Education roundup XXXVI: Resilient kids, spoiled kids, picky eaters, happiness, the new SAT, ‘A’ colleges for ‘B’ students and more

In his new book, “The Success Disconnect: Why the Smartest People Choose Meaning Over Money,” author Bill Connolly suggests that nine principles repeatedly surface in individuals who feel successful in life:

1. Create often. Successful people report a cathartic and meaningful feeling from being responsible for something new in the world.

2. Understand the self. Truly successful people understand themselves, both their positive and negative traits, including their motivations.

3. Have fun. Incorporating a consistent emphasis on plain old fun and happiness is key to feeling as if you’re building a life you can be proud of.

4. Suspend judgments. Spending time learning from mistakes is productive, but spending time judging yourself or others for mistakes drains valuable energy better used elsewhere.

5. Seek challenges. Failure is not the opposite of success; stagnation is. Push your limits. 6. Pursue meaning. Whatever path you must take to find meaning, take it.

7. Make change work for you. Making the most of the hand you’re dealt is imperative to making progress and achieving success.

8. Develop resilience. Bounce back from setbacks. Find and surround yourself with positive, supportive individuals.

9. Constantly improve. What are the ways that you set up your life in order to grow, achieve and enjoy what you do? You define the narrative of your legacy.

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On the top of my nightstand is “The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous and Smart About Money.” Author Ron Lieber explains how talking openly to children about money can help parents raise modest, patient, grounded young adults who are financially wise beyond their years. Lieber is both a parent and a personal finance columnist, and he provides nuts and bolts advice on dealing with the tooth fairy, allowance, chores, charity, saving, birthdays, holidays, cell phones, checking accounts, clothing, cars, part-time jobs and college tuition.

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If you have a teen who is a freshman, sophomore or junior and plans on attending a four-year college, you probably have questions about the new SAT. Starting in March, the new test will have two sections, not three (just math and a combo reading/writing). Scoring will return to a 1600 point scale (like it was in my era). There won’t be a penalty for guessing anymore (don’t leave anything blank!) and there will only be four answers to each question, not five. Also, the essay will now be optional. More importantly, the content is going to be quite different – better aligned with the Common Core benchmarks now taught in Sonoma Valley schools. For more information, the New York Times recently ran a great overview article on the changes. tinyurl.com/qdadx92

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Eric Greitens, a former U.S. Navy Seal, thinks he knows the secret to increasing resiliency in children. In an interview with Bill Murphy of Inc. magazine, he had 10 tips:

1. Set a great example. If you hope to inspire others, such as your children, it’s crucial.

2. Take responsibility. There are things you can’t control, sure – but know the difference. “Teach your children early not to pass the blame or make excuses, but to take responsibility for their actions,” says Greitens.

3. Seek to serve others. Besides positively affecting the rest of the world, service to others emphasizes that life really isn’t about just one person (you). The act also helps you increase resourcefulness and empathy.

4. Practice daily gratitude. This is one of the things that the most successful people do under any circumstance. Expressing gratitude to others frames your mind to appreciate the things you’ve been given. Because, let’s face it, even on your worst days, you are probably better off than most.

5. Let others solve their own problems. “Your children should know that you’re always there for them,” says Greitens. “But give them the opportunity to learn to solve their own problems.”

6. Be a mentor – not a savior. Sometimes the best thing that can happen is to make a big mistake and live with the consequences. It’s better to learn from smaller mistakes while we’re young.

7. Embrace failure. It’s almost a cliché among entrepreneurs, but failure is a prerequisite for success. Nobody accomplishes anything great if he or she is afraid to fail. As Greitens says, “(Through) failure, children learn how to struggle with adversity and how to confront fear.

8. Encourage risk-taking. Risk-taking and failure go hand-in-hand. “To be something we never were, we have to do something we’ve never done,” says Greitens.

9. But assert your authority where it’s sensible. “Not every risk is a good risk to take,” Greitens says. Sometimes we all need more experienced, authoritative people to show us the better way.

10. Express your love for the people you care about. Resilient people know that they rely on the love and care of others in their communities. One of the best ways to reinforce this is to express how you feel to those people often. tinyurl.com/nbartjz

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If you haven’t yet seen “Most Likely To Succeed,” I hope that you get a chance to see the film on cable TV or Netflix. The movie really seemed to resonate with the more than 100 local teachers and parents in the audience. Here is my attempt to sum up the key points.

• The schools to which we send our children are based on a model that was developed more than 125 years ago, when times were very different.

• Cramming our kids heads with facts – and judging success based on their ability to spit those facts back – is dumb because they are easily forgotten within months. In addition, memorizing facts is less important now, as they are always at your fingertips.

• We need to focus on teaching kids the things that can’t be done by computers – like creativity, problem solving and people skills.

• Kids are much more likely to be engaged by – and remember – what they learn by “doing” (projects).

• Teachers are happiest when they have a lot of control over how and what they teach.

• Parents are among the first to freak out when schools suggest eliminating textbooks, testing and grades. Learn more at mltsfilm.org

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The 30 kids honored as Time Magazine’s “Most Influential Teens of 2015” will make great dinner table conversation. The diverse but debatable list includes actors (who your child will recognize even if you don’t), inventors, entrepreneurs, athletes and even a restaurateur. time.com/4081618/most-influential-teens-2015/

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A very controversial study was released last week that is purported to have found that kids who are religious are meaner and less generous than their non-religious peers. A study in the journal Current Biology looked at the behavior of Christian, Muslim and atheist children. Researchers found that children from non-religious households are more altruistic, as measured by their acts of generosity toward others. The study looked at 1,100 children ages 5 to 12 in the U.S, China, Canada, Jordan, Turkey and South Africa. The findings came from a game in which children chose their favorite stickers, were told there weren’t enough for all and given the opportunity to share or not share. The researchers believe that “moral licensing” may come into play – if you believe that you are moral because you are devout, perhaps you are less concerned with your day-to-day behavior. It is worth reading more at tinyurl.com/qbx6cr7. Interesting fact: Currently 84 percent of the 5.8 billion people on earth identify themselves as religious.

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A new Economist “highest value” college ranking focuses less on prestige and selectivity and more on how much students earn after graduation. Its formula is based on test scores, majors, wages and other factors, resulting in an anticipated median wage for alumni of each school 10 years after graduation. That anticipated figure is compared with the actual median wage of graduates ten years out. Colleges with graduates who outperformed expected earnings by the most ranked the highest. Looking at ten years out is a bit of a problem as students may be in graduate school during that time, and the dataset only includes students on financial aid for some reason. But – there are very different names at the top, which I love to see. The top ten are Washington and Lee, Villanova, Babson, Bentley, Otis College of Art and Design, Alderson Broaddus University, Lehigh, Texas A&M, International University and California State University-Bakersfield. economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2015/10/value-university

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If you are concerned that your child’s screen time is overtaking his or her book time, you will want to read “Tap, Click, Read.” According to this new book, the key is for adults to steer kids toward media that promotes literacy instead of undermining it. The book suggests new ways to teach literacy that incorporates technology. The accompanying website provides resources and research like app and website tools and reviews – as well as what parents should look for as they evaluate preschools and elementary schools. Tapclickread.org. Interesting fact: Today, two-thirds of American fourth-graders are not reading at grade level.

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If you have a young Star Wars fan in your house, Code.org has a brand new tutorial for the Hour of Code 2015, in partnership with Disney and Lucasfilm — featuring Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Ages 6 and up can learn to program with Java Script to control droids and create their own Star Wars game. For younger learners, a tablet-friendly, drag-and-drop version will be available soon. Code.org offers a variety of code-teaching games for all ages.

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Women now make up 40 percent or more of MBA students at the top graduate business schools in the country – Harvard, Wharton, Yale, Northwestern, Dartmouth and MIT, according to a new study by the Forte Foundation. Women have only been accepted into MBA programs since the 1970s, so that is pretty good progress. t.co/RFjIIIolsK

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There are some new apps designed to help kids explore their social and emotional sides. The hope is that these apps can help students to practice the skills that are important to emotional intelligence. Sesame Street offers an interesting one called “Breathe, Think, Do” in which characters practice keeping calm and regulating their emotions. “Touch and Learn Emotions” helps kids to read body language and identify facial clues. “Emotionary” encouraged introspection by giving kids the chance to draw a selfie of how they are feeling. Middle schools students might enjoy “IF, the Emotional IQ Game” and “Middle School Confidential.” Edutopia.org

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Here is a gift idea for the stressed out adults in your life. Grown up coloring books are all the rage now. These detailed books with complicated patterns are a popular way to relax or alternately, multi-task while watching TV. Amazon has an entire section of its site dedicated to 42 different options. Search “adult coloring books.”

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Bitsbox is an awesome birthday or Christmas gift idea for kids who are interested in learning how to code. Each month, they get a box with dozens of projects, ranging from simple to advanced. They learn to create apps for any mobile device. The cost ranges from $20 a month for a virtual box to $30 to $40 a month for a box with apps, toys, stickers, trading cards and an activity book. bitsbox.com.

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New screen time research from Common Sense Media has found that:

1. Media use is off the charts – teens use an average of nine hours of entertainment media a day, tweens use six – not counting using media for school or homework.

2. Boys spend more time on video games and girls spend more time on social media.

3. While most teens use social media every day, only 36 percent say that they enjoy it a lot (compared with 73 percent enjoying music a lot and 45 percent enjoying TV a lot).

4. The vast majority of kids just consume media, very few are creating content. tinyurl.com/prfk6sx

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If you have a child in college or new to the workforce, their chances at quick employment have improved. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employees, 42 percent of employers ranked the job market for students as very good or excellent right now, up from 18 percent just two years ago. NACE also found that the employers surveyed plan to hire 11 percent more new college graduates from the class of 2016 for their U.S. operations than they did from the class of 2015. tinyurl.com/q5ah4sf

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The number of Americans who read regularly continues to plummet across all formats (books, audibooks and ebooks). According to Pew Research, only 72 percent of Americans report having a read a book in the past YEAR, down from 76 percent last year. Kudos to our young adults (ages 18 to 29) who were the MOST likely to have read a book (80 percent); and to women – who read an average of 12 books a year, as opposed to men – who read nine. tinyurl.com/px4svrm

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Many students think faster than they type. Google docs now features a pretty cool option under “Tools” called “Voice Typing.” A microphone will appear on the left side of your Google document. Allow Google to access the microphone on your device and your spoken words will turn into text on the document. You must be using the Chrome browser, however.

• • •

Experts seem to agree that Motion Math’s nine online games are the best out there. They have been downloaded four million times and won a ton of awards. You can buy the bundle for $26 but the very best to try seem to be Zoom, Hungry Fish and Pizza. They do a good job of presenting some of the trickiest Common Core standards in a truly engaging way and they are excellent for students who are struggling in math. motionmathgames.com

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The number of international students studying in the U.S. grew by 10 percent last year – the most of any year in the past three decades. Almost one million international students are enrolled in U.S. universities. These students added an estimated $30 billion to the U.S. economy last year. China sends the most students, followed by India. NYU hosts the most international students, followed by USC, Columbia and Arizona State. California attracts the largest numbers overall, followed by New York. tinyurl.com/odsuuza

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You have heard of Instagram, but have you heard of Finstagram? Teens love documenting their life on Instagram but the photos tend to be gorgeous shots depicting the very best aspects of their social life. New to the scene are Finstagrams, private accounts that you only let your closest friends follow. (I gather Finstagram stands for fake Instagram.) Limiting their followers to a handful of closest friends makes sharing more comfortable. Fun fact: More than half of the 92 percent of teenagers ages 13 to 17 who go online daily use Instagram.

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If your student is taking the SAT in March or later this spring, they will be taking the new SAT. And frankly, they should really be preparing for it now. Practice tests are now available online at collegeboard.org and Khan Academy already has a host of tutorial videos to help students prepare. It is hard to be the test pigeon, I feel for the students who will be first to take the new test.

• • •

The U.S. government estimates that it will cost almost a quarter of a million dollars to raise a child born today. U.S. News suggests the following ways to cut costs:

• Breastfeed and use cloth diapers

• Furnish a nursery simply, consider used furniture that will suit the child as they get older

• Buy gently used clothing, toys and equipment, wherever possible

• Keep birthday parties simple or save parties for milestone years

• Do the math on child care and pencil out if having both parents work is most cost effective

• Let kids share a room

• Limit extracurriculars to one per season. Kids will appreciate the free time to play.

• Ask others to pitch in whether it is grandparents or through community fundraising

• Focus on less expensive options, typically community colleges and local state public universities

Most importantly, “kids don’t need things; they need you,” said Denise Daniels, psychologist. tinyurl.com/qjcmews

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I was surprised to learn that two nearby school districts have implemented a new grading system that make it almost impossible to receive a failing grade. At most schools, anything lower than a 60 percent is an “F.” Under the new system, anything lower than a 20 percent is an “F.” That seems like a big change to me and teachers agree that it sets the bar very low for student success. In the new “equal interval scale,” grades rise in 20-point increments. A score of 20 to 40 percent is a D, 40-60 is a C, 60-80 is a B and 80-100 is an A. So your son’s 80 percent on a math test is now an A-, not a B-. What’s more, students who do not hand in homework, automatically get a 50 percent, no lower. Getting credit for work not done seems to me very counter to life in the real world. Also, I imagine that college admissions officers will be horrified and do their own, quite different, GPA calculations and the discrepancy will upset parents. A Press Democrat story on the change quoted Rancho Cotate English teacher Lanny Lowery as saying, “This is just incomprehensible. I don’t have words.” tinyurl.com/pduetce

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What should parents know about Vine? Vine is a social video-sharing website and app of 10-second videos created by its users. Most Vines are designed to be funny, and many are staged for the camera. Kids and teens love to follow, comment on, and share their favorite Vines. Most of the content is harmless but there is no filter in place. For younger kids, there’s a curated version of the service called Vine Kids that serves up only age-appropriate content. Kids should be made aware that their videos and comments are all public by default; they need to adjust their settings for any privacy. vine.co

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Facebook has launched a new site called Tech/Prep to help students understand what programming is, different jobs programmers can have, and how to gain the skills they need to become one someday. It’s a collection of information, resources and videos tailored to a variety of ages. techprep.fb.com

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I keep hearing great things about the award- winning YouTube channel Vsauce created by Michael Stevens. He posts videos relating to various scientific and philosophical topics, as well as gaming, technology, culture and other areas of general interest. Is the 5-second rule true? What is deja vu? How big can a person get? Why do we have two nostrils? youtube.com/user/Vsauce

• • •

October is National Dyslexia Month. As a parent of a dyslexic daughter, I’m happy that awareness is increasing and students are being taught to view dyslexia not only as a challenge, but as a gift. If you think your child might be dyslexic or are just interested in learning more, I recommend the movie, “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia,” which is available for free on HBO or you can buy a download for $10 at gumroad.com/l/ObnC. There is a free Dyslexia Detector app on the iTunes store but I would recommend just using it as an informal first step. The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity has a great site with recommended app and computer programs. dyslexia.yale.edu. In California news, a new law signed by Gov. Brown last week (AB 1369) mandates that “program guidelines for dyslexia to be used to assist regular education teachers, special education teachers, and parents to identify and assess pupils with dyslexia, and to plan, provide, evaluate and improve educational services, as defined, to pupils with dyslexia.” This is a big deal because some states still refuse to recognize dyslexia as a learning difference.

• • •

Filed under the category of things that I wish had existed when I had babies … There is a new LED light bulb that inventors claim provides a very calm environment for babies (and adults) who wake in the night and then are trying to go back to sleep. I gather from the Time magazine article that the blue wavelengths in regular bulbs (and in our smart phones) cause our brains to be more alert. tinyurl.com/og84fcq

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A new graphic novel for ages 8-12 teaches computer code. Gene Luen Yang is a National Book Award Finalist, an Esiner award recipient, as well as a long-time computer science teacher. His latest work is called “Secret Coders,” and it is a compelling plot combination reminiscent of Harry Potter and the Matrix that teaches kids binary and other foundations of coding.

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Looking for A+ colleges for B students? U.S. News & World Report has a good list of 50 to consider. These schools have high rankings but also high admit rates. The six schools in California on the list include: University of San Francisco, Pepperdine, University of the Pacific, Westmont College, Thomas Aquinas College and University of San Diego. The complete list is at http://tinyurl.com/nh8jlju.

• • •

The Peace Corps this year received the highest number of applications in four decades. Applications to join the international service organization jumped 32 percent, with the 23,000 applications received marking the largest number since 1975. Back in 1960, U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy challenged students to give two years of their lives to serve the developing world in 1960, leading to the creation of the Peace Corps.

• • •

As part of its Storybook Project, National Pubic Radio (NPR) asked successful authors, actors, politicians, philanthropists, scientists and musicians to share their five favorite books they’ve read to their kids. On the resulting Tumblr page each week you can see the lists added (Melinda Gates, Ani DiFranco, Maz Jobrani, Adam Scott, Jamie Oliver and more) nprstorybook.tumblr.com. A few books that show up on more than one list are: “Caps for Sale,” “All The World,” “The Story of Ferdinand” and “The Giving Tree.”

• • •

“What if you could cut your college costs by $10,000 a year … but doing so raised the risk your kid would drop out by as much as 20 percent?” asked Money magazine recently. That’s the dilemma families face when their freshman is debating living at home versus on campus. Room and board at any college now costs around $10,000 a year, but studies have showed definitively that students who live on campus get more out of their college experience and are more likely to graduate. Saving money by living at home saves parents nothing if the student later drops out.

• • •

More than 80 leading colleges and universities have announced potentially big changes in how they accept applications. The universities are creating new online portfolios for high school students, designed to have ninth graders begin thinking about what they are learning or accomplishing in high school and so that they, too, emerge in their senior year with a body of work that could be used to help identify appropriate colleges. These colleges include every Ivy League university, Stanford University and dozens more.

• • •

I love the idea of brain foods and I imagine that I think and write better when I am eating healthy foods. USA Today’s College Blog printed a new list of the top 10 brain boosting super foods, and they are: avocados, beans, blueberries, dark chocolate, eggs, oatmeal, salmon, spinach, walnuts and yogurt. tinyurl.com/ns3kcor

• • •

Here are 10 great rules for parents of picky eaters (courtesy of Sally Sampson and Natalie Muth, M.D.):

1. As parents, we will be good role models. We will only ask the kids to eat foods that we are willing to eat ourselves.

2. As parents, we will decide what foods are offered, when, and where. As kids, we will decide of the food that is offered, what we will eat and how much.

3. We will value the process of learning to be more adventurous eaters. We will be willing to try new foods, even if it is just a tiny bite.

4. We do not have to clean our plates. We will listen to our bodies and let hunger be our guide.

5. We will not offer food rewards. In other words, we do not have to “eat our vegetables” in order to get dessert. We will not reward good behavior with sweets and “treats.”

6. Mealtimes are a family affair. As often as we can, we will shop, cook and eat together.

7. We are one family, and we will eat one meal. We will not make separate meals. But we will be sure to include at least one thing each family member likes at each meal.

8. We will learn together about food, nutrition, farming and cooking.

9. We will have fun, play and experiment with new foods.

10. We will be consistent in following these rules, but not rigid.

Sampson and Muth also suggest parents not negotiate, bribe or pressure their kids. Ignore their pickiness, don’t give them attention for it; make sure they are hungry when they arrive at the table; and involve them in the preparing the meal. tinyurl.com/q7afdx2

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Khan Academy, the popular source of thousands of school topic videos (including free SAT prep), has redesigned its free iPhone app and finally added an app for Android phones. Available at Google Play and in the Apple App Store.

• • •

I love tips on happiness (for adults and kids) and UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb’s book “The Upward Spiral” offers these tips:

• The most important question to ask when you are feeling down is “What am I grateful for?”

• Label your negative feelings. Are you sad, anxious, angry?

• Make the decision that is weighing on your mind, it will alleviate your worry and anxiety.

• Touch the people you are close to and enjoy the oxytocin released through contact. tinyurl.com/ozyhfxu

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The Junior Academy is a free, virtual program open to exceptional STEM students ages 13-19 around the world. The ideal student is an enthusiastic learner and problem solver with a passion for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). He or she has a desire to learn more about the universe, and aspires to help address the world’s most pressing challenges through research. Applications are due Thursday, Oct. 15. thejunioracademy.org

• • •

With all the amazing advances in technology, the TI-83 graphing calculator accounts for 93 percent of all graphing calculator sales and it has been the gold standard for almost 20 years. That’s about to change as there are new web-based calculators that are finally giving Texas Instruments a run for its money. If you haven’t bought one yet or your student tends to lose or forget his/hers, check out desmos.com/calculator.

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