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martin-luther-king-jr-day

Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture by Flickr

The third Monday of every January in the United States is Martin Luther King Jr Day. This year it falls on the 21st of January. The day is meant to celebrate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Throughout most of his adult life, he fought for the rights and equality of African Americans in the U.S. His methods for freedom and peace throughout the nation consisted of peaceful protests and the service of his communities. He has often been compared to Gandhi, as they both had a profound impact on their people and the struggle to gain equality and freedom.

History of Martin Luther King Jr Day

This national holiday was officially created by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. It marks the day and a memorial of the life and assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in 1968. However, it was not until 2000 that it became a nationally recognized holiday and celebrated in every state. This is due to the fact that many of the struggles and issues that Martin Luther King Jr. sought to destroy were still very much in play at the time of his assassination and nearly twenty years later when the holiday was created.

Movements are being made to make the day an official federal holiday, requiring that government offices would be closed to celebrate the day. However, because Martin Luther King Jr. never held an official public office, as is the usual requirement for such a day, many would say that this shouldn’t be allowed.

How to Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day

martin luther king jr

Photo Credit: The Library of Congress by Flickr

As we are honoring a man who served his community and helped his fellow man at every turn and in so many different ways, we think that continuing his legacy is the best way to celebrate him and his life. Find ways that you and your children can serve your local community and neighborhood. There are many events held monthly, weekly, and even daily that facilitate change our nation for the better, making it a place where everyone is equal and peace abounds.

Many communities hold parades and festivals in honor of this man who lived for others. Attend one and learn more about how he made dreams a reality. Visit a museum and see first hand what he accomplished. Or you could simply read one of the hundreds of books written on the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. No matter your station, background, lineage, or even the place where you live, we all deserve freedom and a chance to live out our dreams. Today is the day to celebrate and honor that.

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English Letters

Photo Credit: Jason Leung on Unsplash

We all want our children to enjoy their education. Of course, there are also lots of critical life skills we need them to learn, whether they enjoy it or not. However, nothing has to be boring. Children are wired to have fun. By approaching basic skills like reading as an opportunity to explore the world and have fun at the same time, we can invite our children to be excited about learning new things.

At its most basic, reading is just recognizing the words we see and being able to say them out loud. There are opportunities to practice this everywhere we go. A great way to make reading fun and challenge children to learn new words is to incorporate it into their favorite activities. If you think about it, you do lots of reading for your children whenever you are interacting with them. You read for them at the grocery story, when looking at the tv guide, even when picking out their clothing. These are all activities your children would love to be more involved in.

For example, if you take your child to the grocery store, you can let them help you pick out the products you need by reading the labels on the package. This doesn’t have to mean reading complicated ingredient lists. It could be as simple as “Which package of pudding is plain and which is vanilla?” Or you can make a game where your child gets to buy any one snack they want if they can read the words on the package. The idea is to teach your child that being good at reading has rewards.

Another option is to put your young reader in charge of information about her activities. When coaches and teachers send home information about games and field trips, tell your child that she needs to read it to you so that you know what it says. Chances are she will already know what it is about and be excited to share it with you. This is the perfect opportunity to motivate her to sound out words and really make an effort. She knows that when she gets the words right, you’ll sign and she can go on the field trip.

Finally, keep an open mind about the kinds of things your child enjoys reading in the beginning. Children don’t start out reading whole books. It may be street signs or cereal boxes that they get excited to sound out. Keep an eye out for what they gravitate to and encourage this behavior. When you know what piques their interest, you can provide additional opportunities for them to challenge themselves.

The key is to remember that reading doesn’t have to be a grind. Children will be excited to learn new things. If you encourage that excitement by providing fun opportunities to practice, you can raise children who see reading as a passport to new and expanding adventures, rather than a chore.

For more information on encouraging good reading habits, or for support with reading instruction, contact Best Brains at (847) 485-000 or visit www.bestbranis.com

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Distracted Child

Photo Credit: Janko Ferlic

We all want to create healthy and supportive home environments for our children. However, sometimes circumstances beyond our control can impact children’s learning and make it difficult for them to focus on school. When a family member gets sick, or financial trouble disrupts home life, it can be a challenge for young people to stay focused on their studies. Here are some ways you can help promote your children’s health and focus when they’re dealing with distractions.

The first thing to do is identify the disruption. What is it that’s causing the difficulty? Has there been a death in the family? Did you recently move and your child switched schools? Before we can address the effects of a disruption, we have to know what it is. Sometimes it will be obvious. Other times you will have to ask questions to find out what your son or daughter is thinking. Maybe they’re worried about a friend of theirs. Or maybe they’re having issues with someone else in the family. Accurately identifying the problem is the first step to addressing it.

Once you know what the issue is, have an honest conversation with your child about how it’s affecting them. Are they having a hard time paying attention in class? Do they not remember the material as well? Maybe they’re no longer enjoying hanging out with friends or participating in activities. Whatever the problems, you want to reassure them that it’s normal to become distracted when we’re dealing with difficult things in life. By giving your child permission to feel upset, you can help them relax and eventually work through whatever they’re dealing with.

Once you and your child understand what’s happening and how it’s affecting them, you can begin to look for routines, resources, and support to help them. For children who are having a hard time focusing at home, this could mean letting them go to the local library for a few hours after school. If your child’s school has a good counseling program, you can set up sessions with the school counselor so that your child has an ally at school they can talk to. It’s also a good idea to be in touch with your child’s teachers. You can share as much or as little as you’d like about what your child and your family are dealing with. The key is simply to communicate to the teacher that you’re aware of your child’s trouble focusing and that you intend to address it actively and in a way that’s healthy and productive for their education.

We never want to imagine our children in difficult situations. However, circumstances sometimes arise that challenge the normal, healthy routines we’ve established. At these times, it’s important to be proactive. By actively sympathizing with your children and communicating with their teachers, you can create a collaborative environment where your child feels supported and is able to overcome whatever is hampering their success.

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Kid Inventors’ Day

Every January 17th we have the opportunity to celebrate the children in our lives and the accomplishments they have and will make. This includes inventions and extraordinary innovations. Children, unlike adults, have a unique ability to look at the world differently. They do not understand many aspects of life and the difficulty it holds.

Some would believe this makes them ineligible for such tasks. On the contrary, the fact that they are not bogged down by life’s complexities and hardships most often allows them to create without limitations or boundaries. They are able to see solutions on a different level than most adults.

There are many things we use on a daily basis that were, in fact, created by children or teenagers, such as the trampoline, popsicles, ear muffs.

The History of Kid Inventors’ Day

One of the first known child inventors was Benjamin Franklin. Most of us are familiar with his creations of all sorts of useful items such as bifocals, the lightning rod, the Franklin stove, and the glass harmonica just to name a few. However, he started inventing when he was just a child. At age 12 he created the first swim flippers. It for this reason that we celebrate Kid Inventors’ Day on his birthday, January 17th.

History continues to prove that children can and do invent some very impressive and helpful things. Some are born from mere accidents, such as the popsicle, while others take several years to create and are much more complex. One of the most extensive creations of a child is the language of the blind, yes, Braille. It was created by a French child in Paris named Louis Braille after he was involved in a serious accident that took his sight from him.

American Sign Language also has a great contribution made by a child. Ryan Patterson, a teenager, invented special gloves with sensors to translate hand motions of ASL into written words for children and adults alike with various disabilities.

Kid Inventors’ Day

Photo Credit: Internet Archive Book Images by Flickr

How to Celebrate Kid Inventors’ Day

This day is proof that children of any age are living, breathing inventors with extraordinary minds. Never take those precious thoughts for granted, even if they seem a little unsophisticated and silly to you. after all, these children are our future. Today is a day for no limits, to believe the impossible. Sometimes that is what it takes to makes dreams and inventions of the future come to life.

Take a child to a museum, a park, or even the kitchen. Create an environment where they can learn about inventions from the past and experience inspiration. It can come from just about anywhere, from simple crafts and games to large airplanes and spaceships. No matter what you do, make sure to encourage their dreams, even if seems outrageous and impossible. You never know when the next Benjamin Franklin could be sitting in your living room.

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Kid Reading a book

Photo Credit: Monica H. on Flickr

If your young reader shows signs of struggling, it can be difficult to know if there is a real problem or if they are simply lagging behind a bit. Many parents notice little things about their reader that suggest there may be an issue in developing reading skills. However, rather than getting it checked out or seeking out some help immediately, they wait. But how long should you wait, if at all?

Research shows that there is a rather small window in which children develop reading skills best. This is typically between kindergarten and the end of first grade. After this, it becomes much harder for them to grasp the foundations of reading and phonemics.

In fact, over 90 percent of children who show signs of reading difficulties are brought up to grade level standards if they receive help by the first grade. For those who are age nine or above and have not received such help, studies show that about 75% will continue to struggle with reading until they graduate. This means that by grade four if they haven’t been provided reading assistance when it was needed in late kindergarten, it will take them four times as long to improve their skills and be at the correct reading levels. These facts make it imperative that help is received by struggling readers as soon as possible.

Books in a Rack

Photo Credit: my_southborough on Flickr

To help identify these reading issues, it is suggested that schools and/or teachers screen children in kindergarten through second grade several times a year. And many schools agree that once those screening results are in, the lowest scoring 20 percent of children should begin receiving extra reading help immediately. This typically happens in groups of three or fewer and is instructed by an effective and well-trained educator.

Many would say their child is simply a little too immature to handle the reading level of their grade. However, when a child cannot distinguish rhymes, confuses letters, and/or associates the wrong sound with a letter it rarely has anything to do with maturity levels.

If your child displays some of these traits, don’t automatically assume the worst. It may just mean that she was not given the proper instruction during preschool. Once she begins receiving experience with letters, sounds, and reading foundations, she will usually pick it up rather quickly. If, however, they have received proper instruction for some time and still struggle, there may be something larger going on.

In either case, it is important to get your child the help he might need as soon as possible. It is far better to be a bit over prepared than to make a child suffer in silence if there is a developmental or learning issue. Don’t be one of the many parents who find themselves regretting not getting that extra instruction for their child and causing more harm than good.

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Ice Skaters

Photo Credit: Henry Hemming from Flickr

Winter can be a trying time for school-age children and parents alike. The weather is colder and there just doesn’t seem to be as many fun options for time or energy to be spent. We often find ourselves stuck in the same routines, and to be honest, they are boring. The winter blues are knocking on the door and so is cold and flu season. But don’t despair. There are ways to keep both away with these fun and healthy tips for your home and family besides just remembering to wash your hands.

Healthy breakfast

Breakfast has long been known as the most important meal of the day. And for kids in school, it's even more essential. However, just as important as eating is what they are eating. Sugar filled pop-tarts and cocoa puffs will not sustain them until lunchtime and are sure to create the wrong kind of energy need for their demanding day.

Instead, whip up some eggs or, for days when you are running a little late, make sure to have some hardboiled ones in the fridge already. Yogurt topped with fruit, or on the side, is another great source of vitamins and proteins. Add some whole grains or cottage cheese and they are good to go for a full day of learning.

Exercise

Just because its colder outside doesn’t mean your child has an excuse to sit in front of a screen for long hours. Exercise is still a crucial part of their health and well-being. Not only does it keep them physically healthy but, according to many studies, has a very positive outlook on their emotional well-being and brain development.

Don’t be afraid to let your little ones enjoy the cold air outdoors. Spending time in nature, as long as they are bundled up, helps to prevent sleep deprivation, allows them to de-stress, and keeps up their immune system. A quick pre-dinner walk, ice skating, sledding, or a short trip to the park are all fun and safe outdoor activities for kiddos who need a little natural daylight and exercise.

Change up the lunches

School Children Lunch Box

Photo Credit: Melissa from Flickr

At this point in the school year, it's common to find that your child is only eating about half of their lunches each day at school. This is most likely just because they are bored with their choices. If this is the case in your home, it may be time to switch some things up a bit. Instead of the normal PB&J, try some crackers with ham and cheese. Add in some healthy fruits and veggies and maybe a small treat for a well-rounded meal.

Kids also seem to love compartmentalized meals. This allows them to create their own sandwiches from choices you send or instead of being overwhelmed by one or two large objects, they are presented with five or six smaller items such as carrots, celery, yogurt, and even a cookie.

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Trivial Pursuit

Photo Credit: Letica Ayuso from Flickr

You know all that seemingly useless information in your head that never gets used or you think no one else cares about? Today is the day to finally use it. January 4th is Trivia Day. They may be silly insignificant facts, little-known oddities, or just random information but on Trivia day they can be used to impress your family and friends and possibly even cause a few laughs.

The History of Trivia Day

The history of Trivia Day begins with a few missing pieces to a scrabble board game. In Montreal, Canada in 1979, friends Scott Abbott and Chris Haney were getting frustrated with their scrabble game that had some missing pieces. However, it did not stop them from having a bit of fun.

These two fellows decided to create a new game with the pieces they had. The game became an instantaneous hit and its popularity is spread worldwide. The game is Trivial Pursuit and it is thought to have sparked a seemingly endless fascination with odd or little-known facts on a wide variety of topics.

Since that day, many more trivia inspired games have been dreamed up and made their way into homes throughout the world. This day was created to remember that day and the efforts of the two men determined to have some fun. It’s also a day to make use of that random information in your head that usually has no specific purpose.

Trivial Pursuit Game

Photo Credit: Paolo Soro from Flickr

How to Celebrate Trivia Day

Trivia Day is best spent playing trivia games with your favorite comrades and family. There are a great number of trivia games to choose from in this day and age. Some are comprised of large boards, many pieces, and quite a few complex rules, whiles others are much simpler and can be played on a computer or smartphone. The subjects these tidbits of knowledge come from span every concept imaginable from the shoes on your feet to the stars in the sky. If you can think of it, there is a question about it.

However, don’t assume that prior knowledge of these subjects is required. Half of the fun is not knowing and learning tons of new information and trivia along the way. These are games young kids and adults alike can really get into. And if you don’t have any trivia games at home or the place you will be spending most of today, try making up your own. Continue the legacy of this day by having some fun and using all that knowledge in your head to make the world a happier place.

Here are a few random trivia facts to get you in the mood:

  • On Venus, it snows metal.
  • Spain means “the land of rabbits.”
  • Only female mosquitoes bite.
  • Saudi Arabia has no rivers.
  • The only Caribbean island with a railroad is Cuba.

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Students in a class Room

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Here in America, it’s not a very popular notion to take a year off between high school and the start of your college career. For many, it is a sign of not being motivated or not being ready to handle it. However, recent studies are showing some pretty tremendous and beneficial effects of taking that extra year off. And both students and parents are reaping the rewards.

Life Lessons

The simple fact is that many high school seniors are just not ready for college yet, whether academically or in regards to their maturity. And that’s ok. Much like many parents decide their five-year-old needs another year before kindergarten, some high students could use an extra year as well. That first year of college life can be overwhelming to those who are unprepared and has led to staggering dropout rates in recent years.

During this year, many students decide to travel, volunteer, or get some real-world work experience. This becomes a way for students to learn more about themselves, what they want out of life, and to learn more about life outside of their parent’s home and the adult responsibilities required.

For students who experienced helicopter parents who hovered and coddled, this is a time to grow up some. They learn to complete many tasks such as laundry, cooking, dishes, and cleaning for themselves. They can learn to take care of themselves without the extra stress of school.

Academic Benefits

Student with Graduation Cap

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Once it is time to return to their studies, they are ready to handle those new challenges. And counselors find that these students usually finish college in a shorter amount of time. It has also been noticed that students who decide to wait a year tend to come back with more focus, more maturity, and more self-awareness. They typically know what they want from their education and are less likely to change majors and/or schools several times, saving themselves and their parents a lot of time and money. They also have more realistic career goals and are more motivated to reach those.

When it comes to the actual classroom, professors and parents alike notice better grades and an overall higher GPA than expected, especially in comparison to those who didn’t take a gap year. Students who took this time off also tend to stand out as classroom and extracurricular activity leaders. And they are able to juggle the responsibilities of their classes, sports, work, social life, etc. much easier.

This year is an opportunity for young adults to learn about life on their own, making their own decisions, and not leaning on the support of their parents. It’s a time for them to grow in maturity and learn some valuable life lessons without risking $50,000 in college tuition and fees. When it’s time for that money to actually be spent, it will be much more worth it both to the student and their parents.

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Girl Writing photo

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When a student comes home with poor grades, it can be an especially stressful challenge for parents. We all have high expectations for our children’s education, and we want to see them perform well. This is even more true when a student who previously performed well starts to struggle academically. While it can be easy to panic or overreact, there are many simple reasons that a child may struggle academically. By identifying the cause and responding appropriately, you can help your child get back on track to academic success.

Learning New Material

One of the simplest reasons a child may suddenly get lower marks is that they’re encountering new material. When students learn complex concepts for the first time, they may struggle to keep up with their peers or their teacher’s expectations. Many times, this just means that a student needs more practice. For instance, if your child was good at elementary math, but struggles to learn algebra, don’t panic. Complex math involves new forms of reasoning that can take a while to learn. The important thing is to provide opportunities for students to work on the skills they need to improve. You should ask about extra practice work that the teacher may be able to provide. Also take advantage of any after-school tutoring opportunities that may exist. Another great option is to seek outside help that can be personalized for your student’s particular needs. A good tutor can identify and address your child’s challenges and design a program to get them back on track.

Distractions

When young people are at school, there are lots of forces competing for their attention. They have friends who want to talk to them and hang out with them. They have sports teams and other activities they have to plan and practice for. And they have dozens of relationships with teachers, staff, and other students to manage throughout the day. Sometimes this gets to be too much, and a student’s attention to their schoolwork can suffer. If you notice your child’s grades are falling a bit, spend some time assessing their schedule. How much time do they have to devote to schoolwork? Are they getting enough sleep? Ask them about the atmosphere in their classes. Do they feel like it’s easy to learn there? Once a distraction is identified, you can work to address or remove it.

Social Issues

A school environment is a dynamic learning space where lots of different personalities have to work together to make learning possible. Sometimes, if these social and professional relationships break down, students can suffer. This can happen where there are tensions between students in a classroom. For instance, a student may suddenly be uncomfortable speaking up or participating in front of other students. In other cases, poor relationships between student and teachers can negatively impact the learning environment. Have a talk with your child about their teachers. Ask them if they’re comfortable in their classes. Do they like their teachers’ styles? Are there any teachers they have a hard time learning from? If a student is uncomfortable working with a particular teacher, consider scheduling a parent-teacher conference to address any issues. If you need help preparing for such a meeting, have a look at some of our tips for successful conferences.

Ultimately, your student’s success depends on managing a number of complex factors. By asking the right questions, you can identify any problems that may be negatively affecting their performance, and get them back on the path to an effective education.

If you are interested in speaking to someone about educational support services for your child, you can contact Best Brains at (847) 485-0000 to speak with a representative.

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