Monthly Archives: August 2015

Sunday Morning Shout Out


It’s that point of summer.  When we are down to the last week(s), I get the compelling need to make the most of the time left.  It’s a need to fulfill the summer bucket list, but also to make sure we have taken enough time this summer to work on sustaining academic skills.  In taking stock, I believe we need to amp up our efforts with math.  I feel that the girls have done well with digging into some good summer books. I feel that our son has mostly been read to in ample fashion.  Math- we could be a better friend to and partake in more activities.

In turning my focus to math, I have Googled different math sites for some summer assistance.  One site that I am liking is kidsnumbers.com.  It is broken down by age and such skills that run from addition and telling time to doing algebra and geometry.  My girls will clock, (but not too many hours to get in the way of summertime fun) some time at this site to brush up on skills before school starts.  At this site, there are lessons, explanations, and instructional videos. It is made by graduates from Stanford, Harvard, and Berkeley.  You can create an account to keep track of your progress.  Did I mention it is totally free?  Now I know I sound like a paid spokeswoman, but honestly this seems like a great product that your children will enjoy and that will give you peace of mind.  It’s a good way to remind kids that math is fun, just like summer.  It is reassurance that come time for school, your children will not be left in the dust.

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Filed under Education, Improved Learning, Learning Resources, Parenting

Sunday Morning Shout Out


What a mixed backpack middle school is for parents!  On the one hand, it is so very exciting and joyful to see our children grow into the larger people they are.  But on the other, the bitter sweet feelings of “babies” growing up, collide with the larger issues tweens and teens face, and override the excitement and joy we are more comfortable feeling.  As early childhood issues fade, the new ones that pop up can be more complex and grave.

It’s time for my family to go down the gravely, winding path of puberty, intense peer pressure, exposure to drugs and alcohol, risk taking, and many other unnamed things that makes up the tween and teen experience.  Our oldest will start sixth grade in a month or so.  Can’t she just be adorable and six years old?  Or is there a middle ground where I can comfortably walk with her?

A recent “The Washington Post” article “Want To Keep Your Middle-Schooler Out of Trouble? Then Let Them Take Risks” by Michelle Icard , re ran in perfect timing and dosage, to soothe and tame the uncomfortable feelings that have been surfacing for me.  Icard acknowledged the real issues and concerns that arise during these years, and the accompanying terror they often inflict upon parents.

Icard discusses the neurological reasons for these events, explaining how the brain’s amygdala takes center stage.  It is the emotional center of the brain, that usurps the prefrontal cortex during the tween and teen years.  In its “coup,” we can begin to understand why tween and teens become dramatic, impulsive, and such risk takers at times.  It serves as a strong and important developmental purpose, as courage and risk taking are needed to start to become the separate, fully grown adults, are children are trying to become.

Ms. Icard advocates for healthy risk taking, in terms of new school activities, jobs, sports, etc that “feed the need,” to be a risk taker at this point in life.  While stating the need for obvious limits, she also advises that a total crackdown on freedom and the chance to try new things (a reactive and maladaptive parenting approach) will backfire in the end.  At best, it stymies our children’s chances to experience news things and potentially find their niche, separate from us.  At worst, it can be that very thing that a risk deprived tween or teen needs to propel her into drugs or early sexual activity.

So while multicolored hair, wearing shorts in the coldest of weather, listening to terrible music, and going Goth may not sit well for us, she states that it is a fairly harmless way for our kids to try on different identities and develop.  In fact, it is incredibly healthy and normal.  Here’s to the great middle school years ahead and thank you for the balm of your words, Michelle Icard!  For additional insights into the brains workings you might also watch Disney’s Inside Out.

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Filed under Education, Health, My Experiences, Parenting

Sunday Morning Shout Out


With this blog, I am constantly thinking about educational and parenting issues for columns.  With summertime, more time has been spent thinking about children, behavior, and summer slide, than actual time spent in the classroom.  As a parent, I guess my head is literally more in the sand, the water, the soccer field, or at the fun summer event than the classroom, until now.  I have just become acquainted with the standing desk.

A few weeks ago, “The Washington Post” ran an article “Standing Desks At Schools: The Solution to the Childhood Obesity Epidemic.” Perhaps you think of such desks as simply a feature in swank modern offices.  In fact, more and more schools are using them as a way to fight childhood obesity and attention problems.  They give student, what researchers’ term, “active-permissive environments,” to best learn in and succeed.

Standing desks have been found to be a powerful tool to help children expend energy and calories, a boon to this country’s obesity epidemic and its poor cousins of heart diseases, Type 2 Diabetes, and host of other maladies that are affecting young people today at epidemic rates.  A study reported in the “American Journal of Public Health,” titled “The Impact Of Stand-Biased Desks In Classrooms On Calorie Expenditure In Children” found in its sample of 80 first grade students that students with standing desks burned 17% more calories than those in traditional desks.  Students who were obese in the study burned 32% more.  Multiply the use of standing desks, by five days of school per week, and we have a pretty powerful obesity fighter.

This also turns the old belief of sitting still and learning on its head.  Researchers found that being able to move around is essential to processing new information and learning.  Think of the learners that get lost, while seemingly feeling tortured by the demands of sitting still to learn.  Studies have found the use of standing desks is very effective in helping children who would otherwise become distracted and perhaps behavioral issues in the classroom, more able to stay focused and learn.  Being able to move around while listening to the teacher, allows students a different way to complete course work.  It breaks up monotony for the students. It clears the way for certain learners who tune out and perhaps act up.  Movement promotes learning.

So while I personally prefer thinking about sitting in the sand this time of the year, before we know it-school will be here.  With such promising studies about the standing desk’s efficacy, perhaps more schools and homes will start using them.

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Filed under Education, Education Reform, Health, Improved Learning, Parenting

Sunday Morning Shout Out


summerslideStatThis summer, will you swim like a fish?  Will you travel like an adventurer?  Will you camp like a scout?  Perhaps yes.  But, will you read like a worm?  For struggling readers or hesitant readers, this break from school can contribute to summer slide.  Summer slide refers to the academic losses that commonly occur when students are out of school during the break.  When this occurs, the first few months of each school year need to be spent catching up with skills that have been lost.  For an already struggling student, this simply might not be enough.  Fortunately, there are things that parents and care givers can do to help overcome it.

The article “Avoiding Summer Slide (Great Tips and Idea)“, by teacher Kathleen Wainwright has some great ideas on how not to go down that slippery summer slide.  From designating reading time each day and making sure your library card is well-oiled and ready to use, to reading together, incentivizing reading, and packing books along for long lines, car rides, appointments, etc, there are many ways to keep reading going strong.  Perhaps one of her best tips is just to turn the television off (I will add all electronics) and have specific quiet time at night, when everyone in the entire house reads.  It could be newspapers, cookbooks, magazines, or novels. Lead and read by example!

Summer is short and it own type of fast paced.  The stakes are too high to let reading become one of those things not in your summer plans.  Like an old carnival attraction, the fall from the slide is too high and dramatic.  It’s downright treacherous!

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Filed under Academic Advice, Education, Improved Learning, Parenting, Reading

Sunday Morning Shout Out


There are so many incredible firsts that happen for children during the summertime.

For some, it may be when they first learn how to swim or dive into a pool.  For others, it may the first time they go to camp or away from their parents for an extended period of time.   Still for others, it may be riding a bike without training wheels.

While these things be exhilarating, their negative counterpart is that they can also launch or intensify fears.  The article “Understanding Childhood Fears and Anxieties,” at the Healthychildren.org website discusses the commonality of childhood fears and anxieties, and what parent s can do to help.  The article states that 43 percent of children between ages six and twelve have fears and concerns.  Topping the list is one that ranks high in this house-fear of the dark and being left alone in the dark.  Fear of animals, particularly large barking dogs, fires, thunderstorms, burglars, kidnappers, and nuclear war also make the list.  I see some of my own childhood “favorites.”  By middle childhood, these fears often lessen or perhaps briefly intensify, before they subside on their own.  For some, these fears become more entrenched and turn into phobias.  According to the article, this occurs when fears become so extreme, persistent, and focused, that they interfere with the child’s daily activities.

There are many things parents can do to help a child who is fearful or phobic.  To mitigate fear in a child, it is important that a parents talks to their child about their fear and is sympathetic.  Their fears are very real to them and are a normal part of life.  Not being so can shame a child and make a fear worse!  It is important to acknowledge the fear, but not increase or reinforce it.  It helps to point out what is being done to protect the child.  The article suggests getting your child on board to take additional steps to combat their fears.  This is very empowering and can help resolve or make a child’s fears more manageable.

When such efforts are not enough to soothe and reduce the level of fear and anxiety in a child, it may be time to work with a licensed mental health professional.  When entrenched fears turn into phobia s that get in the way of everyday life for your child, a licensed mental health professional can work with your child to desensitize your child to her fears; build coping skills; and help them return to more normal functioning.

I come back to the phrase I often hear growing up, “There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself.”  By empathizing with your child; demonstrating what is being done to assuage the fear; and seeking their active involvement, many fears can be put to rest. —Putting them to rest, may just mean you can rest , a little better and a little more easily.  If this is not possible, there are many licensed mental health professionals eager to help and fully equipped to do so…..

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Filed under Health, My Experiences, Parenting