The Moxie Blog

Homework

I like the teacher who gives you something to take home and think about besides homework.-Lily Tomlin

Labor Day is over, so just about anyone going back to school is now there. And where there is school, there is usually homework.  Although research is not clear on the benefits of homework, about 70% of teachers assign homework.  So it’s probably coming your child’s way.  I, for one, do believe in the value of some homework, even if simply to introduce the idea that some things done in the classroom might have value outside of the classroom.  Let’s face it; it’s useful to know how to work with fractions in daily living, not to mention basic reading and writing.  Kids might as well be helped to learn to use those skills outside of the supervised classroom.  Plus, why are we teaching civics, history, social studies and literature if we do not care whether kids learn to be thinking members of society.  And finally, there will be homework in college, so if you are planning on your kids going to college (and graduating), they should be able to handle some homework.

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August 2014 News about kids, ADHD and the classroom

Just a quick entry.  It is back to school and exciting for most.  For some parents, it is a time of anxiety because for some kids, it is an acute loss of freedom of movement that they desperately need.  As school starts, lets remember that movement is great and classroom structure is supportive.

Here is a reminder that exercise may be critical for kids with ADHD (adults too).

And because exercise won’t be enough,  here are some classroom strategies for helping kids with ADHD.

 

Back-to-School Knots

I was, on the whole, considerably discouraged by my school days. It was not pleasant to feel oneself so completely outclassed and left behind at the beginning of the race.  Winston Churchill

 

Yeay! Its back-to-school time!  Back to a schedule. Back to knowing where your kids are for most of the day.  Back to a modicum of predictability (till someone throws up).  We see all the happy mommies and daddies ushering their kids onto the playground, finding their new teacher, helping haul in the school supplies.  It’s all happy.

But not really.  There are parents trying to smile, but their stomachs are in knots.  They know from experience (last year or for multiple years) that all is not happy.  They want it to be happy.  They want to be there smiling and excited like the other parents.  They are putting on a brave face for their kids. Best foot forward, hope for the best, this year will be different . . . please.

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Exercise

A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise.  – A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
Finally, EXERCISE, the last of the four foundations to cover, but certainly not the least. In fact, I consider each of the four foundations – nutrition, sleep, hydration and exercise – to be equally important for learning.  However, something had to be last in the line-up and exercise ended up being it.  (There is deep psychology at work there for me).

But exercise is SOOOOO IMPORTANT for learning.

I am not just talking push-ups, pull-ups and running a mile.  Exercise includes anything that gets your body moving, from climbing at the playground to digging a hole to China.

There is tons of research about exercise and its positive (great, incredible, beneficial) impact on learning.

  • In the classroom, not only has exercise been shown to improve grades, it has been shown to reduce behavior and discipline problems.
  • Exercise also increases activity in the frontal lobes, the part of the brain important for organization, planning and judgment.   (And how many of our kids need work in that area? And how many of us?

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The Summer Slide

Ahh, Summer Slide-reducing, avoiding and out-smarting it

The Summer Slide.  It sounds like fun, doesn’t it? A water park ride, maybe a new dance.  But it’s not. It’s something more insidious, lurking and skulking around our plans for a carefree break from school.  It is one more thing for parents to worry about.  Summer Slide refers to the loss of academic skills that happen over the summer break.    I mean really, we (teachers, parents and kids) are ready for that summer break.  A break from homework, from book reports, from math sheets, from standardized tests, from any tests. AND NOW WE HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THE SUMMER SLIDE?!?

It’s not fair. . . but it’s there.

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Hydration

Water is the driving force of all nature.  Leonardo da Vinci

 

Hydration, not the most exciting of the four foundations for learning. How can hydration compete with exercise?  Exercise really gets the heart pumping.    Nutrition is also a bit more interesting. Frankly, it has more texture.  Now, you would think that hydration could beat sleep for excitement.  But not when you’re a parent.  We find sleep to be thrilling.

Hydration, the step-child of nutrition, is important, even if it is not exciting.  Our bodies are made up mostly of fluid and this accounts for over half of our body weight.  Our brain floats in fluid. We know that even mild dehydration can lead to physical problems ranging from headaches to faintness to a weak rapid pulse.   However, did you realize that a mere 1-2% decrease in optimal hydration can result in drops in cognitive performance.  And while cognitive skills decline, irritability is shown to go up.  And this will happen before you even feel thirsty (in fact, feeling thirsty means you are more than a little dehydrated).

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Sleep

Sleep is the best meditation.  Dalai Lama

Nutrition, sleep, hydration and exercise-I am reviewing the four foundations of learning (and life).

The second in our four foundations is sleep.  Science is still trying to figure out exactly why we need to sleep . . . but, while they are sorting this out, let me assure you that we DO need to sleep.  We really do.  Adults definitely sacrifice sleep for other things (not the least of which is surfing the internet-so thanks for reading).  And we often think that, because our kids are getting more sleep than we do, they are getting enough.  But they may not be.  And lack of sleep is linked to several problems with learning and attention.

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Nutrition

Nutrition is huge for learning.  There is now tons of research showing that a good quality diet has a measurable impact on behavior, attention and learning.  And within the group of kids I see for learning evaluation, MOST of the parents are well aware of what a “good” diet is and strive to get good foods into their kids.  Still, the basics bear repeating.  When a busy parent is trying to get the kids through breakfast while packing lunches and doing every other little thing that needs to be done, there can be drift.  One day, a parent looks at the table and realizes she has drifted to serving instant oatmeal with brightly colored little marshmallow dinosaurs.  When that happens, it’s time to correct the course (again) (I have been there).

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A little rant

Hey, a little rant here.

There is a new diagnosis being tossed around – “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo.” The New York Times just did an article about it.  Here is a link –  http://nyti.ms/1n7RWuc

Sluggish Cognitive Tempo has been lurking in the background of child development for a number of years.  I hear about it, but it is not in the diagnostic manual (which is true for many types of learning or developmental challenges).  Sluggish Cognitive Tempo is for those kids who seem a little slow and scattered about getting things done. Of course, they have to be so slow and scattered that it bothers their teachers or their parents to a point that someone thinks a diagnosis is warranted.  It’s a version of attention deficit disorder without hyperactivity.  Diagnoses of Attention Deficit Disorder are going up, up, up, so it is not unexpected that we can split some diagnostic hairs and come up with some more specific names.

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Foundations

Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.  Janis Joplin, American singer

In real estate, they say “Location, Location, Location.”  For learning, I always start by stressing, “Foundation, Foundation, Foundation.”  And I mean deep down foundation.  Not just studying harder or longer, treating the learning disability, or reading more to the kids (and to yourself).  Those are nice, but you gotta go deeper.  I am talking about deeper foundation habits that set up children (as well as adults) to be ready to learn (and calmly enjoy the world).  We know all of these things, but sometimes forget their daily importance in our busy, busy lives.

I am talking about:

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