Monthly Archives: January 2014

Eat Your Way To Academic Success!

While your brain only takes up 2% of your body weight, it consumes up to 20% of the energy you use in a day.  Whether you are studying, writing an exam or listening to a lecture, your brain needs fuel to function optimally.  In fact, your brain cells need twice as much energy as any other cells in your body. That means that the better you eat, the better your brain will function.

Your brain needs a constant supply of fuel.  Without glucose, your memory and cognitive functioning is impaired.  When your brain has no fuel to function, you will have trouble concentrating and solving problems which makes it very difficult to perform academic tasks well.

Not all fuel is created equally so if your brain doesn’t get the right food, it may have the same effect as having no food at all.  This means that refined carbohydrates and sugar can deprive the brain of glucose which means you will have trouble concentrating, solving problems, remembering and learning.  Thus that junk food, candy, donuts and fried foods won’t help to fuel your brain.

You need to get the glucose and other fuel for your brain from healthy sources like whole grains, proteins, fruit and vegetables.  Brains need iron which can be found in green leafy vegetables like spinach.  It also needs B vitamins which can be found in grains, eggs and nuts.

While vitamin supplements can help, they are no substitute for proper meals.  Eating regularly helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable, so ensure you eat at least three meals a day.  If you go too long between meals, you will feel tired and you will have trouble concentrating.

For breakfasts, choose whole-wheat breads and cereals, eggs, fruit and yogurt over muffins or donuts.

For lunches, opt for a vegetable soup, a salad, or a healthy sandwich.

For dinner, focus on protein (fish is brain food!) and vegetables.

If you need to snack, go for fruits and nuts rather than candy.

Here are some foods that your brain will really love:

Wild Salmon: packed with essential fatty acids like Omega-3, salmon is a great source of protein.

Whole Grains: bran, whole wheat, oatmeal, brown rice and wheat germ all contain lots of vitamin B6 and folate which increases the flow of blood to the brain.

Leafy Greens:  spinach, kale and cabbage which are filled with vitamins B6, B12, Iron and folate.

Seeds and Nuts:  peanuts and pecans to pistachios and sunflower seeds, natural nuts and grains contain Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids which lift your mood while the thiamine and magnesium improve your memory.

Green Tea: Much better than coffee or soda, green tea is packed with anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Akai Berries and Blueberries: Berries are packed with anti-oxidants, vitamins and protein. Akai berries also have omega-3 fatty acids.

Note: adapted from a post originally published 1/27/2014 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog


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Monday “Think About It”

rtttmap1Looking back, was the decision of Alaska, North Dakota, Texas, and Vermont to not apply for Federal “Race to the Top (RTTT)” funding wise?  Their rationale as stated by Texas Gov. Rick Perry in a 2010 press release was “we would be foolish and irresponsible to place our children’s future in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and special interest groups thousands of miles away in Washington, virtually eliminating parents’ participation in their children’s education.  If Washington were truly concerned about funding education with solutions that match local challenges, they would make the money available to states with no strings attached.”

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

We have all heard that success at school begins with success at home.  You have also probably heard that school success is based on a good partnership between parents and teachers- child and school. What does such a partnership look like to you?

The folks at Scholastic.Com offer some suggestions for families to consider as they look at this bigger question in an article titled ‘The Home-School Connection‘.  The general idea they put forward is the before the right partnership occurs, the foundation for it must begin at home. The article discusses how a parent can best instill a love of learning, by creating a home that is: open to the types of learning that occur in school and at home; by being supportive of the teacher, the classroom, and the school; and by encouraging the learning process.  Through enthusiasm for their academic discoveries, course work, and school endeavors, parents can place a desire to learn within their child. Children will become more motivated to first please you and then as they get older, please themselves. At an early age, improvement and mastery of skills and concepts, show children hard work pays off.  It can show them the thrill and reward of learning.  This in return helps build self-confidence and other healthy behaviors, that allow learning to flourish from the get –go.

The article talks about carving out one on one time with your child. While this may be a no-brainer, we live in the age of overfilled schedules, for both child and parent alike. Spending quality time together does not have to be complicated. Whether it is involving them in cooking a meal; a household chore; reading a book together: playing catch; taking a walk; or watching a movie together and snuggling on the couch, such time set aside for your child builds them up and shows them you believe in them. It shows them you value them and that they are important people.  From your end, it is another thing that strengthens them and thus strengthens the partnership between home and school.  When good things are happening at home, they overflow into all aspect of your child’s life including school.

Then there are the things parents can do to build a successful partnership with their child’s teachers, their other life line to school success.  Whereas the first bricks in the foundation of school success should come from home and a positive regard and support of learning, the next bricks come from being on the same page with her teacher.  When parents and teachers have the same goals for the child, the best outcomes are in store for your child.  As your child’s parent, you have unique insights into their behaviors, skills, challenges, and personality that only a parent can have.  In the same regard, a teacher has an understanding of curriculum and the school’s environment that only a teacher can have.  By working together as partners, each providing input, information, and the critical investment of time and care for the child, a child has a whole team of adults on her side.  With such a partnership, everyone is working for her common good.

So what does this look like on a daily basis?  As the parent, this means sharing important events of your child’s life.  Perhaps there has been a death, divorce, illness, or other stressful event that is affecting your child’s behavior and/or performance at school.  Likewise, teachers who are fulfilling their part of the partnership are keeping parents “up to snuff” on any difficulties, irregular behavior or performance, and any wins.  They are offering children the extra support and assistance they need in the classroom or within the school building.  They are open and available.  There are many things a parent can do. Perhaps it is sharing important aspects of your child’s life with her classroom- different things that are important to her culture or are meaningful family traditions.  In the earliest grades, there are often journals that accompany each child to school.  While this may end, notes, e-mails, or call to the teacher can keep the communication open and what it needs to be.

There are other ways for a parent to be actively involved in their child’s schoolwork.   These may be the things we commonly think of or even take for granted.  Parents can assist with homework and projects.  There are volunteer opportunities for parents, grandparents, and other caregivers, both classroom wide and school wide, that show interest and an investment in what your child, teacher, and school are doing.  Whether your school has a read with Santa night or a walkathon to raise money for playground equipment, or a school team to root for or academic clubs to support, doing it as a family and interacting with other classmates’ families, or the greater school community, speaks volumes about your belief and commitment to a place where you and your child are investing considerable time.

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ACT Test Preparation

It’s that time of year and although you may be feeling the pressure to perform well on your ACTs, you know the best course of action is to be prepared.  Start getting organized and augment your study program with past tests and online test questions.  If you are struggling with things you don’t understand or you want to move your score up to get into a good school, consider some ACT tutoring sessions which will help to fill in the gaps in your foundation of knowledge.

Get Organized
Create a schedule that is realistic and leaves enough time for you to properly study each subject thoroughly. Don’t block off hours of study at a time. You should hit the books for about 45 minutes to an hour at a time, then schedule an activity that involves getting up from your desk. Movement is a great way to stretch out tired shoulders and it also helps to stimulate higher cognitive functioning.

Use Your Downtime
Make flashcards, record lectures, or make short notes that you can review during downtime when you are waiting or commuting, between classes or when you are on a break from something else.

Study Groups
Get together with three or four other students who are going to pull their weight in the study group. Divide the text up and get each student to review a section and make notes. Then teach each other and share notes.

Learn From Your Mistakes
Going over past ACT exams is a must for students who want to be successful. This will help you to become familiar with the way in which questions are posed and how best to answer them. When you make mistakes on past tests, don’t erase them. Instead mark them in a colored pen and write the correct response alongside so that you can learn from your mistakes.

No Distractions!
This is a tough one, but you need to find a space where there are no distractions; not even your phone! You can text and talk to your friends later; you don’t have to say no, just put them off until you have a break. Turn your phone off when you are studying to avoid distractions completely.

Find a space in your home, a neighbor’s home, the library or at school where you can work quietly without interruptions or noise from siblings or the TV. You know what works best for you, so create a space which is optimized for success. You will feel better and study faster when you are working in an environment conducive to studying.

Eat Right
The temptation may be to live on candy and energy drinks, but your brain needs proper sustenance to work. When you eat junk it affects your brain’s ability to function which means all that studying is going to waste. Eat healthy balanced meals with tons of fruit and veggies and drinks lots of water. If you must go on a diet, wait until after exams because your brain needs carbs to function.

Get a great online resource for practice questions in math, reading, English, science and writing here.  For tips on actually taking the ACT assessment you can explore our post from earlier this week titled ‘ACT Test Taking Tips‘.

Note: Adapted from a post originally published 1/17/2014 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog

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ACT Test Taking Tips

You’ve spent hours and hours preparing, you’ve taken some practice ACT tests and you’ve worked with your classmates, tutors and teachers to prepare for one of the most important tests you will ever take.  Even the most prepared students can falter on the day if they don’t have a good ACT test writing plan.  Knowing what to expect and having a clear plan of action is the best way to ensure success.

Get A Good Night’s Sleep
I know you think that using those extra hours to cram in everything you can is the best use of your time, but it isn’t.  When you are sleep-deprived and tired, your higher brain functions start to shut down.  Tired students are more likely to misread questions, make mistakes, and find it difficult to come up with solutions to complex questions.  You must try to get at least eight hours of sleep before you write your ACT test.

Fuel Your Brain
Your brain needs carbohydrates, protein and other nutrients to function optimally. You are able to think clearer and faster when your brain has healthy fuel. This means you can’t eat a breakfast of donuts and coffee and expect to fire on all cylinders. Ensure you have a balanced meal of carbohydrates, proteins and fruit before you take your test. Make sure you are well hydrated.

Read The Questions
Read through all the questions carefully before you start. Prioritize them from easiest to hardest and then answer the easy questions first.  Read every question at least twice to be absolutely sure you understand what is expected of you.  Even if you write the best answer in the history of ACT, misinterpreting the question will still get you a low score.

Quit It If You Can’t Hit It
Don’t know the answer? Move on to the next question and come back to it later. Never waste time trying to figure out a difficult question. Time constraint is the biggest challenge you face in the ACT, so answer all the questions you can and then come back to the ones you struggled with.

Take A Wild Guess
Still don’t know the answer? Take a guess at what it could be.  There is no penalty for incorrect answers in the ACT, so make an educated guess.

Every Day We’re Bubbling, Bubbling
Be very careful when bubbling. If you mark the incorrect answer on the answer sheet, all your hard work will be for nothing.  Ensure that you leave time at the end of the test to check that you have filled the right answers in on the answer sheet.

OK, so maybe you won’t feel like smiling, but try to stay positive.  A defeatist attitude is your worst enemy.  If you can’t figure something out, just give yourself a pep talk and move on to the next question.  A positive attitude can really make a difference to your final ACT score.

Note: Adapted from a post originally published 1/20/2014 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog

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Monday “Think About It”

6a00d83452098b69e201910427a3e2970c-piIf the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the 1979 law that created the Department of Education both explicitly forbid the federal government from exercising ANY direction, supervision or control over the curriculum or program of instruction of any school system in the USA why are state education departments allowing programs like “No Child Left Behind (NCLB)” or “Race to the Top (RTTT)” dictate the changes that are being implemented in K-12 schools?

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

“A Recipe for a Perfect Snowday”

One vast lake

A polar vortex

Blizzard warnings

The ghosts of Western New York blizzards past:  Irv Weinstein, Jimmy Griffin, Susan Banks, mixed with today’s Andy Parker, Kevin O’Connell, and Mary Alice Demsler*

  • A smattering of Twitter and a whole lot of Facebook
  • Boards games, dress up clothes, cookbooks, kindles, movies, and a little television
  • Popcorn
  • Hot chocolate
Image Source:

Image Source:

  1. Mix one ominous sky mixed with some lake effect snow sunshine and sub-zero cold.
  2. Prime the parents and children of Western New York to incite a rush to the grocery store; children unable to settle back into school after a long break; and create a celebratory/manic feeling in the air.
  3. An hour before school lets out, stir up the winds and start the white out machine
  4. After everyone is home safely, reduce the visibility completely.
  5. Start reminiscing about past snowstorms.
  6. Post blizzard warnings
  7. Make the winds howl!
  8. Notify parents there is no school; parents electively tell children the night before or wait and increase the excitement by telling them in the morning.
  9. Sleep on it; wake up to the same weather conditions as the night before.
  10. Keep children and parents home together.
  11. Issue travel bans.
  12. Make popcorn and hot chocolate for breakfast.
  13. Allow for extra television and kindle time than normally allowed.
  14. Parents sneak off and read a book
  15. Get the board games and dress up clothes out.
  16. Play and read away the hours, while glancing outside.
  17. Call distant relatives and tell them it’s “blizzarding”  here.
  18. Reduce their five inches of snow to nothing.
  19. Eat macaronic and cheese when not eating popcorn.
  20. Repeat the following day.

If bickering begins and everyone starts to grate on each other’s nerves by the next day, add sunshine, blue sky, and normalcy to the mix…in other words:

No More Snow Days…Back-To-School!

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