Boost Your Brain 2.

On January 20th I mentioned several ways yo can improve your brain function.  Here are several more.

  1. Get a good night’s SLEEP: Good sleep is the best thing you can do for your brain long term says Henry Emmons, MD author of STAYING SHARP (Touchstone).  Be sure your children get enough rest as well.  The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours for ages 18-64 and 7-8 hours for ages 65 and up.  Children need at least 7-9 hours of sleep as well.
  2. Surf…the Internet: Searching for information on the web improves neural circuitry.
  3. Hang out with Friends and Family.  Social connections improve brain health.
  4. Get lots of B Vitamins: B vitamins lower homocysteine – an amino acid linked to dementia.  You can find B vitamins in whole grain breads, pasta, cereals and rice.  It’s also found in poultry, leafy greens, papayas, beans, oranges and cantaloupe.  MAKE A SALAD WITH MIXED GREENS, SUNFLOWER SEEDS, CHICK PEAS OR OTHER BEANS, ORANGE SLICES AND DICED CHICKEN for a vitamin B packed meal.
  5. Be OPTIMISTIC: Positive thinking activates your brains ability to adapt and change.

Why I Home School by Maureen Lasher Morris.

Today’s post is courtesy of my friend Maureen Lasher Morris – who I’ve known since our days back in high school.  We haven’t seen each other since then, but have kept in touch thanks to social media.  Maureen has been part of the HOME SCHOOLING community for many years.  I asked her to share her thoughts about it and also to share some tips for those interested in becoming home schoolers.  Here’s Maureen.

I was a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing for 22 years before I came a homeschooling mom. It was not something that I actually planned;  it happened as a result of several things that occurred around the same time.

In 1996, my husband and I adopted a three-year-old girl, Maggie, from China. She became our 5th child as we had four biological children already. Since we were supposed to go to China in late August of that year, I applied for a year’s leave of absence from my teaching job. I thought it would be a good idea to have her well established into the family before I went back to work. At the time, my oldest daughter, Kristen, had just graduated from high school, Patrick my second child was a high school junior. My son, Tim had just finished 7th grade and my youngest son, Sean, just completed 1st grade. Tim and Sean asked if they could stay home, too and I thought it would be a great way for us to bond with our new addition. So, I ordered a home school curriculum for each and began our new adventure in learning.

Shortly after our return from China, my father was diagnosed with leukemia. Since my youngest boys were home schooled, I was able to pick up their books and materials and go help my mother though this difficult period of time. My mother was a retired elementary school teacher.  It was good therapy for her to help me and keep busy while she took care of my father. We went back and forth every couple of months from Colorado Springs where I reside to Southern Arizona where my parents were living.  

When my leave was up for the following year, we decided that my place was better at home than working so I sent in a letter of resignation. My son, Tim, decided that he missed his friends at school so he went back to school for high school. I continued to home school Sean and Maggie  through high school.

My daughter, Kristen, married and has 6 children. I home schooled her oldest son, Joe, through 8th grade. He is extremely bright but struggles with learning disabilities. He has severe dyslexia and even the experts in reading at the university here in Colorado Springs were doubtful that he would ever read. He is also dysgraphic which means that he can’t physically write. This has had a huge impact on his life and it is something that he will always struggle with. He does however,  read well.  He has a fabulous memory and if he hears something once he remembers it for life. We worked together for 9 years and I mean together. We sat in a big double chair and I read everything to him with him joining in sharing the readings once he was proficient enough.  I became his scribe and basically his right hand. I am still scribing for his college work (not at school, but his home assignments).  I do not aid him in any other way except to type for him. His level of knowledge has surpassed mine and his vocabulary is excellent. 

One result of him being home schooled through his elementary years was that he knew he learned differently from most, but he also knew he was very bright and never had any self-esteem issues that could have occurred.  He attended one of the top ten high schools in Colorado. The school was excellent at providing him adaptive materials and he was able to take advantage of programs such as Dragon Speech which is a program that types what the persons dictates.  

Dragon Naturally Speaking Speech Recognition. The link for this is http://www.nuance.com/for-individuals/by-product/dragon-for-pc/index.htm.

I am currently homeschooling my 11-year-old grandson, John.  It is a temporary arrangement for this year only as he will be attending a new school next year that teaches technical skills while maintaining the requirements for college entrance. I am enjoying this opportunity to have this special time with him. He is as bright as his brother, Joe but does not have the learning disabilities.    

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

If you’re looking to get into to home schooling, there are some things you might consider.  I will discuss these in my post next Friday.

 

 

Happy Chinese New Year: Easy Dragon Craft

The Chinese New Year will be celebrated on Saturday 1-28-2017.  It is the YEAR OF THE ROOSTER.  Why not have your kids join in the festivities by making their own CHINESE DRAGON PUPPETS.

Here is all you need (with scissors, tacky glue and some bag clips to hold pieces in place):

2016-01-16-19-52-20I used thin foam pieces for the head and tail, and card stock for the head fin and middle section.  You can also use craft paper for the whole thing, or felt and ribbons or yarn for the mid-section.  Pipe cleaners are another option for the mid section or stems. Let your imagination go for creative designs.

Using the pattern pieces below, cut the number of pieces indicated and set aside.

2016-01-16-19-53-12

 

If you’re using paper for the midsection, fold it accordion style as shown here:

2016-01-16-21-09-48Make it as long as you like…it actually looks best when the middle is long and twisting.

Assemble the head by inserting the fin between the two pieces.  Glue in place.   Insert the sticks (I used wooden skewers) between the head pieces and tail pieces.  Insert the ends of the midsection into these pieces as shown.  Glue in place and clip to hold together until it dries.

2016-01-16-21-26-15        2016-01-16-21-26-27Add a googlie eye or draw facial features with a Sharpie marker.  Don’t forget to put features on both sides!

 

Hold the sticks at both ends to make the Dragon move.

Here’s another version of a dragon puppet:  http://www.redtedart.com/chinese-new-year-craft-dragon-puppet-free-printable/

For more activities and easy crafts to celebrate the Year of the Rooster visit:

http://www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/chinesenewyear/

Happy New Year!

2016-01-16-21-27-40

Boost Your Brain – Part 1

Want you and your family to have healthier, sharper, and better-functioning brains?  It is easier than you might think.  There is a lot you can do to improve brain health by following some science-based tips.  I am posting several today and will have more at the end of the month.

  1. Learning a foreign language helps your brain process information better and focus more sharply.  Try Apple’s  iPhone app Duolingo to learn Spanish, French, German, Italian, Swedish or several other languages.
  2. If you want to remember items from a list or details from notes, write them in RED.  Studies have shown that the color red “fixes” itself on our memory better than other colors.
  3. To improve attention and concentration, TRY PING PONG.
  4. To help recall details of an event, CLOSE YOUR EYES.  When visual distractions are removed, your brain focuses more efficiently.
  5. Eat fish and avocados. Both improve brain function by reducing inflammation.  A handful of nuts such as walnuts, almonds, peanuts also help improve cognition.
  6. Try new things and see new sights.  New experiences give the brain exercise like a new muscle.
  7. Coloring eases stress and puts your brain in meditation mode.  Any activity that calms the body, restores the brain.  There are numerous coloring books for kids and adults of all ages.
  8. GET UP AND MOVE! Aerobic exercise actually increases the size of your hippocampus – the part of the brain involved in learning and remembering.  Put on a record and dance, take a Zumba class, go jogging, or jump on a trampoline.  It’s all good for the brain.
  9. Do something with your non-dominate hand. Brushing teeth, writing your name, unscrewing the lid of a jar.  By using your “other” hand, you challenge the brain to perform the activity and fire new synapses while doing it.

 

 

In Service to Others.

Tomorrow is a day we’ve set aside to remember a great man: Martin Luther King Jr.  What better way to remember him and honor his memory than to do our own “good deeds” of service.  To quote King: “I have decided to stick with Love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”           martin_luther_king_jr_nywtsTo discover service opportunities in your community visit: http://www.nationalservice.gov/mlkday

Scholastic has lesson plans for teachers in grades 3-12 as well as service opportunities for children.  http://www.scholastic.com/mlkday

The Art of Cursive Writing: Good for the Brain.

At first I thought I was a dinosaur – lamenting the demise of cursive writing in our culture.  Most schools no longer teach it in this age of keyboarding.  But I’ve recently seen a number of scientifically researched articles on the benefits of cursive writing in child development – specifically on brain development.

Cursive handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres, something absent from printing, typing or keyboarding.   There is a reason why beautiful handwriting  seems like an artistic art form: Cursive writing engages the same areas of the brain used to create art.

Another important area associated with cursive writing and one that supports self-esteem building is when the limbic – or emotional area of the child’s brain –  is engaged in a positive linguistic exercise.  Writing in cursive stimulates this area of the brain as well.

So, encourage your child’s brain development by teaching them the art of cursive writing.  Not good at handwriting yourself?  There are many practice books to get started.  And, it’s never too late to “train your brain” to be more creative.

To learn more about these fascinating studies visit:

http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/resource/3555

http://www.brainbalancecenters.com/blog/2014/09/brain-benefits-write-in-cursive/

http://naturalsociety.com/how-cursive-writing-affects-brain-development/

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/06/20/why-handwriting-is-still-essential-in-the-keyboard-age/?_r=0

Information about the brain’s responses to cursive writing were taken from:

Dr. David Sortino, a psychologist and current Director of  Educational Strategies, a private consulting company catering to teachers, parents, students. Dr. Sortino is also a primary provider for the FastForWord reading Program as well as trained in Neurofeedback. 

To contact Dr. Sortino, e-mail davidsortino@comcast or 707-829-8315 or go to his blog: Santa Rosa Press Democrat – Dr. David Sortino.

 

2017: A Year to Be Kind.

According to a poll by Kindness USA, only 25 percent of Americans believe we live in a kind society.  In another survey of 10,000 teens, 4 out of 5 said their parents are more interested in achievement and personal happiness than in caring for others.  There is definitely less kindness in public life.

With so much harshness, negativity, hatred and meanness that seems to populate discourse in our society, it was very encouraging to see a recent article about BEING KIND.  The article, by Paula Spencer Scott in PARADE MAGAZINE, lists ways we can change this discourse and make kindness a priority in our lives.

1.You can join PARADE and the RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS FOUNDATION in this year’s challenge: Write 52 Thank You Notes – one each week to a different person for a year.  Besides bringing kindness and joy to the recipient, this gratitude boosts happiness and well-being in the “doer” as well.  You can find a template for a simple thank you  note at: http://www.Parade.com/note.

2. Read Orly Wahba’s KINDNESS BOMERANG: HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD (AND YOURSELF) THROUGH 365 DAILY ACTS for simple suggestions on how to pass on kindness such as sharing a cup of tea with grandma and reminiscing about times shared.

3. TEACHERS can find downloadable lesson plans on teaching kindness at: http://www.randomactsofkindness.org

4. Looking for a way to acknowledge good deeds or inspire someone to “pay it forward”? Go to: http://www.Parade.com/cards    to print out free kindness cards to pass out to those who do good deeds.

Even the folks at SESAME STREET know the importance of kindness.  It needs to be taught and modeled. The new – 47th – season of the program will focus on modeling kind behaviors and explicitly labeling kindness when it happens.

If you need more of an incentive to practice kindness on a daily basis, here are some proven benefits:

Being kind feels good.  Not only do you and the other person get a lift, but so do witnesses.  Each person involved is then motivated to “Pass on the kindness”.

Kindness leads to a less isolated, more connected world.

Strong social-emotional skills in young people predict success later in life better than IQ scores.  It is also seen as a key to anti-bullying programs.  To learn more about these programs visit the Girls Scouts of the USA BE A FRIEND PROGRAM, Lady Gaga’s BORN THIS WAY FOUNDATION, and the KIND CAMPAIGN started by 2 graduates of Pepperdine University.

To see how cities across America are spreading kindness, visit: http://www.cityofkindness.org

Kindness is one condition worth spreading and sharing with the world. What acts of kindness will you do today, tomorrow and throughout the year?  I’ll be checking back here periodically with an update on my own “kindness project”.