Monthly Archives: July 2011

YouTube Greatest Hits

While YouTube may be a bastion for “cat taking a bath” videos and other such internet hits, it also has a lot of educational potential. The following accounts are some of our favorites at Tutor Doctor WNY, when we’re not watching dancing baby videos. Hopefully you’ll enjoy some of these informative and fun videos!

The American Museum of Natural History

You don't have to travel to New York City to learn about natural history! (Image Credit:

This account, run by the New York City museum, includes a ton of educational videos addressing issues in natural history ranging from fossils to outer space. One of the highlights is The Known Universe. 

Featuring interviews with contemporary leaders, presents videos on “the people, issues, and ideas changing the world”. While some interviews might be a little dry, this could easily become a primary source for a project.

Horrible Histories on BBC1

Although this BBC series only has 25 videos, these hilarious features provide not only laughter but also education to make history fun!

National Geographic 

With over 2,500 videos, something is sure to peak your interest on the National Geographic channel, which has great videos exploring plenty of natural (and social) phenomenon.


Most people learn better with visual components in addition to audio, and RSA Animates does exactly that. Putting interesting lectures alongside their creative and skillful whiteboard drawings, RSA Animates helps make lectures interesting!

Steve Spangler Science

The infamous Coke and Mentos experiment is sure to be a hit with Steve Spangler Science! (Image Credit:

Looking for amazingly fun science experiment ideas? Look no further! While any of Spangler’s ideas involve a lot of work, they are definite inspiration for students to continue their science education!


Promoting itself as presenting “inspired talks by the world’s leading thinkers and doers”, many of the talks presented on the YouTube channel are extremely educational, engaging, and timely. With discussions ranging from topics in food to zoology, there’s something for everyone on TEDTalks.

The Open University

Free learning with The Open University is engaging and fun! Pairing excellent information in fields such as history and English with great animations, these short videos are enjoyable and educational. Of particular note is The History of English series.

What are some of your favorite educational YouTube accounts or videos?


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U-Pick and Reap the Benefits

Not everyone has the ability to keep up a full-on garden over the summer. However, this doesn’t mean you and your family have to be totally separated from the places your food comes from! Western New York is rife with U-Pick orchards, hosted by local farms looking to benefit from agritourism. Spending a day outside picking fruit is a great way to connect with nature and learn about the process of food traveling from farm to table. Whether you pick red raspberries or peaches, there are plenty of things you can do with the fruit you pick, and plenty of lessons to be learned in the process!

Picking Ain’t Easy

Picking your own fruit may not be a necessity today, but it can still be a lot of fun! (Image Credit:

While fruits may seem easy to pick, every fruit has its own flair for picking. Before heading out into the orchard, make sure you check with a farm employee on the best way to collect your harvest. Talk to your child about the importance of not injuring the bushes or trees that yield the fruit, and make sure to provide plenty of guided picking opportunities before letting them loose.

Talk It Out

While your picking, have a conversation with your child! What are the benefits of eating local food? What kind of history do these foods have in our area? Your conversations can encompass everything from history and politics to science, art, and literature.

Too Much is Never Enough

Making jam isn't as hard as it sounds! Just make sure you have plenty of potholders! (Image Credit:

The low prices of most U-Pick farms are very appealing, and you may find the hours slip by easily and you’re left with tons of fruit. While it may be impossible to eat twenty quarts of strawberries before they rot, there are other ways to make the best of your bumper crop! Why not try making jam as a family? The process may initially seem daunting, but as long as you follow a recipe and dedicate a solid few hours to the proceedings, you’ll be just fine! You can make jam out of just about anything, as evidenced by our family’s rhubarb and cherry blend jam. If jam isn’t quite your thing, try baking! Whether it’s a pie or a bread, you can freeze most of your baked goods and save them for later. This can spark a great conversation with your child about how food storing practices have changed with new technologies.

Hopefully you and your family will be able to enjoy the summer weather and get out into some of Western New York’s beautiful family farms for some education and delicious locally grown fruit! What is your favorite thing to pick this time of year?

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Family Game Night

Even though the summer offers a lot of free time, this time seems to get eaten up quickly for both kids and adults. As the final month of summer freedom creeps closer, why not take the time to bond with your family over a family game night? A family game night is a great way to spend quality time together as a family while learning. Playing games helps kids to strengthen and develop content knowledge, and also helps reinforce socialization skills, such as how to deal with being a loser (or a winner!). Here are some tips to make your family game night a huge success!

Board games are a perfect way to combine fun, family time, and education! (Image Credit:

Make it an Event

Whether it’s once a week or once a month, make family game night something that the whole family can look forward to on a regular basis! Set up camp somewhere comfortable in your house, or take advantage of the warm weather and head outside. Make sure you have any supplies your games might require at the ready, which will probably include paper, writing utensils, and a timer at the very least. To make the night even more special, why not prepare some special and healthy family game night snacks beforehand? Try making family game night unplugged, and have everyone put away their cell phones, laptops, and iPods for the duration.

Put Your Child in Charge

Let your kids pick out some of the games to be played, have them choose the spot where you play, and help prepare the snacks. By getting your kid involved in the preparation for game night, he or she will be more invested. To boost the educational benefits, have your child take on any extra roles in the game they can handle. For example, during Monopoly, have your child be the banker, or during Scrabble have her be in charge of the dictionary. By giving kids these little extra tasks, they will feel important and will also get more practice in important skills, such as handling money or using a dictionary.

Know the Rules

Winning is fun, but nobody likes playing with a sore winner! (Image Credit:

To avoid potential conflict, make sure to review the rules for any game quickly before playing. This will hopefully help to prevent any mid-game arguments about what is and isn’t allowed. If a conflict arises, make sure to have the rules handy!

Mix it Up

Maybe your family loves playing Yahtzee, but sometimes it can be good to mix it up. While going out and buying a new game is always an option, why not try asking friends or family to do a game swap? That way, you’ll both be benefitting. Out of games? Try learning a new card game as a family.

What are some tips you have for running a successful family game night, and what are some of your favorite games to play?

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Manic Monday Organization

Want to avoid just another manic Monday as we draw closer to the beginning of a new school year? Get organized! Beginnings are an exciting time, because they allow us to get a fresh start. While New Year’s resolutions are typically made on December 31st, why not set up some beginning of the school year resolutions with your child? For many children, organization is a big issue when it comes to school. Everything from missing homework assignments to forgotten project deadlines can be prevented with a little forethought and a dedication to organization. The following are some tips to help your child (and you!) get prepared for this upcoming school year.

Buy a Planner (Heck, Buy Two!)

I feel more organized already! (Image Credit:

Planners are so important that some schools will give your child a planner at the beginning of the year! A really good planner should be easy to read, with plenty of room on each day to write down things that have to be done. While having the planner is the first step, what’s really important is actually using the planner. Have your child write down school assignments as they come up, taking care to put down both the day they were assigned as well as making a note of when the project is due. One way to draw attention to looming deadlines is to use a highlighter and make it really stand out. The most efficient planners are used on a regular basis, so get your child into the habit of using it every day. Is missing work a huge issue for your child? Talk to his or her teachers about setting up a system of planner signing, and make sure to discuss the planner every night with your child. The best part about using a planner is being able to cross off items as you finish them! As a parent or guardian, you can support the lessons you’re teaching your child by having a large planner present in a prominent place in your home. Whether it’s a large whiteboard calendar or a good old-fashioned paper calendar, make sure to write up important events to help you stay organized! While iCal is nice, it helps to have a constant visual present as a reminder as well, and it will reinforce the importance of planning and organization to your child.

Set Up Paperwork Bins

Sometimes, the amount of paperwork that kids bring home from school can be overwhelming, not to mention all the extra-curricular activities that involve plenty of papers. In between permission slips and projects, make sure that all papers coming home are kept in order! One easy way to accomplish this is to have a set of bins for each child. Label the bins Incomplete Homework, Completed Homework, Projects, Unsigned Permission Slips, and Signed Permission Slips. Get into the habit of checking these bins every night and in the morning. It may sound like a hassle, but it only takes a few seconds to check the bins as part of your routine versus running around ten minutes after you were supposed to leave searching for that one missing paper. These bins can also help to strike up conversations between you and your child about what they’ve been doing in school and what’s coming up.

Organize Notebooks

If your child is using separate folders for each subject, have him or her get into a routine of making sure everything is securely in the folder and should be there on Sunday nights. If your child is already using binders, set up a tab system to separate tests, homework, and notes. Having a messy notebook is a recipe for disaster, so watch out for notebooks that have notes sticking out of them every which way. Also, make sure all notebooks are clearly labeled regarding what they should be used for!

Corral Writing Utensils

Put everything your child might need for the school year as far as supplies (glue sticks, pens, pencils, erasers, rulers, etc.) into a pencil box or a bag to carry around in his or her backpack, and prepare an extra one for the locker. Nothing says disorganized like being unable to find a pen or a pencil when you need one!

Beautify Your Desktop

So much of schoolwork today is completed on the computer. To make sure that assignments are being kept in their proper place on a family computer, set up a folder just for your child, and insert folders for each subject into that folder. Make sure your child saves all typed work in the appropriate folder. Another way to prevent a crisis is to have your child constantly back up his or her work. Get into the habit of working with a USB drive in the computer, and periodically save the assignment to both the computer and the USB.

What are some other tips you have for avoiding weekday morning disasters?

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What Your Child Should Know Before Preschool

Pre-school, which is designed for 3-4 year olds before beginning kindergarten, is a great way to ease your child into a school setting. They offer half-day or limited exposure to a relatively regimented school environment, which includes group socialization as well as an introduction to the ways rules work in a classroom as opposed to the home environment. Preschool is set up to teach your child the basics necessary to move onto kindergarten, such as an ability to follow rules, work well with others, a familiarity with shapes, colors, numbers, and language, and many other skills. However, your child should have some basics down before entering preschool.

How to Share

Even if your child is an only child, make sure he knows that sharing is an important part of human interactions. Although preschool may bring its share of incidents, a child who enters the classroom with no experience sharing is going to be at a severe disadvantage when it comes to trying to make friends.

How to Deal with Differences

For many children, preschool is the first time they are out of the home for an extended period of time. This means your child will be exposed to people from different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different races, and different value systems. One way to help beef up your child’s tolerance is to read books that deal with differences. Whether it’s understanding that some children come from single-parent households or LGBT households, there are books designed to deal with it. Make differences something that your child is interested in and embraces rather than something she rejects.

How to Sit Still (Without the TV on!)

This one may just be to help out the teacher, but knowing how to sit still for a short time can be helpful. Whether it’s coloring or listening to a story, it helps not to have a classroom full of kids running around wildly. This isn’t to say that your child shouldn’t be encouraged to move around, but part of school is learning how to fit your needs into a schedule made by someone else. This task will definitely be more difficult for some children then others, but try a few projects or activities this summer that require your child to sit still for a while and see how it goes.

How to Communicate Needs

The teacher will not know your child as well as you do, and the nonverbal cues you’ve grown used to picking up will not necessarily be useful in the classroom. If your child has to use the bathroom, he needs to learn how to verbally communicate that need to the teacher so that his needs can be met. One way to help your child learn this skill is to have her talk to other people about what she needs. Have him order his own food in a restaurant and talk to the waiter.

How to Listen

Listening will help your child be a better student and a better friend. Read books aloud to your child, have conversations that involve your child listening to you and then responding. The best way to do this is to have conversations that involve lots of questions. Teach your child that reciprocating questions is often a nice way to form bonds. If someone asks how your day was, you should do the same back to them. Model this in your own relationships with others, and your child might surprise you by picking up on it.

Preschool can be a scary time for parents as well as kids, but having some of these basic skills in place can ease the transition a little for everyone. What are some other things you think kids should know before starting preschool?

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Getting Kids to Help Around the House

It isn’t always easy getting your child to help out around the house. However, it isn’t just a matter of convenience for parents to have a helping hand, it also teaches your child responsibility and the importance of a good work ethic. The following are some tips to help get your child involved in the maintenance of your home!

Make it Fun

Cleaning doesn't have to be all work and no play! (Image Credit:

Who says work can’t be fun? Crank up the tunes, pull out the cleaning supplies, and go to town as a family. Cleaning alone may be a chore, but cleaning together can be enjoyable! Make sure that everyone has a list of their responsibilities and set them loose with the necessary supplies.

Make it Rewarding

For  a job well done there is usually a reward. Whether that reward is a paycheck or a clean house makes a difference to a child. Children can’t always appreciate the value of a clean house, but they can appreciate the value of other things. A family friend recently set up a chore chart that promised a Disney trip at the end if a certain amount of stickers were accumulated. The chart took a place of honor in the kitchen, and the kids set to work trying to fill it as soon as possible. The final reward doesn’t have to be something as big as a trip. For kids who want a pet of their own, this is a great way to gauge responsibility before making the leap. A summer spent being responsible for something such as dusting, doing the dishes, watering the garden, or vacuuming will help instill responsibility in your child that will continue when they get the pet of their dreams. Another option could be the old stand-by of an allowance. Don’t think of the money as something your child is entitled to, but rather something that he or she earns as they do work around the house.

Make it a Learning Experience

For kids of all ages, learning how to clean is important. As young children, they can learn how to do many household tasks. As they get older, they can learn how to clean the shower or mow the lawn. Take the time to really teach your child how to do something, don’t just assume they know how to do it!

Hopefully these tips will help you get your child involved in the care of your home! What are some other tips you’ve found that work for getting kids involved?

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Newspaper Blackout Poetry

What combines art with poetry, form with function? Texas poet Austin Kleon found a way to merge his artistic sensibilities with his writing when he began taking a Sharpie to newspaper. The result, newspaper blackout poetry, creates a poem through deletion rather than the traditional mode of addition. The end result is a poem picked out of a sea of words in an unrelated topic, and something that looks worthy of being hung on the wall. For extremely visual learners, this is a great exercise in creating poetry.

We all knew poetry could sound beautiful, but now it can look beautiful too! (Image Credit:

So how can you create your own blackout poetry? Get your inspiration from some of Austin Kleon’s fantastic poetry, (available in his book Newspaper Blackout). Then, find a newspaper. Grab a pen and start circling the words you want to use for your poem. If you get stuck, try circling words that jump out at you and building a story around them. When you have your poem blocked out in pen, now it’s time to grab your Sharpie and start blocking out the words you don’t need. The contrast works best when you use a black Sharpie, although you can use any color that makes the rest of the words unreadable. When your poem is done, why not try framing it? A great combination of art and poetry is a true masterpiece, not to mention that the creativity your child will be exercising is unparalleled!

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