Tag Archives: teachers

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

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

1. The times you made them feel safe.

2. The times you gave them your undivided attention.

3. The way you interacted with your spouse.

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

5. Your family traditions.

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

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

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

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

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

2. They welcome and embrace change

3. They know how to manage their emotions

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

5. They manage fear and move past it

6. They recognize and seize opportunities

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

8. They see beauty where most don’t

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

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

11. They know when to live in the moment

12. They smile more and feel happiness more often

13. They understand the importance of listening

14. They are less judgmental and more empathetic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• How to network with purpose

• How to manage your bank account

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

• When to trust your gut

• How to avoid burn-out

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

• How to be a good partner

• How to communicate and negotiate well

• How to take care of your home

• The importance of travel

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

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

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

1. UCLA 96.9 percent

2. University of California, Berkeley 96.8 percent

3. U.S. Naval Academy 96.5 percent

4. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 96.4 percent

5. University of Virginia 96.1 percent

6. University of California, San Diego 95.8 percent

7. University of Michigan 95.7 percent

8. University of Florida 95.6 percent

9. University of Maryland 95.2 percent

10. University of Wisconsin 94.8 percent

11. University of California, Irvine 94.7 percent

12. U.S. Military Academy 94.6 percent

13. College of William and Mary 94.5 percent

14. Georgia Institute of Technology 94.3 percent

15. University of Georgia 94.1 percent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– President Barack Obama

Education Roundup XXVIII: free books, playing sports in college, budding artists, apps for toddlers, badges, standing desks

Here are some sobering statistics for high school athletes from the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) and the Department of Education:

• 59 percent of high school football and basketball players believe they will get a college scholarship.

• 98 out of 100 high school athletes never play collegiate sports of any kind at any level.

• Less than one out of every 100 high school athletes receive a scholarship of any kind to a Division I school.

According to their data, the hardest sport to play at the college level is basketball. The point of this is not to squash dreams, but to highlight the importance of athletes not neglecting their academics. Great data on this and more is at ncaa.org.

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Do you have a budding writer or artist in your house? There are a number of terrific places where students can submit art and writing to be published. These publications are real, not the kind that are out to get your money. For high school artists taking their work to the next step, aiming for publication can really make a difference with colleges. Information about the 16 or so places that publish student work appears at: cultofpedagogy.com/publish-student-art-writing/.

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The Maze Runner” by James Dashner is one of the most popular books for teens right now. Many students are scrambling to get a copy before the movie comes out later this month. Did you know that book and thousands of other popular titles are available at your local public library not only in print but also as an audiobook on CD, as a downloadable audiobook and as an ebook for readers like Kindles and iPads? Check out your library’s web site for details.

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Was the transition to school morning start schedules painful in your house? The American Academy of Pediatrics announced last week that it wants all U.S. middle and high schools to permanently delay their opening times to 8:30 a.m. or later. Currently, only 15 percent start after this time. Widespread sleep deprivation among teenagers coincides with the tendency of puberty to turn teens into night owls. A later start time has been shown to result in fewer car accidents, higher grades and test scores, and a lower risk of depression, moodiness and obesity. Studies have shown that 59 per cent of middle school students and 87 per cent of high school students aren’t getting the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours sleep on school nights. http://tinyurl.com/k3wz2fg

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The possible applications of 3-D printing seem truly endless and now the technology is being used to allow visually-impaired children to experience illustrated storybooks. The Tactile Picture Books Project at University of Colorado Boulder is creating versions of children’s books like Goodnight Moon and Harold and the Purple Crayon with 3-D images in place of typical illustrations. Visually impaired kids can feel the images and get the full experience of picture books. Eventually, parents will take pictures of pages from books and send them to a 3-D printer, and make their own copies of books tactile. http://tinyurl.com/mukkkyp

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Washington Monthly’ has a unique means of ranking colleges, focusing on “bang for the buck.” Check it out here:  http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/college_guide/2014.php

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In other college ranking news, the e-transcript web site Parchment has analyzed which colleges students tend not to say “no” to. It is called yield, as each college hopes that its offers of admissions yield a “yes” from accepted applicants (that they don’t choose to go elsewhere). The College Choice study is based on enrollment decisions from more than 27,000 U.S. in-bound college students at 700 universities. Stanford topped the list for the second consecutive year. One interesting trend was more students choosing military schools over Ivy League institutions, as the U.S. Air Force Academy ranked higher than Columbia, Brown and Dartmouth this year, perhaps suggesting the growing, undeniable appeal of a free education. parchment.com/c/college/college-rankings.php

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My book recommendation of the week?  I really enjoyed Dave Eggers’ new book “The Circle” (now in paperback) and recommend it as a great discussion starter for teens and parents. The plot centers on a young woman working at a Facebook/Google-like company that is secretly aiming for world domination.

• • •

I was surprised to learn that 27 percent of children in the U.S. live apart from their fathers. If you are interested in the role of fathers, there is a great new book on the science of fatherhood by Paul Raeburn called “Do Fathers Matter?” Raeburn also writes the About Fathers blog at psychologytoday.com/blog/about-fathers.

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Here is a great quote on the value of arts education from Pixar President Ed Catmull:  “My view is that the purpose of art is not to teach us how to draw but how to see. To observe. That’s really what art is about.  When you take art classes you are observing the world. You’re capturing … you’re paying attention to what’s going on. And if you develop those skills of observation and seeing what’s going on, then that skill is useful in science. In medicine. And engineering. And that’s the value of it.”

• • •

Apps are being created aimed at younger and younger children. Let’s Play is a free app for parents of ages 0 to 3 that suggests fun activities, organized by age and routine, to help support their young child’s early learning. zerotothree.com/tips-for-play

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Tween geeks perhaps can take comfort from a new study showing that tough times lie ahead later in life for the coolest kids in middle school. The study, published in the journal Child Development, followed socially precocious cool kids for a decade and found that their social status often plummeted in high school and they began struggling in many ways. It seems to be a student’s longing to impress friends and subsequent brazen behavior can lead to difficulties with intimate relationships, alcohol and marijuana. tinyurl.com/kdt89ut

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Sheet music can be expensive. Mutopiaproject.org offers arrangements of classical pieces for free download. The site offers 1,272 pieces that are in the public domain, including works by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Handel, Mozart and many others for piano, guitar, cello, voice and more. http://www.mutopiaproject.org

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The free smartphone app Word Lens enables you to point your phone at a road sign or restaurant menu in another language and see an immediate translation from six languages, including Spanish. No Internet connection is needed. This would be handy when travelling but might also be fun to try out with your kids in restaurants.questvisual.com

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Teachers around the country are flocking to Google Classroom. This new tool for creating and managing online assignments may be the next big thing, particularly for Chromebook users. Google Apps for Education are really catching on – it is a platform for free, web-based email, calendar and documents for collaborative study anytime, anywhere. Imagine no more assignments left at home, no more excuses for not knowing what the homework is. google.com/apps/education.

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Did your student find the best part of girl scouts or boy scouts to be the badges? If so, they will absolutely love diy.org. The site offers badges for exploring interests and completing challenges. Whether your child is an actor, angler, animator, or an archer, an architect, an astronomer or an athlete – you get a sense of the fun from just the A category.

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Studies of students who transfer between two-year colleges and between two and four year colleges have found that 39 percent of transferring students lost all their credits in the switch, and 28 percent were only able to transfer some credits. The takeaway for me was that students interested in transferring should get qualified help and advice early in the process, and only take courses at fully accredited institutions. Source: National Center for Education Statistics.

• • •

It is a popular classroom tool right now for teachers to ask students to instruct each other on material learned in class. Studies have found that even just telling a student that they will later be teaching the information changes their mindset enough so that they learn and recall better. http://tinyurl.com/k5s3t6f

• • •

Schools across the country are adding standing desks as a means of increasing alertness and fighting childhood obesity. More than one third of American kids are now overweight or obese according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A research team out of Texas A&M found that students in standing-desk classrooms love them and burned more calories per hour than sitting students. Teachers loved the desks, seeing greater focus, improved student behavior and classroom performance. The study was funded by United Way and the CDC and was published in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers expect standing desks to be more common in classrooms in the next three to five years.

• • •

OK, here is my App of the Week: Bookster is a free, read-along storytelling app that reads to your kids, records and plays their voices, and teaches vocabulary along the way. It has turn-able pages that let kids move at their own pace, and the pages are interactive with tap-able words. It is easy to use and seems quite engaging. imaginelearning.com/programs/bookster/

• • •

Education Roundup XXIV

Welcome to this month’s Education Roundup (National Edition)…

 

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be the mother of an Olympic athlete?  What those early years are like? Think…  a lot of driving but also some challenges you might not expect. You can read the complete article at http://tinyurl.com/m59msz4.

Have you ever walked in to find your children watching a TV show that you KNOW they have seen before? It makes me crazy. There is a cool website that features more than 300 mind-expanding documentary films, many of which are appropriate for all ages.  These are also a great classroom resource. Check out the list atdiygenius.com/mind-expanding-documentaries/.

Common Sense Media recommends five important media resolutions that every family should make in 2014.

• Make a detailed schedule that ensures a balance of screen time and other activities.

• Get to know your child’s favorite device. Have them show you their favorite games, apps, etc. You will understand their interest better and you will be better able to assess needed safety and privacy controls.

• Review behavior do’s and don’ts with first-time users. They should have to ask you before they go online and should understand a site’s rule and how to recognize red flags (like someone asking them for private information).

• Establish a charging station in your bedroom and make sure kids hand over all their devices before bed.

• Model the right behavior by never texting and driving or it is hard to expect them to do the right thing when they are alone behind the wheel.

I wish I had thought of these when my children were younger as the longer you wait to establish truly common-sense guidelines like this, the harder it is. I suggest you link acceptance of these guidelines to every new device you purchase. I wish I had.

A new set of studies has found that high praise can actually make some children feel worse about themselves. The name of the study is: “That’s Not Just Beautiful – That’s Incredibly Beautiful: The Adverse Impact of Inflated Praise on Children with Low Self-Esteem.” While it might be counter-intuitive, researchers found that when adults give excessive compliments to children with low confidence, the children were less likely to pursue challenges. http://tinyurl.com/qx4yjmc

A recent Wall Street Journal story came to the conclusion that kids who understand gratitude get better grades and are less likely to get depressed. The author, Diana Knapp, suggests that gratitude is a muscle that must be exercised and saying thanks at dinner on the 364 days a year that are not Thanksgiving can help. The author cites a study from 2008 where sixth- and seventh-graders were assigned to list five things they were grateful for every day for two weeks. It found they had a better outlook on school and greater life satisfaction three weeks later, compared with kids assigned to list five hassles. Depressingly, the author also cites a recent large-scale study that tracked materialism among high school seniors and found that desire for lots of money has increased markedly since the mid-1970s, while willingness to work hard to earn it has decreased. http://tinyurl.com/npkd88j

If your student loves science, there is a very inspiring story about the young winner of the Intel Science and Engineering Fair in 2012 in this week’s Baltimore SunJack Andraka is 16 years old, he is openly gay and he attends public school in Maryland. He invented an early-stage test for pancreatic cancer. His parents speak eloquently in the article about their strategies to encourage their son and to expose him to as much as possible, while still letting him be a kid and enjoy his interests. http://touch.baltimoresun.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-78754377/

San Francisco Unified School District made the national news last week for its innovative school mediation program. While 61 percent of its student population qualifies for the federally funded free or reduced lunch program, the district’s standardized test scores continue to rise and meet yearly state and federal benchmarks. Is it possibly because of a new approach to tackling student stress? Since 2007, the district has included transcendental meditation lessons into twice-daily “quiet time” periods – 15-minute breaks in all classrooms. Other benefits include reductions in truancy and discipline problems to which they credit this program.

Disaster Hero is a free online game designed to teach children (grades 1 through 8), parents, and teachers how to prepare for disasters. The goal is to ensure that kids know what to do before, during, and after a disaster. Disasterhero.com

While I am still not exactly sure what it is, I keep reading about studies that tout mindfulness training as crucial to academic success. The latest study looked at college students (who are notorious for high levels of distraction and stress). Mindfulness training can focus attention and improve learning, according to a new study by University of Miami researchers. Mindfulness is a mental state in which a person pays attention to the present experience without ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness training emphasizes attention-building exercises and learning to observe the activity of the mind.

Do you know of a student ages 14-26 who is, or might be, interested in economics? Last summer my teenage daughter attended an economics seminar put on by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). She lived in a dorm at St. Louis University and attended workshops with dozens of other high school students. Best of all, the seminar was free (room, board, books and tuition all covered, you just have to get there). FEE has just posted their summer 2014 seminars, and topics include: “Making Innovation Possible: The Role of Economics in Scientific Progress”; “Are Markets Just? Exploring the Social Significance of a Free Economy”; and “How Economic Thinking Can Create a Better World.” The closest campus being offered for the program this year is Chapman University (near Los Angeles). Schedules and applications are at fee.org/seminars. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, so apply early.

A happy parent raises a happy child (in most cases). Here are 10 science-based ways to be happier, courtesy of Beth Cooper (at Buffer.com)

1. Exercise: Exercise has a profound effect on our happiness and well-being. It can help you relax, increase your brainpower, and even improve your body image, even if you don’t lose any weight.
2. Sleep more: Sleep helps our bodies recover from the day and repair itself, and that helps us focus and be more productive. It turns out sleep is also important for happiness.
3. Spend more time with friends/family: Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference in how happy we feel.
4. Get outside more: Spending time in the fresh air can improve your happiness. Spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosts positive mood, but also broadens thinking and improves working memory. Interestingly, studies have also found that happiness is maximized at 57 degrees, so there is even an upside to winter.
5. Help others: To make yourself feel happier, you should help others. In fact, studies suggest that 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives.
6. Practice smiling: Smiling can make us feel better, but it’s more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts, according to this study. Smiling can also improve our attention and help us perform better on cognitive tasks.
7. Plan a trip: As opposed to actually taking a holiday, simply planning a vacation or break from work can improve our happiness – the effect of vacation anticipation can boost happiness for eight weeks.
8. Meditate: Meditation is credited with improving focus, clarity and attention span, as well as helping to keep you calm. It turns out it’s also useful for improving your happiness as well. Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down.
9. Move closer to work: Our commute to work can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our happiness (or lack thereof).
10. Practice gratitude: Taking note of things you are grateful for each day can improve your mood. Research suggests that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits. http://tinyurl.com/kx4nozf

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New research indicates that parental involvement is more important than any other factor in positively influencing the health, growth and even IQ of children. Involvement and family time also plays a huge role in decreasing the stress in a child’s life. While this sounds like another plug for family dinners, what researcher Gail Gross found is that academic and social performance in 3-to-17-year-olds increases significantly with even small increments of focused time with parents. The key, she says, is not the activity you do together, it is simply being fully present. http://tinyurl.com/n53f9dg

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Reading has a positive impact on the brain that researchers are only just now beginning to understand. In a recent experiment, students brains were scanned each morning after having read sections of a thriller novel over nine nights, and then again daily for five days after they finished the book. The scans revealed increases in connectivity in the students’ brains following the assignments, which persisted for the five days after finishing the novel. The parts of the brain associated with language comprehension, sensations and movement benefited the most. http://huff.to/1dkcBoD

• • •

The Hour of Code last month was tremendously successful, with more than 20 million students across the country gaining exposure to coding. The students I spoke to who have tried coding at school have loved it. If you are looking for coding classes or summer camps, you can visit code.org to search for possibilities. http://aws.code.org/. If your child’s classroom is exploring coding, email me the details atourschools@sonomanews.com.

If your kids enjoy science, there is a great list of 60 popular free science games online covering some of the most popular topics within biology, geology, physics and chemistry.stumbleupon.com/su/1phjd9

 …

Busuu is a community-based language-learning site that offers games, groups, exercises and other free resources for learning Spanish, French, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, German, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese or English.The site has a nice look with illustrations and animation. Like many of the best language sites, after an initial free period, it costs money; membership options range from $20 a month to $150 for a two-year membership. But Busuu’s best feature is free – conversational practice that involves typing and chatting live with native speakers of your language of choice. busuu.com

DragonflyTV is a PBS science education television series for middle-school students, and its website features viewable episodes, games, resources and more. There are fun games and experiments as well as science-based multimedia experiences. Also cool is a science-center locator which returns a list of science museums near your location.

The site Sumdog provides free educational games that make math and reading practice fun for students K-8. Students will like competing against other students of similar ability around the world. But the more they play, the more the games adjust to their skill level. Sumdog automatically begins to present more difficult questions while limiting the allotted time for answers. In addition, a student who incorrectly answers questions on a given topic receives more of those types of questions in ensuing rounds. There are both free and paid versions at sumdog.com.

There is a tabletop board game called Robot Turtles that teaches youngsters ages 3-8 the fundamentals of programming, without words. http://buy.robotturtles.com Children act as programmers, putting instruction cards down, driving the turtles through the maze, but the grownup is the computer, executing commands on the board.

In honor of the winter break, here is a list of 30 of the best educational computer games to amuse your children. Some are new, some are old favorites. The complete list is at:edsurge.com/guide/gaming#View-Product-Comparisons but some of new ones I have not mentioned before worth checking out include: The Oregon Trail ($5), Sokikom ($10), Brain Age ($16), Garry’s Mod ($10) and Second Life (free).

If you are looking for books for the new year, here are 17 ways to get your hands on free books: stumbleupon.com/su/2uCgjG. On the list are lots of websites worth checking out including: Bibliomania, Zunafish, Bookins, BookMooch and Childrens Books Online. Another great article I found offers up ways to get almost any book, study guide, reference text or magazine in the world for free (legally). Read it here: stumbleupon.com/su/1m4OvT

Parents can be very casual about marijuana smoking (“it is just pot”) but new studies are showing that pot smoking among teens can permanently reduce the size of the growing brain. Researchers at Northwestern University found that the section of the brain related to working memory actually reduced in size from pot smoking (which coincided with the teens’ poor performance on memory tasks). The shrinkage was more advanced in people who started smoking marijuana younger. Read more at http://tinyurl.com/mrskfw4.

I felt very guilty after reading an article in the New York Times on “Parenting While Plugged In.” The author suggests that while everyone is worried about the effect of screen time on children, we should also be looking at how our own extended screen time affects our relationships with our children. One researcher spent five years conducting 300 interviews and she found that children can be jealous and hurt, competing with a screen for their parents’ attention. While parents say they need to have their device on because of work, they are actually just engrossed in their connectivity, in the same way that kids are with their devices. It all comes back to the idea of quality time.

A new HBO documentary shines a light on parental obsession with youth sports. If you get HBO, consider taping “Trophy Kids” and watching it with your children. An interesting discussion might result. Without any voiceover shaping the dialogue, filmmakers allow the parents and children to speak for themselves about their emotional investment in organized sports … and the result is tense and emotional. HBO is producing an entire series called “State of Play,” which will examine a variety of sports themes as they influence our society. “Trophy Kids” is playing daily and also available on HBO on Demand.

I was surprised to learn that California teachers are paid more than teachers in any other state in the nation. California teachers have the highest average salary at $64,424 and South Dakota brings up the rear at $36,374. The other states in the top five are New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Illinois. stumbleupon.com/su/2h29Rs

How do you “create good students”? A principal suggests on the website Edutopia that several conditions must exist: more hands-on learning (less time drilling and droning); higher level engagement; articulated learning goals; the right curriculum and technology tools; knowledge of the best way that each individual student learns; learning extended into the home; publishing of student creations; pursuing what students want to explore; and fun (if a teacher isn’t having fun, it is likely the students aren’t either). edutopia.org/blog/creating-great-students-ben-johnson

Class Central is a free online course aggregator from top universities such as Stanford, MIT, Harvard and others. You can search all the MOOC (massive open online course) providers for the topics that interest you. This is great for students who might want to explore a field of study not available at their school or for adults who like the idea of being lifelong learners. class-central.com

A fun exercise to do with your whole family is to take a learning style quiz and discuss and compare results. Quick and easy free ones are available here: edutopia.org/multiple-intelligences-learning-styles-quiz or here: educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/learning-styles.shtml

Have you heard about the teen who will serve no jail time despite killing four people in a recent drunk driving accident because his lawyers claimed he is a victim of “affluenza”? His attorneys argued that he was so coddled and spoiled that his parents never taught him right from wrong. He had a blood alcohol level of .24 – triple the legal driving limit for an adult – and was on Valium when he crashed his truck, injuring 11 people and killing four. While intelligent, he was estimated to have the emotional age of a 12-year-old.

I was surprised to learn that even the most rigorous computer science courses do not currently count toward core high school graduation requirements in California and neither the UCs nor CSUs count computer science as fulfilling a mathematics or science requirement. As of right now, 14 states do count computer science as a math or a science, and hopefully California will soon follow. http://tinyurl.com/lr6o94p

Need book ideas for kids of all ages? Check out Amazon’s list of the top 20 most popular books in each category for readers of all ages: baby-age 2 | ages 3-5 | ages 6-8 | ages 9-12. You can see the full list in best-selling order at http://tinyurl.com/k3uw8cb

Along the same lines, greatschools.org released its list of the all-time best book series for kids, by grade level. Some of its top picks: “Maya & Ruby,” “The Elephant & Piggie,” “Peter & The Starcatchers,” “The Babysitters Club” and “Artemis Fowl.” Read the complete list here: http://tinyurl.com/n46nu4q

If you are worried that your teen is smoking cigarettes, I recommend you show him or her the images at http://tobaccobody.fi/n_en.php. It is an absolutely horrifying high-tech, high-def look at how each part of your body is affected by cigarette smoking. I am still cringing.

If you can’t get enough of all things education, there is a list of the best-selling education books of 2013. The top five: 1. “America the Beautiful,” by Ben C. Carson; 2. “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” by Daniel Kahneman; 3. “How to Read Literature Like a Professor,” by Thomas C. Foster; 4. “How Children Succeed,” by Paul Tough; 5. “The Last Lecture,” by Randy Pausch. My favorite is Paul Tough’s book.http://tinyurl.com/kxh4cs3

An app I have written about here more than once, Duolingo, was just named Apple’s choice for App of the Year. Considering how many apps are out there, that is quite an honor. Duolingo is free, and offers fun language instruction and practice in six languages – Spanish, French, German, Italian, English and Portuguese. The app is like a game and it uses images and your smartphone’s microphone to help you learn words, recite them and write them out. Duolingo.com

A study has found that listening to music can interfere with short-term memory and can be a terrible idea for students doing homework or studying for tests. Students were tested recalling a series of numbers, while listening to different kinds of background music. Interestingly, it didn’t matter if the student loved or hated the music being played. edutopia.org/blog/dont-listen-music-while-studying-david-cutler

I can’t wait to try The Big History Project. Pulled together by a tech guy and a historian, this free online initiative aims to challenge the way history is traditionally taught. Formerly only available to educators, the free game is now open to the public (and it is backed by Microsoft and Bill Gates). There is also a companion TV series on the History Channel. The goal? To bring the full story of humanity to life via a game by viewing history not as a straight line, but as a complex, interconnected web. bighistoryproject.com

Which colleges produce the most ambitious students? Inc. Magazine was curious. Using data from personality tests to gauge ambition, it decided that students from the following colleges are the most ambitious: UC Berkeley, UCLA, Harvard, U. Penn, Stanford, Vanderbilt, London School of Economics, Oxford, University College London and Boston University. Kudos to laid-back California for having three of the top 10 schools. You can read the details here:http://tinyurl.com/ndm4s4m

“IF…,” is a very unusual new online game that asks kids ages 6 to 12 to employ empathy and social-emotional skills in a game setting (for ex. helping cats and dogs in tribes to get along). The game will be available as a free iPad app in January and you can sign up to receive it when it goes live. A lot of attention is paid to the academic development of children, IF … will focus on the 20 or so specific related to self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships and decision-making. Ifyoucan.org/exsel-stats

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