Friday, September 30, 2011

Tip #26: Be Prepared For Conferences

School has started and should be in full swing. Hopefully, you have met your child's teacher and had a short conference to inform him/her of any important information about your child, and letting the teacher know you are there for support. Very soon if not already, a teacher conference should be scheduled to let you know how your child is doing so far. It is very important to go to all conferences, and this brings us to tip #26.

Tip #26: Be prepared for conference with questions, concerns, and cooperative support.

A parent conference can be very intimidating. If you are prepared with questions and ready to help support the teacher in the success of your child school work, a teacher-parent conference can be less stressful. Below are somethings you should write down and get the answers to.

1. Leave all negative feelings at the door. Go in with a positive attitude with the objective of assisting the teacher to help your child meet success in the school year?

2.What are the teacher's priorities, objectives, and expectations for this grading period and the next?

3.How much homework is given and how much assistance does the teacher want from the parent?

4.If you find out there are some behavior concerns ask, "When does the behavior happen?" "Can we make some kind of behavior plan so that the behavior can be turned around?" "How can I help?"

5. In confidence share any changes or concerns that are going on in your child's life, so the teacher can understand and look out for any changes in behavior or mood.

6. Make sure you give and get contact information so you can stay in touch with one another.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tip #25: Make Sure Your Child is Practicing Computer Safety

With children and teens spending so much time socializing on the Internet, taking pictures with their cell phones, and communicating with strangers from around the world, parents must be sure their child is practicing computer safety. There are predators and scam artist waiting to take advantage of anyone they can. This brings us to tip #25.

Tip #25: Make sure your child is practicing computer safety.

So many times parents and children are unaware of the dangers that are on the social networks. We have face book, tweeter, my space, and emails. The sad thing is that a lot of children (and sadly some adults) unknowingly or stupidly put personal information up on the world-wide-web for all the world to see.

When a friend or boy/girlfriend become angry, they will post private pictures, information, or insults about the person they are angry with. You need to make your child aware of keeping all personal and private matters off of the Internet. You must sit down and explain the dangers and set the boundaries. Let your child know that you will be checking their accounts to see that all rules are being followed. Also, put a block on any sites you don’t want your child or teen to have access to.

Below are some of the dangers you need to discuss with your child:

1. Talking to strangers that very well could be child predators.
2. Giving locations of where they live or where they will be.
3. Taking private pictures of themselves and sending them to boy/girlfriends.
4. Letting your child know that colleges and future employers will go on social networks before they accept applications for admission or job interviews.
5. Employers will also look at social pages to consider promotions.
6. If someone is bullying or using these networks in a negative way about your child, it is harassment. They must let you know so you can contact the school so it can be stopped.
7. If there is anything or anyone that makes your child uncomfortable, he/she must come off of the site and let you know immediately what happened.
8. Your child should never make arrangements for meeting someone they met on the Internet.
9. Anything put on the world-wide-web is there forever!!!!! That is extremely serious.
10.That you have a right and will be checking all text, emails, social accounts, and site visited. You must seriously keep an eye on your child's computer usage.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Girls' and Boys' Brains: How Different Are They?: Part 3

The truth about girls' and boys' brains -- and why it matters.
An article from By Connie Matthiessen

Nature and nurture

If the differences between the male and female brains are relatively modest, why are people so eager to believe the opposite?

Eliot points out that emphasizing differences is more compelling than the more humdrum reality. "Sex differences in the brain are sexy," she points out.

It's true that gender differences make for good copy. Brizendine’s claim, for example, that women use 20,000 words a day while men use only 7,000, neatly fit well-worn stereotypes about chatty women and taciturn men. After the hardcover version of Brizendine's book came out, these claims were discredited — it turns out that men and women speak roughly the same number of words each day — and Brizendine took it out of subsequent editions of her book. But the truth received much less hype than the hyperbole.

Sexy or not, emphasizing the innate differences between the male and female brain discounts the latest brain science. The human brain continues to develop throughout life. The essential material we're born with changes every day based on what we’re exposed to. It’s not nature or nurture — it’s both.

"Simply put, your brain is what you do with it," Eliot writes.

Generalizations about inherent male or female skills can have a self-fulfilling effect, reinforcing stereotypes and expectations that prescribe the way girls and boys are taught. "Use it or lose it" is a common refrain when it comes to the brain — that is, if areas of the brain are not used, they wither, just like an unused muscle. If a math teacher has lower expectations for the girls in the class, he may not challenge them the same way he does his male students. Or if a parent doesn't expect a son to be empathic, she may send him messages that it’s acceptable to be selfish.

Eliot believes that the emphasis on brain differences by Brizendine and others has led to "a brand-new wave of stereotyping...The more we parents hear about hard-wiring and biological programming, the less we bother tempering our pink or blue fantasies, and start attributing every skill or defect to innate sex differences. Your son's a late talker? Don't worry, he's a boy. You daughter is struggling with math? Its okay, she's very artistic."

These kinds of assumptions and stereotypes have been shown to have a powerful negative effect, based on a phenomenon known as "stereotype threat," which is the net negative effect stereotypes often have on real academic outcomes.

In one study, for example, researchers tested two groups of undergraduate students of both sexes, all skilled math students. Before taking the test, one of the groups was informed that women usually didn't don't do as well on the test as men do. The women in the group not informed of this stereotype performed just as well as the men. The women informed of the negative assumption scored significantly lower than the men.

These days, gender stereotyping is arguably more damaging to boys than to girls, when it comes to academics. "While parents of girls keep raising their expectations, parents of boys are doing just the opposite," according to Eliot. "We blame every lapse on boys' lack of maturity, or lesser verbal skills , or minimal self-control, and lower our goals for their achievement and love of learning."

Words and numbers

Literacy and math are two areas where stereotypes about gender-based abilities are common. Girls mature earlier in general, and do consistently better than boys in reading- and writing-related skills through college, a reality that no doubt helps explain girls' higher school-achievement level overall. But scientists have found no evidence that this achievement gap has anything to do with the structure of the brain.

"Language and literacy are learned skills," Eliot points out in Pink Brain, Blue Brain. "Education, not biology, is both the cause and the answer to sex differences in reading skills."

On the other hand, boys score consistently higher than girls on math and science standardized tests, so it has been popularly assumed that boys are somehow born with more "math brain.” But math achievement gaps may have less to do with innate abilities than with cultural expectations. Researchers at the University of Washington found that by second grade, a majority of girls and boys hold the stereotype that "math is for boys."

Another recent study demonstrates that the math achievement gap isn't universal: Girls do better in math in countries with the greatest degree of gender equity in school. The fact that girls are beginning to catch up to boys in both math and science is further proof that these abilities are not innate.

Where do we go from here?

Eliot offers a number of concrete suggestions for parents to help their children transcend gender stereotypes in learning and development. Boys should be encouraged to read, for example, to help strengthen reading and verbal skills. Playing sports, chess, and building games can help girls improve spatial abilities. Boys should be encouraged to babysit and engage in other caregiving activities to foster nurturing skills. Girls should be given a range of math and science opportunities, and encouraged to compete.

There is still much we don't know about the human brain in general, and about male and female differences in particular. But the more we learn about the brain, the more complex and magnificent it seems -– and the greater the potential for every girl and boy to develop a limitless range of talents and passions.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Girls' and Boys' Brains: How Different Are They?: Part 2

The truth about girls' and boys' brains -- and why it matters.

An article from By Connie Matthiessen

Over the last decade, a number of books identifying essential differences in the male and female brain have had popular appeal. One of these books, The Female Brain by University of California, San Francisco neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine, is a bestseller that has been published in 26 countries.

Brizendine stresses the differences between the brains of the two sexes, and exalts the female brain for, among other qualities, its, "tremendous unique aptitudes — outstanding verbal agility, the ability to connect deeply in friendship, a nearly psychic capacity to read faces and tone of voice for emotions and states of mind, and the ability to defuse conflict.”

Four years later, in her second book, Brizendine took a close-up look at the male brain, which she calls a "lean, mean problem-solving machine." As in her first book, The Male Brain focuses on brain differences to explain discrepancies in male/female behavior.

The Female Brain and other, similarly popular books marshal scientific studies to shore up generalizations about the male versus female brain – claims that girls are better at recognizing emotions, for example, or that boys are hardwired for aggression. Such generalizations are delicious fare for popular media and have been echoed in magazine articles and on websites (including an article formerly published here). As a result, these claims have filtered into the collective consciousness. It's common to hear parents and educators make generalizations about girls' and boys' brains, and the way the differences between them are reflected in behavior, learning, and development.

The only problem with these generalizations is that they aren't substantiated by the scientific evidence — or, at least, they aren't as true as the "sex difference evangelists" — as Slate calls Brizendine and others who share her approach — imply.

North Dakota, South Dakota
Brizendine and the other sex difference evangelists are fond of the words "innate" and "hardwired," and employ them over and over in their work. Girls are innately more relational, for example, or boys are hardwired to be competitive.

But neuroscientist Lise Eliot, who combed years of research on brain differences for her recent book, Pink Brain, Blue Brain, found scant evidence of innate qualities or hard-wiring in the brains of girls or boys: "What I found, after an exhaustive search, was surprisingly little solid evidence of sex differences in children's brains," she writes.

In adult brains, according to Eliot, there are larger differences between males and females, but even in adults these differences are small. Eliot and many other brain scientists agree that, instead of saying men are from Mars, women are from Venus, it's more accurate to say that men are from North Dakota, women are from South Dakota.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Girls' and Boys' Brains: How Different Are They?: Part 1

The truth about girls' and boys' brains -- and why it matters.
An article from By Connie Matthiessen

When my son was a toddler, his best friend, a girl, gave him a sparkling dancing Katrina doll for a birthday present. He'd apparently admired the doll at her house, but once he got it he never played with it – until the day I found him chasing his little brother around with the doll, which he'd managed to twist into the shape of a gun.

Boys will be boys? Proof that gender differences are hardwired? Not so fast. Like most parents, I have just as many tales illustrating the influence of nurture on my son's behavior. At preschool one day, as he was playing dress up with two girlfriends, he donned a scarlet tutu. Within a minute an older, cooler boy guffawed, "Boys don't wear dresses!" He never put on girl clothes again.

In recent years, the age-old question of nature versus nurture has sprung up in neurobiology. Are boys' brains essentially different from girls' brains? If so, how?

This question has been at the center of a debate that has ping-ponged back and forth over the last couple of decades, and many of the "facts" that have filtered up into popular discourse are both unsubstantiated and untrue. It’s no wonder that many parents are confused about boys and girls and that most essential of organs: the human brain.

How did we get so muddled? The story is an intriguing one involving brain science, bestsellers, and a fair share of baloney.

Back in 1992, when John Gray published Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus, he tapped into the public's tremendous appetite for information about sex differences. Mars vs. Venus is about the gulf between men and women — a chasm so immense, Gray insists, that males and females may as well be from different planets. The book was a dizzying success — Gray's website calls it "the most popular book of the decade" — and it continues to do well almost 20 years later, generating lucrative spinoffs including couples' seminars, product endorsements, and revamped versions of the original book (the most recent volume is titled Venus on Fire, Mars on Ice.)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Turn In Those Chips

According to an article in the October 2011 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, diet experts often say there are no "bad foods" and "good foods." But a new study may have them dropping that wisdom like a hot potato.  When Harvard researchers analyzed dietary patterns and the scale ups and downs of more than 120,000 men and women, they were able to single out specific bad foods responsible for the 3.4 pounds the average American gains over a four-year span.  The diet-disaster list: potato chips, other spuds (french fires were the worst), sugar-sweetened drinks, and red and processed meats.  But the report also included a friendliest-foods list (yogurt, nuts, whole grains, and fruits and veggies) were all associated with weight loss over the same time period.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Key To A Flatter Belly

According to an article in the October 2011 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, high fiber diets may blast away visceral fat, the health-threatening stuff that lies deep beneath the pudginess.  Using CT scans to measure fat at the beginning and end of a five-year study period, researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine found that people who ate more soluble fiber, (10 grams a day was the magic number), gained less dangerous belly fat than those who didn't. Exercise helped even more.  Beyond the belly-fat link, fiber is a great weight-loss weapon because it helps fill you up.  How to get to 10 grams: Start your day with a cup of cooked oatmeal and a large chopped apple; have a sandwich made on whole wheat bread for lunch; a quartered orange for a snack and a cup of cooked broccoli as a side with dinner.  Other soluble-fiber stars: dried beans, peas, and prunes.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tip #24: Spend Quality Time With Your Child

There is a way to build a positive relationship with your child, build memories, and build self-esteem all at the same time. This will bring us to Tip #24.

Tip #24: Spend individual quality time with each child

Try to spend quality time with each child when it is only you and the child. It can be once a year, once a month, or once a week. This time should be planned and fun for both of you. It can be as simple as taking a walk or going to the movies. My great-aunt always took me to the Philadelphia Museum of Art every year from the time I was a little girl. I never forgot those special trips. My grandmother made sure she took me to hear the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra every season. My other great-aunt would take me into the city and buy me 3 outfits to start the school year. It made me feel special and very loved. I always knew my family loved me no matter what, and a great part of this was because of the special individual times they spent with me. Parents should come up with a traditions of spending individual special time with each child. Ask grandparents, if at all possible, to do the same. This is so your child can always look back at these times as special just for him or her. It will be lasting memories, relationship building , self-esteem boosting, as well as time well spent .

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tip #23: Start a Hobby or Collection With Your Child

The kind of relationship you build with your child can be for a lifetime of good or bad memories. Your child will remember the time you spend together doing the small things. Why not do something together that is meaningful and fun. That brings us to tip #23.

Tip #23: Start a hobby or a collection with your child.
Talk to your child and find out their interest and passion. Try to come up with something you both would truly have fun doing. Write down some ideas and narrow it down to just a few. Decide on the one idea you both would love to build, collect, paint, photograph, or study. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money and many hobbies can turn into money making ventures. Below are some ideas.

1. Collect stamps, coins, leaves, baseball cards, dolls, small toy cars, stuffed animals, etc.
2. Build model cars, airplanes, bird houses, doll houses, doll furniture, wooden toys, etc.
3. Take art classes for painting, drawing, sculpturing, etc.
4, Study photography and start taking pictures
5. Scrap booking or journaling

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

School Choice: Part 3

Everything I learned about school choice, I learned trying to get into kindergarten.

By Leslie Crawford, Senior Editor

Below are tips 4-6 on choosing a school of choice for your child.

4. Talk with every parent who has a child in school in your district.
Make it your part-time job to find out everything you can about schools in your district. If you hear of a promising one (even if it doesn’t have stellar ratings . . . see Number 2 above), ask how those parents got their kids in. Often, there is a loophole. Last week, I learned from my neighbor that she finally got into our terrific neighborhood school after transferring from a low-performing (somewhat promising but ultimately troubled) school because the district gives preference to families transferring from struggling schools. I hadn’t known about that provision and realize – much too late – that we could have tried the low-performing school we were assigned. If ultimately the school didn’t work out, I could have tried to transfer into our neighborhood school, which is near impossible to get into otherwise.

Also, if you have any public school teachers who are friends and who you trust, take them out for a drink and get the inside story. Again, too late, I learned from a teacher friend that a nearby public school that was failing three years ago now has an exceptional immersion program and among the best teachers in the city.

5. Know what you want
An addendum to Number 4: Just because a school is all the rage, doesn't mean it's for you. Maybe it’s intensely academic and in truth you want a school that focuses on the arts or sports. Maybe the "in" school is enormous, but your child will thrive better in a smaller school (like mine will). Maybe the "great" elementary is across town, but what’s most important to your family is to be able to walk to school.

6. Don’t get caught up on “great” schools
Yes, I work for GreatSchools and believe in finding the best possible school for your child. But school shopper, beware. The search for the fountain of educational gold can be a futile and heartbreaking one. For starters, there are no perfect schools. There are exceptionally rated schools. There are schools that get all the buzz and are on the top of everyone’s list. Then there are some solidly good schools that might have mediocre ratings, but a committed parent community, kind children, and some exceptional teachers. There are hidden jewels that everyone will be talking about in a couple of years – and you can applaud yourself that you asked so many questions and got your foot in the door early on, before everyone else is trying, with no luck, to get into that authentically great school.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

School Choice: Part 2

Everything I learned about school choice, I learned trying to get into kindergarten.

By Leslie Crawford, Senior Editor

Below are the first 3 tips on choosing a school of choice for your child.

1. Visit more schools than you can possibly imagine.
I visited only a few public schools in San Francisco – most of them “great” schools I’d heard about from other parents, that scored well on GreatSchool ratings. I reasoned I was too busy to visit more than about five schools (I have a busy job writing about great schools!) and with some measure of magical thinking, was convinced we’d get our daughter into one by sheer force of will. Yet force of will doesn’t stand a chance when faced with the whims of a dispassionate lottery. If I’d visited more schools – especially ones that aren’t necessarily the most popular (and thus the most difficult to get into) – we might have found a school that’s great but that’s not on everyone’s radar.

2. Don’t judge a school by ratings alone.
In San Francisco, if you don’t win the school lottery and get any of the schools you’ve applied to, the district picks a school for you – usually a low-scoring one that isn’t in high demand. We were assigned an extremely low-performing “struggling” school with a GreatSchools’ rating of 3. We turned it down without even visiting or thinking twice. Later I heard that the school has some great things to offer, including beautiful school garden and an hour of Spanish a day. A representatives from Parents for Public Schools said it was a “sweet” school. It still might not have been the school for our child, but it wasn’t fair to reject it without seeing it and talking with parents whose children attend. (See number 4.)

3. Come up with Plan B, C, and D
I didn’t. I simply had Plan A: We’ll get a school we want. In the back of my mind, I knew there was a possibility that we wouldn’t, but I didn’t make any plans if this would actually happen. When it did and Molly had no school, my husband had to take off a week of work. We also applied to a local Catholic school – and unfortunately Molly didn’t get a spot because they didn’t have any openings in kindergarten, only first grade. Because she just turned six, she would have qualified for first grade, but she didn’t test well enough in math. (Another tip: GreatSchools’ worksheets will get your child school ready!)

Monday, September 19, 2011

School Choice: Part 1

Everything I learned about school choice, I learned trying to get into kindergarten.
By Leslie Crawford, Senior Editor

Finally! My daughter got into a school! True, not until eight days after school started and having a nervous breakdown (read here and here on my public school nervous breakdown), but Molly is in kindergarten. The school wasn't my first, second, third or even fourth choice, but I'm hopeful it will be a good fit.

But who knew school “choice,” well, wasn’t. Ultimately, I didn’t have a choice about where (or when!) she went – the school district decided that for us. I didn’t have a choice that school would start and Molly would miss the first week and a half of kindergarten - missing the first days when all the kids were welcomed into school, given the lay of the land, and started making friendships. I also didn’t choose to be at the mercy of a bureaucratic, somewhat well-meaning but enormously frustrating and flawed public school system in San Francisco that leaves hundreds of families without a school for their child – days, weeks, and even months after school has started – and sends so many running for the suburbs. Many still don’t have a public school for their child. Some are taking drastic measures since the promise of “choice” has of left them with little of it: home schooling, moving away, quitting their jobs and home schooling, taking out a second mortgage and begging their way into a private school.

So I’m more than grateful that this torturous process of “gutting it out” for a public school is over. During those tough couple of weeks when our daughter didn’t have a school to attend, I learned so much that I wish I’d known months earlier. Like a homeowner who after buying a house learns she should have had the foundation checked and asked first what the neighbors are like, now I know what I should have, could have, would have done differently when it comes to applying for a public school in a challenging and highly competitive school district:

Come back tomorrow and see Leslie's first 3 tips in picking a school for her child.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Talking Turkey

According to an article written by Lisa McLaughlin, it's not too early to talk about turkey for Thanksgiving.  That is if you want a "heritage" turkey on your holiday table, you have to act fast.  Nearly all the 400 million turkeys eaten in the U.S. every year are Broad Breasted Whites.  Bred for maximum white meat, these birds could not exist in nature.  Their short legs and oversize breast leave them unable to fun, fly or even copulate; they have to be artificially inseminated.  As an alternative, Slow Food U.S.A., a group dedicated to preserving unique regional foods, has encouraged more than 30 farmers in 17 states to begin raising heritage turkeys, like the Narragansett and the Bourbon Red, for local markets.  These turkeys, descendants of breeds from the Pilgrim era, have richer, more savory meat than their supermarket cousins.  Supplies are limited.  For information on where to find a heritage turkey, go to

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ain't That Sweet!

According to Sora Song, from, new research shows the hidden benefits of eating dark chocolate.  Medical science has cooked up two sweet reasons to eat chocolate, as long as it's dark chocolate. Two small studies suggest that dark chocolate may offer such benefits as lower blood pressure and higher levels of disease and age-defying chemicals called antioxidants.  As if you needed and excuse.  I know I don't need any excuses.

Researchers have long known that cocoa beans contain a class of chemicals called flavonoids, which are also found in fruits, vegetables, tea, and red wine.  Previous studies suggest that flavonoids raise levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and act as potent antioxidants, protecting cells from free-radical damage, which can contribute to aging, heart disease, and certain cancers.

The plain truth is that chocolate's antioxidants and flavonoids are also found in more healthful packages, like fruits and vegetables, that offer nutrients, vitamins and fiber, none of which are in chocolate.  Modertion, as always, is the key.  "You shoudl not think that by gorging yourself on chocolate, you're going to be doing yourself any good," says Alan Crozier of the University of Glasgow. "But if you like chocolate anyway, make it dark chocolate, and it could well be healthy."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tip #22: Make Education a Priority in Your Home

In today’s society it is extremely important to get the “Best Education Possible”. What a parent must do is be committed to being their child’s advocate and cheerleader of education. Which brings us to tip #22.

Tip #22: Make education a priority in your home.

A parent must be committed to making sure their child is getting the “Best Education Possible“. You must be totally informed about the school or program your child will be involved in. This goes for families who decide to home school, or attend public school, or private school. You should know how successful other students have been who completed the program or attended the school. If you home school, talk to other parents who have used their program successfully. Ask for tips and advice on how they were successful in home schooling their children. If you are going to a public or private school, have a meeting with the principal and teachers. Write out the questions you want answered. Ask to go on a tour of the school while the children are in classes. This should give you’re a good sense of the learning environment and academic standards of the school.

You must talk to your child and let him/her know what your expectations are for their academic journey, and never accept less than their best work and effort. More importantly you must have realistic expectations for your child. Know your child’s strengths and weaknesses and truly know what your child can and cannot achieve. Become a positive partner in your child’s education and don‘t let anything discourage you because your child’s education is too important.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tip #21: Write Down Goals

We all want our children to be happy, independent, and successful adults. This is not just going to magically happen. There will be years of directing, correcting, and nurturing before your children will be able to stand on their own. Here is a tip that should help your children become all they can be. That brings us to tip #21

Tip #21: Have your child write down goals.

Sit down with your child at an early age and write down goals for him/her to achieve. These goals should be measurable, obtainable, and achievable. Make sure the goals are challenging, but not frustrating or overwhelming. For example, a young child may agree to learn all their ABCs and basic colors by a specified time. An older child may agree to read a chapter book or pull up their grades. You should agree to support the goals in anyway possible. Draw up an agreement and have your child sign, you sign, and another witness sign. Revisit this contractual agreement often as needed to keep your child on schedule to meet the goal/s. This will teach your child that through hard work and stick-to-itness, goals can be reached and anything they can imagine can be obtainable.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tip #20: Journal With Your Child

There is nothing more important in a child’s life than building memories. Things happen every day that are forgotten. If you and your child start to journal at least once a week it can be a treasure for years to come. That is bring us to tip #20.

Tip #20: Journal with your child.
Journaling can be a really rewarding and educational experience for you and your child. It will help him/her learn to develop strong written communication skills. When a child can put their thoughts and experiences on paper, it is both empowering and inspirational. Have them start with just short entries of the important and memorable experiences of the day or week. This will soon turn into longer entries and ultimately their work will become a life story. It will be fun to share and look back on, as well as a journal of memories. It is a perfect bonding activity and can be a family project until the kids can journal for themselves.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Surprising Secrets to School Success: Part 2

According to an article from, after a busy day, dinner, and getting the kids to bed, heaven forbid if sifting through a stack of parenting studies isn’t the first way you choose to unwind!

Still it’s a shame to miss out on what science can tell us about raising happy learners. In the interest of your sanity, gathered eight extraordinary, somewhat counterintuitive findings about fostering children’s success. Try them and report back to us,, They'd love to know how they worked for you! Below are 5-8 secrets.

5. Soothe the soul with nature
According to research, communing with nature isn’t just a nice recreational activity. Natural settings increase a sense of self-worth and decrease stress — two important factors in priming the mind to learn. One study has even shown that natural settings can help relieve symptoms of AD/HD. When children with AD/HD participated in the same activities both inside and outside, those in the outdoor settings experienced fewer symptoms.

6. Behind every smart child is a collection of good books
While reading to children is crucial, don’t underestimate the importance of simply giving your kid access to a lot of books. Studies have found that a child raised in a book-friendly environment — with at least 50 children’s books in the home — scores five percentile points higher in math and reading than kids with less access to good reads.

7. Attend to the body and wake up the mind
The body-brain connection is far from fully understood, but research suggests that children’s learning abilities are inextricably tied to physical vitality. When 33 schools in Ontario, Canada, participated in a program called Living School aimed at increasing student’s physical activity by about 20 minutes a day and improving nutrition, some schools bellyached about lost class time. But in the end, participating school showed enormous improvement. Overall scores climbed 18% in just two years. Third-grade reading scores alone shot up by 50%. Ontario’s education experiment suggests that sometimes basketball practice facilitates learning as much if not more than another after-school tutoring session.

8. Child labor with a higher purpose
According to new research, children of all ages who perform household chores gain valuable skills, which they can apply to school learning. In one study, children as young as two years old who performed household chores like matching socks or wiping up kitchen spills ended up having more-successful educational experiences and careers.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Surprising Secrets to School Success: Part 1

According to an article from, after a busy day, dinner, and getting the kids to bed, heaven forbid if sifting through a stack of parenting studies isn’t the first way you choose to unwind!

Still it’s a shame to miss out on what science can tell us about raising happy learners. In the interest of your sanity, gathered eight extraordinary, somewhat counterintuitive findings about fostering children’s success. Try them and report back to us,,  we’d love to know how they worked for you! Below are the first 4 secrets, so come back tomorrow for 5-8 suggestions.

1. Praise the work, not the wit
Not all positive reinforcement is, well, positive. Numerous studies have shown that children who are praised for their work ethic are better at solving critical thinking problems than those praised for ability. Those praised for effort were almost three times as likely to focus on learning rather than “looking smart.”

2. Minimize your unexcused absences
Research has shown that you should make the extra effort to be physically present in your child’s classroom. In fact, attending class meetings and volunteering at school better predicts literacy development than your family’s income.

3. Use the TV to channel critical thinking
Let’s face it — prying our kids away from the TV is no small feat. New research shows that we might be better off using this habit to facilitate learning. Try muting the commercials and asking your child simple questions while she watches TV. What just happened? What do you think about that? These questions teach children to be effective critical thinkers and communicators.

4. Fear not the $5 word
Many parents assume they should use simple words with kids to avoid confusion. But new research suggests we may be wildly underestimating their brainpower. Children whose parents used complex language were found to have significantly higher IQ’s (a formidable 40 points) than children whose parents did not — suggesting that young brains become wired early for complex thought.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 911

We can never forget what happened on 911.  My prayers go out to all the families and friends who lost someone 10 years ago and may we all learn to live in peace and harmony throughout the world.  I also pray that every child recieves the "Best Education Possible" so they can live the life of their dreams.

Love and Peace,
Debra West

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Obesity Charge

According to Sharon Epperson, a correspondent for CNBC, being overweigth puts a burden on your wallet as well as your health.  Tipping the scales at well above your ideal weight is not just a personal health problem.  It also has a monetary cost that falls heavily on both the 64% of American adults who are obese and society at large.

Overweight and obese Americans spend $700 more a year on medical bills than those who are not overweight.  That comes to a total of about $93 billion in extra medical expenses a year, says economist Eric Finkelstein of  RTI International in Research Triangle Park, N.C. Many of these cost are passed on to all Americans in the form of greater premium and co-payments for health-insurance plans.  Plus, notes Finkelstein, the average taxpayer shells out $250 to $200 a year to finance obesity-related medical expenditures for Medicare and Medicaid recipients. 

Many Americans who are carrying extra pounds are saddled with additional expenses, ranging from higher priced clothing to the second seat an airline may charge them for flying.  To make matters worse, they are often stuck paying these extra bills with a limited income: studies show the obese receive lower wages than the average worker.  So the "fat tax" of increased insurance premiums and medical cost often falls on a slender wallet.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tip #19: Make Cash Transactions Whenever Possible

In today’s world of credit cards and debit cards, children no longer get a chance to see a cash transaction. This brings us to tip #19.

Tip #19: When purchasing something with your children, make cash transactions whenever possible.

It is hard to believe that a lot of children today never get to see cash transactions. Every once in a while take some cash and let your child see you give the money and the cashier make up the change. Talk about how much the purchase was, how much money was given, and how much change was given back. Make sure your younger children know what a dime, nickel, and quarter looks like and what each are worth. It will be very important in your children’s understanding the true worth of money.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tip #18: Your Child Should Respond to a Request On the First Time

How you allow you child to respond to request and demands makes a world of difference in how he/she response to others. This is tip #18.

Tip #18: Make sure your child response to your request and demands on the first time you make it.

You can not imagine how much time is spent in the classroom making some children realize you should only make a request one time. So many children are not expected to respond the first time and the parent ask the same thing two and three times before the child feels it is necessary to even listen. This behavior is brought to the classroom and is very disruptive and time consuming. It is very simple to resolve. Make sure your child understand that when you or anyone else is asking them to perform or do a certain task, it is to be done immediately and no exceptions or questions “why?” are acceptable. This simple request will give your child an easier time adjusting in school and will help build a good working relationship with their teacher.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tip #17: Get to Know Your Child's Teacher

There is one very important person at your child’s school you need to get to know and have a positive working relationship with these person. This brings us to tip #17.

Tip #17: Get to know your child’s teacher.

Make sure you introduce yourself and have a positive working relationship with your child’s teacher. Ask for a short meeting and talk to the teacher to find out the expectations for the school year, and this is a time you can use to explain any health concerns or other important information that will help the teacher work with your child throughout the year. The teacher will spend many of the waking hours with your child during the week and you want him/her to know you are concerned and will be checking up on your child’s progress and behavior. It is very important to try to have a good and trusting relationship with the teacher. Hopefully, you feel confidence in the teacher’s abilities and relationship with your child. This is because both of truly determine your child’s progress in school and social development. Be available for all conferences and as many field trips, special programs, and PTA meetings. Show the teachers you appreciate the hard work they are doing with small notes, emails, or small gift for the classroom. Having this positive relationship will make a world of difference in how smoothly the school year will turn out.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tip # 16: Have an Emergency Plan

Many times there are situations that are unexpected while your child is at school. There should always be an emergency plan or a plan B in place that your child understands and the school is aware of. That brings us to tip #16.

Tip #16: Have an emergency plan in place.

There are all kinds of unexpected situations that a parent needs to anticipate and have plan in place in case something happens. If you are a working parent and your child gets sick, make sure your employer knows you may have to take sick leave or leave the job to pick child up from school. Or you could have a support person who could pick up your child and take care of him/her until you are finished with work. Just make sure the school has every person you want to take your child from the school on the list of people who have permission to remove your child.

If there is a weather day, or school is being dismissed early for whatever reason, have another parent in the classroom or have a support person in place so your child is not left at school in at these times. You can have a carpool or take turns walking each other's children from school in emergencies, but make sure everyone concern knows exactly what to do and where to go. The school year will go much smoother if you work these things out in advance. Just try to think of every situation possible and find a plan B if you are unable to be at school at those times.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tip #15: Build a Support Group

Families have changed drastically. There was a time that grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, and cousins could depend on each other for support of raising a child. With jobs moving families away from that circle of support, and single parents are trying to do the job that ten to twenty people use to do, this brings us to tip #15.

Tip #15 : Build a support group.

It is not easy to build a support that you feel you can trust with helping you with your child. One thing I can tell you is that everyone needs some help. The statement, "It takes a village to raise a child", is really true. You are very fortunate if you have a close family connection. If you don't make sure you know the people you ask to help you. It can be as simple as asking for advice about disciple or you need someone else to talk to the child about a situation. Many times you may need someone to watch or pick the your child up from a game, or go with you to a school conference. It definitely must be someone you know and trust, and even after all of that be careful. Always talk to your child and make sure they are comfortable with everyone in your support group. This support group should have the same moral principle you have and are willing to be a part of your child's life. Your support group could look like the following:

1. Family members
2. Close friends
3. Church members
4. Senior citizens willing to be adopted grandparents
5. A parent at your child's school
6. Big Brothers/Big Sisters
7. Neighbors

Just always keep an eye out for those you feel will be a good example and role model for your child. Even families with two parents need a little help every now and then. Hopefully, you will build a support group that will help you and your child through this maze called "parenthood".

Happy Labor Day!!!

My wish for today is that everyone finds meaningful employment and monetary satisfaction and that all children get the "Best Education Possible".

Happy Labor Day!!!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Move for the Cure

According to an article in the October 2009 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, if you're not getting enough exercise, it can be bad for your health.  Not only do regular workouts cut your risk of breast cancer, but if you do develop the disease, having been active also substantially lowers the chances of the cancer's recurring.  The numbers are impressive: Physical activity reduces your odds of getting breast cancer by up to 30 percent, a review of 62 studies recently reported.  As for a better prognosis, in a study of 1,225 women diagnosed with breast cancer (mean age: 56), those who had previously logged an average of at least 3.9 hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week were 34 percent less likely to have their cancer return or spread than the women who had been the least active (clocking less than 1.4 hours a week of physical activity.) "Other studies show that it's important to keep moving after a diagnosis, too," says lead author Christine Friedenreich, Ph.D., of Alberta Health Services in Canada.  "Exercise can help you avoid gaining weight, which improves your chances of survival."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

All Fats Are Not Created Equal

In an article from the October 20, 2003 issue of TIME magazine, the authors states that all fats are not create equal. For more than 30 years researchers agreed that the healthiest diets were low in percentage of calories attributable to fat.  Now they realize that just as there are good and bad types of cholesteroll, there are good and bad types of fat. The good fats are found in foods like fish, olive oil, avocados and walnuts.  They actually improve cholesterol levels in the blood and significantly reduce the risk that the heart will suddenly stop.  As for the bad fats, there are now two villains instead of just one.  Saturated fats, typically found in red meat, butter and ice cream are still artery cloggers.  But trans fats, found primarily in processed foods such as margarines and many commerically baked or fried foods also in whole milk are not good for you. 

Good fats do more than help protect the heart.  They also seem to delay hunger pangs.  "People on these high-starch, low-fat diets are often hungry soon after they eat.  They would be more satisfied eating nuts or a salad with a full-fat dressing," says Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and author of Eat, Drink and Be Healthy.  "Any longer-term studies are showing that people tend to be able to control their weight better over the long term on a moderate or higher-fat diet than on a low-fat diet"

Friday, September 2, 2011

Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences: Part 5

Below is part 5 of the article on Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences written by Thomas R. Hoerr, Ph.D. Makes sure you read the entire article to get all the information. I will be posting parts of the article this week.Interpersonal

While understanding your child's style helps you speak to his strengths, it is also important to give him opportunities to strengthen his weaknesses: Even if you're sure your child is a linguistic learner, there is plenty to be gained from engaging him in spatial or musical experiences. Here's a look at interpersonal and intrapersonal  intelligences and the types of activities and experiences children tend to excel at with that learning style:


What it is: Understanding people and relationships. These children have many friends and tend to mediate between them and be excellent team players.

Whenever possible, involve your child in group games and discussions. Turning a science experiment into an activity to do with friends can be the best way to engage an interpersonal learner. Your child will probably enjoy playing with puppets, dolls and small figures.


What it is: The ability to use one's emotional life as a means to understand oneself and others. Children with this type of intelligence control their own feelings and moods and often observe and listen. They do best when working alone.

Encourage your child to think about how new experiences make him feel and offer him plenty of chances to explore topics on his own. To involve an intrapersonal learner in a science project, ask him to describe his experiences and emotions. A camera, drawing pad and blank journal can help your child record and think about his observations.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences: Part 4

Below is part 4 of the article on Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences written by Thomas R. Hoerr, Ph.D. Makes sure you read the entire article to get all the information. I will be posting parts of the article this week.
While understanding your child's style helps you speak to his strengths, it is also important to give him opportunities to strengthen his weaknesses: Even if you're sure your child is a linguistic learner, there is plenty to be gained from engaging him in spatial or musical experiences. Here's a look at musical, spatial, and naturalist  intelligences and the types of activities and experiences children tend to excel at with that learning style:


What it is: Sensitivity to pitch, melody, rhythm and tone. These children love to listen to and play music, sing, hum, move to the rhythm, and create and replicSinging songs and making audio tapes can be the best way to engage your child in activities.

To teach your musical learner math concepts, have her count drum beats or make musical patterns with an instrument. Provide plenty of instruments to explore (including kitchen utensils to bang!), a tape recorder, and a variety of songs and sounds to listen to.


What it is: The ability to perceive the world accurately and to re-create or transform aspects of that world. These learners doodle, paint, draw and build with blocks. They also enjoy looking at maps, doing puzzles and mazes, and taking things apart and putting them back together.

Showing your child photos and pictures will help him grasp new information better than verbal explanations. To involve him in science experiments, ask him to draw his observations. Provide plenty of books with bright, bold graphics, as well as a variety of art materials for your child to explore.


What it is: Recognizing and classifying the numerous species, the flora and fauna, of an environment. These kids like to spend time outdoors observing plants, collecting rocks and catching insects, and are attuned to relationships in nature.

When possible, use photos and books about animals and the natural world to explain topics. Going outside to observe concepts in action — cause and effect, for example — is the best way to teach a naturalist. A terrarium, microscope and bird feeder are good items to offer your little naturalist.

About This Blog

This weblog seeks primarily to be a resource to parents and their children facilitating, "Empowerment & Personal Responsibility through Education."

This weblog is an extension of BestEducationPossible-theCommunity an online community dedicated to Parents and their efforts to empower their children through Education.

How to get the Best Education Possible for Your Child

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