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Boy Doing Homework

We can all recognize the benefits of homework, even though we do not like it. We know it can help teach children about time management and give them a good foundation of study skills, as well as give them continued practice on subjects they are learning in class. But is there a point where we say it is too much? Or a child is too young?

Parents around the country are asking the same question. It comes as a response to seeing their students come home with what seems like mountains of homework and some of them are only just beginning their academic careers. Many parents and teachers alike are seeing some pretty negative results to this.

Some parents have reported their kindergartners coming home with up to 25 minutes of homework every day, their first graders seeing about 28 minutes of daily homework, and some second graders spending approximately 29 minutes a night on school work. It may not seem a like a lot of time compared to what some middle school and high schoolers see. But for a five-year-old who doesn’t have the capability to sit still for more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time, this can be overwhelming.

And studies are proving it. Kids who report having over the recommended amount of homework on a regular basis tend to have more of a dislike for school, more behavioral problems, and more physical health issues as well, such as migraines, sleep deprivation, ulcers, and weight loss. Homework is literally stressing them out and making them sick.

Early education children should be spending far more time with their families, playing outdoors, and learning about life in general than stuck in a chair being drilled on math concepts. A healthy early childhood needs a balance of the two, proving that more is not always better.

How Much Homework Should They Have?

Homework doing by school student

The National Parent-Teacher Association or PTA and the National Education Association or NEA both agree on what is called the “10-minute rule.” This suggests that children should have no more than 10 minutes of homework each night per grade. So, first graders should have no more than 10 minutes of homework time, second graders should have less than 20 minutes of homework, and so on up to 120 minutes of homework time for high school seniors.

Luckily, we are not seeing an overabundance of schools giving too much homework yet. Recent studies show that only about 20% of schools report an average homework time over the recommended amount. These schools are most generally those in affluent communities, where parents and teachers are more likely to push students into the top schools in the country.

If you find that your child has what seems to be too much homework, there are ways to help them out without doing the work for them. Check out some ideas to help your child succeed here.

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Christopher Columbus

“In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…” The catchy start to famous poem/song taught to many over the years serves as a reminder of just how renown this holiday is. Columbus Day remembers the day that Christopher Columbus, a famous Italian explorer, arrived in the Americas. This was recorded as being on October 12, 1492. However, the day is celebrated on the second Monday in October of every year.

Columbus Day History

Historically, Christopher Columbus is most portrayed as the first European to arrive in and discover the Americas. However, this is a controversial point for many people. Part of this is due to the fact that evidence suggests that Vikings were actually the first Europeans to explore and try to settle the land. Moreover, there is proof that indigenous peoples had lived there for thousands of years prior to that. This makes it unlikely that Columbus “discovered” the Americas, especially since he is only known to have traveled to a few islands of the Caribbean, never making it to the mainland.

Furthermore, the arrival of Columbus and his countrymen led to the demise of a great many native peoples. This may have been a result of sickness brought with the Europeans as well as direct action taken. Whatever the case, much of the history and culture of these peoples were lost. For this reason, many current day celebrations are held to honor those lost and those that still live on from those indigenous tribes. They seek to bring awareness to the issues that these people struggle with today as well as their history and cultural richness.

How Its Celebrated

This year Columbus Day will be celebrated, for the most part, on October 8th. In some states and local governments, it a public holiday in which most businesses and schools are closed. However, some areas treat it as a normal business day.

Americans do not all celebrate the day in the same way. For some it is a momentous affair, celebrating the day of their country’s discovery. Some towns and cities hold annual festivals, special church services, parades and large events. The Italian-American community, in particular, is known for such celebrations. Large cities such as New York City and San Francisco typically participate in such fan-fare as well.

In Hawaii, the day is known as Discoverer’s Day, however, it is not celebrated as state holiday. Many other states have begun to celebrate is as Native American’s Day or Indigenous People’s Day instead. This is due to the controversial nature of the holiday. In Latin America and some Latino communities, the day is referred to as the DÃa de la Raza or Day of the Race. Yet still others have re-named it or do not celebrate it at all for the same controversial reasons.

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Clock image

There has been a recent shift seen in the starting times for many schools throughout the U.S. hundreds of schools have chosen to begin the school day much later than they previously had. Instead of starting the day at 7:30 or 8am, these schools are beginning classes closer to 9am. And the results are astounding.

Health Affects

It is a proven fact that children need more sleep than most adults. A healthy sleep schedule is important to the health and success of any child. Yet, most schedules do not allow for this. The recent changes to the school day allow for children to get participate in a sleep cycle that is healthier for them. This leads to better overall health such as a reduction in weight gain, diabetes, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, behavior problems, and mood swings just to name a few.

Safety Affects

These later start times allow for many students to travel to school in the light of day, whereas before they were getting up and walking or driving to school when it was still dark out without much adult supervision. This also means that students are not getting out of school as early, which decreases the amount of time they are left unsupervised or in the care of daycare or latchkey facilities until an adult gets off work. Starting school later has led a decreased number of adolescent students who get into trouble because they are not properly supervised or are still tired from their early morning.

Academic Affects

Studies have shown that students who don’t get enough sleep cannot do their best at school. It impairs memory, learning, and attention as well as their overall health and well-being. Schools that have chosen to start later are seeing a massive improvement in their students’ academics. This is shown not only in their overall grades but they are less moody, more alert, and much less likely to get into trouble and/or fall asleep in class.

Less Achievement Gaps

Those students that come from disadvantaged families may have even harder time with early mornings. If a parent has a fixed work schedule and/or no transportation, students who are tired and get up late may have no choice but to show up late to school or not be able to get there at all. Reoccurring tardiness, absences, and truancy lead to higher dropout rates in schools. As a result, the achievement gap becomes even larger and the cycle is bound to continue. With later school start times, these students are able to make it to class at the right time everyday with very little problems. Their scores improve and studies find that they are more likely to move on to successful careers as adults.

Could a later start to the school day be beneficial for you and your children? What about the area or school district as whole? Talk to other parents in your area. Maybe something can be done to help your students to succeed even more.

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International Teacher’s Day

The goal of this day is to create a time and place where teachers worldwide are celebrated for their achievements and teacher respect is encouraged by society as a whole. At the same time, as a society that encourages education and the qualification of its teachers, we need to be aware of and draw attention to those issues that distract from getting students the education they have the right to and need.

This Day’s History

International Teacher’s Day was established in 1994 to be held on October 5th annually. This day commemorates the signing of the 1966 UNESCO/ILO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers.

This is meant to take notice of and address a variety of issues and situations that teachers deal with around the world. It strives to give guidance to teachers and teacher organizations on such issues as recruitment, education personnel policies, initial training, continuing education of teachers, their working conditions, and their employment.

How It is Celebrated

Each year UNESCO and Education International or EI partners with private organizations such as media companies to celebrate this day. Each year has a different theme, designed to bring awareness to the role that teachers play in society and student development.

This year’s theme is “The right to education means the right to a qualified teacher.” It is meant to bring awareness to and remind us that only through trained and qualified teachers can the right to education be realized. It also serves to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was established in 1948.

Schools and students around the globe seek to celebrate this day in multiple ways, from classroom parties to town festivals. However, some places hold these festivities on different days. India, for example, has been celebrating teachers and their roles on September 5th every year. There are more than 100 countries that are known to revel in the positive outcomes of International Teachers’ Day.

As parents we have a responsibility to teach our youngsters about the importance of education and the teachers that fulfill that role. Teaching our kids to respect teachers and all that they do on a daily basis is essential for a great student/teacher and parent/teacher relationship, even when the subject is less than your child’s favorite.

It doesn’t have to be a grand celebration. Even doing something simple like any of the following is great way to show you care.

  • Get them a card or make them one,
  • Have your student write a positive and encouraging handwritten note,
  • Get them a small gift,
  • Paint or draw them a picture, or
  • Make them their favorite cookies or snack

Make sure not to let this year pass by without your teacher or child’s teacher being appreciated. You will be glad you did.

For more ideas and tips for educational success visit our blog.

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Tuition-Free Colleges

We all know that figuring out how to pay tuition can be one of the most stressful parts of the college experience. There are scholarships, grants, savings accounts, and loans to consider. Some students work while in school to help cover the cost of attending. Ultimately, students and parents have to work together to figure out the best solution for their finances. However, even as tuitions continue to rise across the country, you may not have heard that there are some schools that don’t charge tuition at all. These smaller colleges find ways to offer undergraduate degrees without charging students to attend.

For instance, at the College of the Ozarks in Missouri, full-time students work part-time during the school year in exchange for free tuition. While the students still have to pay for health and activity fees, they are eligible for Pell Grants and other financial aid to help cover these expenses as well. Berea College in Kentucky has a similar program. Berea’s No Tuition Promise guarantees that no admitted student pays tuition.Instead, the school covers tuition and students work 10-15 hours a week to pay for room and board. Berea students also receive laptop computers that they can use during their four years in school and keep after graduation.

It isn’t just small liberal arts colleges that offer free tuition programs. The Curtis Institute of Music in Pennsylvania offers full-tuition scholarships to all admitted undergraduate and graduate students. This is especially significant because getting a degree in the arts can be an especially costly undertaking. For comparison, tuition at the Rhode Island School of Design is about $50,000 a year, not including housing and other fees. By contrast, students at the Curtis Institute receive scholarships estimated to be worth $42,000 a year for undergraduates.

Of course, some larger universities are also recognizing the burden that rising tuition puts on students and families. A handful of the nation’s top universities have begun to offer generous tuition assistance to students whose families make less than a specified amount of money. Perhaps the most generous program of this kind is Princeton University’s need-blind admission program. Students who apply to Princeton are considered for admission regardless of their families’ income, and are guaranteed 100% of their financial need be met by the university. At Rice University, students whose families make less than $130,000 a year receive guaranteed free tuition, and those who make less than $65,000 have their room and board covered as well.

All of this is good news for families and students who are saving and planning for a college education. As colleges and universities increase their assistance for low- and middle-income students, college becomes a more realistic and less burdensome opportunity for talented students.

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Flipped Classroom

If you have children in middle or high school, you may have heard of the flipped classroom. It works in lots of different ways, but the main idea is that teachers actually assign instructional lessons for students to do at home, so that they can devote class time to more complex and personalized tasks. Instead of presenting new material to students in class, and then assigning practice exercises for them to do at home, teachers can supply video or other lessons for students to review on their own as homework. That leaves much more time for questions, individual instruction, and other forms of follow-up in class.

While the concept is not new , the idea of the flipped classroom has become much more popular in recent years. This is due in part to two chemistry teachers in Colorado who stumbled onto how well it worked for their students. Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams teach at Woodland Park High School. The teachers noticed that when they posted online copies of their lectures for absent students to review at home, students who had been in class also took advantage of the opportunity to review the lessons they had already learned . This gave the teachers the idea to take advantage of students’ ability to cover new material on their own at home. If the students could get the basic idea by themselves, there would be more time in class to collaborate, ask questions, tackle advanced projects, and engage the material in other ways. Eventually, the teachers posted their lessons online, inviting others to try the method in their own classrooms. It has proven to be popular in schools across the country and at lots of grade levels.

It is interesting to note that the flipped classroom is a lot like what happens in many liberal arts classes at the college level. Students are assigned reading to do on their own before class. Then they meet with professors to discuss the reading and to challenge their own and others’ sense of what the material means and what it says about the world. Of course, it may be easier to imagine college students tackling material on their own. Bergmann, Sams, and others have proven that, with the right tools, students in middle school are also perfectly capable of picking up a lot of basic material by themselves.

One possible long-term benefit of this trend is that students in high school and earlier can gain exposure to college-style instruction. Students who are used to learning new material on their own may have an easier time adjusting to college courses where a good portion of instructional material is read and processed outside the classroom. Because of this, the flipped classroom may be helping to bring K-12 classrooms more in line with the culture of the colleges and universities they are preparing their students to enter.

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Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parenting Tips

Having a good relationship with your child’s teachers is one of the most important ways to stay involved in their education. Over the course of the school year, there will be lots of opportunities to interact with and get to know the people helping to educate your little ones. By making the most of these opportunities, you can ensure that you and their teachers are an effective team, and that you’re prepared to address any challenges your student may encounter.

Keeping in touch with our children’s teachers is not a new idea. It’s totally normal for parents and teachers to exchange emails and phone calls about things that are happening in the classroom. However, with parents working and teachers having dozens of children to keep track of, it can be difficult to schedule one-on-one face time to discuss the issues that may be affecting a student. This is why parent-teacher conferences are such a vital opportunity to build connections. Although a teacher may not always be able to take a phone call or stay late to meet with a parent, parent-teacher conferences provide a valuable opportunity to meet in person and build relationships.

One way to make the most of these conferences is to come prepared with your own list of questions and concerns to address with the teacher. It’s natural to be curious what someone else has to say about your children. But it’s important to be proactive and not let the teacher do all the talking. There may be things affecting your child’s performance that the teacher is unaware of. For instance, if you think your child is spending too much time at night doing homework, you can ask questions about that in the conference. It may be that your son or daughter is spending three hours on homework that should only take one. As long they’re performing well, the teacher won’t have any indication that anything is amiss.

Another key to getting the most out of parent-teacher conferences is to keep an open mind about any critical feedback your child receives from their teachers. It’s important to remember that every student will eventually struggle with a class or a peer or some other aspect of school. As a parent, you can look out for these struggles so that when they arise, you’re not caught off guard. Remember that you and your child’s teachers are a team. If your son’s chemistry teacher mentions something negative about his performance in class, try to see that as an opportunity to improve. By bringing it to your attention, she’s inviting you to intervene and address whatever might be causing your son to struggle.

Finally, be sure to follow up with the teacher about anything that you discuss in the conference. If there’s something they want your student to improve, you can send an email letting them know that you’ve discussed the issue at home and that you’re looking forward to working together to resolve the issue. The important thing is to make clear that you plan to be an involved and constructive part of your child’s education. When teachers know that parents are their allies, they’re better equipped to help their students face whatever challenges may arise.

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Picky Eater

Trying to get a picky eater to finish their vegetables can make meal time one of the most stressful parts of the day. But there are some easy, helpful guidelines you can follow to encourage fussy eaters to try new things.

The first is to make sure your child is actually hungry at meal time. This may seem obvious, but it’s an obstacle for a lot of children. Think about what your picky eater likes to eat. Chances are, they snack on small portions of these foods throughout the day. If you’re raising a child who only likes applesauce and yogurt, they’re probably eating those things multiple times a day outside of meal time. This can mean that they’re not terribly hungry when it’s time for dinner. That makes it easier to refuse the carrots you want them to eat. By limiting (but not eliminating) snacks, you give your child a higher incentive to at least try the foods you want to start incorporating into their diet.

Picky Eater

This brings us to the second guideline. It’s important not to give kids too much of a new thing to try at once. Remember that even people who aren’t particular picky won’t like everything. And no one wants to be stuck eating something they don’t like. For a child, it’s often easier to turn down a new food altogether than to try it and say they don’t like it.

To get around this, try putting only one bite worth of a new food on your child’s plate a meal time, alongside the things they like to eat. So you might put one piece of corn next to their spaghetti, or one slice of banana next to their applesauce. The deal is that the child tries just a bit of one new thing on a regular basis. This way they don’t feel intimidated by the new food, but they’re at least exposed to something they might eventually like.

The final guideline is to remember that it takes time for children to like new things. A popular rule of thumb says a child tries a food fifteen times before they like it. So remember, developing your child’s appetite for healthy foods is a marathon, not a sprint. With time and patience, even the most picky eater can learn to love foods that are good for them.

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Break Time

If you’ve ever helped a child with their homework, you’ve probably wished you could find ways to help them focus for longer periods of time. Focusing on a task is important to students’ success. However, research shows that taking frequent breaks can also help students process and remember material better than if they just powered through without a break.

As students get older, the amount of time they spend on homework increases. By the time they’re in high school, the average student is spending more than an hour a night on homework. We might think that the best approach would be to “focus” so that students sit down with their work and don’t get up until they’re done. But research has found that taking a mental break improves our performance even if a task is as short as 50 minutes. This is because looking at the same material without a break actually causes our brains to stop noticing the details of what we’re doing. So staring at an algebra problem for half an hour can actually make it harder for a student to figure it out. On the other hand, stepping away from an assignment to take a quick walk or have a snack helps to restore our focus on the details of what we see.

If we want children to develop healthy homework habits, it’s important to teach them the importance of taking effective breaks. The key is to build breaks in responsibly. It can be tempting to give children permission to step away from a project when they feel tired or when they become frustrated with an assignment. Although these are important times to take a break, students shouldn’t necessarily wait until they’re feeling negative emotions to try to relax. Instead, students should get used to working for a set period of time and taking scheduled breaks to help stay motivated and focused throughout a project.

So what’s the optimal time to work before taking a study break? Well that all depends on the student. Some students do well with a 5-minute break every 20 minutes. Others can study for an hour or more before taking a well-earned 10-minute break. If students are working on a long-term project, like SAT/ACT prep, they might take a short break after completing a certain number of problems. This can help them stay motivated and avoid burning out during the long months of study. (For additional help with studying for standardized tests, Best Brains offers specialized SAT/ACT instruction. )

The key is to be flexible. If you notice that your child focuses well for a little while and then struggles to stay attentive to tasks, perhaps the answer is not more focus, but more effective breaks. By giving them time to refresh between tasks, you can help ensure that they’re clear-headed and ready to tackle the next project.

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