Tag Archives: learning

Education Roundup XLIX: Disorganized kids, best book for teens, sing it to learn it and more

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Raising a giving child: Here are five ways to raise a kid who gives back, according to Beth Kobliner, author of “Make Your Kid a Money Genius.”

— Start a charitable matching plan, kicking in a dollar for every dollar she gives to a charity she cares about.

— Don’t just ignore people who ask for money on the street, say “sorry not today” and explain your giving philosophy to your child.

— Emphasizing local giving will help your child understand the issues on your community.

— Don’t overpraise giving. Don’t make it about praise, make it about how it feels.

Adulthood: A new book called “Choose Your Own Adulthood” by Hal Runkel explains how a series of small choices that young adults make can play a large role in determining their adulthood. His emphasis on the understanding the difference between “what we want most” and “what we want right now” really resonates.

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Good news regarding yogurt: Researchers think they have discovered a direct link between bacteria in the gut and mental health. A lab experiment has led researchers to believe that simply eating yogurt could influence mood and ease mental disorders. Lactobacillus is a probiotic bacteria found in live-cultures yogurt. Researchers hope that their findings could offer an alternative to drugs in treating depression, stress, and anxiety disorders. http://tinyurl.com/jqsynvf

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Soccer brain damage: Evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a potential cause of dementia caused by repeated blows to the head, has been found in the brains of former soccer players. Researchers do not yet know exactly what causes CTE or how significant the risk is. http://tinyurl.com/jy8qapu

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Times are changing: According to a Census Bureau survey, more than half of Millennials (born roughly between 1983 and 2000), think a spouse and kids are not very important. The generation is more focused on jobs and economic success than on marriage and kids. tinyurl.com/lqjkk5g

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Best book for teens: Bill Gates recently said that if he could give every graduating senior a present, it would be Steve Pinker’s book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.” He describes it as the most inspiring book he has ever read.

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Disorganized kids: Executive function is the magic ingredient that gives us the ability to plan and organize, manage time, initiate action, and achieve goals — skills that don’t often develop until our late teens and mid-20s. Author Carolyn Carpeneti presents the issue of executive function in a clear, accessible, and relatable manner in her book “Taking Flight: Mastering Executive Function.” If you are looking for a step-by-step guide, this is a great resource.

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Twice exceptional: There is an intriguing new book out called “The Power of Different – The Link Between Disorder and Genius.” Author Gail Saltz examines the gifts of the atypical mind. If you have a child who seems different, it might be a good (and comforting) read.

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Take a walk: Adults and students alike are more focused at work and feel less exhausted at the end of a long day if they take a walk outside midday, according to a new study. Participants enjoyed their breaks more on days they walked, reporting improvements in concentration and fatigue. tinyurl.com/mra2c9t

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AP classes: California now ranks fifth in the nation in the percentage of public and private graduates who scored at least a 3 out of 5 on an AP exam during high school (28.5 percent). More than 42 percent of the state’s public high school students took at least one test, a number that has risen each year. tinyurl.com/jemj328

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Suicide tool: Facebook is launching new tools to help people who may be thinking of suicide, and for friends and family who want to help. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15 to 29 year olds. When someone is thinking of suicide or hurting themselves, Facebook already has tools that let friends reach out directly or report a post but the company has redesigned its suicide prevention tools and integrated them into live video. People can now chat directly with someone from organizations like Crisis Text Line, Lifeline and the National Eating Disorder Association. The site is also testing ways to use artificial intelligence to find patterns in posts that have been reported for suicide and make it easier to identify similar posts.

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Sing it to learn it: Brain scientists seem to agree that singing facts is an excellent way to learn. There’s a great playlist for the car, home, or classroom at growingbookbybook.com/kids-songs-that-build-literacy-skills/.

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College freshman are stressed: A huge survey of today’s college freshmen has found that they are very engaged politically, they are cost-conscious (mainly about paying for college) and they love social media. Fewer freshman describe their political leanings as middle of the road than ever. The article makes the point that, thanks to medication, more college students with psychological disorders than before are able to attend college. As for social media, they love Instagram and almost half spend six hours a week on social media.  If you subscribe to WSJ, read here, otherwise read here.

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Free textbooks: Are your college student’s textbook costs breaking the bank? Here a few ideas. University library: What they don’t have in-stock can often be requested via interlibrary loan from other libraries. Professors often put the textbooks for their courses on reserve. Arrange a book swap: Student organizations sometime set up online book exchanges or students can start their own informal group. Project Gutenberg: The oldest digital library in the world offers more than 43,000 free e-books, e-readers. Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library: It allows members to check out e-books for free. This site is best for popular and classic titles. tinyurl.com/hlw656x

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Better autism detection: A small study is nearly 98 percent accurate in diagnosing autism in kids between the ages of 3 and 10, the researchers claim. Researchers say an experimental blood test has shown promise as a novel way to diagnose autism regardless of where on the spectrum an individual is. Read more at tinyurl.com/mb7vcdf

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Study abroad: A team looked at the 48 most popular countries at which American students choose to study abroad in college and determined which are the least expensive. The least pricey are Mexico, India, Guatemala, Peru, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Morrocco, Kenya and Brazil. Read more at tinyurl.com/myxdtex.

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Actual college costs: There is a new site that can give you a quick sense of what college tuition your student might actually pay, versus the advertised price. For almost all families who earn less than $200,000 a year, the tuition might be much lower than they think. Try it out at http://myintuition.org/

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Podcasts: Podcasts are all the rage lately and a reader has recommended a few that she has enjoyed.

– “Empowering Parents Podcast”

– “Parenting Bytes”

– “Inside the Mind of Teens and Tweens”

– “Launching your Daughter”

– “Invisibilia” (not as much about parenting but more about just smart, intriguing topics)

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Changing times: 20 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to a new survey conducted by Harris Poll. This number far exceeds the percentages in other age groups — 12 percent of 35- to 51-year-olds, 7 percent of 52- to 71-year-olds and 5 percent of those 72 and older. tinyurl.com/lu8o6e8

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Check your sugar: Researchers think that drinking sugary beverages possibly causes accelerated aging and Alzheimer’s disease. The study, in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, found that the more sugary drinks consumed, the lower the total brain volume and the lower the scores on memory tests. “Although we can’t prove cause and effect, these data suggest that we should be cautious about drinking sugary beverages,” said the lead author, Matthew P. Pase said in a New York Times interview. “They’re empty calories that contribute to weight gain and metabolic disease.”

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Chores: The Wall Street Journal recently ran a great infographic of the perfect chores at every age. Author Ellen Byron says that kids 5 and under can pick up toys, clean their bedroom and comb their hair. Ages 6 to 9 can take care of pets, operate appliances and make their own bed. Ages 10 to 12 can take out the trash, make lunch and clean their bathroom. Ages 13 to 15 can mow the lawn, wash windows and clean the garage. And for ages 16 to 18, they can wash their own clothes, do the grocery shopping and handle car maintenance. How are you doing? Or the list is here.

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Gen Z: The investment platform Stash just surveyed more than 25,000 young people, and found that almost half of all Generation Z’ers (those 20 and under) are concerned about student debt and actively investing to pay for college, but compared to other generations, Gen Z scored last on a basic financial literacy test.

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Teens in space: An upcoming Netflix documentary, The Mars Generation, follows a group of teen space trainees as they learn about human spaceflight at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk discuss the technology that’s in the works that could take us to space. The show debuts on May 5.

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Babysitting rates: According to a new survey, the average babysitting rate in 2016 was about $14 per hour, up 26 percent from $11 per hour in 2010. And… the rates in Northern California are the highest in the country, averaging around $16.50 in San Francisco and even more in San Jose. Approximately 1 in 3 respondents said they also tip on top of the sitters’ hourly rates. But even though costs are up, 77 percent of parents don’t think they are paying too much and 77 percent claim that they would actually give their sitter a raise.

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Podcast for kids: NPR Is launching its first podcast for kids ages 5 to 12. The show will focus on science, technology, discovery and inventions. Search for “Wow in the World.”

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Language learning: NBC Learn Languages is a new subscription-based desktop and mobile app that helps students of all ages learn English on any device. The app uses videos from programs such as “Today” and “NBC Nightly News” to help learners improve their ability to speak and understand English. nbclearnlanguages.com. Currently available for Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, German and Portuguese. Cost $9-29 monthly.

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Health eating perks: Fascinatingly, a new study by the Brookings Institute has found that at schools where kids were fed a healthier school lunch every day, there was no drop in obesity but researchers did find a rise in academic performance. Read about it here.

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Cheap textbooks: Bigwords.com lets students compare textbook prices from all the best online stores at once. It appears to be 35 to 45 percent cheaper than other online stores, and up to 90 percent off of list prices.

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My weekly columns in the Sonoma Index-Tribune can be found here.

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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.

• • •

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 XL: team sports, personality tests, teen skills and much 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!)

Are self-made men and women less generous?: “A growing body of evidence suggests that seeing ourselves as self-made – rather than as talented, hardworking, and lucky – leads us to be less generous and public-spirited. It may even make the lucky less likely to support the conditions (such as high-quality public infrastructure and education) that made their own success possible.” – wrote Robert Frank in The Atlantic . Think of the friends you know. Is this the case? The article goes on to point out that when people are prompted to reflect on their good fortune, they are then more willing to contribute to the common good. tinyurl.com/jlpomvf

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Team sports: The Grown & Flown parenting newsletter outlines a powerful argument for why kids should do team sports.

1. Teenagers get into trouble and extra time on their hands doesn’t help.

2. Research shows team athletes are happier than kids who do not participate.

3. Being part of something larger than yourself and working toward a common goal is always good, always.

4. Being part of a team gives kids a sense of belonging.

5. Even teens who seemed determined to shut their parents out, tolerate mom and dad attending their games.

6. Sports is one of the best places for kids to learn the importance of practice and determination.

7. Getting good at something, as good as your kid can be, through perseverance and repetitive hard work is one of life’s lessons.

8. Athletics encourages strong, healthy bodies. Alcohol and drugs impede performance and every athlete knows that.

9. Sports teams are the stuff of lifetime memories. (tinyurl.com/hc9hm6a)

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Personality test: An interesting free new personality test is worth taking. The DISC test contains 28 groups of four statements and takes 5 to 10 minutes to complete. Find out how factors like dominance, influence, steadiness and compliance predict your behavior toward others and the everyday things you do. They also offer interesting free career tests and an IQ test. 123test.com

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Making college worth the money: A massive Gallup poll has found six elements of emotional support and experiential learning in college that are correlated with long-term career and life success. The poll measured the degree to which graduates were engaged in their work and thriving in their purpose, social, financial, community, and physical well-being. They found that graduates who strongly agree they had the following six experiences in college perform markedly better on every measure of long-term success than their peers.

• a professor who made them excited about learning

• professors who cared about them as a person

• a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams

• worked on a long-term project

• had a job or internship where they applied what they were learning

• were extremely involved in extra-curricular activities. (tinyurl.com/gnoj4mh)

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Learning science by singing: That periodic table song that middle schoolers learn in science may be an excellent idea. A new study indicates that students can indeed learn serious science content via music videos. There are channels on YouTube devoted to science topics – youtube.com/user/sciencemusicvideos.

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Skills your teen needs: An article that has caught fire on social media outlines the eight skills that former Stanford dean Julie Lythcott-Haims thinks every 18-year-old needs to be able to do without calling a parent for help.

1. Be able to talk to strangers

2. Be able to find his or her way around

3. Be able to manage his assignments, workload and deadlines

4. Be able to contribute to the running of a household

5. Be able to handle interpersonal problems

6. Be able to cope with ups and downs

7. Be able to earn and manage money

8. Be able to take risks

“If they’re calling you to ask how, they do not have the lifeskill,” she says. Read the complete article at tinyurl.com/jszmyhk.

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roundupsheridanica

NationStates: I am getting addicted to the new online nation simulation game NationStates. You create your own country, fashioned after your own ideals, and care for its people. Either that or you deliberately torture them. It’s up to you. You shape your nation by answering issues, which pop up several times a day. Teens and adults with opinions will love this game and it is a great jumping off point for discussion. Nationstates.net

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What students want to hear: A writer for Edutopia surveyed students and teachers to find out, “What does your teacher say to you that feels encouraging or motivating?”

1. “I believe in you. You are going to be successful someday. You’re going to make it! If you apply what I see in you, there is nothing holding you back!”

2. “You have a purpose. I see it and feel it! Let’s have fun and discover what it is. A purpose might change, and that’s a good thing, but it’s there!”

3. Questions. “Ask me how I am. Ask me what I need. Ask me my thoughts and feelings. Ask me what my opinions are, even if my response is ridiculous because I don’t want to stand out in front of my peers! Ask me in private – always in private.”

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Born to run: Researchers believe that moms who exercise while pregnant may give birth to children to who like to exercise as adults. A new Baylor University experiment with mice found few differences in exercise behavior between the young mice but as the animals entered adolescence, those born to running moms (even those raised apart from their moms) started to become enthusiastic runners themselves. tinyurl.com/zrt6742

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roundupABCs

Young adult gift:  “The ABCs of Adulthood,” from New York Times bestselling author Deborah Copaken offers 26 genuine and funny bits of advice that are both surprising and sensible. The author says, “Kids are in charge of their lives but have no instruction manual. When my son was a senior, there was no way I could download all the information to him before he left for college.” $15.

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Top baby names: For the second year in a row, Emma and Noah are the most popular baby names in the U.S. The top five names for girls and boys in 2015 remained unchanged. Noah was followed by Liam, Mason, Jacob and William. Emma was followed by Olivia, Sophia, Ava and Isabella. Trends now favor names that are short and smooth – Mia, Liam and Noah – and that have a lot of vowels. Two girls’ names that leapt up the ranks – Alaia and Adaline. For boys, the fastest-rising name is Riaan. The first year these top names were tracked, 1880, the top baby names that year were John and Mary. tinyurl.com/z28reak

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roundupschedule

Life hacks: Society19.com compiled some of the best “Life hacks” for college students and a few are useful for all students (and maybe parents as well). Here are a few:

1. Remember your schedule by setting the home screen on your phone as a picture of your schedule.

2. Avoid oversleeping by placing your phone in a glass cup to amplify the sound.

3. Organize the cords on your desk with any empty tube, a toilet paper roll works perfectly.

4. Use a coffee machine to cook pasta or hotdogs. Ewww, clean it after.

5. Use soda can tabs to hang a hanger from a hanger, doubling closet rod space.

6. Keep a dorm room smelling good by taping a dryer sheet in front of the fan or AC unit.

7. Chill wine or beer fastest by wrapping in a wet paper towel and placing in freezer for 15 minutes.

8. Create an extra trash can by flipping over a bar stool and put a trash bag in it.

9. Use the inside of a washing machines as a cooler for ice and drinks.

10. Download the SelfControl app to block you from distracting websites for a certain amount of time.
11. Chew a memorable flavor of gum while you’re studying and then chew that same flavor as you’re about to take the exam to trigger your memory.

12. Set your laptop on top of an egg carton to keep it from overheating. tinyurl.com/zfk6sdv

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Best unis in the world: Times’ Higher Education World University rankings are out and three of the top ten colleges are in California. From 1 to 10: Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, UC Berkeley, Princeton University, Yale University, Columbia University and California Institute of Technology. tinyurl.com/h4kzw4u

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Technology rules: In a bit of a flip, Psychology Today asked kids what technology rules their parents should follow. Approximately 90 percent of their answers fell into a handful of major themes. tinyurl.com/h23v66s

• Be present

• Don’t overshare

• Give me some space when I use my devices.

• Don’t text and drive

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The T-shaped applicant: When I was applying to college, the well-rounded student was much desired. Today, colleges seem to favor the “T-Shaped” student. According to the Washington Post’s Jeffrey Selingo, “The vertical bar of the T represents a person’s deep understanding of one subject matter – history, for example… The horizontal stroke of T-shaped people is the ability to work across a variety of complex subject areas with ease and confidence.” So why aren’t more students T-shaped? “Here’s the problem: Colleges don’t offer classes, majors or activities designed specifically for building the T-shaped individual, so undergraduates need to direct themselves – to act independently, be resourceful and cobble together experiences inside and outside the classroom to better prepare for the evolving workplace they will face. They need to recognize that in high school, their learning was directed for them by parents, teachers and counselors, and they need to change into students who explore and discover what’s next for them.” http://tinyurl.com/j4dwhew

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G-Dog: I gather that the new generation of grandparents is having a lot of trouble choosing what they want their grandchildren to call them. I’m less than 10 years away and can’t quite imagine being called grandma. A recent list in the Wall Street Journal of popular choices include Glamma, Bubbles, Birdie, CeCe, Mom-Mom; and G-Dog, Papster, Biggie D, Babar and Skipper.

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The Ivy League of internships: Campus grotto has assembled what they describe as the Ivy League of internships – the best and most sought after among the thousands of companies that recruit on campuses each year (and the article details exactly why). And they are: (1 Google, (2) Microsoft, (3) Southwest Airlines, (4) Apple, (5) Genentech, (6) Edward Jones, (7) Nike, (8) Pixar, (9) Oracle and (10) ExxonMobil. tinyurl.com/gn25vj3

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Failure to launch: More young adults ages 18 to 34 now live with their parents than with partners for the first time since 1880, Pew Center Research has found. Around 32 percent of young adults live at home now, 31 percent with spouses/partners, and the rest live alone, with roommates or as single parents. In 1960, the percentage of young adults living with a partner/spouse in their own home was as high as 62 percent. A major factor is the dramatic drop in young adults who are choosing to settle down romantically before age 35. tinyurl.com/zr8zmpd

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roundupdrugs

Good teens: Ready for some good news? Today’s teens smoke less, drink less, and have sex less than any teens on record. The federal government released a huge detailed report finding that teens today also use fewer drugs, fight less and watch television less than previous generations. The percentage of teens who say they’re sexually active is at an all-time low. There is a decline in condom use – but an increase in the usage of long-acting contraceptives, like IUDs and implants. Today’s teens have the lowest rates of ecstasy, heroin, meth and hallucinogenic drug use on record. The only bad news? Almost 45 percent of teens said yes, they’d tried vaping and 41 percent of teens say they use a computer for three or more hours per day, outside of use for school. tinyurl.com/z2yjmra

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Expensive colleges that are worth it: Forbes magazine recently analyzed a length list of colleges to determine which expensive schools are actually “worth every penny.” Of the top 25, three are in California – Cal Tech is No. 2, Stanford is No. 3 and Harvey Mudd is No. 4. tinyurl.com/jcnf3tu

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Fast food and hormone levels: People who eat fast food have higher levels of phthalates in their system. The plastic chemical has been linked to hormone disruption and lower sperm count. According to the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, people who ate 35 percent or more of their total calories from fast food had around 24 percent higher levels of DEHP and 40 percent higher levels of DiNP (both are worrisome phthalate byproducts). Read the Time article at tinyurl.com/zl8nmgh.

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Older mothers: While there are some risks to having children later in life, a huge new study out of Norway has found kids born to older mothers are taller, less likely to quit school, more likely to attend university, and tend to perform better on standardized tests than siblings who were born before them. tinyurl.com/h9hqxz6

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If you’d like to wait a little longer: Women in several states can now obtain birth control pills and some other forms of contraception without a prescription from a doctor (with the hope of reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies). There is no age minimum. California is the third state to enact such a law. That said, when I asked about it at my local CVS this week, the pharmacist didn’t know what I was talking about, so call first. tinyurl.com/jc28lvx

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ER docs tell all: What products are so hazardous that most ER docs ban them from their own homes? Trampolines, button batteries, swimming pools, power washers and extension ladders, guns, Ramen noodle soups, old pain pills and high chairs that pull up to the table. You can read the specifics on why (with some grisly anecdotes) at tinyurl.com/h7ynx67.

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ROUNDupGrownups
Lovely new children’s book: I absolutely love the new children’s book, “What Do Grownups Do All Day.” If you are heading to a baby shower or need a gift for a child 0 to 10, this book by Virginie Morgand, which simply explains more than 100 jobs and careers, is another winner.

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Moms of middle schoolers: A new study in the journal Developmental Psychology found that mothers with middle schoolers scored highest on measures of stress, loneliness and emptiness, and they also reported the lowest levels of satisfaction and fulfillment. Not only are middle schoolers tough to deal with, but study authors also found that “the developmental trends we documented partly arise from challenges that mothers themselves experience, as they are transitioning to midlife.” Basically your midlife crisis might coincide with your child’s puberty. This problem of middle-school mom unhappiness was most pronounced among highly educated and affluent mothers. tinyurl.com/hfz2dek

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Stoned drivers: Fatal accidents involving stoned drivers have increased dramatically in Washington State since pot was legalized, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Fatal crashes involving drivers who recently used marijuana more than doubled in 2014. Pot was involved in 17 percent of fatal crashes in Washington in 2014, up from 8 percent in 2013 – the year before recreational marijuana was allowed there. tinyurl.com/ztr79mj

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Birth order research: I read two interesting things recently about birth order. A new study suggests that first-born children get an IQ boost from having to teach their younger siblings. As a youngest child, my favorite new research though has found that youngest children are the funniest. The eldest becomes overwhelmed with responsibility, leading to a more serious, non-comedic tone. What do you think? Obvious or nonsense? tinyurl.com/hzauaqk and http://tinyurl.com/hee33mq.

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Fewer multiples: According to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics, the rate of triplet and “higher-order” births plunged 41 percent from 1998 to 2014. Non-Hispanic white women had the largest drop, about 46 percent. The decline was nationwide. tinyurl.com/zu9ejre

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“You will almost certainly face deep adversity. There’s loss of opportunity: the job that doesn’t work out, the illness or accident that changes everything in an instant. There’s loss of dignity: the sharp sting of prejudice when it happens. There’s loss of love. And sometimes there’s loss of life itself.

The question is not if some of these things will happen to you. They will. Today I want to talk about what happens next. About the things you can do to overcome adversity, no matter what form it takes or when it hits you. The easy days ahead of you will be easy. It is the hard days – the times that challenge you to your very core – that will determine who you are. You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive.”

– Sheryl Samberg’s commencement speech at UC Berkeley (tinyurl.com/zokxawr).

I love to hear tips, comments and suggestions from readers — and to answer questions. Leave comment below. And please forward this site on to anyone who might be interested.

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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Breastfeed and use cloth diapers

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

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

• Keep birthday parties simple or save parties for milestone years

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

• Let kids share a room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• • •

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: XXX

While many of us still drink out of plastic water bottle and heat food in plastic, more and more studies are showing what a bad idea that is. New research has found that prenatal exposure to the phthalate chemicals in plastic can result in a lower IQ in children. The researchers recommend that pregnant women not microwave food in plastics, avoid scented products like air fresheners and dryer sheets, and not using recyclable plastics labeled as 3, 6, or 7. http://tinyurl.com/mepg48d

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How many of you still hit the space bar twice at the end of the sentence? Today, the rule is one space, not two spaces, after a period. Period. For those of us over 40, it is almost impossible to break the habit but ask kids today about it and they will not even understand the question. Unless you are typing on an old-fashioned typewrite, get over it. The rule is one space. How do I remember? Well, I usually don’t and it infuriates my copy editor. http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/two-spaces-after-period/

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Most kids (ages 6 to 17) say that they would read more books if they could find ones they like, according to research by Scholastic.com. It also found that kids age 6 to 8 are more likely than older kids to want books with characters that look like them; kids age 9 to 11 are more likely than younger kids to want books that have a mystery or problem to solve; kids age 12 to 14 are more likely than older kids to want books with smart, strong or brave characters; and kids age 15 to 17 are more likely than younger kids to want books that let them forget about real life for a while. Get suggestions at scholastic.com/readingreport/

• •

Baby Center has announced the most popular baby names of 2014 and there isn’t a Mary, John or Anne to be found. The top girls names from one to 10 currently are Sophia, Emma, Olivia, Ava, Isabella, Mia, Zoe, Lily, Emily and Madelyn. The top boys names are Jackson, Aiden, Liam, Lucas, Noah, Mason, Ethan, Caden, Jacob and Logan. You can read the complete list at babycenter.com.

• •

I loved playing around on the new personality quiz website Traitify. You answer a series of quick easy questions about your personality and the site provides insight into your dominant traits. It is fun for both kids and grown-ups, and at least right now appears to be free. It might be a fun activity after a big holiday meal. There is also an option where you can explore which careers you would be best suited to and better understand your leadership style. https://demo.traitify.com/

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AdmitSee is a new website where students applying to college can advise each other on their essays. The site gives applicants and parents insight into essays that worked, school faculty can use the free admissions resources on the site, and college students can get paid for sharing their college applications materials. Yes, that last part is a bit horrifying. Supposedly the site works closely with schools to prevent plagiarism. I believe the site replies heavily on TurnItIn.com – a plagiarism detection service that provides “originality checking.” The website was created by four UC Berkeley students and it authenticates not only college essays but also other scholarly writing.

• •

High school students are talking about the new (mostly free) Test Precision app because of its personalized SAT and ACT prep services. The site’s rapid diagnostic test offers to help students decide on which of those two tests they will do better. Testprecision.com. There are a host of other to-notch online test prep sites at http://preview.tinyurl.com/q96sj2q.

• •

President Obama wrote his first line of code at the White House in Dec., the first president to do so. He joined Code.org and a dozen students to kick off the Hour of Code and Computer Education Week. He wrote a line of JavaScript that, I kid you not, moved Elsa from the movie Frozen 100 paces forward. Ask your children if they did anything for the Hour of Code in their classroom.

• •

It can be hard to explain to child why you might not open your wallet every time you pass a homeless person or are asked to donate to a charity. The holidays are a good time to teach your child about charitable giving.†You can explain how charities work and the research that should be done before money is donated. The website kids.gov had some helpful articles on evaluating charities and signs of a charity scams. Consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0074-givingcharity

• •

Is your child or teen obsessed with Harry Potter? J.K. Rowling began releasing new stories about Harry and his wizarding world on Dec. 12 and she released a new one every morning through Christmas. Sign up at pottermore.com to get the free stories via email.

• •

According to the website discovertheforest.com, the average American child can identify 1,000 corporate logos but cannot name 10 plants or animals native to his or her region. The site, a partnership between the Ad Council and the U.S. Forest Service, seeks to encourage todayís youth and their parents to re-connect with nature with tips and resources for experiencing it first-hand.

• •

Did you graduate from college in four years? Today, only 19 percent of full-time students who are studying at non-flagship public universities earn a bachelor’s degree in four years. The number is, however, higher at privates universities and flagships (36 percent) like Berkeley and UCLA. As for students enrolling at a public junior college like SRJC, only 5 percent of full-time students receive an associate’s degrees after their planned two years. (completecollege.org)

• •

The nonprofit Making Caring Common, led by a Harvard psychologist, suggests five strategies to raise moral, caring children:
1. Make caring for others a priority.
2. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude.
3. Expand your child’s circle for concern beyond their family and friends.
4. Be a strong moral role model and mentor.
5. Guide children in managing destructive feelings (like anger, shame and envy).  http://sites.gse.harvard.edu/making-caring-common

• •

The Huffington Post headline read: “You are more likely to inherit your dad’s social status than his height.” I had to think about that for a moment. The article cites a new study out of UC Davis and the London School of Economics indicating that there is very little social mobility these days and the correlation is stronger for income than height. http://tinyurl.com/m96nfwr

• •

The annual Google code-in challenge invites students worldwide to put their technology skills to work. Students (13 to 17 years old) complete coding, documentation, and quality assurance tasks to win prizes and everyone who receives a certificate and T-shirts for completing tasks. Grand prize winners receive a trip to Google’s headquarters. The challenge began yesterday, Dec.1 and runs for seven weeks. http://www.google-melange.com/gci/homepage/google/gci2014

• •

If you’re looking for book ideas for your daughters, you’ll get a kick out of the website, A Mighty Girl. The site features reviews and recommendations of more than 2,000 books with girl-empowering female characters. You can search by reading level, awards won, issues covered and more. The site also has a great gift guide. Amightygirl.com

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My how the times have changed – approximately 26 percent of all college students today have dependent children. The number of college students with dependent children grew by 50 percent from 1995 to 2011. Today the 4.8 million college students with children represent about 26 percent of all college students in the nation. diverseeducation.com/article/68341

• •

Do you have a child who is interested in learning more about specific careers and you just can’t answer their questions? I spent a few hours exploring a government website that provides really useful pay, qualification, training and employment outlook information on hundred of careers, from private investigator to wind turbine mechanic to massage therapist to line cook. The site’s format is easy to use and it includes sections on the fastest growing careers, highest paying and more. bls.gov/ooh

• •

More and more students are getting internships in college as a way to increase their chances of getting a great job after graduation. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked the top 10 colleges for internship and co-op programs and there are some less familiar names on the list. From one to 10: Belmont University (Tenn.), Berea College (Kentucky), Butler University (Indiana), Cornell University (New York), Drexel University (Penn.), Elon University (North Carolina), Georgia Tech, Northeastern University (Mass.), Purdue University (Indiana) and Rochester Institute of Technology (New York). http://tinyurl.com/qxv73w3

• •

I get nervous when my 13-yr-old explores YouTube. Cakey is a new free app that lets kids safely watch YouTube videos without coming across inappropriate content. Your child can only watch videos you add in the app or that you choose from the thousands of suggestions shared by other parents on the web site. It also provides an age rating (best for ages 3+, for example) for each video. You remove YouTube from your child’s iPad and replace it with Cakey. cakeyvillage.com

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There is a lot of talk in the education world these days about data literacy. More and more teachers are creating lesson plans to teach students to collect and analyze data (beyond math and science). The goal is to prepare students today to not only be qualified for careers that depend on data analysis but also just to be capable of deriving opinions from real-world data. Recent research finds that the U.S. faces a shortage of workers with analytical expertise, particularly managers and analysts who can make decisions based on big data analysis. http://tinyurl.com/nmr5rp5

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Are you worried that your children’s brains are turning to mush over the holidays? The Fit Brains Trainer is an app that offers more than 360 brain games. I found it addicting and a lot of fun. Fitbrains.com

• •

It is time to start researching summer experiences for your children. The best ones books early. While it might be counter-intuitive —  the less expensive the program is (free is best) typically the more prestigious it is. You can get a lot of ideas here: https://educationroundupnational.com/2014/02/28/expanded-meaningfulenriching-summer-programs-on-a-shoestring-for-ages-12-25/

Roundup XX

Researchers have developed an excellent predictor of children’s future emotional health and happiness. The “Do You Know (DYK) Scale” asks 20 questions about a child’s family history. They found that children who provided the most comprehensive answers to the test had a better sense of control in their lives and a greater sense of a well-functioning family life. Why might this be so? The thought is that stories of a family’s history give children a sense of clear values and emotional strength. Other tips for family well-being:  10 great minutes of togetherness at any meal is as good as a family dinner every night; use the word “we” rather than “you” during family squabbles; move living room furniture into an O shape; and the biggie… be honest with children about family setbacks, failures and struggles (children need to know they are part of something bigger than themselves). You can read more and see the questions at: tinyurl.com/mgtssol

LinkedIn is gaining in popularity among college students and recent graduates… and now is aiming younger. The job-networking site recently dropped its minimum age from 18 to 14  “to allow teens to build their resumes and connect with colleges on the site.” More than 200 universities now have their own “University Pages” so that potential applicants can learn about their offerings. Access for teens will come with restrictions intended to preserve their privacy.

National Geographic has launched a new weekly TV series on Friday nights for ages 10 and up called Brain Games. It is a fun and informative look at how the brain works. The web site also has some cool functions that the whole family might enjoy. A recent episode centered why we lie, how often we lie and what goes on in the brain that allows us to lie. The web site then offered games and experiments to underscore the concepts. Learn more about it at: braingames.nationalgeographic.com. There is a companion book that looks excellent, entitled, “Brain Works: The Mind Bending Science of How You See, What You Think and Who You Are” by Michael S. Sweeney.

There is a new web site called Born to Learn with animations that illustrate new discoveries about how humans learn. Students might get a kick out of it as well. Its tagline? “Your brain is the planet’s most powerful learning machine. But our current systems of education aren’t doing enough to unlock our true potential. This is what Born to Learn is all about.” (born-to-learn.org).

Campusgrotto.com consolidated a wealth of advice to come up with 12 habits of successful students. Read the whole thing at: campusgrotto.com. Some of my favorites…    Successful students:

  • set short-term and long-term goals.
  • stick to a weekly study schedule.
  • take advantage of office hours.
  • are active in activities outside the classroom.
  • go to class and participate.The most successful students sit in front and are involved in classroom discussions.
  • get proper sleep. A sharp brain starts with getting enough rest.

If you have a daughter or granddaughter ages 5-9, keep your eye out for a new toy called Goldie Blox. Developed by Stanford-educated engineer Debbie Sterling, the toy aims to challenge gender toy stereotypes.  The toy combines a storybook and a hands-on construction set with small figurines with the hope of getting girls interested in engineering. (goldieblox.com)

The web site CrunchBase has analyzed data to determine which universities are producing the greatest number of successful entrepreneurs. The site checked the alma maters of 6,150 founders from 4,885 companies. No surprise that Stanford came in first.  The rest of the top ten are:  Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, U. Penn, Columbia, Cornell, USC, Yale and U. Michigan.

ADD/HD expert Dr. Kevin Ross Emery has developed a free, unique “Managing the Gift” app, aimed at revealing the potential of children with ADD/HD. Unlike other ADHD apps that are self-diagnostic or generalized, this app provides custom-tailored reports with tips on parenting, guiding, supporting, and educating children with ADHD and ADD. One feature is a personalized interactive tool that defines a child’s distinct ADD/HD personality.

I don’t have room to reprint it in full but if you are or have a college student, you should look at The 20 Things I Wish Someone Told Me at 20 (courtesy of Dr. Karin Smithson and The Huffington Post). Some of my favorites have to do with holding on to your friends, listening to your parents, taking care of your body, kindness, online smarts and asking for help. You can read the complete list at: tinyurl.com/kalleku

A new study out of UC San Francisco and Berkeley found that just one use of cocaine may rewire the brain and drastically affect future decision-making. Other studies have shown the damage cause by long-term use but this study found that the wiring in the brain’s frontal lobe (the area of the brain that handles decision-making and memory) was altered after just one use.

A study focused on teaching boys found eight categories of instruction that were most successful with male students.  They looked at the best practices in schools of varying size, both private and public, that enroll a wide range of boys of disparate races and income levels.

• Lessons that result in an end product – a booklet, a catapult, a poem or a comic strip, for example.

• Lessons that are structured as competitive games.

• Lessons requiring motor activity.

• Lessons requiring boys to assume responsibility for the learning of others.

• Lessons that require boys to address open questions or unsolved problems.

• Lessons that require a combination of competition and teamwork.

• Lessons that focus on independent, personal discovery and realization.

• Lessons that introduce drama in the form of novelty or surprise.

A long article about these findings and how our boys tend to be penalized for their classroom behavior ran in The Atlantic this summer.

I can’t get Ken Robinson’s book, “Finding Your Element,” out of my mind.  You might remember Robinson as having the most popular TedTalk of all time.  The book is about how discovering your talents and passions can transform your life. The bestsellers “Lean In” and “Finding Your Element” are this generation’s “What Color is Your Parachute,” but better.

I am a huge fan of the web site StumbleUpon. You enter in your interests (education, college, wine, travel, whatever) and each time you enter the site it has accumulated dozens of interesting articles and sites for you to look at. You can quickly swipe between stories. (stumbleupon.com)

I read last week that 31 percent of kids ages 8 to 10 now have their own cell phone. That number increases to 69 percent of 11- to 14-year-olds and 85 percent of those ages 14 to 17. Wow, will the age keep getting lower or are we at the youngest possible point today?

The web site Librophile offers thousands of full-length free audio books and eBooks. Currently up for grabs: The Wizard of Oz, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Homer’s Odyssey, The Red Badge of Courage, Moby Dick and hundreds more. If you have a child who doesn’t love to read, definitely try audio books. They are a big hit with our son. He listens for hours while shooting hoops in the driveway. (librophile.com)

California just became the sixth state to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards but there is still no formal timeline for implementing them.  The new science standards stress problem solving, critical thinking and concepts that cut across difference science disciplines. They emphasize scientific thinking and big ideas instead of memorization and focus on the connection between what a student learns in school and what a scientist might use in the workplace. Teachers, academics and experts from 26 states worked for two years to develop the standards. Sadly, district budgets contain no money to train teachers in the new standards and the curriculum framework still needs to be developed. http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards

October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month. Did you know an estimated 10-15 percent of our nation’s school children show signs of dyslexia? My daughter is one of them. I have found that the International Dyslexia Association web site is the best resource out there for more information: interdys.org/.  Was your child slow to learn to read or currently a very slow reader? I recommend speaking first with your school’s learning specialist about the possibility of dyslexia but you can also try another free app: Dyslexia Detector. (itunes.apple.com)

I am excited to tout another math app that is really terrific. Wuzzit Trouble, from InnerTube games, was developed by Stanford mathematician Keith Devlin (the NPR Math Guy). What is unique is the game’s the ability to teach multiple skills simultaneously. Players are able to practice and develop math skills and comprehension appropriate to their particular age and skill level. (innertubegames.net)

There is a new ranking that cites 12 colleges as delivering a terrific bang for the buck. The ranking looked at student debt upon graduation, starting salaries, tuition and room and board for four-year universities, and graduation rates. The top schools from 1-12 are: University of Cincinnati, Ohio University, San Diego State University, University of Houston, Western Michigan University, West Virginia University, University of Arizona, University of Texas, George Mason University, the University of Maryland (Baltimore County), University of Oklahoma and Texas A&M University. It is really nice to see some unexpected names on that list. It is limiting when high school students all focus on the same handful of colleges. (policymic.com)

Do you have a child who struggles with organization or motivation in school?  No?  Well, aren’t you lucky!  Blogger Andrea Reiser recently suggested 15 questions to ask your student as he or she heads back to school that might help tackle these issues:

1. What are you most excited about in the upcoming school year?

2. What are you least looking forward to?

3 What do you see as your biggest challenge?

4. Are there any non-academic issues that concern you about the upcoming year?

5. What are your academic goals for the year?

6. What are your personal goals for the year?

7. How can we help to support you in achieving your goals?

8. Is there one general theme you need/want to focus on?

9. What will you do differently from last year?

10. Is there anything in particular that will help motivate or focus you?

11. Do you want to make any changes to your study environment that may improve or enhance your study habits?

12. What are your biggest distractions and how can we help you manage them?

13. How are you planning to prioritize your schoolwork and activities and how can we be of help?

14. Is there anything we can do to help you get/stay organized?

15. What’s the best way for us to keep a pulse on your schoolwork?

Just in time for back to school, Pinterest is setting aside a special spot for teachers to share creative classroom ideas, lesson plans and innovative classroom decor. My teenage daughter loves Pinterest for its craft and decorating ideas. Pinterest.com

A couple hundred schools have recently purchased bullet-proof white boards for classroom use. The white boards have handles and can withstand multiple rounds from an automatic weapon. The boards cost $299 each from the company Hardwire. Genius or ridiculous?

There is a website that tracks each state’s progress in providing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) instruction for its students. Vital Signs offer the most comprehensive picture of the demand for and supply of STEM skills, what states expect of students, students’ access to learning opportunities and the resources schools and teachers have to do their work. Check it out at vitalsigns.changetheequation.org/.

The ACT college admissions exam will go digital in 2015. Students want their results faster and in theory are now tech-savvy enough to take the exam online. There aren’t big changes planned to the questions or content but portions will be more interactive and there will be places where students explain concepts in their own words. Why is this important?  The ACT is now more popular as a college admissions test than the SAT and, when one company makes a change, the other is likely to quickly follow.

I was surprised to learn that humanities degrees accounted for 17.1 percent of all college degrees in 1970 and continue to account for 17 percent of degrees today (despite all the talk of STEM careers).  While many humanities degree programs have indeed shown sharp declines, the huge increases in enrollment in visual and performing arts has more than covered those losses.

Parents, teachers, coaches and friends have a new way to get news of students after they head for college. Meritpages.com is used by almost 500 colleges to verify and promote achievements and create a positive online presence for students. Parents can “follow” a student’s merit page and receive updates when a college verifies an accomplishment, like making the dean’s list or winning a scholarship. Students can also add campus activities, leadership positions and work experience. The thought is that employers and graduate schools will also find the free site helpful when Googling candidates.

 K-12 educators share ideas on the ThinkTank12 web site. The site recently featured “the best” 11 math game apps for smart phones. Some of their favorites are: Math vs Zombies, Math Motion Zoom and Math Kid. Read the rest here: tinyurl.com/m2dr3en

New research shows that working with pre-schoolers on estimating skills is important. A new study by the University of Missouri shows that preschool children who has trouble estimating the number of objects in a group were more than twice as likely to have a have trouble with math later in school. (tinyurl.com/mpulkd5)

The Chegg blog consolidated data from US News & World Report, Forbes and AOL to come up with a list of the top nine majors that are earning graduates the highest paychecks right now. In no particular order, they are: chemical engineering, accounting/finance, pharmacy, information systems, civil engineering, nursing, pre-med, computer science and computer/mechanical engineering. (blog.chegg.com)

Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck suggests that one little word has the power to inspire your child to do incredible things. Every time your child says “I’m not good at math (or science or Spanish)” or “I don’t get how to ___________ (insert any topic here), say, “You aren’t good at it YET.” Teachers are becoming big fans of Dweck’s books and “the power of YET” is becoming quite a hot topic.

There was a lot of buzz this summer when the Oregon legislature approved a plan for the state’s universities to be tuition free. In exchange, students agree to give up three percent of their income for 24 years. The original idea was hatched by a group of U.C. Riverside students in 2012 (they called it Fix UC). At that time, UC system president Mark Yudof said he found the idea appealing but it never went anywhere. Earlier this summer, two state lawmakers in Ohio proposed following Oregon’s lead. It will be very interesting to see if anyone can make this work. What do you think? Great idea or appalling?

Researchers have long known that exercising can help with learning but new research has found that the exercise timing and intensity are critical in learning and memory formation. In a German study, women who gently rode a bicycle (exercised lightly) while hearing new vocabulary words performed best on later recall tests. They performed much better than the control group who sat quietly and the other group who exercised vigorously before studying the words. You can read more about it here.

My daughter, who takes Mandarin, is attempting to teach herself Spanish through online resources. She is curious how she is actually doing and how far she has gotten. She found this free language profiency testing site helpful.  She also loves the language learning web site duolingo. The site has data that claims it is as effective as university-level courses but its adaptive gaming platform makes irt addictive. Best of all, it is free. It offers instruction in Spanish, French, German, Portguese and Italian. duolingo.com

My kicks and giggles this summer came from a facebook and twitter page and blog from The Honest Toddler. Hard to explain but basically a caustic imp saying what we fear little tykes actually are thinking.

 If you find these resources useful, please consider forwarding this blog on to your friends! — LMS

Roundup V

Is your teen causing you to tear your hair out? A friend has recommended the book “Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers,” by Michael Riera. It is widely thought to be the best book out there on communicating with teens on such topics as alcohol, drugs and parties; academics; sex; eating disorders; homosexuality; and divorce. I enjoyed what one reviewer on Amazon had to say: “This book reassured me that my child wasn’t abnormal, that I was right in being confused and sometimes appalled by their behavior. And it let me take a step back and not take it so personally.” Some of Riera’s other books sound interesting as well: “Right From Wrong: Instilling A Sense Of Integrity In Your Child,” “Field Guide To The American Teenager: A Parent’s Companion” and “Surviving High School: Making the Most of the High School Years.”

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A new report from a research group at UCLA finds that colleges can project their graduation rates by analyzing the race, ethnicity, gender, GPA, and SAT/ACT scores of their freshman class. Sadly, the study also found that having divorced parents, having a demanding job in high school and being first to attend college make a student less likely to complete college. The good news is that colleges will use the data to better support these students. The bad news is that in theory they could also use it to decide against admitting candidates with these traits.

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I’ve written about this before but I’ve since gotten some tips from readers on other great colleges for students with learning disabilities. I’m just going to list them here, rather than describe their specific attributes, but the specifics are available on their websites. The list includes: Curry College in Boston; Dean College, 20 miles from Providence, R.I.; Landmark College in Vermont; Lynn University in Florida; Southern Illiniois University at Carbondale; the University of Arizona in Tuscon; the University of Denver; and the University of Indianapolis.

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iTunes University is an excellent way for a high school student to get an idea of what college courses might be like or for an adult to continue their education. It’s free and there is a wide array of subject matter to choose from. You can access it on your iPhone, iPad or iTouch, or by downloading iTunes on your computer.

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Holiday break might be a fun time to sit down as a family and talk about community service projects that you could all do together. After you brainstorm the type of project that everyone would enjoy, there are a number of resources to help get you started. A good first stop is the volunteer binder at Sonoma High, but you can also check the following sites online for more ideas. The Network for Good (www.networkforgood.com) connects people to charities and has a search tool to see which welcome children or teens. Volunteer Match (www.volunteermatch.org) is a great resource to find organizations in the areas that need help. Doing Good Together (www.doinggoodtogether.org) specializes in family-focused ways parents and kids can volunteer together. If your children are all grown or away at school, it can be as simple as entering a benefit 5k run together over the holidays.

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The website edutopia (www.edutopia.com) recently summarized the top education ideas/trends of the year: • Empowering teachers with a do-it-yourself culture, including the encouragement for them to try new ideas, borrow best practices. • The potential of open-source (free) textbooks. • Using educational video games as a learning tool. • Using student data to inform classroom teaching with better understanding of student learning styles. • Flipped classrooms – a new trend toward moving the lecturing in the classroom to home (via online lessons like Khan Academy) and bringing homework back into the classroom where students can be directed in the practice of their learning. • Using Digital Badges to reward self-directed learning. Educators are re-remembering how much students like to compete and to be rewarded for their progress. In the most successful online educational games, students earn and win badges in their progress.   • One idea that I have seen employed here in Sonoma is teachers using a website to enhance and save classroom time. One local fifth grade classroom starts every day with the Brainpop video of the day (www.brainpop.com)

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Marc Tucker, author of “Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems,” recently led a team of researchers in proposing five major ways to “save” the U.S. education system. His ideas, in brief, include: • Making admission to teacher training more competitive. • Raising teacher compensation significantly. • Allowing larger class sizes. • Replacing annual standardized testing with three federally required tests to gauge mastery at the end of elementary school, 10th grade and 12th grade. • Spending more money on students who need more help getting to high standards. These are hot topics and thought-provoking ideas that would be difficult to implement, but are certainly worth discussing.

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I have heard from a number of readers that they enjoy information about free apps relating to education. Behold www.appitic.com – a website that catalogs, in a logical and searchable way, 1,300-plus educational apps. Check it out!

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There was a highly controversial article written by the Associated Press about Asian-American high school seniors not marking “Asian” on college application forms in the hopes of by-passing what is perceived to be an “Asian quota.” Rumors have spread that some Ivy League schools require higher SAT scores for Asians and, for years, many Asian-Americans have been convinced that it’s harder for them to gain admission to the nation’s top colleges. Asian-Americans meet selective colleges’ admissions standards far out of proportion to their 6 percent representation in the U.S. population, and they are thought to need test scores hundreds of points higher than other ethnic groups to have an equal chance of admission.

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Each year, in mid-December, students who applied Early Action (non-binding) or Early Decision (binding) to college will hear back with the decision, several months before their peers who waited for the regular deadline. The advantage of applying early is frequently a significantly better chance of admission. American University, mentioned below, for example, typically admits 43 percent of its applicants in the regular decision pool and last year accepted 79 percent of their Early Decision applicants. Dartmouth accepted 12 percent regular decision last year, and 25 percent ED. The bump can be less significant with Early Action (EA), but Santa Clara, for example, accepted 58 percent in regular round last year and 73 percent EA. Lewis and Clark in Oregon accepted 68 percent regular and 77 percent EA. So why doesn’t everyone apply “Early?” 1. You have to be organized. 2. You have to love one school far more than the others. 3. You can’t compare financial aid packages because you see only one school’s aid offer.

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There are a handful of well-regarded colleges now that specialize in accommodating the unique needs of students with dyslexia, ADD and ADHD and ensuring that these students succeed in mainstream college classes. The top six schools cited by experts are the University of Arizona, the University of Alabama, the University of Denver, Lesley University in Boston and American University in Washington, D.C.

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How far we’ve come … colleges really want to ensure a gender balanced freshman class but girls of most racial groups now outpace their brothers in going to college. A USD law professor recently published an article in “Engage” on the apparently growing practice of sex discrimination of behalf of men in college admissions. Many public and private colleges have admitted that they have “too many” female applicants and are therefore discriminating in favor of men – largely because more women than men apply to college and their academic credentials are in some ways better.

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No matter what your child’s age, it is never too early to introduce them to the concept and value of community service. Not only will they have a better sense of how fortunate they are, it is also a rising factor in college admissions. DoSomething.org has returned with its annual Community Service and College Study. They surveyed admissions counselors at more than half of the top 50 colleges and found that community service now ranks number four in importance in college admissions decisions after GPA, scores and extra-curriculars, and ranks higher than interviews, essays and legacy relationships to the school. Check out http://www.dosomething.org. Instead of staring at a TV screen over the holiday break, urge your high school or college student to use the break to squeeze in a short internship or to volunteer for a position related to their interests. If they are interested in the medical profession, they could volunteer at a local hospital; interested in teaching, contact a local school, library, or childcare provider. Many professional offices are also short-staffed with folks on vacation and might be happy for an extra pair of hands.

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You have likely heard the acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). At the Big Ideas Fest, everyone was talking about STEM. Not as a curriculum but as a framework for teaching. With the Arts such a big element of engineering and science, there is logic to this, though controversy abounds. The consensus was that teaching how to think across disciplines is a more effective way to teach and better preparation for real world applications of knowledge.

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If you are looking for ideas for Christmas, this one looks interesting in light of all the recent news reports that young men aren’t succeeding in school in the same way that young women are. “Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men,” by Michael Kimmel, details the many challenges modern day young men face in becoming adults. With a diminishing population of young men entering and graduating from college, “Guyland” advocates that each adult has the opportunity to be the charismatic role model that could help to turn things around for a struggling young man. I’m guessing that the Mentoring Alliance folks would agree with that.

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My favorite new college planning website is http://www.meritaid.com. It is the web’s first comprehensive directory of merit scholarships. Merit aid is basically grants and scholarships for high performing middle class (and above) students, and it can reduce the cost of attending a college by tens of thousands of dollars a year. Which colleges grant merit aid is one factor to consider in addition to the other aspects of college fit. And while merit aid is usually higher for students with strong grades/scores, many merit scholarships require only a 2.0 GPA and take into account accomplishments in leadership and community involvement. The site is free.

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There is a lot of talk about college debt but a 2012 story in The New York Times found that only one-tenth of 1 percent of college freshmen, and only three-tenths of 1 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients, accumulate more than $100,000 in undergraduate student debt. Even among recipients of bachelor’s degrees, 90 percent manage to graduate with less than $40,000 of debt.  (Debt is higher for those going on to grad school). When you combine these statistics with all the recent information about how much more employable college grads are than those without degrees, the case for college continues to be very strong.