Start Early to Get Ahead
Balance is key for school readiness
What does being ready for elementary school really mean? It used to mean starting the first day of school with all the supplies on the list, but now we know so much more about how young children's brains develop. More and more parents are aware of the positive effects of a high quality early childhood education for their child's success. This knowledge has also led to extra emphasis on acquiring academic skills. Experts suggest parents take a step back and look for programs with a balanced approach to school readiness.
"With young children, everything is connected: their minds, bodies and emotions; creativity, happiness, security and intellectual progress," says Dr. Robert Needlman, author and nationally acclaimed pediatrician. "A balanced approach to readiness celebrates this reality about children. It's our best hope for turning out students who can think, feel and act independently and effectively."
What is a Balanced Approach to Learning?
From birth through age five, development in all areas of the brain is rapid. Research suggests that the quality of interactions children experience during this essential time can have a far reaching effect on future learning and the formation of satisfactory relationships. It is true that early childhood education programs have become more learning-focused in light of the research on childhood brain development, but high quality programs take a broader perspective. The focus of a balanced early childhood education program should be on helping children develop physical, social-emotional, creative and academic skills.
Nurturing guidance and attention to every part of a child's development during this crucial stage helps children not only learn reading and math skills, but how to show compassion, independence, resilience and curiosity - all qualities that could be taken for granted, but that are taught and encouraged in a quality preschool setting.
"Children who are confident, self-regulating and able to relate to others will have a better experience transitioning to elementary school, regardless of their exact reading or math skill level," said Dr. Mary Zurn, vice president of education for Primrose Schools, a family of 220 private preschools across the country. "On the academic side, it is as important for children to be eager to learn, to ask questions and to be able to think as it is for them to know letter names and sounds and be able to solve mathematical problems."
When looking for an early childhood education program, research is the first step to selecting one that will provide your child with these lasting benefits. Dr. Zurn recommends looking for these five key factors in a preschool:
1. Focus on mastering concepts, not just memorization: Look for a preschool that teaches children to love learning. They develop an understanding of concepts through hands-on activities, play and by expressing what they have learned to others.
2. Physical Activity: P.E. or even recess can often get cut from public programs, but being physically active is key to curbing childhood obesity and to forming positive life skills. Purposeful instruction in motor skills and outdoor play are both part of a well-rounded preschool education.
3. Music: Did you know that early exposure to music not only enhances a child's ability to create and enjoy music, but also fosters other aspects of brain development? Early exposure to music can improve IQ scores, motor coordination and social skills. Research shows that music potential needs to be nurtured with song, dance and play before age five or it is not likely to develop. An early childhood education music program supports the development of your child's sense of rhythm, pitch, melody and motor coordination, all while having fun.
4. Character Development: Look for programs that intentionally and consistently teach your child to be honest, kind, compassionate and respectful. Social-emotional development during preschool is key to a successful transition to elementary school and lifelong healthy relationships.
5. Parent Resources: Finally, it's important to remember that learning does not stop outside the classroom - your interactions with your child at home are equally important. Consider the resources, tips and tools that a school can offer parents. Frequent communication with your child's teacher can give you insight into how your child is advancing and help you reinforce balanced learning at home.
Choosing a Preschool
Dr. Joanne Nurss, professor emeritus of educational psychology at Georgia State University in Atlanta and former director of the Center for the Study of Adult Literacy, has conducted extensive research and published numerous articles in the field of children's literacy development. Dr. Nurss encourages parents to look for high-quality early childhood education programs with the following criteria:
- Physical Development: Is indoor and outdoor physical activity part of the daily schedule? With childhood obesity on the rise and research that shows that movement plays a role in early brain development, daily exercise such as running, stretching or even dance should be a part of the curriculum.
- Social-Emotional Development: Does the curriculum include programs specifically designed to nurture your child's social and emotional development? Look for programs that promote an understanding of concepts like friendship, generosity and honesty.
- Creative Development: Are enrichment programs such as art and music woven into the day's activities? Young children naturally engage in creative activity in their day-to-day thinking, but ongoing enrichment activities lay the foundation for later creative skills.
- Academic Development: Does the classroom teaching method go beyond basic memorization to encourage concept mastery? Academic success is not just about fact memorization. Learning how to think critically, use mathematical concepts and expand listening, speaking, reading and writing skills will help your child develop a love of learning.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
... Continue reading Start Early to Get Ahead.
Tracking Down College Scholarships
We hear often from parents, "I'd love for my son/daughter to get accepted to their dream school...but I'm very nervous about how to pay for it."
Even if you're in a more comfortable income bracket, scholarships can go a long way to making the college-going years less of a financial burden. Here are our top tips on getting started:
Scholarpro.com and Zinch.com are both great resources for scholarships.
Look for college scholarships close to home. See if your company or any professional organizations you belong to offer scholarships.
Local businesses, civic groups and even wealthy people in your hometown may offer scholarships to local students.
Proactively sit down with your student's guidance counselor to discuss scholarships that are a personal fit for your student and your family's financial situation.
Most people don't know that universities earmark scholarship money for students studying specific majors or entering certain career fields. Once you have narrowed your college list, be sure to reach out to each university to see what is available.
The federal government offers certain scholarships and grants: studentaid2.ed.gov is a great resource.
... Continue reading Tracking Down College Scholarships.
Courtesy of BrightGuide
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Winning Savings on Sports Apparel and Equipment
by Valerie Spate
The parents of young athletes know that while sports equipment and apparel can be quite expensive, it rarely gets used long enough to need replacing. Instead, most of these items are outgrown and, unless they can be handed down to a younger sibling, much of the cost is wasted. There are, however, many options that parents may take advantage of in order to keep these costs under control. These range from the straightforward, like using Finishline Coupons, to the more creative, like forming an equipment co-op within a team community.
The high cost of sports equipment is not a new development for parents. Similar to the challenge that parents face when keeping their children clothed, the rate at which kids can outgrow items has been frustrating parents for decades. The first step in managing costs is to try to spend less when purchasing these items. This may range from using online coupon codes, shopping sales, buying at the end of a given season in the hopes that discounted items will fit next year and shopping for lightly used items. Used sports equipment has become more mainstream through both websites like Craigslist and stores like Play It Again Sports. Either of these latter options can be an effective way to keep the cost of apparel and equipment lower than buying new.
The economic challenges that have arisen over the past several years have led parents to look for ways to more significantly manage their budgets. In the sports arena, one such approach has been to form equipment co-ops with a given community. For example, if the local park district has an active hockey program, the parents in the community may choose to come together to defray costs. After the initial start-up costs have been absorbed, a parent may sell used equipment to the co-op, while simultaneously buying other equipment. Essentially, the community allows the parents of various athletes to contribute equipment that they can no longer use in exchange for equipment that fits plus a small fee. The net effect is to dramatically reduce the cost for all participants.
One of the obvious questions that arises within the co-op scenario is to address what happens if one cannot find the right size. This might occur, for example, after some equipment has been worn out. While this is certainly a concern, in most cases certain members of the community will favor new equipment. These players will likely purchase new apparel and equipment and still be willing to sell their used equipment to the co-op. Players requiring new equipment may be those that excel in the sport, but this is not always the case. Regardless of the driving factor, in many instances, such a co-op can function smoothly and offer significant price savings to those most interested in defraying costs.
While sports equipment and apparel are an expensive element of raising children, there are options available to keep costs under control.
... Continue reading Winning Savings on Sports Apparel and Equipment.
Valerie Spate is always searching for the best deals and coupons to help to reduce costs for her growing family.
Biggest Bully Apologizes
By Helice "Sparky" Bridges
Founder and CEO
Difference Makers International
"The deepest desire in the human spirit is the craving to be acknowledged."
-William James, Father of American Psychology
DID YOU KNOW?
• Children who bully are more likely to come from home situations in which there is little warmth and little positive adult attention.
• Two out of three teens are verbally or physically assaulted every year.
• A victim of bullying is twice as likely to take his or her life compared to someone who is not a victim.
-Source: Mental Health Systems, Inc. - San Diego, California
So often we hear people say, "kids are so mean today." The media is flooded with stories about bullying and cyber bullying. Front page newspapers tell the tragic stories of young people committing suicide because they were constantly bullied. In an effort to put an end to this social issue facing today's youth, Difference Makers International has begun a grassroots campaign that is helping all kids feel safe- socially, emotionally and physically.
"There are no bullies--only people who need to be loved." Helice "Sparky" Bridges
Can we make this change? You bet! In my opinion, there are no bullies-only people who need to be loved. Our work teaches young people how to eradicate bullying, avert adolescent suicide and make dreams come true through the power of acknowledgment. We are collaborating with the Mental Health Systems, Inc. Bully Prevention Training so that every teacher and student will know how to end bullying.
Our school, family and community Power of Acknowledgment Training Programs will soon be delivered to over 30,150 elementary, middle school students and high schools in San Diego with a community outreach to approximately 100,000,-creating conversations that shift the focus from what's WRONG to what is RIGHT.
Our "Who I Am Makes A Difference"® Blue Ribbon message has impacted over 30 million people worldwide and has been translated into 11 languages. The Blue Ribbon Story appears in Chicken Soup for the Soul recounting the story of a 14 year-old boy who did not commit suicide because his father honored him with a Blue Ribbon and finally told him he loved him. This story was made into a photo movie receiving over three million hits on YouTube.
Recently our school assemblies and student leadership trainings were delivered at Parsons Middle School in Redding, California and Northeast Intermediate School in Midland, Michigan with gymnasiums packed with nearly 1,000 students, teachers, parents and community leaders.
To show students how they could eradicate bullying in a minute or less, I gave them an opportunity to step to the front of the auditorium, speak into the microphone and do one of the following: 1) Publically apologize for bullying or harming anyone, 2) share their dreams and ask for support or 3) or tell someone how they make a difference and honor them with a "Who I Am Makes A Difference"® Blue Ribbon.
In an instant, students leaped out of their seats and ran down from the bleachers. One by one they stepped to the mike, said their name, and without asking were enthusiastically applauded.
"I want to honor my math teacher," one boy announced. "I always mess up in class but you just keep encouraging me." Then the boy placed a Blue Ribbon over his teacher's heart, cheered him on for his dreams and gave him a hug.
"I'd like people to stop putting me down for my weight," a girl timidly requested. The audience exploded with applause as a way of publicly saying that they were sorry.
"I want to be a football player," announced the small 5' proud 7th grader. "Outstanding," I shouted inviting everyone to cheer Mike on for his dream. They did!
"I want to apologize for bullying my little brother," said the 9th grader. "He's a really great guy and I love him." His younger brother raced down to the open arms of his big brother. They hugged and cried openly. The auditorium went silent. Later on the principal told me that the big brother was the biggest bully in the school.
"I am a bully," said the 15 year-old girl. "I want to apologize for being so mean. I don't really want to be mean, I just get so angry all the time. What I really want is to make friends and treat people nicely, but I don't know how." Everyone in the gymnasium leaped to their feet and gave her a thunderous standing ovation.
Following these assemblies, students continued to apologize, share their dreams and acknowledge their teachers and siblings. Many immediately called their parents to say there were sorry. Teachers were shocked with the kindness taking place in their classrooms and hallways. We would like to see this occur across campuses worldwide.
... Continue reading Biggest Bully Apologizes.
Together we can eradicate bullying. "IGNITE WHAT'S RIGHT"™ has exploded into a nation wide campaign. Students, parents, teachers, neighbors and clergy are inviting us to teach programs. Contact us to find out how your school (K-12), college, organization business and/or neighborhood can help all kids feel safe-socially, emotionally and physically. Contact us at: DifferenceMakersInternational.org, email@example.com or 760-753-0963.
Scholarships for Student Athletes
High school student athletes now have the chance to score some extra cash for college. The National Milk Mustache "got milk?" Campaign, in partnership with USA Today, is announcing the call for entries for the 14th annual Scholar Athlete Milk Mustache of the Year (Sammy) Award program. The Sammy Awards recognize 25 outstanding high school senior student athletes who represent excellence in academics, athletics, community service and leadership and include lowfat milk in their daily routines.
The Sammy scholarship rewards exceptional student athletes by helping to offset some of the costs associated with college tuition. The scholarship helps educate teens on the value of making smart choices - like drinking lowfat milk, eating right and staying active. Twenty-five talented teens will receive a $7,500 college scholarship, attend an awards ceremony with celebrity guests at Disney World, be pictured in a special Milk Mustache ad in USA Today, and have a chance to help their favorite charity in the process. To date, the National Milk Mustache "got milk?" Campaign has awarded 325 talented high school seniors with nearly $2.5 million in scholarships.
"It's an honor for the national got milk? campaign to continue to reward such extraordinary student-athletes who not only excel in their respective sports and communities, but also serve as advocates for drinking milk," said Vivien Godfrey, chief executive officer of the National Milk Mustache "got milk?" campaign. "Lowfat chocolate milk has the right combination of carbohydrates and protein, making it a great choice to help refuel and recover after a tough workout."
High school seniors who excel in the classroom, on the sports field and in their communities are encouraged to submit an application. This year's winners will be selected by a celebrity panel of Milk Mustache athletes, including Apolo Ohno, Chauncey Billups, Dara Torres, Andy Roddick and Lindsey Vonn.
"I am so excited to be championing the 2011 Sammy Awards and to connect with these exceptional student athletes," said speed skating superstar Apolo Ohno "I recently joined the Milk Mustache campaign, and as a judge for Sammy, this is a great opportunity to pass on my tips for staying ahead of the game. My coaches and trainers agree - grabbing lowfat chocolate milk after a strenuous workout helps me get nutrients back into my body quickly to help me refuel for the next race."
High school seniors who are interested in applying for the 2011 Sammy Awards program should visit www.bodybymilk.com. All applicants are required to describe in 250 words or less how they refuel with milk while excelling in academics, athletics, community service and leadership.
Entries must be submitted no later than 11:59 pm ET Friday, March 4, 2011. For complete contest rules, applications, tips and exclusive Milk Mustache celebrity videos, log onto .
... Continue reading Scholarships for Student Athletes.
Teenage Girls & Social Networks
The Girl Scouts of America recently conducted a survey of more than 1000 girls nationwide, between the ages of 14-17, to examine their behavior on and perceptions of social networking. The study found that:
"...increased exposure to social media puts teenage girls in a confusing situation where a girl's image is not always what it seems, as nearly 74 percent of girls agree that most girls use social networking sites to make themselves "cooler than they really are." The survey finds that girls downplay several positive characteristics of themselves online, most prominently their intelligence, kindness and efforts to be a positive influence. These feelings among others related to emotional safety online and the impact of social media on girls' relationship. "
... Continue reading Teenage Girls & Social Networks.
You can read more in this 'Who's that Girl' factsheet.
Checklist for Choosing a Safe Day Care
By Madonna Behen
... Continue reading Checklist for Choosing a Safe Day Care.
Finding the right day-care center requires a balance of many practical issues: location, cost, hours of operation. And you of course also want a nurturing staff. "But bottom line, your child's health and safety is what matters the most," says Patricia Skinner, executive director of the Capital District Child Care Council, a resource and referral agency serving six counties in the Albany, N.Y., region. "After all, it doesn't matter how stellar the caregiver's interactions are if there's broken glass on the playground," she says.
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