Monthly Archives: February 2013

Recognizing Dyslexia

If your child is struggling to keep up at school, there may be several contributing factors including dyslexia. About 80% of students with learning disabilities have dyslexia. Dyslexia is a learning disorder that makes it difficult for students to read, recognize symbols and interpret words. Dyslexia is the most common learning disorder and it stays with children throughout their lives. It’s often the parents who recognize that there is something amiss and it’s crucial to identify dyslexia as soon as possible in order to help your child to learn in a way that suits their needs.

Delayed speech: As a baby, the dyslexic child will have trouble learning to speak. Although they will master speech successfully, they will be late starters in this area. They may also mix up sounds or use the incorrect words in sentences. Dyslexic children also have trouble pronouncing R’s and L’s as well as M’s and N’s well into the third and fourth grades.

Dominance issues: Dyslexic children often don’t establish a dominant side until really late in life. They will not be able to tell the difference between left and right and may be a little clumsy. They will use their hands interchangeably i.e. they usually establish dominance around 7 or 8, but might still use one hand to draw and another to play sports.

Switching the order of numbers and letters: This commonly occurs with children who are learning to read, but if the problem persists after the age of seven or eight it should be addressed. Children who have dyslexia will also read very slowly and have great trouble recognizing words.

Trouble copying work from the board or from a book: Difficulty interpreting words and symbols will mean that the dyslexic child will have great difficulty copying work down. There will also be a general disorganization of words and letters on a written page. They will have trouble learning letters and the order they appear in the alphabet.

Disparity between reading and learning: You will see your child learn very quickly in other areas, but fall behind in lessons that are text related. This also translates into a difficulty with handwriting and trouble learning to spell words correctly. They will find it difficult to recognize rhyming words, even if they read books like Dr. Seuss, they will not be able to tell you that cat rhymes with hat.

Math problems: Dyslexia is not restricted to reading and you may find your child has trouble with math too. Symbols and numbers are just as difficult for the dyslexic to interpret as letters are.

Early signs of dyslexia require further investigation. If you suspect your child may have a learning disorder, seek the council of a developmental psychologist who can not only test your child to identify leaning difficulties, but they can also help you and your child to overcome learning problems and find their talents. Dyslexia can be managed and can actually be a strength for the individual. As the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity states “Children and adults with dyslexia are highly creative, and have many cognitive and emotional strengths, despite a weakness in decoding words. Successful dyslexics draw on their strengths to hit their targets in life.”


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Filed under Health, Improved Learning, Parenting

School Lunch Ideas

So you and your kids are all pretty tired of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but you have very little time in the mornings and with all your other responsibilities, you just don’t have the energy to think about school lunches. What you need is a little inspiration to turn dull lunches into fun for everyone.

A healthy lunch is necessary for your child because the brain consumes 20% of your calorie intake. Your kid’s attention span, focus and ability to reason will be vastly improved when their brains have enough fuel to fire on all cylinders. Avoid food high in sugar content and opt for foods with protein, carbohydrate and high fiber content.

This sandwich is healthy, contains everything your child needs in a nutritious lunch and its yummy too!

  • 1 cup roasted chicken breast cut into squares (skin removed)
  • 2 spinach leaves
  • 1/2 pink or white grapefruit
  • 1 Red Delicious apple
  • 1/2 cup seedless green grapes
  • Dash of poppy seed salad dressing

Chop up spinach leaves and place in bowl with the diced chicken. Scoop the grapefruit out of the skin and cut the apple into chunks. Toss in the grapes and salad dressing and mix. Spoon onto the bread of your choice to make a sandwich.

Substituting wraps for bread is one of the easiest ways to give your sandwiches some pizzazz. This turkey and melon wrap provides your student with the carbohydrates, fruit and protein they need to get them through the day.

  • 1/4 melon
  • 1 wrap
  • 2 tbsp. horseradish sauce
  • 6   large lettuce leaves
  • 12 ounces thinly sliced turkey breast

Cut melon into squares and use a spoon to scoop it out of the skin.
Lay wrap on the table and spread the horseradish sauce liberally over the top. Place lettuce, melon and turkey in the wrap and fold the bottom up, then roll the wrap. Cut the wrap in half so that it’s easier to handle.
A mix of protein, carbohydrates and fruit is a perfectly balanced meal that will give your students all the energy and nutrients they need to make it through the school day. If your students are reticent to eat fruit, try new varieties like watermelon, pineapple or litchi. You can also cut the fruit into fun shapes or animals to make it more interesting. For example, slice a piece of apple, and then use a cookie cutter to press out shapes, or a paring knife to create shapes of your own design. Splash the apple with lemon juice to prevent it from browning.

For more ideas you might check the article Great tips for making packed lunches healthy! on the Modern Parenting website.

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Filed under Health, Nutrition Education, Parenting

Brown Bagging

Why Packing Your Own Lunch Makes Sense

Whether you are an independent teen or a parent hoping to give your child a healthier lunch, packing your own lunch is often the way to go. School lunches continue to made headlines across the US for counting pizza as a vegetable and doing other ‘screwie’ things designed to make lunches healthier. Problem is that many of the cafeteria staff and food service companies do not know how to use the guidelines and make nutritionally complete meals that are both appealing and taste good. An additional truth is that although school lunches should be healthy, cash-strapped education bodies often just don’t have the cash or the employees it takes to cook fresh, healthy meals every day. Here are some really good reasons to pack your own lunch box or bag.

The right to choose: Often, students don’t like what’s on offer for lunch and will opt for things they can count on like pizza, PB & J, or fries. If you pack your own lunch, you get to choose what you want to eat and look forward to it. This also gives you the opportunity to make healthier lunch choices. Just because lunch is healthy, doesn’t mean it has to be boring, put some work into preparation the day before so that you are not rushed in the morning. For Parents of younger children please note that involving your child in the making of their lunch is a great way to: 1. increase knowledge of healthy foods, 2. increase acceptance of what is packed (i.e., they will eat it!), 3. teach them sanitary food handling, 4, teach them how to do by their self, 5. promote responsibility and 6. spend some quality time together.

Variety is the spice of life: Eating the same tired old food every day from the cafeteria will have you wishing for a change. Packing your own lunch (even if it’s only a couple of days a week) means that you get a chance to eat your favorite foods and give yourself a welcome change. It also means that when you do eat hot dogs or pizza at school, you will enjoy it more. You also might find that after some time your body tells you these things are not healthy because of the excess sugar and salts used in them. I know my family could not go to a Burger King, Mc. D’s or Wendy’s and eat a meal since the after effect would be bloating, diarrhea, and energy high and then crash.

Fuel your brain: Despite the fact that your brain only accounts for 3% of your body weight, it uses a massive 20% of the energy you consume. Keep your brain fueled throughout the school day with healthy snacks high in fiber, carbohydrates and protein. Refueling will mean you feel less tired during the day and remember much more of your lessons, which makes studying for tests so much easier!

Show me the money: Avoid using lunch money to buy lunch. You will be far too tempted to invest in pop or junk foods from the vending machine (if the school still has them). Instead, opt for homemade lunch and save your money for something useful. Help to motivate yourself by putting your lunch money into a jar or savings account and saving up for something you really want like a new skateboard, a game, clothing, phone or music player.

Making your own lunch does take time and discipline. If you don’t have time in the mornings, try getting everything ready the night before. If you are too busy during the week, consider cooking soups, pasta dishes or meals on the weekend and freezing them in individual servings. Make sure your lunch is interesting and appealing or it may just end up in the garbage like so many purchased school lunches do.

Note: This blog was adapted from the Tutor Doctor Corporate Blog posted 4/16/12 titled “School Lunch: It’s In The Bag

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Filed under Health, Nutrition Education, Parenting

Geocaching: A New Way To Enjoy The Outdoors?

I just came across this post on the Tutor Doctor corporate web site today. Titled ‘Fun March Break Activity: Geocaching!‘ I thought I’d share it here since it sounds like a great activity for anyone.

If you are looking for fun activities for your family this Weekend or during the March break, then geocaching can be a rewarding pursuit for the whole family. Geocaching is a fun scavenger hunt which gets the family outdoors and moving while teaching valuable lessons in navigation.

What is Geocaching?
Geocaches are containers which participants have placed in natural spots. The exact location of the geocache is posted on the geocache website.  Currently there are over 2 million of these containers through out the world.  If you want to participate in geocache hunts, simply register enter the area you are going to and download the GPS coordinates of a geocache near the area. This is also a great way to break up long holiday road trips. Find the location of geocaches on your road trip route so that you can stop and find geocaches along the way.

Show your students how to operate your GPS device. Load the co-ordinates of the geocache into the device and then let them navigate to the spot where the geocache is hidden. You can also download the geocache app so that you can use your smartphone to find geocache locations.

What Do I Do When I Find A Geocache?
Geocaches are watertight containers which contain a logbook and other items. When you discover a geocache, let your students fill in the logbook with their names, the date and time when you found the geocache. Its then customary for you to add an item and remove an item. You can leave family-friendly items that are not potentially dangerous. No food or liquid items are included as these attract wildlife. Leave toys, flashlights, camping equipment, pictures, books, stationary etc.

Fun For The Whole Family
Geocaching is appropriate for students of all ages. Seek out level 1 and 2 geocaches for younger students and beginners. Older students will enjoy the higher level caches which often require climbing or hiking.

There are geocaches to suit people with different interests too. Earthcaches lead participants to interesting natural phenomena rather than treasure chests, puzzle caches require you to solve the puzzle in order to find the cache and event caches will lead you to interesting events in the area.

You can enjoy finding geocaches or you can spread the geocache love by making geocaches of your own. Creating a geocache requires some maintenance as the owner must check that no inappropriate items have been added and that the geocache has not been moved. Read geocache submission guidelines here.

Geocaching is a great way to enjoy the outdoors as a family. You and your students can get some fresh air, learn to use maps and GPS co-ordinates and get moving too. Geocaching is a really fun activity for people of all ages and interests.

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Filed under Improved Learning, Learning Events, Parenting

Sunday Morning Shout Out

Call it a combination of Valentine’s Day, meeting the haunting tragedy of Sandyhook Elementary School!  Call it the trauma of an Alabama boy being kidnapped from his school bus!  Call it the news lately!   Call it what seems like an end of the innocence in this country for even our youngest member of society!  I feel like our society and specifically our children need one big group hug- and then a lot of tackling of issues from there.

So much starts at home; so much continues at school.  Nurturing our children through our words, our actions, and the environment of our homes and schools is a life’s work as a parent and a school’s ultimate legacy.  One of my favorite poems reminds me of the weight of our words and deeds, as parents and educators.

            Children Learn What They Live (1998)

by Dorothy Law Nolte (1924 – 2005)

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Excerpted from the book CHILDREN LEARN WHAT THEY LIVE

Another nice reminder comes from Carrie, a writer, Waldorf home educator, physical therapist, and mom at  “The Parenting Passageway” blog.

She offers just a few ways we can convey our affirmation, love, praise, and recognition of children and their efforts. Moving beyond a simple ‘good job,;’  these words deliver and harken back to the enthusiasm and love we poured on our children when they met their first milestones as babies.

Here are some encouraging words:

I knew you could do it!


Way to Go!

You almost have it, you almost did it!  How fantastic!

You are doing much better!

That is the best you have ever done!

You are right on track!

Every day you get better and better!

That is such a good idea.

You must have practiced!  I can tell!



Great!  Wow!

The Best!


You got it!

I am proud  of you!

I knew you could do it!  How cool!


Now you’re flying!

You are beautiful, unique, incredible!

Super work!


What a good listener you are!

You tried so hard!

You really care about others!

Beyond all words are our actions. The billboards that say “Take time to be a Dad,”  speak to me about putting the time into parenting and to extrapolate, teaching.  We are a fatigued nation. As parents and educators we can all be high on the verbiage and policies that say we care, but short on the substantive actions that truly convey this meaning.  For Valentine’s Day, I put the chocolates away (or at least to the side snickers my sweet tooth) and examine myself and our home’s actions regarding our three little ones.   I think we need to do some collective thinking as a society and ask ourselves what best serves children at both home and school.  To close with some more famous words:

We must all…”Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Our children’s world depends on it….

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Request For Your Help

Can you take a moment to help 200 young students?

We only have two days as we are trying to get the WGRZ weather machine to come to our local school, St John the Baptist (Alden). It is a very nice public service that this area NBC TV station does. The team that gets the most votes via internet voting wins the competition. The winning team gets to have meteorologist Andy Parker and his weather machine come to the school for an assembly that helps students learn about weather and the forces of nature.

Our school is doing very well so far and currently sits in 3rd place. The voting ends at 6pm EST on Sunday March 24. You can vote more than one time for the school in a day (we have done dozens on a day). I know it is not much time but if you get a chance to spend 5 minutes and put in a couple of votes in for us I know the teachers and students will appreciate it.

Here is how to vote:

  1. Go to the Weather Machine Voting page link
  2. Select the County Name in the drop down box: Erie
  3. Select the School Name in the drop down box: St John the Baptist (Alden)
  4. Enter the Weather Word: Grey
  5. Enter the Security Code that is displayed:
  6. Check the Rules and Submission Boxes
  7. Click Submit
  8. Do it again!

Vote as often as you like!

Thank you for your help!

If you’d like to see the schools extra credit video aired on Feb 18th you can go to

If you are in the area and are looking for a school for your child I would recommend the school. It has programs for 3 – 14 yr. olds (Pre-K 3 – Grade 8). The cost is very reasonable (less than 2 days of day care per week) and the staff is very dedicated to their students. I certainly was impressed when I went on a tour and it blew away my ancient perceptions of catholic school. Here is a bit of the information from their website:

St. John the Baptist School now accepting registrations for Pre-K 3 & 4
programs, Kindergarten and Grades 1-8 for the 2013-2014 school year!
Schedule a tour for your family today by calling the
school office Monday-Friday 716-937-9483.


Filed under Improved Learning, Learning Resources


I just got back for a long area government meeting and feel a bit tired so this might be a bit of a meandering rant post. The meeting had already gone long enough tonight when the topic of the new NY State gun laws came up and how the county legislature was going to vote on a proposition to repeal the law and send it to Gov. Cuomo. The biggest arguments for it were it was infringing on our rights to bear arms and there were no plans or monies set aside to enforce the new laws. What I found interesting was that no one had a concern about the violence we have seen in so many public places. Also there was no alternative solutions put forward nor even a desire to try and make the law work in a positive way.


In today’s age of entitlement is the need and desire to ‘try’ at anything gone the way of the dinosaurs? All around I see and hear:

  • I’m not happy
  • I can’t do that
  • That is too hard
  • Can’t they make it easier
  • We can’t try that
  • I’ve already decided I’m giving up
  • Why should I try?

Now that we have had a brief reprieve from the ado economic depression of ’07 to ’11 it will not surprise me to see the number of divorces rise in the country. They have shown a historic pattern of doing that in this country since people can afford the lawyer and feel more security in their job. The effect on children, despite what any ‘experts’ say, is substantial and tends to be more then either parent bargains for. One part of the problem is that the child/ren see or heard that the parents ‘gave up’ or ‘didn’t try hard enough’. As such it suggests to them that it is alright to skip homework that is hard, doing just enough to get by in class and/or complaining about low scores on tests because the test is too hard.

One nice quote from a presentation tonight was “The best way to predict the future is to invent it” by Alan Kay. We sure don’t have much of a future as a society and country if we continue with the lack of effort.


Filed under My Experiences, Parenting