delaying college admissions. Students should stay on track and gain college admission which they can defer for a year. They have a far greater chance of going to college if they have already secured admission.

    If your student didn’t get into their college of choice, a gap year can offer them a second run at it. While gap year experience is no guarantee of college acceptance, it may help to bolster admissions that were not successful the previous year.

    If your student is considering a gap year, be sure that this doesn’t give them an excuse to drop the academic ball in their last year. Try to ensure that they secure a college admission before heading off and make sure that their year is planned and structured so they get the most out of their year off.

  • Brain foods that actually make you Smarter

    Pic by Bryan

    No matter what age you are, your brain can keep growing and developing; all it needs is some exercise and the right fuel. Just like your body, your brain needs the right nutrients in order to keep functioning properly. Your brain uses about 20% of your daily calorie intake. If those calories are high in complex carbohydrates and refined sugars, your brain won’t be functioning at its peak.

    If you want to be firing on all cylinders for school, work or exams, there are foods that help to boost brain health and give your grey matter the fuel it needs to succeed.

    Glucose

    One of the things your brain needs most is glucose. Without a constant supply, memory loss and an inability to concentrate effectively will leave you scrambling for answers. Healthy sources of glucose include grains, fruits and vegetables.

    Unhealthy sources of glucose can be found in candy, soda and products which contain a lot of refined sugar. Consuming too much sugar can negatively affect your ability to concentrate and may prevent you from effectively accessing your memory. These refined sugars also negatively affect your blood pressure. When this spikes and drops, you will be left feeling lethargic and too tired to think straight.

    Keep a constant supply of glucose flowing to the brain by eating regular meals. Avoid skipping meals (especially breakfast) and try to eat small, healthy meals every couple of hours. Always aim to get seven servings of fresh fruits and veggies a day.

    Iron

    Brains love iron and this can be found in leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach. You can also find a ready supply of iron in red meats and some grains. Brains are particularly fond of vitamins from the B-family. These can be found in whole grains, wheat germ, organic eggs, bran, whole wheat, oatmeal, brown rice and nuts.

    Omega-3

    Foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids are really good for brain health. You can find these in oily fish like wild salmon. Walnuts are brilliant brain food as are edible seeds like flax, hemp and chia.

    Anti-oxidants

    The anti-oxidant properties of berries are legendary and can be found in acai and blueberries. Acai berries are also a great source of Omega-3.

    Magnesium

    Magnesium is also an important nutrient for healthy brains. You can find magnesium in Swiss chard, spinach, potato skins, quinoa, peas, yogurt, cheese, soy products, tofu, fish, nuts and lentils.

    Luteolin

    A plant compound called luteolin helps to reduce the effects of aging on the brain as well as brain inflammation. Luteolin can be found in carrots and is also instrumental in promoting good memory.

  • Pets can be Good For Kids

    Pic by Brad Holt

    If your kids are keen to have a pet, but all you can think about is how you will have to feed and care for their furry and feathered friends, there are some benefits that you may not be considering. Having a pet will invariably mean that you have more to keep an eye on and there are inevitable expenses, but there are also a wealth of benefits and learning opportunities that having a pet provides for your family.

    Learning about Responsibility

    This is the obvious one, but having a pet really does teach your children to consider the needs of others when making decisions. They also understand that while being responsible isn’t always fun, it is very rewarding.

    Children also learn to plan their day and follow a routine so that they are always home to feed and exercise their pets. This helps them with time management and learning to fulfill obligations and responsibilities.

    Health benefits

    Being introduced to pets from an early age can actually boost immune systems which mean that children have a lower chance of developing allergies and are less likely to have asthma. Interacting with pets is also good for your health which is why healthcare facilities encourage visitations from dogs. Interacting with a pet lowers blood pressure and releases serotonin which elevates mood.

    Having to walk a dog can encourage children to get moving and helps them to control their weight. It can also provide companionship and comfort and improve feelings of wellbeing.

    Give it a trial run

    Before owning a pet, ask a friend or family member if you can take care of their pet for a couple of days. This will help you to gauge your child’s readiness to accept the responsibility of a new pet.

    You can also encourage your child to volunteer at a local shelter or just offer to walk the neighbor’s dog a couple of days a week.

    Be cognizant also of the time it takes to care for pets. If your child is already struggling to juggle academics and after-school activities, then opt for a low-maintenance pet that doesn’t require a lot of love and attention.

    If you aren’t ready for the full responsibility of a dog, start with a hamster or a fish to get your students accustomed to the routine and responsibility. This will help you ascertain whether they are mature enough to handle a pet. Do not get a pet unless you are absolutely sure that it’s the right thing for you and your family.

  • Need to Improve your Grades? Get a Study Group!

    pic by Bahaius

    Remember that saying “two heads are better than one”? Just imagine how effective four or five heads can be! Study groups can really help you to improve your grades. Whether you are struggling at school of you need to up your game to get into college, study groups are really where the magic happens.

    Study groups don’t mean sitting around texting, playing Wii and eating pizza. When a group of determined students committed to improving their academics get together, you can be sure that grades are going to be getting a whole lot better.

    There are so many benefits!

    Dividing reading among your study group means you can work through large swathes of material, get really comprehensive notes and present the information in a variety of learning styles.

    When you present your share of the work, you are honing your presentation skills while really locking that information into your long-term memory. Teaching something really helps to reinforce your own knowledge and gives the group a chance to add to your understanding of the material.

    Getting the perspectives of the other study group participants can broaden your knowledge. Together you can also get through the extra readings which you may not have time for on your own.

    Start by picking the right team

    Perhaps the single most important factor in starting a successful study group is selecting the right students. When setting up a study group, avoid choosing members based on friendship alone. Instead, find students who are able to contribute significantly, who are committed to working hard and who will be reliable. Study groups work best when they consist of people who are more or less on the same academic level.

    Learning styles

    Everyone learns differently, so divide your work up evenly among the group. Then ask each person to make comprehensive notes on the readings which they can share so you have something to use for studying. During your study group, each person gets a chance to present and explain their portion of the readings. You can use videos, mind maps, illustrations and infographics to help the visual learners.

    When you have worked through the material, do some test exams together. Help each other with the questions you got wrong. Never erase an incorrect answer – instead take notes on where you went wrong so you don’t make the same mistakes again.

    When you share your studying with others, you are able to get through more work. You can help each other with those parts you don’t understand and share notes and other leaning materials. Encouraging each other and helping each other to work though problems will improve friendships too.

  • How Changing Attitudes Can Help your Child Succeed At Math

    Math tutor

    pic by Cybrarian77

    Studies show that a natural math ability is not required for a student to succeed. Sure, natural talent does help some children get ahead and is especially evident in the lower grades, but a study by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim showed that the biggest predictor of success was practice and a positive attitude.

    “You become good at exactly what you practice,” said Professor Hermundur Sigmundsson, of NTNU’s Department of Psychology. “Our study shows little correlation between (being good at) the nine different mathematical skills,” Sigmundsson said. “For instance there is little correlation between being able to solve a normal addition in the form of ’23 + 67′ and addition in the form of a word problem.”

    Math is a subject that most students think that they can or can’t do. While they are happy to admit that other subjects require hard work to succeed, you often hear the “I’m not good at math,” refrain. Everybody can be good at math, but it does take perseverance, patience and hard work.

    Start with a positive inner dialogue

    Ask your child to change their inner and outer dialogue about math. Instead of thinking that they can’t do it or that they aren’t good at it, they should focus on the positive. “Well, I got pretty far on that one,” or “at least I got the beginning part right” are better ways to look at the situation. When sitting down to homework or to study for a test, a quick pep talk will do wonders.

    Offer rewards for short and long-term goals

    Offering big rewards for unattainable goals can actually be counter-productive as children feel that larger goals are just too difficult to achieve. Instead, set up a series of short-term goals that are manageable. For example; ask your child to improve their math grade by 5% and offer a reward that they can get excited about. Achieving short-term goals will boost their confidence and make them more inclined to believe that the long-term goals are also attainable.

    When children do achieve goals, praise them and be sure to mention that it was their hard work and perseverance that led to success.

    Avoid homework wars

    If you have to nag and cajole your children to do their math homework or if working with you creates tension, then it may be time to switch tactics. Ask your children to speak with the teacher at least once a week. Here they should take in problems that they are struggling with and ask for help. Showing examples of their work will help the teacher to see where they are going wrong.

    Consider getting an in-home math tutor. If your child is struggling with school math, sending them to a learning center where they will get more school math is probably not the answer. Instead, get a one-on-one tutor to set out an academic game plan for their math curriculum. This should include filling in gaps in their foundational mathematical knowledge and teaching study and organizational skills.

    Remember that when it comes to math, attitude is more important than ability. You can use Einstein as an example; when he was nine, his teacher told his father that, no matter what career he chose, he would not succeed!

  • Childhood Development through Family Game Time

    Board games with your kids may not be the most scintillating thing you can do on a weekend night, but it does help to reinforce what they learn at school, improve communication skills, form family bonds and teach good sportsmanship.

    Charades

    This is a great way to improve communication skills and show the impact and importance of non-verbal communication. Choose simple action words for younger kids and books, songs, TV programs and movie titles for older kids. This game is great because you don’t have to spend money on it and you can play it anywhere – all you need is a pen and paper.

    Word and number games

    Keeping score is always a great way to improve math skills. Playing card games and Yahtzee are also great ways to practice arithmetic. Word games like Scrabble use both math and English skills. Word games are excellent for expanding vocabularies, teaching spelling and helping with reading comprehension.

    Outside games

    Childhood Development through Family Game Time

    pic by  Peddhapati

    Running races, playing catch, skipping rope and swimming are great ways to get your family moving. If you don’t feel like participating, opt to be the referee by adding fun challenges, judging performances or using a stop watch to time participants. Getting your family moving can be as easy as taking a walk around your neighborhood or to the local store.

    Regular exercise helps to get kids moving which has a wealth of health and emotional benefits. Remember that they look to your example on how to include exercise into their lives on a regular basis.

    Treasure hunts and geo-caching are great outdoor games to help kids learn navigation skills. You don’t even have to be playing a game – simply asking them to navigate around town when you are doing chores is a great exercise. This is a really important life skill and you’ll feel much better knowing that they can read a subway map or use a map. Using their mobile phones to locate treasures or geo-caches is easy enough, but they also need to be able to get around on their own.

    Strategy games

    These can be played with children from the second grade onwards. Strategy games help kids to practice their higher cognitive functions and this makes it easier for them to grasp abstract concepts with greater ease, making math and science easier to handle. Strategy games also encourage independent thinking and are a wonderful way to practice decision-making skills. It also shows the correlation between decisions and consequences and teaches kids to think the consequences through when making strategic moves.

    Choose a combination of games that require individual and team participation. Reward good team behavior and good sportsmanship. Don’t always let your kids win. While letting them win may help bolster self-esteem, they need to be able to lose with grace. The most important element here is that they have fun and that your bonds as a family unit are strengthened.

  • Study Skills: Getting Organized!

    pic by Cybrarian77

    Organizational skills do not come naturally; they are a learned ability that can help your students in their academic and personal lives. With large class sizes and demanding curricula, most teachers barely have enough time to teach coursework, let alone study skills.

    If your child is smart but scattered, they may be forgetting to do homework or assignments which seriously impacts their grades. Not being able to prioritize tasks and organize activities means they don’t leave enough time to study or do their assignments. When this happens, bad grades and a feeling of being overwhelmed can cause damage to confidence and self-esteem.

    Roadmap to success

    One of the biggest problems for school children is simply forgetting upcoming tests, assignments and homework. Get your student a diary or workbook where they can record each and every task that they need to do and when it is due.

    For example, the Tutor Doctor’s X-Skills program provides students with a workbook where they record every tasks that needs to be done. They start by jotting down the task quickly in class as the teacher assigns it. Then, every day when they get home, they mark the task into their study schedule. Tutors help them to determine how much time it will take and then they block off time in their workbooks to complete the task.

    Students must check their workbooks every night to see what books, tasks and homework to take so that they are organized for their next school day.

    Prioritizing tasks

    One of the biggest obstacles to being organized is an inability to prioritize. If your child is falling behind, evaluate their after-school activities to see if they aren’t overloaded. If social or extra-mural activities are taking up study time, it may be time to reconsider.

    Another important aspect is to say no to social interactions during study time. This means no texting or calling during times marked off for studying. Students don’t always have to say ‘no’ to social invitations, but they must learn to say ‘not now’.

    The right environment

    Creating an organized, quiet, well-lit and comfortable study area is imperative. If you want your student to be focused and to make the most of their study time, then provide them with a space that is free from distractions, noisy siblings and TV. If your home cannot accommodate this space, consider the library, a neighbor’s house or even a quiet coffee shop.

    Get a tutor

    Tutors will help your child to catch up, but they can also teach study and organizational skills so that your child becomes a successful independent learner. Opt for an organization that has an academic game plan in place. Here your child should be assessed to see exactly what their academic needs are so that you and your student have an accurate idea of the gaps that need to be filled. Realistic, attainable goals should then be set with a road map of how those goals will be achieved. This helps your child to understand how to set long and short-term goals.

    Teaching your child the fundamental skills they need to succeed academically is the first step in better learning and a better life.