Fruits, Vegetables, and Pesticides – Infographic

I love food and infographics. So when an infographic about food landed in my inbox, I had to stop and check it out.

I’ve never been one to go out of my way to eat organic. I’m acutely aware that some things are better than others when it comes to putting them into your body. But if you put two fruits or vegetables in front of me, I’ll always pick the one that looks, smells, and feels the best, regardless of how it was grown. Because I also know that the better one will taste, well, better. If the choicest one happens to be organic, all the better.

With that said, as I read some of the facts, certain things really stood out as alarming. Like, “The U.S. uses 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides a year, but only .01 percent reach the bugs. The rest contaminates our food, air, and water.” If that doesn’t make you rethink what you eat, I don’t know what will.

Maybe pesticides in food won’t kill me, I’m pretty sure they won’t, but they may have an impact on my kids, and their kids down the road. Eating a well-balanced diet has always been important, especially for children.

Proper nutrition impacts physical health, but more importantly for growing kids, it impacts brain health and functioning. Eating right can bring about more energy and influence positive results in school and concentration.

I’ll let you be the judge of the rest of the info. You can find the full version at Daily Infographic.

Fruits, Veggies and Pesticides Infographic




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Anonymously Polling Students in the Classroom

Up until a few years ago, if a teacher wanted to poll the students in the classroom about any topic, the polling was done by a show of hands. How many students like recess better than Math? All hands go up. Total no-brainer.

Rating Books in School - Polling Students

While visiting classes at back-to-school night, I noticed book covers from the summer reading list attached to the walls in one of the classrooms. Underneath each book was a sheet of paper with round, colored stickers in red, yellow and green. Turns out, all the students attached stickers to each book to signify if they liked them or not. Green for Yes, Yellow for So-So, and Red for No.

Now that’s my kind of polling. It’s somewhat anonymous, yet visually appealing and easy for everybody to understand. It also gets 100% participation and is effective at communicating the desired result – what do the students REALLY think. A bunch of green dots means the book was a hit. Too many reds and it’s time to find a new book for next summer’s list.

Keeping things anonymous is the way most kids prefer to have it in a classroom. Unless you’re the kid that knows all the answers, in which case, your hand is always up and waving furiously.

Kids with learning disabilities almost always like to keep things anonymous, especially when it comes to answering questions. While some are hyperactive most of the day, there’s always the fear of that awkward moment…

That Awkward Moment in School

As we progress out of the analog, old-school way of doing things, and transition into the digital age, polling students will become more anonymous. And effective. Teachers will be able to ask a question and get the results of the class immediately. Some schools can already do this, and it promises to be good for all students, even those who struggle.

For now, it’s not a reality for most of the country. But there are things teachers can do to lighten the load, and embarrassment, for students who struggle in school. Richard Lavoie is the King of understanding how Processing affects kids with learning disabilities and offers some great tips in his F.A.T. City Workshop video.

Teachers know which students are having trouble and for the most part are accommodating. Seating at the front of the classroom helps, but having a code for LD students is a great idea. It can be something simple like waving their hand when they know, and WANT to answer a question or be called on for input. Ty to work these out with each teacher in the IEP.

Sometimes polling publicly in the classroom can’t be avoided. At least not yet. But it’s coming soon and many students will welcome it.




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World Teachers’ Day 2011 and Walk to School Day 2011

October 5, 2011 is a special day for schools as it recognizes both World Teachers’ Day and Walk to School Day.

World Teachers’ Day
World Teachers’ Day has been celebrated since 1994 and it honors the teaching profession and promotes international teaching standards.

This year’s theme is: “Teachers for gender equality.”

While most teachers are women, there is still a problem of inequality. This year it is hoped that all teachers will unite and urge governments and policymakers to stand committed to bringing equal gender rights to classrooms around the world.

More information can be found at: www.5oct.org


Walk to School Day
“Hike it. Bike it. I like it!” is the slogan for this year’s Walk to School Day.

Walk to School Day 2011

The National Center for Safe Routes to School coordinates the U.S. Walk to School Day and promotes worldwide participation for families and students to walk or bike to school during the month of October.

Earlier in the year I wrote about walking to school with info about finding out if your neighborhood or school has a high Walk Score.

Walking to school promotes exercise, healthy living, and reduces pollution and gasoline use around the world. It may not be possible for everybody to walk or bike to school all month but it’s great to recognize the importance of getting healthy and doing a small part to help everybody.

For more information visit: www.5oct.org




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From Kindergarten to College With a Learning Disability

I had an interesting weekend last week and it’s taken me a few days to process everything. It’s not that I’m a slow processor, rather, there was a lot to process.

I went to Eugene, Oregon, with Dr. Valerie Maxwell, Founder of the Foundation for Learning Development (FLD), The ADDSOI Center, The Learning Gym, and daughter of the Founder of SOI Systems. If you don’t know Dr. Maxwell, you should. She travels the world working with families of LD children and helping school systems incorporate better learning disabilities efficiencies. I serve on the board of the FLD with her and she’s worked with my kids for more than a decade, so I’ve had quite a bit of time to learn from her myself.

One of the main goals of the trip to Eugene was to spend time with Dr. Robert Meeker of SOI Systems, to gain a better understanding of the SOI Certified Learning program. Over the course of the four days, we had six to eight meetings about education and the learning process in school. I lost track of the exact count, as my head was filled not only with the content, but the possibilities of the impact SOI Certified Learning could have on education. Like I said, there was a lot to process. And I promise to expand on the details of Certified Learning over time. I liken it to a bridge that helps teachers and students travel from struggles to success in school.

Bridge from struggle to success

While the subject of our meetings was the main goal, I came away with much more. In the mornings, we discussed Kindergarten through Grade 2 and where the early years fit into education, not only with learning disabled children, but with ALL children, the struggles they have learning, and the difficulties teachers have finding successful methods for educating them.

The mid-afternoons were spent, either in Philanthropic meetings in Eugene, or poking around Eugene and the University of Oregon campus. My new state motto is: Oregon – It’s All About the Food! Anyway, the time spent in Eugene and around campus put me in touch with the higher learning side of education, specifically colleges and universities.

Oregon is all about the food

I have a soft spot for college, and being in that environment again was an amazing flashback to my own days in school. The energy and passion of the college students was rejuvenating and filled me with a sense of optimism I haven’t felt in years. Next time you get bummed out about the state of economy, the infighting and childishness of Congress, or the lack of jobs, spend a day at a university. The atmosphere is almost immune to the whole shabang.

Don’t tell today’s college students there aren’t any jobs. At least not in Eugene, Oregon. They’ll work on farms, at farmer’s markets, grow their own produce, and do anything they can to sustain a living and earn enough for a week or two exploring the Yucatan Peninsula when not in school. Truly inspiring.

The flight up to Eugene provided some foreshadowing of the days to come. Our seatmate, Laura, just happened to be a Junior at the University on her way to Fall classes. She heard us talking about smartboards in school and how they can be used for immediate polling of data, allowing teachers to track the effectiveness of their lectures. She actually schooled “us” on how they function based on her use of them in college classes. She also provided a glimpse into the optimistic world of today’s college student that I would discover over the next few days.

Late afternoons were spent back at SOI Headquarters absorbing more lessons with Dr. Meeker, and continued into the evening during dinner prepared from fresh ingredients grown right on the grounds. I told you, Oregon is all about the food.

I’m not sure that my brain has assembled a complete takeaway of the trip yet. That could take weeks of pouring over notes and refining my analysis. My expectations for the trip were wide open, even though I knew we’d be examining the Certified Learning program, which is specifically targeted to kids in the K – 2 age range.

Kindergarten is a critical age for schoolchildren, and I now understand that better than before the trip. My anecdotal experience with educating all students had me sitting at grade 3 as the pivot point. And it still is. But Dr. Meeker, and some data from No Child Left Behind, have taught me that for kids to reach the golden years of college, we need to address the critical years of K through 2. The solutions are available. We just need to teach the schools and educators about them. More to come…

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Teaching Kids About Aspergers and Other Disabilities

This video is from the TV show, Arthur, which my kids loved when they were younger. The episode does a great job of explaining what Aspergers is to kids in a way they can understand.

I’d like to see more of this in TV shows targeted to children. Come to think of it, we could use more of it in mainstream TV targeted to adults too. The show “Parenthood” has quite a following of LD parents, as well as non-LD parents, who follow along with Max who has Asperger’s Syndrome.

Television is such a powerful medium when it comes to getting messages across to the mainstream public. The disability movement in America got its start after World War II but didn’t get full attention until the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

Disabilities have mostly been absent from television but hopefully that will change on October 27, 2011, when PBS airs, “Lives Worth Living,” a documentary about the disability movement.

By educating parents, teachers, and children about the various differences we all have, it might make for a better society, or at the very least, a better “informed” society where we have empathy for everyone. We have nothing to lose when all of us better understand learning disabilities, and everything to gain.

I also think the schools should spend part of a day teaching kids about learning disabilities that they will no doubt encounter with their peers. Teach them about what an IEP is and why some kids have them. Almost all schools spend some time teaching sex education. The debate isn’t over teaching sex education although there is a huge debate over what “kind” should be taught. Nonetheless, it is an important part of life that everyone will face at some point. The same is true of disabilities.

Not all people have a disability, but the fact is, there are 50 million Americans with some type of disability. Isn’t it worth it to spend part of one day out of twelve grades of school teaching students about it? Understanding why some people have a difficult time with social skills or concentration might solve a few problems or maybe even avert some bullying, now and later in life.

Kids begin life as question marks and exit as exclamation points. They are curious creatures, smart, and willing to learn. What they learn while they’re young, whether from school, television, parents or each other will stay with them for the rest of their lives. We spend so much time teaching to the tests. Isn’t there a little room in the day to teach them about life too?

The Aspergers video from Arthur is just one example of how we can fit life lessons into the daily life of children in a way that is entertaining, yet educational at the same time. TV gets a bad rap but it isn’t always all bad.

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Accurate Thinking For Parents, Teachers, and Students – Or, What Was on the School Answering Machine

Years ago I had seen a YouTube video about an absurd, but hilarious video of a school answering machine message to parents with a very sarcastic tone. It was on the machine of the Maroochydore High School, in Queensland, Australia. Yesterday it came across my Facebook news feed and is shown below…

Depending one which side of the message you sit (teachers and schools or parents), you might be cheering or jeering, maybe a little of both.

Anyway, the story is that the parents were so upset they sued the school.

On my good days, I try to look at all the evidence and see things from BOTH sides by using accurate thinking and uncovering “the facts.” Being a parent, you learn this can be your best friend. So when I saw this video I just laughed. I had looked at both sides. But I didn’t yet have the facts.

I thought this would make a juicy post to get things going today so I did a little research to get more details. Because I didn’t “doubt” the message was fake, I never thought of checking Snopes first.

I spend a lot of time tracking things down on Snopes, especially during an election year. The more outrageous things sound, the less true they usually are, so accurate thinking comes in handy. It turns out, Snopes had the facts about this message that was originally attached to Pacific Palisades High School in California. It was fake for that school too. If you want to read the facts about this school answering machine message you can find them here: www.snopes.com

This brings me back to an important point about accurate thinking. At back to school night we got a chance to meet all the teachers and hear their requirements and expectations for the new school year. This is important for parents to attend because you get to hear “their” side of the story. If you don’t attend, you’ll only hear your child’s side of the story. I’m not saying our children will ever lie to us about school and homework – at least not always. :-)

But what the teacher “tells” them at the beginning of the year, and what they actually “hear” might not be the same thing. With the distractions of seeing friends for the first time in months, a little over-stimulation, confusion about new surroundings, and a touch of a learning disability, the full message might get scrambled during the delivery. I take notes, pictures and video of every classroom and teacher I visit because I can’t remember it all myself.

Having all the facts about what is actually required of your child for the school year will help as the year progresses. And when your child says they don’t have any homework because the teacher never assigns any, you can check your own notes to see what the truth is. Taking pics of the board or overhead will make your job easier at home. Just show them to your child. It works for me.

Don’t take everything you hear or read as truth no matter who is saying it until you hear both sides. This is true for politicians, teachers, other parents, other kids, telemarketers, car salesmen, or even your own kids. Quite a few parents were talking about this very idea at school. The kids say one thing but the teacher says another. Get both stories before taking sides.

Now, I’m certainly not saying everything we hear is a lie or that everything we hear should be scrutinized. That’s ridiculous. But hearing both sides and getting all the facts on the important things will make our thinking more accurate and better prepare all of us for school and life.

Now that we have the facts about the video we can all laugh at it because it is pretty funny.

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Lunchbox Ideas – Banana Notes

While I haven’t tried writing on a banana with a Biro pen yet, I’ve been making Banana Notes for my kids with a toothpick for a while now.

I used to leave little notes on napkins when I’d pack a lunchbox or send snacks to school with the kids. Leaving lunchbox notes on bananas is much more fun.

Lunchbox Ideas - Banana Notes

The easiest way is to use a toothpick and very lightly trace letters or draw pictures on the skin of a banana. Don’t scrape hard or deep, just start writing and you’ll see the letters form. After a while the letters will turn brown. The banana under the skin won’t be bruised and you’ll get your message across.

It’s probably best to do this the night before when the kids are asleep and they won’t see you doing it. When they open their lunch the next day they’ll see your banana notes.

I’ve seen more than a few articles for banana notes written with a Biro pen and that’s up next for testing. For now, a toothpick works great and the kids actually like it.

While you’re at it, try writing the weekly spelling words on bananas, or better yet, have the kids write them on bananas. They’ll get practice writing the words and they’ll see them again when they eat them. It might be a great way to improve their spelling. Talk about eating your words.

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Starting the School Year With an IEP

Now that school has started in most parts of the country, it’s the “beginning of the year frenzy” for parents and students. New teachers, new classes, a list of school supplies to buy, lunch money accounts to fill, books, clothes, car pool rides, yada yada yada. It usually takes a few weeks to a month to find a groove where calm replaces the chaos.

Starting the School Year With an IEP

It’s stressful enough for most families, but if your child has an IEP and struggles in school, things can take much longer. Kids with learning disabilities do well with structure and calm, not so well with unfamiliar territory and new routines.

As parents, we need to stay calm, cool and collected, as tough as it might be. If our kids see us staying calm, and believe me they’re watching, it will transfer to them. It might only help a little, but it goes a long way.

One thing that many parents forget is that whatever was included in the IEP for last year transfers to the new school year. Just because it’s a new school, new grade level, and new teachers, everything is still in place until it is changed at the next IEP.

If the IEP states front row seating, or extra time for assignments and homework, it is still available. Many parents new to an IEP either forget, or don’t even know it works this way. If your IEP month is March every year, all Accommodations and Modifications remain in place from March to March, regardless of the teacher or school. If moving from elementary to middle school, things don’t change even though it’s a new school.

Another tricky area is staying on top of the IEP Goals and Objectives. Goals are what the student will accomplish from one IEP to the next. The Goals don’t end when the school year ends. The same is true for Objectives. Objectives are simply subsets of the overall Goals and should have a date for meeting each one.

Hopefully, most of us have kept the IEP in a place we can find it for review at the beginning of the school year. Now is a great time to review what should be provided and see where we are in relation to Goals and Objectives and Accommodations and Modifications.

If your child uses assistive devices or any tools that help them in school such as an Alpha Smart, CoWriter, WriteOutLoud, etc., they probably turned them in at the end of the year. Make sure you let the teachers know you need those back. Most of the time you simply sign them out and promise to take care of them until the end of the year. If you’re lucky, a resource teacher will have everything ready to go. If not, make sure to ask.

Back to School Night is usually scheduled in the beginning of the year. Make sure you read through the IEP before attending and take a copy with you. If possible, prepare to arrive early or stay late to discuss any concerns with the teachers pertaining to the IEP.

In my personal experience, having an IEP near the beginning of the year works best. Most schools schedule IEP Season in the Spring, but by that time it’s too late to review and discuss problems as the year is almost over. Having an IEP Meeting in October gives the teacher and student “most” of the year to work together focusing on what was written in the IEP. Having last year’s teacher write an IEP for next year’s teacher never worked well for us so we had it changed.

Guess what? You can change it. You can also schedule a meeting at ANY time of the year if needed. Meetings regarding school concerns don’t have to take place only once a year at a pre-determined IEP time. You won’t be able to schedule a meeting “tomorrow” but usually scheduling one in a week or two will work for everyone.

The beginning of the school year is always a hectic time of the year for families with an IEP. But many times it can be great to start fresh with a whole new set of surroundings. Kids mature quite a bit over the summer, and Fall is an awesome time to embrace the change with a positive attitude. Good Luck this year!

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Chocolate Milk in Schools – Infographic

I remember the debate about chocolate milk in schools was heating up at the end of the school year this last Spring. On the one hand I get it – more sugar than white milk. But it still has all of the goodness that white milk has and some kids only drink chocolate milk. I know, I was one of them when I was a kid in school.

Banning soda from schools seemed a bit more reasonable than banning chocolate milk but one has to wonder what’s next? Will fruit be gone because it has too much sugar?

Being an infographic junkie, I was happy to find this one outlining the Facts About Chocolate Milk in Schools.

Chocolate Milk in Schools  Infographic

We’re making great strides across the board on nutrition and this infographic shows that chocolate milk has 38% less sugar than it did five years ago. Way to go milk! If we can keep inching forward with food and nutrition, our kids will reap the benefits.

Next, we need to find a way to help them be more active, but I haven’t found that infographic yet. Stay tuned…

For more info on this infographic visit: DailyInfographic.com

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How Stress Affects College Students – Infographic

Today’s college students are more stressed than ever before. This infographic shows that stress is the #1 factor in academic disruption, how it can affect the body and mind, what causes stress and what can be done about it.

How Stress Affects College Students - Infographic

To see a larger version of this infographic visit: dailyinfographic.com

Provided by: Online College Classes

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