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End of Student grades

We’re all used to seeing A’s , C’s, and (gulp) F’s on students’ assignments. These letters tell us how well a student mastered the material when it was time to take the test. However, one of the more interesting trends in education today is schools doing away with these traditional letter grades in favor of a more flexible system that allows students to move at their own pace. It’s called competency-based learning, and it’s being used in K-12 schools across the country, and even in some colleges.

In New York City, dozens of schools have opted into a new program that allows students to work in small groups, practice online, learn at their own pace,and eventually demonstrate mastery in whatever skills they’re working on, before moving on to the next lesson. Instead of having a set amount of time in class to learn something, and then taking a test with everyone else, individual students can devote more time to the skills they’re struggling with and move on quickly from the ones that come easily to them. Proponents of competency-based learning believe that this gives each student in a classroom a more individual and effective learning experience. It also means that a student who takes longer to learn a skill doesn’t necessarily get a lower grade than a student who learns that skill quickly. She can simply take more time to work on it.

A Boy Studying

In Illinois, an even more flexible pilot program allows school districts to devise their own high school graduation requirements, potentially doing away with traditional exam grades and standardized tests. Students can still demonstrate competency by completing traditional assignments. However, they may also satisfy graduation requirements by completing an internship or other out-of-school activity that demonstrates that they’ve mastered a critical set of skills. The goal in Illinois is to help high schools evaluate students on the kinds of real-world skills that they will need in college and the workforce.

Beyond high school, some colleges also see letter grades as a limited way to evaluate students’ learning. At Sarah Lawrence College in New York, students are still assigned letter grades that they can use as a record of their academic achievement. However, they also receive narrative evaluations of their work. Professors provide written feedback on students’ overall performance, in addition to the traditional letter grades. Brown University in Rhode Island gives students a choice of grading styles. They may opt for a traditional A-B-C grade, or they can take a simple satisfactory/unsatisfactory mark on their transcripts. The goal at Brown is to encourage students to think of their academic record as more than their grades in class. In order to stand out, students have to develop a record of personal and professional achievement that goes beyond getting good grades. As college admission and competition for jobs becomes more and more competitive, it may be helpful for students to understand that they are more than the grades on their transcripts.

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Benefits of Being Bilingual

Every parent knows the anticipation of waiting to hear a child say their first words. Watching children find their voices and learn to express themselves is one of the most satisfying parts of being a new parent. In many families, children aren’t just learning one language… they may be learning two or three. In some families, parents have different native languages. In other cases, parents simply want children to have the benefit of bilingual education from birth. There are good reasons to expose children to multiple languages early. As long as you’re aware of the challenges, early bilingual education can benefit your child for the rest of their lives.

One of the benefits of being bilingual from an early age is that it helps us to process information more quickly so that we can make decisions. This is true even for very young children. In one study, children who had been exposed to multiple languages from birth were able to recognize and adapt to new circumstances more quickly than children who had only been exposed to one language.

In another study, researchers at The University of California at San Diego found that being bilingual actually delayed the onset of dementia and dementia-related symptoms in older people. In this study, researchers looked at people who didn’t necessarily have complex jobs or lots of education. They found that simply knowing and navigating two languages, even if you use one of them most of the time, was enough to help make the brain more resilient later in life.


In order to get these benefits, though, it’s important to understand that picking up two languages at once can have its challenges. Specifically, children who are learning two vocabularies and two grammar systems at once may advance more slowly in the beginning than children who are only learning one language. This makes sense when you consider that a child who is only learning English might pick up ten English words in a month, but a child who is learning English and Spanish might master five English words and five Spanish words in the same month. This can make it appear that teaching a child a second language is impeding their ability to learn the first one. However, studies confirm that bilingual children eventually catch up with and often surpass their monolingual peers in language skills. The important thing is simply to be aware that bilingualism is more work, cognitively speaking. So very young children may need more time to catch on.

Ultimately, the benefits of being bilingual far outweigh any short-term inconveniences. As studies increasingly demonstrate the perks of speaking multiple languages, we can imagine teaching languages to children not only to increase their Ultimately, the benefits of being bilingual far outweigh any short-term inconveniences. As studies increasingly demonstrate the perks of speaking multiple languages, we can imagine teaching languages to children not only to increase their

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A Boy with Book

Reading doesn’t just take place in a library, a bookstore, or at bedtime. To help your child read better and more comfortably, follow some of these early learner reading tips.

Mapping A Trip

Reading is a critical part of learning, not just when it comes to books but also to other activities. An exciting way teach this is to map out a common trip your family makes, like to the grocery store or church. Get out a local map and show your child the way to these areas. Have them write out the directions. Then on your next trip there, have your child read these out loud to you as go along.

Pictures Galore

While on your next vacation or outing, take some action-packed pictures. Once you are home, have your child create a photo album or collage with captions and speech or thought bubbles for each photo. While this will build memories and a fun family activity, it will also help your child practice their reading and writing skills.

Greeting Cards

There are quality reading opportunities everywhere. For example, the next time you need to pick out a card for someone (birthday, get-well, or otherwise), have your child pick out and read several of them. Then decide which one sends the best message you are going for.

Find What Is Just Right

When choosing books for your young reader, it is crucial to find ones that fit into their reading level. A good rule of thumb is to have your child read the front, back and first page of the book. If they have difficulty pronouncing or understanding five or more words, the book might be too hard for them at this point. Helping your reader to choose a book that is just right for them will help them feel successful in their reading endeavors.

Building Vocabulary

One the biggest tools to helping your child to read well and love to do it is to build their vocabulary up. This can easily be done by labeling everything in your home. Get some paper, drawing utensils, and tape and create labels for furniture pieces, toiletries, and knick-knacks. Reading these labels often and learning to sound out these items will help your child to amass a larger and more extensive word bank. If your family is bilingual, label items in both languages.

Encourage Appreciation

As your child reads more and more, they will start to appreciate some authors and illustrators more than others, becoming a fan of their work. Help your reader develop and write a letter to her favorite author. You will be surprised by how many authors will write a letter back to your child in joyous response.

By trying out a few of these easy and fun reading tips at home and on the go, you will teach your child that reading can be exciting and used anywhere you go. You can also try out some of our fun and kid friendly activities. Besides, you might just find some new family favorite traditions along the way.

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Bedtime is the Most Important Part of the Day

Every parent knows that bedtime can be the hardest part of the day. Children are often excited after being at school and spending time with their friends. When bedtime comes, they may be in the middle of play or another activity. However, ensuring that children get enough sleep is a critical part of the learning process. A good night’s sleep plays an important role in every part of the school day.

One of the biggest impacts of a good night’s sleep is that children are in a better mood and have better discipline when they are well-rested. Studies show that sleeping well makes us happier, less stressed, and better able to focus on tasks during the day. Students who are fully rested get better behavioral reports from both their teachers and their parents. They also tend to perform better academically.

This is because a child’s ability to take in and process information is directly affected by how much sleep they get. A lack of sleep hurts the brain’s ability to understand new information. It also makes it more difficult to remember the things we learned during the day. So even if a student is doing their best to pay attention in class, it can be difficult to remember the material when it’s time to do homework or take an exam. This can cause frustration for both students and parents alike.

So how much sleep should children be getting, and how do we make sure they get it?

Girl Sleeping

Well, doctors and researchers recommend that children ages 3 to 5 get 10 to 13 hours of sleep per day, including naps. Children between 6 and 12 years old need 9 to 12 hours of sleep. For 13 to 18 year-olds, 8 to 10 hours of sleep are sufficient.

Of course, getting children into bed is one thing. Ensuring that they get a good night’s sleep can be an additional challenge. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends turning off screens like tablets and televisions at least 30 minutes before bedtime. The light from our devices stimulates our brains and makes it harder to wind down. Also, if your children have a bedtime routine, like music that they listen to or stories they like to hear, doctors recommend starting these routines before bedtime. This means that if you want your child to sleep from 8pm to 6am, storytime should start at 7:30pm. This way they get to enjoy their rituals and still get the full benefit of a good night’s sleep to prepare them for a great day.

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Top 4 Most Educational Family Vacations

Choosing a family vacation destination can be stressful for just about anyone. Picking something that suits everyone in your family is tough to do even for small families. Finding something that they all enjoy and learn from is even more difficult. However, there are a few places that we recommend visiting at least once. These sites will both amaze and delight, as well as be extremely educational.

Monterey Bay Aquarium-Monterey, California

Monterey Bay Aquarium-Monterey

This is one of the most kid friendly aquariums in the world. With over 35,000 plant and animal species inside, it also offers one of the largest varieties. Nearly 200 of the indoor exhibits are equipped with features that encourage children to push buttons, flip switches, slide panels, and rhythmic sounding and interactive directional signs. The aquarium also houses a 7,000 square foot Splash Zone that incorporates all kinds of hands on features for children eight and under. Here they can experience live animals and water play, as well as many more activities to teach them about aquatic life and survival.

Plimoth Plantation-Massachusetts

Plimoth Plantation-Massachusetts

Most likely your children have already learned about Plimoth Rock, the Mayflower, and the first Thanksgiving. This place allows them to see it for themselves. They will learn how the pilgrims lived and how they interacted with their neighbors, the Wampanoag Indians. Take part in the Thanksgiving meal that started it all. And don’t forget to take a tour of the Mayflower II, an exact replica of the original ship that brought them across the seas.

Children’s Museum of Indianapolis-Indianapolis, IN

Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

The is the largest children’s museum in the country, with over 472,900 square feet of fun features and exhibits for children of all ages. Check out the home of National Geographic’s Treasures of Earth where children get to excavate for dinosaur bones and other hidden gems in three separate archaeology sites. This large building also lets children learn about China’s Terra Cotta Warriors, Captain Kidd’s shipwreck, ancient Egyptian tombs, and much more all with fun and interactive games and activities. For older children, there are centers dedicated to children whose lives’ have changed the world such as Anne Frank, Ryan White, and Ruby Bridges and so much more.

Mount Vernon and Monticello-Charlottesville, Virginia

Mount Vernon and Monticello-Charlottesville

Learning about our nation’s great history and some of its most honored founders is a great way to spend your family vacation. One of the most popular and rewarding places to do this at the homes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Visit their historic plantations with tours of their homes, reconstructed slave quarters, exhibits and extensive gardens. Enjoy hands on activities for children, video presentations, and the Griffin Discovery Room. And not far away are the homes of two other founding fathers, if you are ready for more history.

Here at Best Brains, we think education should be involved in everything we do. Family vacations are no different. Be sure to visit these places and search for more along the way.

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Girl Playing

Playtime, it’s always been a must for young children. It provides them with time to burn off some of that pent-up energy and to just be kids. But did you know that play and recess are essential to how your child learns and develops?


Studies show that recess and playtime can enhance a child’s attention span and allow them focus better later. The key is to have an unstructured break. Recess is a good example of this. It provides a time where children are free to play without adult direction or rules. For this reason, PE class is not a substitute for recess, as it is adult structured. Studies have found that a recess of 10-30 minutes allows kids to pay more attention in the classroom. However, going much longer than this tends to have the opposite effect.


Pretend play is one the most crucial elements of play. It has proved to have drastic effects on a child’s ability to learn and what they learn. Language is just one of those areas that pretend play assists. A recent study shows that children who do really well at pretend play and participate in it often have better overall language skills, both in the words they understand, as well as the words they speak.


Play helps to create stronger and long-lasting math skills. Blocks, in particular, seem to have a special effect in this area. Scientists studied a group of preschool children and followed their math skills through high school. Those children that played with blocks often in their early childhood did exceptionally well in math and took more math classes, including honor’s courses, as high school students.

Problem Solving

There are two types of problems: convergent and divergent. Convergent problems have only one solution or answer, while divergent ones allow for several correct solutions. For example, a puzzle has only one correct solution and is convergent. Playdough, on the other hand, has several outcomes and is divergent. Experimental studies have shown that children who are given and play more with divergent materials have better problem-solving skills. They are able to see many solutions to one problem and are often more creative and are able to think outside the box.

Self-Regulation and Reasoning

The ability to pretend play has also been given great importance when it comes to counterfactual reasoning and the ability to self-regulate their emotions, impulses, and attention. Counterfactual reasoning allows us to think about the “what-if” circumstances. Pretend play uses the same skill set.

It has been reported that children who frequently pretend play are better able to keep themselves in check. It is thought this because when children pretend play, there is certain amount of agreement that must be present in all children involved. This “set of rules” and the practice of conforming to it over time enables children to learn to have better self-control.

Playtime and playful academic learning are essential for children of any age. And it just might be something that makes all the difference for them later in life.

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VR Headgear

The classroom is a space that is constantly adapting and making changes to educate children to take part in the world around them. Technology plays a huge part in this as new inventions and innovations for old classics constantly change the world we know. Here are some of the newest and most popular technology additions to classrooms seen around the world.

SMART Boards

These are computer-connected white boards that use a projector and special pen sensors or markers. When these pens and markers are used to write on the boards, computer programs such AutoCAD and/or PowerPoint can remember what it is written and record it for future use. This enables teachers to save lesson plans and notes as they go so students can re-watch or have access to it later, even at home.

VR Headgear

This newer technology has not found itself as widely used but is catching on quickly. By experimenting with virtual or augmented realities students can enter three-dimensional spaces. Using Google Glass or Cardboard in combination with free apps and a smartphone, students can visit the plains of Africa, watch the surf roll in on the beaches of Normandy, or experience current events first hand.

Cloud Computing

Not all tech is hardware, for instance cloud computing is trend just taking off but one that could seriously benefit schools and students alike. This tool lets students and teachers send and share data among themselves. If a student has missed a day of class, they can simply download assignments and lessons. Then when they are finished with those assignments they can upload them for review and grading. Many compatible software tools also use analytics and metrics to measure school progress for each student, allowing grades and proficiency in a certain area to easily be obtained.


In recent years, these have become one of the most popular classroom tools. They are relatively low in cost, have many different hardware options, and employ simple web-based operating systems. This makes it easy for students to use on a daily basis for many education related activities. Teachers are also able to control what types of activities can be used and pre-programmed with educational apps. These devices have become increasingly popular in areas where students may have limited access to similar items or Internet at home.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

This technology provides online learning from some of the top universities for free. MOOCs allow students to take classes at a college level who were previously unable to. It also provides teachers with an unrivaled amount of free resources to both better their education and gain access to teaching tools. This type of technology even enables classrooms that are located hundreds of miles apart to connect with each other for educational activities, teaching diversity and cultural awareness.

With technology and innovations on the rise, and with no sign of slowing down, you should expect to see the use of some, if not all, of these newer tools in your students’ educational programs. These inventions can make learning more fun and interactive, as well as offer an endless amount of resources for teachers. For more ways to stay up to date with classroom practices and new technology click here.

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5 Easy Sack Lunches Kids Love

We know packing lunches for your kids every day can be a hassle at times. The struggle to find something healthy for them and also something they enjoy eating is real. And once you find something that fits both categories you run with it, sending it day after day until your child gets tired of it. We know, we have been there. So, for all you parents who have run into this issue before, here are few quick, easy, and healthy ideas to try out.

Deconstructed Sandwiches

These are super simple and fun for the child as well. Let them choose their favorite crackers, meat, and cheese. Make them up ahead of time, like the night before or simple send a few of each with them to make at lunch. Don’t forget to send a veggie or fruit as well. Grapes, carrots, celery, or apple slices are always good choices.


Some of the best healthy foods are made for dipping. Instead of sending a sandwich every day, change it up by sending items they can dip. The following are bound to be crowd pleasers:

  • Carrots and celery sticks pair well with a light ranch.
  • Try your child’s favorite fruits with some plain or fruit yogurt. Bananas, peaches, apples, and even grapes are good ones for this.
  • Baked chicken nibblers served with honey mustard or barbeque are quick and easy for a hot lunch.
  • Baked tortilla or pita chips are a fan favorite. Send them with a cup of tomato salsa, guacamole, or hummus.

Layered sandwiches

Make the sandwich a little more fun by layering it. Instead of just cutting it in half, stack them on top of one another. Kids will get a kick out of its height are more likely to think of it as a challenge. You can also make each layer a little different. Use different meats, cheeses, veggies, and condiments on each layer adding to the fun. Then skewer it with a toothpick or two and add a fruit, veggie, or pretzels.

Pizza wraps

Just about every kid loves pizza but eating them all the time is not very healthy. Pizza wraps changes this a bit. By combining tortilla shells or pita bread with mozzarella cheese, some pepperoni, and little marinara sauce, a child can eat their favorite go to meal more often without carbs and grease that is usually associated with this meal. Make it even more original by choosing a different kind of pizza.

Roll ups

These, like the deconstructed sandwiches, are fun for kids to do themselves. With their favorite cheese, meat, and veggies you can make their most enjoyed sandwiches a little more fun. You can choose to roll up in any order they want with or without certain items. Add a soft tortilla shell or pita bread for a little less mess or go without. The choices are endless.

With a few of these fun lunch ideas incorporated into your week, your child will soon be enjoying meals that are not only healthier for them then the all too common peanut butter and jelly sandwich but that they also enjoy. Find your favorites and make them your own.

For more ways to help your child succeed check out how we at Best Brains can help.

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Relationship Between Screen Time And ADHD

Growing research concludes that too much screen time can be directly related to poor memory performance and linguistic delays in children. Children two and under are constantly learning how to communicate by watching and mimicking facial expressions, body movement, and tone of voice of the those around them.

However, if they are in front of a screen more often than not, these skills are not learned the same way. Research shows that learning these things from people on a screen like a tv or tablet does not have the effect and is not as impactful.

These delays in both memory and language skills are even more affected by the development of learning disabilities like ADHD. Studies show that ADHD and increased screen time are linked directly. As screen time increases, as child’s ability to pay attention decreases. It is theorized that children who get a lot of screen time get used to the fast paced visual and auditory simulation that video games and TV provides.

As A Result…

Everything found in the real-world becomes rather boring to them. This is one of the classic trademarks of ADHD. That is not to say that these children can’t pay attention at all. However, the kind of attention needed to sit in front of screen for hours on end is not the same that is needed for a classroom setting. The latter kind of attention decreases as a child gets more and more screen time.

This leads to a lack of interest in their education and failing grades. It also continues to affect their language and memory development. These children begin to have problems relating and interacting with their peers. They have difficulty reading other’s reactions, recognizing emotions, and even expressing their own emotions.

This creates a difficult social situation for them and often leads to rejection among their peers. As a result, they become even more withdrawn and seek the comfort of even more screen time, as they feel that is the only thing they are good at. These symptoms become even more pronounced if the child actually has ADHD.

How To Counteract These Effects

This is why it is so important to maintain a healthy relationship with screen time in your children’s daily life, whether they have ADHD or not. Researchers agree that children, especially those with ADHD, should not have a TV in their bedroom. Elementary children should not be involved with more than 45 minutes to one hour of screen time a day. Older children should not have more than two hours of screen time a day.

When they are engaged with a screen, monitor their activity, making sure that it is appropriate. Also, try to make it more interactive as their age allows by being available to discuss certain aspects of the content.

Experts also say that shortly after this monitored screen time your child should engage in physical activities. This helps to counteract the idleness of their body and get them engaged in the world around them. Activities that are the most beneficial are those that combine visual and balance systems. For more tips and ideas to encourage education click here.

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