Category Archives: prep school

Education Roundup XLIII: Checklist for college kids, parenting preteen boys, screen time, likeability and much more

educationtrounup

Parental depression: A recent study in Developmental Psychology finds that maternal depression is actually most common among mothers of middle school children as they enter the tween years. Parenting a tween may even be harder than mothering an infant. The study authors surveyed more than 2,200 well-educated mothers about their personal well-being, including their mental health, parenting experiences and perceptions of their children’s behavior. They found that the years surrounding the onset of adolescence are among the most difficult times for mothers; and that during this period of transition, women can feel lonely and dissatisfied with their mothering roles. http://tinyurl.com/j3yw6fr

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Insomnia: If your children (or you) have trouble sleeping, there are five house plants that you can put in the bedroom that might help. The 18 million people who saw this information on the same video I did can’t all be wrong. The plants each have either a scent that helps with sleep or oxygen generating/air quality improving attributes. They are lavender, aloe vera, English Ivy and white jasmine. Worth a try. www.facebook.com/ninachkahov/posts/10209581571270750

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Help for introverts: If you worry about the future success of your quiet child in a world that seems to favor and reward extroverts, you might enjoy the podcast by Susan Cain, the bestselling author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” Cain hosts this 10-part weekly series on parenting and teaching introverted children. She discusses why quiet kids are unique and require different parenting and teaching methods from their extroverted peers. She and her guests discuss how parents and schools can help introverts thrive, how social media allows quiet children to express themselves in ways that were never possible before, the neuroscience of introversion and more. http://tinyurl.com/hhoc7bf

Bolstering confidence: Experts now believe that better than telling your kids how awesome they are and that they can do anything they set their mind to, we should teach them the three qualities of: practice, patience and perseverance.

  1. Practice, because effort coupled with feedback is critical to developing mastery and achieving excellence.
  2. Patience, because mastery and meaningful accomplishment happen over a long time frame.
  3. Perseverance, because obstacles are likely and setbacks are common in any endeavor.

Particularly important, says “What Great Parents Do” author Erica Reischer, is that we emphasize to our kids that success is defined by effort and step-by-step progress, not by comparison with others. http://tinyurl.com/hr4z9j9

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Fake babies: According to new research from Australia, girls who take part in a fake infant virtual parenting programs are more likely to become pregnant than those who don’t take the course. The study authors say this method is not an efficient use of public funds in the effort to stop teen pregnancy. “It’s one thing to get results to say it doesn’t work, it’s another to get results that does the opposite,” study author Sally Brinkman told ABC News. RealityWorks, the largest fake baby company in the U.S. disputes the findings. http://tinyurl.com/h3mvm26

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Nagging moms: Large scale research in England has found that parents’ super-high expectations for their teenage daughters – especially if they remind them constantly of those expectations – can influence whether young girls will grow up to become successful women. The researchers found that girls whose “main parent” – that’s usually the mother – consistently displayed high parental expectations were far less likely to fall into the traps that made the girls less likely to succeed in life. (http://tinyurl.com/z5y4as9) Specifically, these girls were:

  • Less likely to become pregnant as teenagers.
  • More likely to attend college.
  • Less likely to get stuck in dead-end, low-wage jobs.
  • Less likely to have prolonged periods of unemployment.

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No school subjects: Finland is considered to have the best schools in the world and yet they are embarking on a huge change – removing school subjects from the curriculum. There will no longer be any classes in physics, math, literature, history or geography. Instead, students will study events and phenomena in an interdisciplinary format. For example, World War II will be examined from the perspective of history, geography and math. Beginning at age 16, students will choose which topic they want to study, bearing in mind their capabilities and ambitions for the future. The changes are expected to be complete by 2020.

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Permission to plug in: The American Academy of Pediatrics has revised its guidelines for children and adolescents to reflect new research and new habits. The best news for busy parents is a loosening on the screen time for the littlest children. The new guidelines shift the focus from WHAT is on the screen to WHO else is in the room. For babies younger than 18 months, AAP still says no screens at all except live video chat. For ages 15 months to 2 years, experts now suggest avoiding solo media use and instead treat a video or an app like a picture book (watch it with them and discuss). For preschoolers age 2 to 5, AAP recommends Sesame Workshop and PBS and no more than an hour a day of screen use. http://tinyurl.com/grldwgu

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International students: Enrollment numbers of international undergraduate students are up 79 percent from 10 years ago. Where are these students coming from? The top country is China, followed by Saudi Arabia, South Korea, India and Vietnam. http://tinyurl.com/jklytgt

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In cigarette news: Vaping is gateway smoking: tenth graders who vaped often were about 10 times more likely to become regular smokers six months later, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “It’s such an emerging public health issue,” said lead author Adam Leventhal from USC’s school of medicine. “These teens aren’t just experimenting – a significant portion are progressing to more regular levels of smoking.” http://tinyurl.com/jbdnej4

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Other cig news: As part of its plan to “phase out” conventional cigarettes, Philip Morris is introducing a new product, called IQOS, that heats tobacco instead of burning it. Users will supposedly experience 90 percent fewer toxins than in normal cigarettes. http://tinyurl.com/zaaugwj

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Good chocolate news: Nestle has found a way to reduce the amount of sugar in chocolate by as much as 40 percent and it plans to start selling products with the new formulation in 2018. Dreyer has done something similar with its “slow-churned” method of making ice cream that reduces fat by half and calories by a third. http://tinyurl.com/z5ph3fk

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Life hacks: Inc. magazine recently ran a great article on “8 Things Every Person Should Do Before 8 a.m.” Do these things first and you’ll have done the important stuff first,” says author Ben Hardy. The reasons supporting each are compelling and available online at www.stumbleupon.com/su/2iHp3V/

  1. Get a healthy seven-plus hours of sleep
  2. Prayer and meditation to facilitate clarity and abundance
  3. Hard physical activity
  4. Consume 30 grams of protein
  5. Take a cold shower
  6. Listen to or read uplifting content
  7. Review your life vision
  8. Do at least one thing toward long-term goals

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Free magazines: Many local library are offering a new service that allows cardholders to read magazines from their mobile device or home computer. Zinio for Libraries has more than 160 popular full-color digital magazines to choose from and they look the same as the hard copy version. The collection of popular digital magazines includes both new and old titles with no wait list, no checkout periods, and no limits. www.zinio.com

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Book suggestion: Should we pay children to read books or to get good grades? Is it ethical to pay people to test risky new drugs or to donate their organs? I recommend “What Money Can’t Buy” by Michael J. Sandel as a fun, thought-provoking holiday gift for teens or adults. The book is an easy read and will give your family plenty to talk about over the dinner table.

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Gift for a fidgety kid: The Anti-Stress Cube has six sides, each with something to fidget with: Click. Glide. Flip. Roll. Spin. It is designed for kids and adults who likes to fidget to relieve anxiety and stress, kids with autism and ADHD and kids with sensory special needs. There are a few options, priced around $20. Take a look at www.thestresscube.com.

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Lower math scores: The results of international PISA testing that compares 15-year-old students across 73 countries found that U.S. math scores were down and science and reading were flat. The top-performing country in all three subjects was Singapore. U.S. students scored below the international average in math, and at the international average in reading and science. One piece of good news was that the U.S. narrowed its achievement gap somewhat between low-income students and their higher-income peers. http://tinyurl.com/zd6xe7d

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Summer trips: I have compiled a giant list of free and low-cost summer experiences for middle and high school students. The categories include outdoor adventures, art camps, language programs, overseas travel and more. Many are sleep-away (residential) programs on college campuses. Many of the best ones have deadlines right around now. Take a look with your student over the holiday break. www.educationroundupnational.com

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Priorities today: Millennials would rather travel than buy a house or car, or even pay off debt, according to new research. The study asked more than 1,000 people aged 18 to 35 in the U.S., U.K. and China about their priorities for the next five years. http://tinyurl.com/h9jplsg
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Popular study abroad locations: Most U.S. students who study abroad choose a European country. Last year, 54.5 percent – of the 313,415 U.S. students who studied abroad for academic credit – did so in Europe. The one non-European country among the top five destinations was China. Tops is England, then Italy, then Spain. Young women are twice as likely to study abroad as young men. http://tinyurl.com/jgax8e4. If your college student is or has studied abroad, ask him or her to send us a note about the experience to ourschools@sonomanews.com.***

Help for kids with special needs: There is a great list of 21 Chrome extensions for struggling students and special needs kids available at http://tinyurl.com/gnh4zol. The apps can assist students in five main categories including “text to speech,” readability, reading comprehension, focus and navigation.

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Screen culprits: Parents spend more than nine hours a day with screen media. Common Sense Media has found that despite using media heavily throughout the day, parents overwhelmingly believe they are good role models for kids. Of that nine hours, the vast majority is personal media (seven-plus hours) and only slightly more than 90 minutes devoted to work media. Meanwhile, many parents are concerned about their children’s media use, including thinking that their children may become addicted to technology (56 percent) and that technology use negatively impacts their children’s sleep (34 percent). The study also found that parents from lower-income households spend more time with personal screen media (nine hours, 15 minutes) than middle-income parents (seven hours, 42 minutes), who spend more time than higher-income parents (six hours, 41 minutes); and parents with a high school degree or less spend the most time (nine hours, three minutes), as compared with parents with an undergraduate degree (six hours, 10 minutes). http://tinyurl.com/hjcqq3w

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Headphones for kids: With so many kids using headphones these days, there are concerns about which are “safe for young ears.” Half of 8- to 12-year-olds listen to music daily, and nearly two-thirds of teenagers do, according to a 2015 report. Safe listening is a function of both volume and duration. So what are the best headphones to protect hearing? A testing team found the best overall pick for children was a Bluetooth model Puro BT2200 ($99.99). Toddlers liked the fit of Onanoff Buddyphones Explore ($29.99). For older children, ages 4 to 11, was JLab JBuddies Studio ($29.99). A pair of earbuds – Etymotic ETY Kids 3 ($49) and Puro IEM200 ($29.99) – did the best job at blocking outside sounds.

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Top 10 parenting books: Need some advice dealing with your children? Here are some recommendations for the top 10 parenting books of this year, courtesy of collegeparentcentral.com. I have marked with a star the ones I have read and also recommend. (http://tinyurl.com/znodeoj)
• “The Gift of Failure” by Jessica Lahey*• “How to Raise an Adult” by Julie Lythcott-Haims*• “Building Resilience in Children and Teens” by Kenneth R. Ginsberg and Martha M. Jablow• “A Survival Guide for Parenting Teens” by Joani Geltman

• “It’s the Student Not the College” by Kristin M. White

• “Emerging Adulthood – The Winding Road from the Late Teens Through the Twenties” by Jeffrey Arnett

• “The i-Connected Parent- Staying Close to Your Kids in College (and Beyond) While Letting Them Grow Up” by Barbara Hofer

• “Making the Most of College – Students Speak Their Minds” by Richard Light

• “The Naked Roommate – for Parents Only” by Harlan Cohen

• “You’re On Your Own, But I’m There if You Need Me” by Marjorie Savage

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Test your character: There is an online site where adults and students can discover their character strengths and take a personality survey. The survey is free and might provide interesting to your teens. Some of the more detailed reports provided by the nonprofit cost money. www.viacharacter.org/

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Required reading overseas: Take a look at what students in countries from Ireland to Iran, Ghana to Germany, are asked to read and why. For example, in Australia, students read “Tomorrow, When the War Began” (1993) by John Marsden, about a teenage girl and her friends who return from a camping trip to find that an unidentified foreign military force has invaded Australia. In Austria, students read “Faust” (1787) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a play about a scholar who makes a pact with the devil. You can even find free, downloadable versions of many of the books at Project Gutenberg. http://tinyurl.com/j99jkfc

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Downwardly mobile: A new study has found that about half of 30-year-olds won’t make as much money as their parents did at the same age. Back in the 1970s, 92 percent of American 30-year-olds earned more than their parents did when they were young. The study was conducted by economists and sociologists at Stanford, Harvard and the University of California. They used tax and census data to compare the earnings of 30-year-olds starting in 1970 to that of their parents. http://tinyurl.com/jqyzw8v

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Popular baby names: A Baby Center survey has found that Sophia and Jackson were the most popular baby names of 2016. On the site, you can click on a name to see its popularity over time, common sibling names and more. The site also looks at the hottest baby-naming trends. The rest of the top 10 are Emma, Olivia, Ava, Mia, Isabella, Riley, Aria, Zoe and Lilly. The rest of the top 10 for boys are Aiden, Lucas, Liam, Noah, Mason, Caden, Oliver and Elijah. www.babycenter.com/top-baby-names-2016.htm

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Does math equal success: A new study has found that low-income children’s math knowledge in preschool was related to their later achievement – but not all types of math are created equal. In preschool, children’s skills in patterning, comparing quantities, and counting objects were stronger predictors of their math achievement in fifth grade than other skills. Understanding written numbers and calculating also emerged as predictors of achievement. The study’s authors suggest that certain early math topics should get more attention than they currently do.

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Most popular college in the U.S: UCLA is the first U.S. university ever to receive 100,000 freshman applications. 102,177 students are seeking a spot in the Class of 2021, up 5 percent from last year. The target size for the entering class is about 6,500. Those figures don’t include tens of thousands of expected transfer applicants. http://tinyurl.com/glkarct
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Check list for college kids: I can’t resist a good list by which to rate my parenting. Psychology Today recently ran an article of 40 things students need to know by the time they leave college. Some are obvious (how to do laundry and how often to change bed linens), but here are a few that might be commonly overlooked (http://tinyurl.com/hy459v4)
  • How to address an envelope
  • How to scan a document and how to send an attachment in e-mail.
  • How to answer a landline and how to use call waiting on a landline.
  • When not to text and when to call.
  • How to pump gas and check your oil.
  • How to fill out forms at a medical office and how to have all the correct information handy to do this.
  • Learn to distinguish between real news and fake news; get your news from many different sources and not just social media.

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Parenting preteen boys: One of the best articles I have read about parenting pre-teen boys appeared in the Wall Street Journal right before Christmas. Most boys lag behind girls in language skills, empathy and attention during these years, according to recent studies. The article suggest ways to explain this to boys and to bolster their development and confidence during these crucial developmental (and tough) years. http://tinyurl.com/z9ju76e

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Brighten: A new anonymous app is growing in popularity among high school and college students and finally that’s a good thing. Brighten enables students to send anonymous compliments to their friends, and it’s a place to read the nice things people are saying to each other. You can also use the app to let someone know you are thinking about them. Users can swipe left on any brighten they’ve written or received to delete it, or swipe left on any brighten to report it. To date, more than 10 million messages have been sent by its one million users. www.brighten.in

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Learning a second language: People who learn more than one language are less likely to develop dementia; they are more creative; and they have an easier time learning a third language. Researchers also believe that language learning also improves tolerance. This seems increasingly important in today’s world. Read more at http://tinyurl.com/zvmbeu9

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Improve your life: The co-authors of “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” suggest 10 habits that will dramatically improve your life. Among the best, which are relevant for students as well (http://tinyurl.com/h9age5x) …

  • Stay away from people who erode your quality of life.
  • No more phone, tablet or computer in bed.
  • Appreciate the here and now.
  • Realize that things aren’t always as you perceive them to be.
  • Get started, even though you might fail.
  • Get organized.
  • Start a collection of the things that truly resonate with you.

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Linguistics app: Local Lingual is a cool interactive language map. Click on any location in the world, and it plays recordings of the local language, along with the national anthem and other information. www.localingual.com

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Allergy lifesaver: CVS is now selling a rival, generic version of Mylan’s EpiPen at about a sixth of its price ($109.99 for a two-pack) of the authorized generic version of Adrenaclick, a lesser-known treatment compared to EpiPen, which can cost more than $600.

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Hum: Verizon is hard-selling a device called Hum that you can install on a car to track how fast your teen is driving. You get a text message every time your child is speeding and it’s so small that it is almost undetectable. But what are we supposed to do with the information? If we freak out, the teen will know it’s on the car. Is the Hum another example of too much information? Like the school parent portal and apps on our phones that help us locate our children at all times?

Send tips, comments and resources to Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com. Please forward this blog to your friends if you think they would enjoy it.

Education Roundup XLI: The middle school years, smart kids, organization tips and more

Quick summaries and links for dozens of education tips, resources, research items and more (I scour the Internet so you don’t have to).

Middle school advice: Tips and advice abound for students and parents this time of year but one blog really resonated with me. Flown & Grown is a great site for parents of middle and high school students. Here are some of their pearls of wisdom for middle school students:
1. Do one thing well … because part of high school is finding your place and that is much easier to do if you are selected for the orchestra or given a role in the school play.

2. Get enough sleep … as it allows teens to perform better intellectually and athletically, improves mood and helps maintain healthy weight. “Teach your child to worship at the altar of an eight-hour night’s sleep and you have set them up for life.”

3. Model self-control for your children … whether it be your temper or careful driving or moderate drinking. grownandflown.com/getting-ready-for-high-school/

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Thanks mom: Researchers now believe that mothers are responsible for the transmission of the intelligence genes and a father’s genes affect a child’s limbic system (emotions and drives). That said, it is estimated that between 40-60 percent of intelligence is hereditary. This means environment and stimulation also do play a big role. tinyurl.com/hr5xp3u

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Empty nesting: As I have two kids away at college now, an article titled “Have a Kid Away at College? Ten Things You’ll Feel” hit home. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Having a kid at college is getting fired. Your job was to get this kid to college. Your services are no longer needed. Just. Like. That. No severance, no plaque, no cake, no nothing.

2. Having a kid at college is needing a fix. You said you wouldn’t. You promised. You meant it this time and maybe even truly believed you could do it. But you take a big gulp, and try to hold back the stammer when you call anyway, because your heart can’t take not hearing the sound of his voice.

3. Having a kid at college is a “Spot the Difference” quiz. There’s nothing more discomfiting than a good long look at your college kid’s changing face. Is that a new haircut? Does she wear her glasses all day now? Where did he get that shirt?

4. Having a kid at college is climbing into a time machine set to “Freshman Year.” It all comes back to you: funny stories about dorm-mates; how terrified you were of a certain professor; the shock and awe of first-time life on your own. grownandflown.com/having-kid-away-at-college-truly-like/

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Reading apps: Kids find it easier to read text on phones and iPads than we do. I came across a great list of free reading programs for kids on mobile devices. Some of the best to try out include Farfaria, Bookboard, Timbuktu, Learn with Hom, Oxford Owl and Memtales and I Like Stories.

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Eat your fruit: New research suggests that eating lots of fruit in pregnancy can boost a baby’s intelligence, at least according to a new article in the Wall Street Journal. Each additional regular daily serving corresponded with an increase in cognitive scores. More research is needed but if you’re expecting, it wouldn’t hurt to stock up on extra fruit. tinyurl.com/jlrtr5b

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Good news for annoying moms: British researchers have found that parents who constantly remind their teenage daughters of their super-high expectations raise young girls who will grow up to become successful women. “Behind every successful woman is a nagging mom? Teenage girls more likely to succeed if they have pushy mothers,” said the press release. University of Essex researchers found that girls whose “main parent” – that’s usually the mother – consistently displayed high parental expectations were far less likely to get pregnant at a young age, get stuck in a dead-end/low-wage job and were more likely to attend college. tinyurl.com/zj8vexh

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Stifled students: Millions of American students are not challenged enough because our schools overemphasize an age-based curriculum, according to the Institute for Education Policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Education. The biggest finding was that the U.S. wastes billions of dollars each year teaching content to students that they already know. Researchers blame the U.S. practice of grouping children in classrooms based on their age not on their level of proficiency. The authors found that between 20 and 40 percent of elementary and middle school students perform at least one grade level above their current grade in reading, and 11 to 30 percent score at least one grade level above in math. tinyurl.com/hfd2oem

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College app news: These days, all students who apply to private colleges use Common App to file their applications online. The site this fall has launched a new, free app to help students manage and keep track of their college applications. The “onTrack” app lets students track their progress in completing applications, add or delete schools from their list and set deadline reminders. Commonapp.org

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Homework help: There’s a free new tool for homework help that is worth a try. Socratic.org is billed “a digital tutor in your pocket.” The site uses artificial intelligence and data from millions of student questions to understand where a student is stuck. Students take a photo of their homework question and get explanations and videos instantly. The site is good for science, history, English, economics and more (no math yet).

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Raising brilliant kids: It appears that telling your kids to “zip it” when they are asking endless questions is a mistake. According to “Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children,” science strongly suggests that we should engage at these times and our kids will reap the benefits down the road. Most interesting, though, is the authors’ scalding indictment of schools today. “We’re training kids to do what computers do, which is spit back facts. And computers are always going to be better than human beings at that. But what they’re not going to be better at is being social, navigating relationships, being citizens in a community. So we need to change the whole definition of what success in school, and out of school, means.” This is next up on my bedside table.

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Advice for college freshman: I loved these words of wisdom offered by college professors for their freshman students, as gathered by the Grown & Flown website. Some of the tops suggestions were:

• Show up for class – don’t skip unless you have a contagious illness and don’t sit in the back. As one professor said, “I can practically predict a student’s grade based on where he or she sits.”

• Introduce yourself to your professor and go to office hours. Ask for advice on how to improve your work. “These people will be your references, advocates, and possibly even friends later in life; you want them to remember your name when the semester is over.”

• Affiliate – join something the first week and try out any and all groups that seem interesting until you find your niche.

• Study abroad – because language classes are expensive and hard to schedule in the real world.

• Tap into the resources available to you – whether it career advice, funding for internships, opportunities to work with professors on research or mental health counseling.

The entire list is worth reading at grownandflown.com/professors-advice-for-college/.

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The concept of time: Available in both English and Spanish, the new(ish) app KazuTime aims to increase the focus and concentration needed for optimum learning in children ages 3 to 8. By showing time elapsing through visual, auditory, tactile and cognitive cues, children are better able to understand and come to terms with the concept of time. Kazutime.com

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Student loan wizard: As parents face huge college bills and try to determine how much is too much to borrow, there is a new site that aims to take the guesswork out of this difficult question. The interactive calculator can determine how much you can afford to borrow in student loan funds based on your future expected earnings and the salary you will need in order to afford your student loan payments. mappingyourfuture.org/paying/debtwizard/

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Low cost textbooks: The textbook comparison site, TextSurf, can help you find best deal on textbooks. You enter the ISBN number or title of a book and compare prices. The site also provides students with the best sites to sell their books back as well. textsurf.com

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Study abroad app: A new app – called Zipskee – enables university students to safely connect with other travelers or locals when studying abroad. The thought is that the app can help with recommendations on where to eat or what to do on a weekend, in addition to building friendships. zipskee.com

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Rate your teachers:  Have you looked up your students’ teachers on RateMyTeachers.com? It’s not for the faint of heart, as students can be very critical. On the site, students can publish ratings and comments regarding their teachers. This site could be very helpful for students before scheduling classes to see if a particular teacher will meet their individual needs. ratemyteachers.com.

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No liquor at Stanford: You won’t find hard alcohol at Stanford University parties anymore. The university has banned liquors that exceed 40 proof from undergraduate parties, while also prohibiting undergraduate students from having large hard-alcohol containers in student residences. Students who are of legal age can still drink beer and wine. The new policy is a “harm reduction strategy.” tinyurl.com/z2lm9w3

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Staying organized: if your high school or college student struggles with organization skills, there are a handful of great apps to try out. MyStudyLife helps with planning schedules, assignments, exams and essay revisions, and is a great way keep your school work organized in college. myHomework helps you to keep track of homework assignments that are due for each class. You can easily keep track of what’s been completed and what’s late (or about to be). The complete list is at society19.com/15-awesome-websites-to-keep-you-organized-in-college/

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Worst case scenarios: Schools in Alaska are beginning an initiative to provide teachers and students, from kindergarten to 12th grade, tips on how to evade a school shooter. The Anchorage School District will use the ALICE (alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate) as already used by 3,700 districts across the U.S. tinyurl.com/hpext9d

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Free audio books and movies: I may have already plugged this but I am a huge fan of the our local library’s new service, Hoopla, which lets library cardholders stream movies, television shows, music albums, eBooks, audio books and comics. The service can be accessed through the library website, through hoopladigital.com or the hoopla digital mobile app for mobile devices. There are thousands of titles to choose from and are available to borrow 24/7.

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Admissions info: If your family is deep in the weeds of building a college list and visiting campuses, there are a few great college admission officer blogs that provide helpful inside information. Even if the colleges on the list aren’t on your teen’s list, the blogs provide useful advice. grownandflown.com/best-college-admissions-blogs/

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Making money: While getting a degree isn’t all about making money, it is hard to resist peeking at the list of which colleges produce the most millionaires. The most recent ranking lists these as 1-10: Harvard, U. Pennsylvania, Stanford, Oxford, Berkeley, University of Texas/Austin, Cornell, Princeton, Yale and University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. tinyurl.com/hntledm

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Family friendly TV: The folks at Common Sense Media have some recommendations for the fall TV season. On their list: “The Kicks” on Amazon (about soccer); “Speechless” on ABC (features a disabled teen); “Pitch” on Fox (female major leaguer), “Timeless” on NBC (historical drama); “Splash and Bubbles” on PBS Kids (from Jim Henson Company); “Anne of Green Gables” on PBS (a strong remake); “Gilmore Girls” on Netflix (strong female leads and outstanding writing). Commonsensemedia.org.

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Lazy pot smokers: A new study has found that the main ingredient in marijuana causes rats, at least, to be less willing to try a cognitively demanding task. The new research from the University of British Columbia supports the belief that pot smoking causes laziness. The rats ability to do a specific task wasn’t marred, they just didn’t want to it. tinyurl.com/hbe2fuz

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Old and happy: It’s recently been found that adults get happier as they age. New research at UC San Diego: “Participants reported that they felt better about themselves and their lives year upon year, decade after decade,” said study author Dilip Jeste, MD. The findings are in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Jeste found high levels of perceived stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety among adults in their 20s and 30s participating in the study. Older participants were far happier and more content.

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Discounted textbooks: High school and college textbooks continue to be shockingly expensive. A new site called redshelf.com offers a low(er) cost e-textbook alternative. A recent search of some common 101 textbooks yielded options at a fraction of the cost.

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Good news on financial aid: This fall, students will be able to file for financial aid for college using prior-prior year tax data. And for the first time, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid will be made available starting Saturday, Oct. 1 – a full three months earlier than previously allowed. The changes will give students an earlier and more accurate idea of anticipated financial aid and college costs, and have the potential to affect college deadlines for applications and acceptances. Under the streamlined procedure, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of additional students will apply for aid, in turn boosting the number of first-generation, low-income students who pursue a college degree. Fafsa.org

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Sit with me: A new app aims to make sure that kids no longer dread the lunch room. “Sit With Us” helps students who have difficulty finding a place to sit locate a welcoming group in the lunchroom. Students can designate themselves as “ambassadors” on the app, thereby inviting others to join them. Ambassadors can then post “open lunch” events, inviting kids who don’t know where to sit to join the ambassadors’ table. A 16-year-old Southern California student, Natalie Hampton, designed Sit With Us, after she ate alone her entire seventh grade year, she told LA Daily News. The app is free at sitwithus.io.

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Teen stories: Teenagers in Times is a monthly round-up of the news and feature stories about young people that have recently appeared across sections of NYTimes.com. The free access site includes inspiring articles as well as a lesson plan and an activity sheet. The site’s “high-interest” nonfiction can be very appealing to teens who don’t love reading. tinyurl.com/hm84hof

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Khan Academy: Not only is the free online tutorial site Khan Academy great for college test prep and elementary and middle school homework help, the site also now has special tutoring sessions for AP classes, including biology, chemistry and art. The site recently added more than 40,000 new interactive practice questions so students of all ages can study anytime, anywhere. If your student is struggling, try khanacademy.org first.

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Popular colleges: The 10 colleges that have seen the largest increase in applications in recent years are: 10. University of Washington (Seattle), 9. University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), 8. San Diego State, 7. Tuskegee University (Alabama), 6. UC Irvine, 5. UC San Diego, 4. Texas State University, 3. UC Berkeley, 2. UCLA and 1. New York University. Lots of California colleges on the list. tinyurl.com/zaq68zl

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Best college towns: Web research company Niche recently ranked the top 30 college towns in America based on rent, nightlife, cost of living, etc. From one to 10, they are Cambridge, Ann Arbor, Ames (Iowa), Boulder, Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Princeton, Lawrence (Kansas) and Decorah (Iowa again?). The other California town to make the top 30 was Santa Barbara at No. 19.

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Revised concussion advice: UCLA Health says too many parents are following outdated advice when caring for a child with a concussion, and it could be making their child’s symptoms worse. More than 3 out of 4 parents (77 percent) said they would likely wake their child up throughout the night to check on them, but doctors now think that does more harm than good after the first night. In fact, doctors encourage sleep very early on because that will help the brain heal faster. Basically experts suggest getting back to a normal schedule as soon as possible. Most concussion symptoms subside within two to three weeks according to experts. tinyurl.com/jb2y9lc

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Early morning exercise: According to a recent study, students may do better in class, learn more and better sustain focus after a morning gym class. On days when students didn’t exercise, they were more likely to interrupt, make noise and stare into space. This might suggest a long, brisk walk to school would be a good thing. The study was published in Preventive Medicine Reports.

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If you find these items useful or interesting, please forward this blog or email to your friends, who can subscribe to receive an email from me once a month. I love hearing tips and comments from readers.

Education Roundup XXXIX: better games, math enrichment, the importance of silence and more

 

Quick summaries and links for dozens of education tips, resources, research items and more (I scour the Internet so you don’t have to!)

Reporter and researcher Oliver Roeder has found that some of the most beloved childhood games – Candy Land, Shoots and Ladders, Monopoly – aren’t very good for the young brain. He says that the best games require meaningful action and decision-making rather than merely blind luck. He recommends a diverse array of lesser-known board and card games including The Little Orchard and Richard Scarry’s Busytown: Eye Found It! for under age 7 and Galaxy Tracker, Puzzle Strike Shadows, BattleCon: Devastation of Indines and Wings of Glory for older kids, all of which are available on amazon.com. tinyurl.com/gvfbcj5

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It can be really difficult to amuse a bored kid when they need to wait around with you for any reason. Here are a handful of great ideas (with more available at tinyurl.com/jqbnm8g).

– Guess what’s in my purse!

– What’s missing? (Place 10 items from your purse on a table. Your child tries to remember what is missing as you remove a few at a time).

– Two truths and a lie.

– How many can you name? (Name a category and your child has 10 seconds to name as many things as possible).

– Penny drop. (Take out a penny and try and drop it so it lands on your shoe without falling off).
– Scrap of paper drop. (Drop a small scrap of paper. Kids try to catch it with two fingers before it hits the ground).

– Would you rather? Ask each other questions which begin “would you rather”?

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For teens who love math puzzles, a mathematics professor at Carnegie Mellon University has founded a website called Expii that is sure to keep them engaged. Each week, five free math teasers (that get progressively tougher) are posted on Expii.com/solve. Rather than emphasizing rote memorization and drill-and-kill exercises, these problems focus on logic and critical thinking. Here is one for you:

You live in the south-west corner of Any City, where the streets are laid out as square city blocks (the avenues are the same length as the streets). It is a warm February day and you decide to go out for a walk. At each intersection, you randomly go north or east. If you walk for 20 blocks, how many times more likely are you to be 10 blocks north and 10 blocks east from your starting place, compared to 20 blocks directly north? expii.com/solve

A new free app called “Help Me” helps all ages, from 7 to 97, in emergency situations. I just set it up in seconds on my own phone. A big “Help Me” button sounds a warning and sends off a text to two numbers of your choosing with your last known GPS coordinates. The app is offered by the Daniel Morcombe Foundation in honor of the young man by that name who was abducted in Australia in 2003. danielmorcombe.com.au

Is silence a key to learning?: When mice are exposed to a few hours of silence each day they develop new cells in the hippocampus (the region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning), according to new studies. Scientists also found that while noise may cause stress and tension, silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study also found that two minutes of silence can be more relaxing than listening to relaxing music. tinyurl.com/j8foz2n

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A new study from Columbia University says moderate video game use is associated with better academic functioning and sociability in grade-schoolers. The study found that kids ages 6 to 11 who played video games five or more hours a week did better in school and suffered no emotional or mental health problems. tinyurl.com/z4wgtdt

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For students who have a valid college ID or college email address, there are some great opportunities for big savings. The list includes Top Shop, J. Crew, Apple, Microsoft, Amtrak, Spotify and dozens more. Students should always ask retailers, museums and fast food places if they offer discounts, because sometimes those are not posted. tinyurl.com/hmpv4rf

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Banking giant Citigroup has announced new programs aimed at attracting young workers by offering them (largely paid) sabbaticals to pursue charitable work. Nine incoming analysts this year are participating in Citigroup’s new service year, in which employees spend a year working with one of 40 organizations. The analysts will earn 60 percent of their normal banking salary and, once the service year is finished, they’ll start work at Citigroup. The bank is also offering employees the opportunity to participate in a four-week program in Kenya on microfinance initiatives. The Wall Street Journal expects other companies to follow. tinyurl.com/j6vnbh2

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“The Collapse of Parenting” is a controversial New York Times bestseller that suggests there has been a dramatic transfer of authority from grown-ups to kids over the past decade. Author Leonard Sax argues that rising levels of obesity, depression and anxiety among young people – as well as the explosion in prescribing psychiatric medications to kids – can be traced to parents letting their kids call the shots. He also believes that there has been a troubling breakdown of the traditional alliance between the school and the home. Sax believes that the collapse of parenting is aided and abetted by the culture of disrespect and by American pop culture and he believes that these forces are undermining academic engagement and school achievement. Leonardsax.com.

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A registered dietician suggests a quick, easy and free way to test if you or your child really has an intolerance to gluten. She calls it the Spelt Litmus Test. Spelt is an ancient grain and it is a perfect test food to help clarify whether someone’s adverse reactions to wheat-containing foods likely result from a gluten intolerance or a fructan intolerance. People who are truly gluten intolerant should react badly to spelt. People who are not gluten intolerant should tolerate spelt just fine. She suggest buying a primarily spelt food like spelt pretzels, spelt matzoh or spelt “rice cakes” and to eat a few ounces at breakfast or lunch. If there’s no reaction, it’s likely that a person doesn’t have a gluten intolerance at all, but rather just a digestive system that is sensitive to effects of a particularly poorly digested carbohydrate. A full explanation is at tinyurl.com/hgm3yvj.

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The “dumb blonde” stereotype is wrong according to a large new national study. White women whose natural hair color is blonde had an average IQ score within 3 points of brunettes and those with red or black hair. They found blonde-haired white women had an average IQ of 103.2, compared to 102.7 for those with brown hair, 101.2 for those with red hair and 100.5 for those with black hair. tinyurl.com/j8llkb9.

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While 86 percent of colleges enroll students with learning disabilities, only 24 percent of them say they can actually help those students “to a major extent.” Ten colleges are known to do a particularly good job with these students: Marist College, University of Connecticut, Lynn University, Northeastern, American University, University of Iowa, Curry College, University of Arizona-Tucson, Beacon College and Landmark College. tinyurl.com/jcrhpmj.

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College admission officers and potential employers are scrutinizing what high school students say and do on social media more than ever before. A new survey from an online reputation-management company, found that more than two-thirds of admissions officers admitted to looking up applicants on Facebook. In 2012, only 25 percent of admissions officers at top colleges said they used Facebook and Google to vet applicants. tinyurl.com/z4qoak7.

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It can be painful to fight with a child over homework. There is a good video online explaining why your child shouldn’t come home and sit at a desk to do homework. They say, “Ditch the desk.” It is too similar to how children spend their (long) day. Let them work someplace else like the kitchen table or the floor on a mat. tinyurl.com/z3dzm7s.

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I was interested to learn the 17 verbal habits of likable people. The complete list is at tinyurl.com/zkq6ltl and it includes:

– They are polite when they can be.

-They acknowledge small favors.

– They offer meaningful praise.

– They express sincere empathy.

– They offer to help.

– They share useful information.

– They express their faith in others.

– They make introductions.

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More to worry about: I haven’t given much thought to the ingredients in the products that our family puts on their faces but I guess it is now well known that certain types of makeup, shampoos and lotions can contain high levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals. A new study out of Berkeley found that even a short break can lead to a significant drop in these levels. The bad ingredients to look out for are phthalates, parabens, triclosan and oxybenzone. They have been shown in animal studies to interfere with the body’s endocrine system. tinyurl.com/zzu55r6

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ELSA is a cool new mobile app for language learners to improve pronunciation and reduce accent, utilizing in-house speech recognition, automated feedback and deep learning technology. elsanow.io.

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For anyone who has ever considered going back to school to get their MBA (master’s in business administration), the cost was likely a deterrent. The two-year degree program ranges from $25,000 at public colleges to over $100,000 at places like Harvard and Stanford. University of the People has just launched the world’s first tuition-free and online, but full accredited, MBA degree. Uopeople.edu.

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There is a move on to teach philosophy in grades K-12. Teachers in England are big believers in the value of the course of study and, according to a new two-year study conducted among 3,000 kids in 48 schools across England, philosophy classes lead to better literacy and math skills. I love the idea of these kinds of courses – ones that get kids thinking about life’s big questions. Because of philosophy’s cross-curriculur appeal, more teachers are thinking about how to weave its content and concepts into class conversations. tinyurl.com/z9la8nk.

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Female students are more likely to pursue STEM fields in college if their high school had female math and science teachers, according to a recent study. The authors found “a positive and significant association between the proportion of female math and science teachers in high school and young women’s probability of declaring a STEM major.” There was no link between teachers’ gender and the probability of picking a STEM major for young men. tinyurl.com/hydpbzo.

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Around 70 percent of children in the U.S. are dropping out of organized sports before the age of 13, according to new research from Michigan State. And girls drop out of sports at six times the rate of boys. This trend is particularly concerning because there is a strong correlation between girls’ success in sports and success in the business world (and female athletes are more likely to graduate from college). tinyurl.com/of9mfyo

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Peanut and tree nut allergies nearly tripled between 1997 and 2008. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found giving peanuts to kids early on can protect them from developing a peanut allergy. In the study and a new follow up, high-risk babies under 12 months who were fed a peanut mush were about 80 percent less likely to develop a peanut allergy by age 5, and thereafter. tinyurl.com/jmkdz4d.

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A UCLA neuroscience researcher suggests four rituals that can make you happier: 

1. Ask yourself “what am I grateful for?”

2. Label your negative feelings. Give them a name – angry, anxious, sad?

3. Make a decision. The act of deciding reduces worry and anxiety

4. Touch people, hug loved ones, as much as possible.

5. And send thank you emails to start an upward spiral of happiness. tinyurl.com/jawn8j6

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A new portable food allergy detector can detect food allergens in just two minutes. You put a small amount of food or drink in a test capsule and the devices provides a smiley face or a frowny face to tell you whether it is safe to eat. Right now, it can only detect gluten but milk and peanut allergy tests are coming out in 2017. ($199 to $249) nimasensor.com.

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We’re all going blind: I have a daughter who is exceptionally farsighted (+8) so I was surprised to learn that scientists anticipate that half of the world’s population will be nearsighted by 2050. The number of people with vision loss is expected to increase seven-fold because of environmental factors like lifestyle changes resulting from a combination of decreased time outdoors and increased “near work” activities, according to researchers. The Journal of Ophthalmology suggests reduced time spent on activities like electronic devices that require constant focusing up close. tinyurl.com/h9k22u5

I have been binge watching the TV series “Child Genius” on Lifetime. To be honest, it is somewhat like “Dance Moms” but I guess for the well-educated and driven. The competition segments are fascinating. The competition was created in cooperation with American Mensa, and it takes place over 10 weeks and tests a dozen child prodigies on their knowledge in math, spelling, geography and current events. The show is hosted by former NASA astronaut, Leland Melvin. mylifetime.com/shows/child-genius

Early childhood educator Erika Christakis from Yale has written a new book that is an impassioned plea for educators and parents to put down the worksheets and flashcards, and to let children play. “The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need from Grownups” is getting rave reviews and the Washington Post said, this is “a bracing and convincing case that early education has reached a point of crisis . . . her book is a rare thing: a serious work of research that also happens to be well-written and personal . . . engaging and important.”

There is a new free mindfulness computer program and app for kids and adults called Headspace. The app purports to “make meditation easy, in 10 minutes a day” and boasts 5 million users already. You can listen to Headspace on the go and download sessions to use offline. On your computer, you can play any session, any time. You choose your session length and can learn how to apply mindfulness to everyday activities. headspace.com

In an impactful Ted talk, Ali Carr-Chellman cites some distressing statistics about boys in school today.

– for every 100 girls who are expelled from school, there are 335 boys

– for every 100 girls in special education, there are 217 boys.

– for every 100 girls with a learning disability, there are 276 boys.

– for every 100 girls with an emotional disturbance diagnosed, there are 324 boys

– for every 100 girls with ADHD, there are 400 boys. (source: Hundred Girls project)

And… all of these numbers are significantly higher if you happen to be black, if you happen to be poor, if you happen to exist in an overcrowded school. She also notes that as universities approach a 70 percent female population, administrators are nervous, because girls don’t want to go to schools that don’t have boys. She points the finger at that fact that 93 percent of elementary school teachers are female; most schools have zero tolerance policies; and that “kindergarten is the old second grade.” She says that students are now expected to write legibly in kindergarten and to read fluently in first grade, and if they can’t, they are diagnosed as having a developmental delay.

A survey by the “Today” show proved what I, a mother of three, have always suspected to be true – parents of three children are more stressed out than parents of fewer, or more, children. As “Today” put it, “Call it the Duggar effect: Once you get a certain critical mass of kids, life seems to get a bit easier.” TODAY.com and Insight Express also found:

– 46 percent of moms say their husbands/partners cause them more stress than their kids do.

– 72 percent of moms stress about how stressed they are.

– Biggest cause of stress: 60 percent say it’s lack of time to do everything that needs to get done.

– 60 percent of moms say raising girls is more stressful than raising boys.

– Nine out of 10 moms stress about staying fit and attractive. tinyurl.com/hphp2he

Newsela, the free app that lets students of all reading levels access appropriate news content, is getting a lot of press. Readers can see new articles every day from such top news sources as the Associated Press, Washington Post and Scientific American, and adjust the reading level of their articles with a simple two-finger swipe. The company is focused on “unlocking literacy” for all students, and is currently used in 70 percent of schools. More and more schools are appreciating Newsela’s availability of trusted news sources in five different reading levels for students in grades 2 to 12. See more at tinyurl.com/hj7ou2z.

Can you accurately predict a child’s adult height? Doctors typically predict the adult height of a boy by combining the height of both parents, adding five inches and dividing by two. For girls, they combine the height of the parents, subtract five inches and divide by two. Is this true in your family? I was also interested to learn from the New York Times recently that adult height tends to decrease in younger siblings, and younger children may grow more slowly. These held true in our family. tinyurl.com/jfd6z86

Math competitions and math camps are growing in popularity and Atlantic reporter Peg Tyre says that America’s most advanced math students are more advanced than ever before. She says that their parents, many of whom make their living in stem fields, typically supplement or replace what they see as the shallow and often confused math instruction offered by public schools (particularly in the younger grades). The article includes some intriguing enrichment resources. tinyurl.com/z4rb4ps

Back to math … Amazon has launched “With Math I Can,” an initiative intended to push the “growth mindset” in math classes. The site includes a free online collection of resources defining what a growth mindset is. If your student swears that he or she is not good at math, the site is worth a look. amazon.com/gp/withmathican

Students who experience test anxiety can be helped in the following ways:

1. Using music to relax and to help a student to feel strong and energized (think “We Will Rock You”).

2. Identifying with a celebrity can help with self-esteem. (“Justin Timberlake has ADHD and it didn’t stop him from achieving his dreams.”)

3. Using powerful posture and sitting up straight to feel more confident. Teach your child about body language.
4. Some kids can feel better with a “lucky charm.”

5. Cute images (think baby animals) can make a child calmer and more productive.

6. Taking a moment to list or remember past achievements can give children the confidence they need to move forward in tough circumstances.

7. The simple act of smiling can slow a child’s heart rate when they are anxious.

Read more at tinyurl.com/jdjrbyr.

Because Los Angeles is one of the largest school districts in the country, the decisions made there are closely followed elsewhere. Single-sex schools, expanded choices of foreign language programs and a greater emphasis on science and math education are among the initiatives that the new superintendent there is expected to pursue. tinyurl.com/zsrgbwh

If you have a sophomore or junior who just got PSAT scores back (Preliminary SAT) you might have been surprised by the following changes:

1. The scale has changed. Perfect on a section is no longer 800. It’s 760.

2. The scores for National Merit award consideration will now equal the math score plus 2x reading.

3. You’ll see two percentiles. The Nationally Representative Sample percentile shows how a score compares to the scores of all U.S. students in a particular grade, including those who don’t typically take the test. The User Percentile — Nation shows how your score compared to others who took the test.

That said, the main value of the PSAT is feedback so students should look at their test booklets to see what they got right and wrong and worry less about their score.

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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.”

• • •

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.

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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.

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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.

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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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Education Roundup XXXIII — The best resources, tips and research for students, parents and teachers

An article titled “The 5 Things Your Kids Will Remember About You” really caught my eye. It is worth reading in full, but author David Willis said it really boils down to these five:

1. The times you made them feel safe.

2. The times you gave them your undivided attention.

3. The way you interacted with your spouse.

4. Your words of affirmation AND your words of criticism.

5. Your family traditions.

The entire piece is online at www.patheos.com.

• • •

I love a hot topic and was interested to read, “Why Middle School Should Be Abolished” in the Daily Beast. The author, David Banks, is a long-time educator and author, and he said, “America should do away with middle schools, which are educational wastelands. We need to cut the middle out of middle schools, either by combining them with the guidance and nurturing that children find in elementary school, or with the focus on adult success that we expect from our high schools.” tinyurl.com/ngxpcs6

• • •

As I get anxious about losing my memory, I was interested to read about the top brain foods, not just for young developing brains but also for adults eager to ward off Alzheimer’s and dementia. They are: cocoa (hooray for dark chocolate); omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon, flaxseed oil and chia seeds); walnuts; Magnesium (found in avocado, soy beans, bananas and dark chocolate); and blueberries. You can read more in Science Daily at tinyurl.com/mlty2hz

• • •

I loved the article, “15 Reasons Why Frequent Travelers Are More Likely To Be Successful” by Tracy Tullis (www.lifehack) (read the entire article for more insight):

1. Adults who have travelled know how to thrive outside their comfort zone

2. They welcome and embrace change

3. They know how to manage their emotions

4. They trust and don’t always need to be in control

5. They manage fear and move past it

6. They recognize and seize opportunities

7. They know how to negotiate to get what they want

8. They see beauty where most don’t

9. They are more confident and know how to fake confidence when vulnerable

10. They better understand differences in people and are more accepting

11. They know when to live in the moment

12. They smile more and feel happiness more often

13. They understand the importance of listening

14. They are less judgmental and more empathetic

15. They may not be rich but they know how to save and spend wisely

• • •

And the good news is that more Millennials are studying abroad during college than any previous generation. Over the past two decades, participation in study-abroad programs tripled, according to the Institute for International Education (IIE). While it was previously thought that STEM majors couldn’t study abroad or it might delay their graduation, more and more science, technology, engineering and math majors are studying overseas. The most popular destinations are the U.K., Italy and Spain. A campaign called Generation Study Abroad seeks to double the number of U.S. students who currently study abroad (300,000 last year or 9 percent) to 600,000 in four years. Officials from IIE says that globalization makes study abroad “absolutely necessary” for graduates, as one in five American jobs in today’s market is tied to international trade. tinyurl.com/o55wgem

• • •

With the hope that empathy is something one can build in a child, I was interested to find a list of TV shows and movies that said thought to promote empathy. Some of the top picks by Common Sense Media are the movies “Dumbo,” “Bully,” “A Little Princess” and “Maya the Bee Movie”; and the TV shows “Scorpion,” “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and “Glee”; and the PBS radio show “This American Life.” The complete list is at commonsensemedia.org.

• • •

A professor recently offered forth her “best advice for college freshmen” on the blog, Grown and Flown. Her tips included:

1. Show up and sit in the front. (She can predict a student’s grades by their attendance and where they sit in the classroom – back row = bad grades.)

2. Introduce yourself. (Find excuses to go to your professor’s office hours and re-introduce yourself every time you see him/her.)

3. Engage. (Ask questions, be respectful in emails and turn off your cell phone in class.)

4. Affiliate. (Students who are active in campus groups are happier and less likely to drop out.)

5. Learn a language and/or live abroad. (The more foreign the better as you likely won’t have these chances ever again.)

6. Stay healthy. (Get enough sleep and work out – take care of yourself.)

7. Tap into resources. (Free career advice; funding for internships, research opportunities and mental health counseling, take advantage of it.)

8. Be social. (Leave your dorm room door open and join a study group.)

9. Savor your independence. (College is a time to grow up but keep your support system in place and value your family.)

10. Make the most of each day. The time will fly by. grownandflown.com

• • •

About half of all colleges in the U.S. engage in the practice of “bait and switch” in which students receive less financial aid after their freshman year. Institutions frequently use financial aid as a recruiting tool and aid declines after year one. When you combine this practice with annual tuition increases, more and more students must take on debt to stay in school, transfer or drop out. Most scholarships, like those won locally by Sonoma high school students, are for the first year of college only. tinyurl.com/jvjcc2f

• • •

I was discouraged to learn that e-cigarette use among middle and high school students has tripled in the past year. Last year, 13.4 percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes on at least one day in the past 30 days, up from 4.5 percent in 2013. Among middle school respondents, the percentage increased from 1.1 percent to 3.9 percent in 2014. tinyurl.com/nbqqvwp

• • •

A new study out of UCSF has found that if you want ADHD kids to learn, you should let them squirm. It turns out that tapping their feet and wheeling their chair around is vital to these students remembering information and working out complex cognitive tasks. The study suggests that students with ADHD could perform better on classroom work, tests and homework if they were able to ride an exercise bike or sit on an activity ball. The excessive movement that is a trademark of hyperactivity may actually be crucial for them to learn. Unfortunately, children in the study without ADHD performed worse under these conditions so it will be hard to implement in a mixed classroom. tinyurl.com/mpevu4g

• • •

Arizona State University (ASU) last week announced plans to offer an entirely online freshman year experience for less than $5,000. The program will award academic credit to people who successfully complete eight web classes on general education subjects, taught by Arizona State faculty. Best of all, students only pay the $4,800 tuition if they pass their final exams. Those who finish the course sequence would be able to apply to ASU for admission with sophomore standing. ASU continues to offer an on-campus four-year college experience as well. ow.ly/M0kyp

• • •

One reason that computer coding instruction has been slow to take off in our schools is that it can be very difficult to find qualified instructors. If you know how to code, the lure of higher salaries in the corporate world makes teaching less desirable. For that reason, I was excited to read about Google’s free CS First program. It is intended to operate as a computer science “club in a box” – no expertise from the adult leader required. It was developed as a full-fledged after-school program for students ages 9 to 14. If you don’t know how to code yourself but are interested in starting an after-school coding club, it sounds ideal. Cs-first.com

• • •

Starting in September, every fourth-grader in the nation will receive an “Every Kid in a Park” pass that’s good for free admission to all of America’s federal lands and waters – for them and their families – for a full year. This is part of President Obama’s Every Kid in a Park initiative, aimed at getting America’s children to “enjoy their country’s unrivaled public lands and waters.” Because getting to the parks can be an issue, the National Park Foundation will also be awarding transportation grants for kids and schools. A new education portal will feature more than 1,000 materials developed for K-12 teachers, including science labs, lesson plans and field trip guides. ed.gov/blog/2015/02/lets-get-every-kid-in-a-park/

• • •

The Uncollege Blog recently tackled the topic of crucial skills that every young adult needs – but which aren’t taught in college. The article goes on to provide some specific tips on how to gain this missing knowledge. This is a terrific article that I hope everyone will take the time to read in its entirety (tinyurl.com/msvneyv)

• How to network with purpose

• How to manage your bank account

• How to build a career that’s all your own

• When to trust your gut

• How to avoid burn-out

• How to bounce back, or the art of failing with grace

• How to be a good partner

• How to communicate and negotiate well

• How to take care of your home

• The importance of travel

• • •

More and more high school and college students are taking notes, not on paper, but on an iPad, tablet or smart phone. The website College Candy offers up the five best note-taking apps with cool new features: Penultimate App, My Script Smart Note App, My Script Smart Note, InkFlow App and Dragon Dictation. I am going to try them out in interviews.

• • •

Textbooks continue to be insanely expensive. A price comparison extension for Chrome to help students find the best textbook deals when they search for their course books. Occupy the Bookstore shows students the best prices on the web as well as on-campus student listings for the book, right alongside the prices that the campus bookstore is offering. occupythebookstore.com

• • •

It was interesting to see the names on a recent ranking of the 25 state universities with the happiest freshman. The top 15 (based on freshman retention rates) are:

1. UCLA 96.9 percent

2. University of California, Berkeley 96.8 percent

3. U.S. Naval Academy 96.5 percent

4. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 96.4 percent

5. University of Virginia 96.1 percent

6. University of California, San Diego 95.8 percent

7. University of Michigan 95.7 percent

8. University of Florida 95.6 percent

9. University of Maryland 95.2 percent

10. University of Wisconsin 94.8 percent

11. University of California, Irvine 94.7 percent

12. U.S. Military Academy 94.6 percent

13. College of William and Mary 94.5 percent

14. Georgia Institute of Technology 94.3 percent

15. University of Georgia 94.1 percent

cbsnews.com/news/25-state-universities-with-the-happiest-freshmen

• • •

Speaking of happiness, I always say that I just want my kids to be happy but decades of research on happiness has discovered that focusing on happiness is not a great way to actually be happy. Psychologist and author Erica Reischer was interviewed about this issue for KQED public radio. She reminded listeners that Dr. Spock once said, “The trouble with happiness is that it can’t be sought directly. It is only a precious by-product of other worthwhile activities.” Reiser explained, “Too often, we parents equate happiness with pleasure and gratification. We try to pick summer camps our kids will ‘like.’ offer them meals they will ‘like,’ organize play-dates with kids they ‘like,’ and so on. Over time, these interactions send the message to kids that happiness is found in feeling good and getting what we want, and that organizing food, activities, relationships and even life itself around our preferences is the way to go.” She said that when kids are engaged and what they are doing has meaning to them, they tend to be happy. drericar.com/

• • •

Some experts contend that happiness is a skill, that it can be learned and/or taught. The Happify app’s free activities and games are based on serious academic research. The program is designed to train people to disrupt patterns of negative thinking, manage stress and build skills to overcome life challenges. Happify recommends daily activities and the site claims it can teach all ages valuable skills to find peace of mind and feel more engaged, motivated and … well, happy. happify.com

• • •

There were two pieces of interesting news recently for families dealing with peanut allergies. One study found that eating peanuts in infancy “significantly decreases” chances of a peanut allergy. Another found that children whose family washed dishes by hand (rather than families who used a dishwasher) were far less likely to become allergic to peanuts. The theory behind the latter is that germs are good. You can read the full articles in the most recent issues of The Atlantic and Time magazine.

• • •

The Speakaboos app helps children read, explore and discover books they love based on their interests. The app was developed based on decades of research and testing and it aims to cultivate literacy and language learning skills for children from preschool to second grade. The site provides free storybooks with illustrations, animated characters, story-driven games and touch-screen interactions to keep children engaged while learning. The app works on computers, tablets or mobile devices. www.speakaboos.com

• • •

If you are concerned about your child’s understanding of their online presence, Common Sense Media has introduced a game that introduced middle school students to the fundamentals of digital citizenship. The site offers animated, choose-your-own-adventure interactive experiences. Students can tackle digital dilemmas, make good (and not-so-good) decisions, and try out possible solutions through stories and mini-games – all without risking their real-world reputations. digitalcompass.org

• • •

Do your children have trouble focusing when they sit down to do homework? These are some good tips. Soloquest’s Deb Stewart suggests a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and some soothing background music (classical is often a good choice) to block other sounds.

• Get your student in their regular homework place, remove any distractions (cell phones, chat windows, TV, etc.).

• Now, add a pair of noise-cancelling headphones (over-the-ear are the most effective) and switch them on. They will immediately eliminate a great deal of background noise.

• Next, play music that will help keep the mind focused.

If you’re just getting started, she suggests Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony Movement #2, Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony Movement #2 or Dvorak Ninth Symphony Movement #2.

• • •

Once upon a time, Facebook was reserved for college students only. With grandparents now enjoying the site, college students are loving it a little bit less. A new social network called Friendsy, launched by two Princeton students, offers options for connecting with classmates you might not meet otherwise. The founders were concerned by reports that college students today are feeling less connected with their peers and find it hard to make friends on campus. In less than a year, the site is active on more than 1,600 college campuses. Friendsy.net.

• • •

My new favorite free math app is TeachMe. This online suite of Internet math games covers math concepts in pre-K to ninth grade and is searchable by Common Core State Standards. TeachMe also has progress reports and dashboards for parents and teachers to track individual student performance. mathgames.com

• • •

Rather than cushy world tours, a new nonprofit called Global Glimpse brings students together from diverse communities for group immersion community service experiences in developing countries. The company provides scholarships on a sliding fee scale that makes the program accessible to low income students. Students pay from $500 to $3,500, which includes airfare, accommodation, and all meals for their 2.5 week trip. globalglimpse.org

• • •

Speaking of travel, if you know of a student who is planning a trip abroad this summer, they should check out Language Zen. The free personalized site selects vocabulary based on how much it is actually used in the real world. languagezen.com

• • •

A new study has found that parents who tell their kids that they are better than other children can create narcissistic tendencies. Parents are really divided on this topic as the trend in recent years has been unwavering praise and installing in children a sense of how special they are. How do you walk the fine line between promoting healthy self-esteem and creating entitled kids who think the world revolves around them? NPR had a good story on the issue here: tinyurl.com/lw8sndp

• • •

“Serial” got many teens (and their parents) interested in podcasts. Teachers around the country are using podcasts in the classroom because better listening skills is a critical Common Core educational goal, and students love the format. Studies have found that students can listen to content two-to-three grade levels higher than they can read. Interested in more ideas? Check out Listen Current which has resources to “teach your students to listen with the power of public radio.” listencurrent.com. If you haven’t tuned in, Serial’s first season consisted of 12 40-to-45-minute “chapters” narrated by a reporter, involving interviews with former witnesses, detectives, lawyers and classmates of a teen who was convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend. serialpodcast.org

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I speak with a lot of parents who are interested in seeing as much data as possible about their child’s school. One easy way to learn more is to look at the School Accountability Report Card that every public school in America must prepare each year. Your school’s 2014 report can be found on the district website. The information contained is very interesting, as it includes proficiency rates by grade, gender, race and income, a-g completion rates, fitness levels, suspension/expulsion information, average teacher salaries and more. It is an informative look inside your child’s school.

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A new report from PayScale found that what you study matters a lot more than where you go to college when it comes to the ROI (or return on your investment) in your college degree. In an article in The Economist, the study authors found that engineers and computer scientists do best, i.e. they get the highest 20-year return on their college fees. Engineering graduates from moderately priced colleges do only slightly worse than those from highly selective ones. Business and economics degrees also pay well, delivering a solid 8.7 percent average return. On the other end of the spectrum, an arts degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art had a hefty 20-year net negative return of $92,000. tinyurl.com/l7bmobm

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It was truly disheartening to read The Economist’s article on college completion rates in the same issue. Researchers have found that wealth now predicts whether a child will graduate university better than eighth-grade test scores. “Kids in the richest quarter with low test scores are as likely to make it through college as kids in the poorest quarter with high scores,” found Robert Putnam, author of “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.” Something else I found interesting is that in the 1970s there were no socio-economic differences in the amount of time that parents spent talking, reading and playing with toddlers. But today, the children of college-educated parents benefit from 50 percent more time engaged in these activities. Marriage rates, cultural norms and single parent households all play a role. As The Economist concludes, “a problem this complex has no simple solution.” econ.st/1H8faqA

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Beyond Minecraft, I know that parents are curious which video games are “good” for their children and which have no redeeming value. Teach Thought evaluated hundreds of games and rated each based on playability, cognitive load and innovation. The unranked list of the 50 best (most educational) includes: Empire Total War, Civilization, Bridge Constructor, Plague Inc., World of Sand and dozens more. tinyurl.com/q2xvnnd

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As part of the White House’s recent ConnectED initiative, it has convinced several prominent tech companies to provide their expensive software to students. If you visit whitehouse.gov/issues/education/k-12/connected, you can access free design, drafting and engineering software from Autodesk; online AP classes and college courses from elite institutions through edX; and data mapping software from ArcGIS Online Organization.

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In an effort to get all kids creating, collaborating and learning to code, Connected Camps is partnering with Institute of Play to offer a low-cost, four-week online Minecraft camp, beginning July 6. Campers, ages 9 to 13, will be taught everything from the basics of building to coding skills in a safe multiplayer environment. Participants can login from home and the camp features live broadcasts, online discussions with experts, and collaborative design events. Participants can sign up for advanced coding instruction for a fee. The camps will be staffed by trained Minecraft experts.connectedcamps.com

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If your student is interested in computer coding (or you are!), just in time for summer, EdSurge has produced a great resource guide of coding camps, online programs, clubs and tools. tinyurl.com/lzsrw2m

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Students who are stressing out over their schoolwork might explore the DeStressify app. The app reminds kids of tried-and-true stress remedies including eating right, sleeping well and getting exercise. It offers a way to keep these coping tools in mind, from five-minute yoga exercises to a nutrition pop-up reminder at lunch. destressify.com

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Because it is the hottest topic in schools today, Edutopia has developed a resource roundup of videos, interviews and articles for adults who are looking to build resilience and grit in young people. Whether it is sticking it out during a challenging freshman year in college or surviving a tough situation at home, everyone seems to want the magic answer: How do you nurture resilience? These resources are a start: tinyurl.com/n4xthu7

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There is a great free collection of “ScienceTake” videos for students created by the New York Times. Each video explains the science behind some cool idiosyncrasy of everyday life. If your student enjoys the Natural History Museum, they will love these videos.nytimes.com/video/sciencetake/

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As you shop for toys to keep your children amused this summer (perhaps on long car trips or plane rides), you might browse Amazon.com’s new dedicated STEM toy shop. You will find a variety of items that encourage kids to develop science, technology, engineering and/or math-related skills. The site explains why the toys were chosen and groups toys into useful categories (like top picks in circuit toys). Don’t forget to enter the site via smiles.amazon.com to have a portion of your sale go to a school or nonprofit of your choice. smiles.amazon.com/STEM

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When a country as well-respected for its educational system as Finland announces changes, the world takes notice. Finland is transitioning from subject-specific lessons (an hour of history in the morning, an hour of geography in the afternoon) to “phenomenon” teaching – or teaching by topic. For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services” lessons, which would include elements of math, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills. More academic students will be taught cross-subject topics such as the European Union by merging elements of economics, history (of the countries involved), languages and geography. The other major change is that Finnish classrooms will no longer feature rows of students passively listening – students will work in smaller groups to solve problems while improving their communication skills. tinyurl.com/qe8mzs2

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If you are trying to find a residential summer academic camp for your teen, post what you are looking for in the comments and I am happy to help. I have a directory of hundreds of camps and workshops lasting one-five weeks that are still accepting applications.

“Nothing will determine our success as a nation in the 21st century more than how well we educate our kids.”

– President Barack Obama