Two ways to keep your kids’ brains engaged this summer: The (now) free TenMarks Summer Math website runs students through a diagnostic test then tees up a personalized curriculum of videos, word problems, games and more. www.tenmarks.com. The free and self-paced BrainFlex summer program uses simulations, interactive lessons and PLIX techniques to engage kids in a wide range of math and science topics. ck12.org/summer.
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I have been reading about the book “The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous and Smart about Money” by Ron Leiber. He suggests the following:
• Don’t pay children to do chores. Adults don’t get paid to help around the house and neither should children. Take away privileges when they don’t do their chores, not their allowance.
• Do, however, give children money on a regular basis and use allowances as a teaching tool. Give kids the chance to spend foolishly and to feel regret, and a sense of accomplishment when they save.
• Do toasts around the dinner table. Have everyone raise a glass to something or someone awesome.
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There seem to be a lot of new teen drivers on the road. The DMV proposes a great (optional) Parent-Teen Driving Contract on the dmv.ca.gov website. The contract includes both teen responsibilities – “I will not let anyone else use the vehicle entrusted to me.” As well as parent responsibilities – “I will serve as a good role model when operating a vehicle.” It also gives parents a place to spell out who is responsible for what aspects of vehicle upkeep. The only thing it lacks, that I have seen on others contracts, is specific repercussions for breaking the contract.
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High schoolers struggling to analyze themes in literature might benefit from LitCharts. This site, from the founder of Spark Notes, aims to make more than 200 great works of literature, from “Anna Karenina” to “1984,” more accessible through its interactive data visualizations which visually track themes, symbols and plots in a story. litcharts.com
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A British toy company called Makies allows kids to customize 3-D-printed dolls in all different sizes, shapes, colors, hair types, and more. The company has announced a new line of accessories so kids can design dolls with disabilities and/or birthmarks. This includes hearing aids, a walking stick and scars. They are really gorgeous dolls that will appeal to all, and maybe make a child who feels very different feel a little bit less so. mymakie.com/campaign/toylikeme/
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Everyone wants to know the secret to raising a smart, happy child. One blog’s extensive research (marcandangel.com) suggests the following tips:
• Walk the talk — always set a great example. BE who you want them to be.
• Reduce the stress level in the household. Parental stress weakens children’s brains, depletes their immune systems, and increases their risk of other unhealthy mental and physical ailments.
• Believe in your children. The simple act of believing that your child is capable and worthy makes a big difference.
• Praise your children for their effort, not their intelligence.
• Don’t read TO your children, read WITH them.
• Eat dinner together as a family as much as possible. Research suggests that children who enjoy family meals have larger vocabularies, better manners, healthier diets and higher self-esteem in the long run.
• Create logical, reasonable rules and boundaries for your children. Children don’t do well in a free-for-all environment.
• Give your children an opportunity to make healthy peer relationships. Who your children associate with has an enormous effect on their long-term happiness and educational aspirations.
• Make sure your children get enough sleep every night. There is a direct correlation between average nightly sleep and grades.
• Help your children maintain a gratitude journal. Children who keep a gratitude journal are happier, more optimistic and healthier.
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I can’t resist sharing the list of the most popular baby names of 2014. I just love this kind of thing. Boys (rank 1 to 10): Noah, Liam, Mason, Jacob, William, Ethan, Michael, Alexander, James and Daniel. Girls (rank 1 to 10): Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Isabella, Ava, Mia, Emily, Abigail, Madison and Charlotte. tinyurl.com/ope537x
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You probably know about the SAT Question of the Day, but did you know that there is also an ACT Question of the Day provided for student practice? Here’s a recent question – A vendor has 14 helium balloons for sale: 9 are yellow, 3 are red, and 2 are green. A balloon is selected at random and sold. If the balloon sold is yellow, what is the probability that the next balloon, selected at random, is also yellow? actstudent.org/testprep/
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For the first time ever, Khan Academy has teamed up with the creators of the SAT to create free, personalized SAT practice for anyone, anywhere. The program will prepare students for the new SAT, which launches in March 2016. Students can get personalized practice recommendations and instant feedback on how they’re doing. Watch their short video about how the new SAT is different. khanacademy.org
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I was surprised to learn that youth baseball participation in the U.S. has declined 41 percent in the past 15 years. In 2002, nine million boys played baseball. Today, that number has declined to 5.3 million. Major League Baseball is concerned, as the biggest predictor of a fan base is whether you played the game as a child. A recent Wall Street Journal article notes that basketball and soccer have experienced declines as well with the trend of concentrating on one sport year round possibly to blame (travel league enrollments are up). Source: National Sporting Goods Association.
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A new study has found that police officers with college degrees are less likely to use force against citizens. Michigan State researchers analyzed thousands of cops across seven major metropolitan regions. Because so much of law enforcement is social work, the researchers believe that college coursework psychology and sociology might make these cops more adept at addressing potentially explosive issues. thefreethoughtproject.com/study-cops-college-degrees-force-citizens/
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Abortions are declining in almost every state in the U.S. The pro-life side credits a shift in societal attitudes, pro-choice advocates credit greater access to effective contraceptives. Whatever … under the heading of “great news,” abortions are down 12 percent since 2010 and teen pregnancy is at its lowest rate in decades. tinyurl.com/oydtagy
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I love this flyer for students titled: “I took a photo of my friend that I want to share … now what?” Ask yourself:
• Is it a good photo?
• Would my friend agree?
• Could it get my friend into trouble?
• Is it going to cause drama?
• Am I aware that anyone can share it once I do?
• Would I be OK with my grandma seeing it?
• A year from now, will I feel good about making this public?
If you answer YES to all these, go ahead, share. (Courtesy of Common Sense Media).
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A recent study from Cornell University found that former high-school athletes are more likely to go on to have higher-status careers and earn anywhere from 5 to 15 percent more than participants in other extracurricular activities, like band or yearbook. According to this study, this earnings advantage doesn’t seem to exist for any other extracurricular activity. Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly why. The question is whether high-school sports transform the leadership skills and self-confidence of regular kids, or if kids who already possess leadership skills and other “successful” attributes gravitate toward sports. bigteams.net/main/article/id/764
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The University of San Francisco will be the first college to implement Callisto, a new online reporting system for campus sexual assaults. Callisto was designed by the nonprofit organization Sexual Health Innovations as a third-party online reporting system. The system allows an alleged victim to hold back on submitting a report unless someone else reports the same assailant, or to save their file with a timestamp and come back at a later point to turn in their report. The hope is that the system will make victims more likely to come forward. Colleges across the country are examining the adoption of online reporting systems for sexual assaults. tinyurl.com/ogn49vj
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Because I have a soft spot for these kind of lists, I enjoyed “40 Things You Should Never, Ever Say to Your Teen” from the family blog www.themid.com. Just a few to get you started:
• You look nice.
• Are you in a bad mood?
• Can I go with you?
• How was school?
• You can’t possibly be hungry.
• You’ll understand someday.
• Who’s that?
• And my personal favorite … “Hi.”
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Elementary school students using standing desks observed over the course of a year were found to be more attentive and engaged than their seated counterparts. Results showed 12 percent greater on-task engagement in classrooms with standing desks. Engagement was measured by behaviors like answering a question, raising a hand or participating in active discussion and off-task behaviors like talking out of turn. The desks had stools nearby, enabling students to sit or stand during class at their discretion. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. tinyurl.com/oyngjk7
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Every public and private high school in America is getting a free DVD of the Oscar nominated movie “Selma,” courtesy of Paramount Pictures. The movie is about Martin Luther King Jr.’s march from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama. Teachers can also request companion study guide, as part of an extended “Selma for Students” initiative. time.com/3833493/selma-dvd-high-schools/
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Check with your local pubic library about their offerings beyond books. Most libraries now provide students with access not only to books but also digital resources which they can access 24/7 from any device with an Internet connection. Just of few things you can do with your card:
• download audiobooks and ebooks at home
• access free SAT and AP study guides
• read book reviews and recommendations
• access animated, talking picture books in Spanish and French.
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The app WriteReader offers students a way to write mini-books as they learn to read. Preschool and elementary school students can use the iPad app to record and tell a story in their own words, which is then transcribed into text through a speak-to-text feature – that way, students hear the correct pronunciation while looking at the correct spelling of their words. Adults can “publish” the books, to either a private or public audience. The first book is free, buying the app to create unlimited books is $4.99. writereader.com
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I will close this column with some of the best lines from 2015 commencement speeches at colleges across the country (courtesy of Bloomberg Business):
“It’s OK to map out your future, but do it in pencil.”
– Jon Bon Jovi, musician
“It is your difficult but great and challenging responsibility to help change things and set us right again. Let me apologize in advance on behalf of all of these people up here: We broke it, but you’ve got to fix it.”
– Ken Burns, filmmaker
“It really is a true honor to be with all of you … as you embark on this exciting and challenging journey of being sober during the day.”
– Maya Rudolph, actor
“History rarely yields to one person. But think – and never forget – what happens when it does. That can be you. That should be you. That must be you.”
– Tim Cook, CEO, Apple
“Make sure you know something about something.”
– Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
“Life isn’t all that complicated. Things are what they are. Don’t read into everything, just do your best, and try to do no harm.”
– Meredith Vieira, journalist
“They say with great power comes great responsibility. Not true. Responsibility is entirely optional. You can coast if you want to. But don’t you dare coast.”
– Ed Helms, actor