Category Archives: Family

6 Ways to Get Organized for Back to School

Putting the following strategies into action now will save a lot of time and anxiety later.

  1. Shift your schedules. The lazy, unstructured days of summer are ending, and so is your child’s freedom to sleep in and eat erratically. Ease them back into a school schedule by shifting their bedtime back to a school-day bedtime and waking them closer to the hour they’ll need to rise.
  2. Have a morning routine run-through. The week before school starts, start getting your child up, dressed, and fed at the same times as you would on a school day. Both you and your child will benefit from a few practice runs to smooth out trouble spots and get comfortable with the routine.
  3. Clean house. Go through your child’s clothes, and get rid of anything they have outgrown or worn threadbare. It’ll be easier to choose outfits if there’s less clutter. Do a thorough cleaning of their room and study area as well.
  4. Stock up on supplies. After you and your child are through cleaning, make a list of everything they’ll need for the coming year, from socks to crayons. Ask their teacher or the school for a list of supplies, and check what’s missing. Buy extras of essential items and store them for later.
  5. Get papers in order. While you’re calling the school, ask what paperwork your child will need to start. Take care of any missing vaccinations or forms ASAP, then gather all the papers in a large, clearly marked envelope or file and photocopy everything.
  6. Create calendar and file central. Set up an area with a large calendar so everyone in your family can see everyone else’s plans for that month. For added organization, color-code each family member and keep colored markers nearby so everyone can easily mark plans. Pen in after-school activities, lessons, play-dates, and family time. Nearby, set up file baskets or bins marked “To Be Signed,” “From School,” and “To School,” so your child can deposit papers you need to see in a regular place right after school and pick up things to go “To School” each morning.

Omega Learning® Center is AdvancED accredited nationwide and provides tutoring and test preparation services for grades K-12. To find a learning center near you, visit OmegaLearning.com.

Source: http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/back-to-school/6-ways-to-get-organized-back-to-school

20 Ways to Boost Your Baby’s Brain Power

At birth, your baby’s brain contains 100 billion neurons (as many as there are stars in the Milky Way)! During their first years, they will grow trillions of brain-cell connections, called neural synapses.

The rule for brain wiring is “use it or lose it.” Synapses that are not “wired together” through stimulation are pruned and lost during a child’s school years. Although an infant’s brain does have some neurological hard wiring (such as the ability to learn any language), it is more pliable and more vulnerable than an adult’s brain. And, amazingly, a toddler’s brain has twice as many neural connections as an adult’s.

When you provide loving, language-enriched experiences for your baby, you are giving his brain’s neural connections and pathways more chances to become wired together. In turn, they will acquire rich language, reasoning, and planning skills.

  1. Give your baby a physically healthy start before he is born. Stay healthy while you are pregnant, and be aware that certain drugs can be destructive to your baby’s brain in utero. Many children who were drug-abused in the womb struggle with severe learning problems and suddenly act with unprovoked aggressive behaviors. Studies have also revealed that cigarette smoking during pregnancy causes lower fourth-grade reading scores.
  2. Have meaningful conversations. Respond to infant coos with delighted vocalizations. Slowly draw out your syllables in a high-pitched voice as you exclaim, “Pretty baby!” This talk is called “parentese.” The areas in the brain for understanding speech and producing language need your rich input.
  3. Play games that involve the hands (patty-cake, peekaboo, this little piggy). Babies respond well to learning simple sequential games.
  4. Be attentive. When your baby points, be sure to follow with your gaze and remark on items or events of interest to her. This “joint attention” confirms for your baby how important her interests and observations are to you.
  5. Foster an early passion for books. Choose books with large and colorful pictures, and share your baby’s delight in pointing and making noises — say, the animal sounds to go along with farm pictures. Modulate the tone of your voice; simplify or elaborate on story lines; encourage toddlers to talk about books. Remember that building your baby’s receptive language (understanding spoken words) is more important than developing his expressive language (speaking) in infancy.
  6. Use diaper time to build your baby’s emotional feelings of having a “lovable body.” Stroke your baby’s tummy and hair. Studies have shown that babies who are not often touched have brains that are smaller than normal for their age. Also, when diapering your baby, you are at the ideal 12 to 18 inches from her eyes to attract attention to your speech.
  7. Choose developmentally appropriate toys that allow babies to explore and interact. Toys such as a windup jack-in-the-box or stackable blocks help your baby learn cause-and-effect relationships and “if-then” reasoning. If a baby stacks a big block on a smaller one, the top block falls off. If he successfully stacks a small block on a bigger one, he “wires in” the information.
  8. Respond promptly when your baby cries. Soothe, nurture, cuddle, and reassure him so that you build positive brain circuitry in the limbic area of the brain, which relates to emotions. Your calm holding and cuddling, and your day-to-day intimate engagement with your baby, signal emotional security to the brain.
  9. Build trust by being attentive and focused. Babies who are securely attached to you emotionally will be able to invest more life energy in the pleasures of exploration, learning, and discovery.
  10. Use body massage to decrease your infant’s stress and enhance her feelings of well-being and emotional security. Loving touches promote growth in young babies. Research has shown that premature babies who are massaged three times daily are ready to leave the hospital days earlier than babies who do not receive massages.
  11. Enlist help from your toddler at clean-up times — a good way to practice categorization. Toddlers learn that stuffed animals have one place to go for “night-night” time; cars, trucks, and other vehicles also have their special storage place. Children need to learn about sorting into categories and seriation (placing things in order; for example, from littlest to biggest) as part of their cognitive advancement in preschool.
  12. Set up a safe environment for your crawling baby or toddler. Spatial learning is important, and your mobile child will begin to understand parameters such as under, over, near, and far. He will be able to establish mental maps of his environment and a comfortable relationship with the world in which he lives.
  13. Sing songs such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Ring-Around-the-Rosy.” The body motions and finger play will help your baby integrate sounds with large and small motor actions. Songs also enhance your child’s learning of rhythms, rhymes, and language patterns.
  14. Match your tempo to your child’s temperament. Some children adjust easily to strange situations, some are bold and impulsive, and some are quite shy. Go with the flow as you try to increase a shy child’s courage and comfort level. Help a highly active child safely use his wonderful energy while learning impulse control. Your acceptance will give him the comfort he needs to experiment and learn freely.
  15. Make meals and rest times positive. Say the names of foods out loud as your baby eats. Express pleasure as she learns to feed herself, no matter how messy the initial attempts may be. This will wire in good associations with mealtime and eating. Battles and nagging about food can lead to negative emotional brain patterns.
  16. Provide clear responses to your baby’s actions. A young, developing brain learns to make sense of the world if you respond to your child’s behavior in predictable, reassuring, and appropriate ways. Be consistent.
  17. Use positive discipline. Create clear consequences without frightening or causing shame to your child. If your toddler acts inappropriately, such as by hitting another child, get down to his eye level, use a low, serious tone of voice, and clearly restate the rule. Keep rules simple, consistent, and reasonable for your child’s age. Expecting a toddling baby not to touch a glass vase on a coffee table is not reasonable. Expecting a toddler to keep sand in the sandbox and not throw it is reasonable.
  18. Model empathic feelings for others. Use “teachable moments” when someone seems sad or upset to help your toddler learn about feelings, caring, sharing, and kindness. The more brain connections you create for empathic responses and gentle courtesies, the more these brain circuits will be wired in. This helps not only with language and cognitive learning, but with positive emotional skills, too!
  19. Arrange supervised play with messy materials, such as water, sand, and even mud. This will teach your toddler about the physics and properties of mixtures and textures, liquids and solids. During bath time, the brain wires in knowledge about water, slippery soap, and terry towel textures. Sensory experiences are grist for the learning brain.
  20. Express joy and interest in your baby. Let your body language, your shining eyes, your attentiveness to babbling and baby activities, and your gentle caresses and smiles validate the deeply lovable nature of your little one.

Source: http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/thinking-skills-learning-styles/20-ways-to-boost-your-babys-brain-power

Moving Ahead in Math and Science

When it comes to mathematics, middle schoolers continue to develop proficiency in computing with whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and percentages. They also delve more deeply into geometry, probability, and statistics, and start honing their algebraic reasoning skills. Data analysis is a major focus, with students recording and analyzing information in tables, charts, and graphs.

The idea is to help students identify patterns of change and linear and non-linear relationships — a crucial component of algebra and other advanced forms of math and science. Other things that middle-school students will work on:

A Push Toward Algebra

A movement to make math more rigorous in the middle-school years has resulted in an increased emphasis on algebra, and a push to integrate it with geometry and other topics in the curriculum. The reason: as a “gatekeeper” to more advanced studies, algebra provides children with a clear advantage. Consequently, many schools push pre-algebra and algebraic reasoning at an earlier age. In 6th grade, for instance, children will solve word problems using graphs, tables, and equations. They will also work to solve simple equations containing a variable, such as 27 = 4x + 3. Eventually, students will become more adept at translating word and geometric problems into equations, and solving them.

 

Physical, Life, and Earth Sciences

Middle-school students delve into more sophisticated hands-on science activities and experiments, and material that continues to deepen their understanding of these three disciplines. Concepts, skills, and terminology become more advanced, laying the groundwork for high school biology, chemistry, and physics.For example, students might examine the structure of cells, atoms, and molecules, study the periodic table and various chemical reactions, learn about the tectonic plates, and examine the hows and whys of earthquakes and volcanoes. Students will be expected to do more research, using outside sources such as reference books, magazine articles, and the Internet. And they’ll be asked to share their work in written, oral, or multimedia presentations.

 

More and More Math

Math will play a larger part in science during the middle-school years, as students measure, weigh, calculate, and record data in graphs, charts, and diagrams.They learn to become more systematic in how they control variables, make observations, collect evidence, and record data. Middle-school students may get additional opportunities to plan, conduct, and showcase their own experiments at science fairs. Fairs, which can be classroom-based, school-wide, or regional, require students to conduct an independent-research project on a subject of their own choosing, then exhibit and defend their findings.

Omega Learning® Center offers Tutoring K-12 with certified teachers for every subject in school. Stop by an Omega Learning® Center near you. http://omegalearning.com/find-tutors/ 

 

Source: http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/what-to-expect-grade/moving-ahead-math-and-science

How to Beat State Test Stress

Losing sleep over standardized tests used to be something college-bound teenagers did. Now kids as young as 8 get panicky. All this agita stems from a federal law requiring public schools to give their students in grades 3 through 8 tests in math and English to make sure they’re reaching certain educational benchmarks. While some students don’t think twice about test days, others get seriously rattled. The pressure can affect their scores, and many kids complain about headaches, chest pains, and stomachaches.

These tips can soothe test-day jitters and help every child feel calmer, sleep better, and perform their best on the big day.

ONE MONTH BEFORE:
  • Put it in perspective. To gauge your child’s state of mind, ask how they are feeling about the test, suggests Dr. Bailey. If they are fine, move on. But if they are jittery, say, ‘”This is just a way to see if the kids in your school are learning everything they need to know.” You can also point out that the test score is just a small piece that makes up who they are, along with their sense of humor and drawing chops.
  • Tweak bedtime. For your child to get a full night’s sleep the night before the test, they have to have a good routine going now. If not, “make sure homework gets done right after school, and move dinner to an earlier time,” says Grolnick.

 

THE WEEK BEFORE:

  • Pump up the energy. Add some fun physical activities, like a family bike ride in the late afternoon or some drop-in karate classes. They’ll help your child snooze better at night. Plus, they will produce feel-good endorphins that can relieve stress and boost positive energy, notes Dr. Bailey.

 

THE NIGHT BEFORE:
  • Relax and have fun. Cramming vocab or practicing division problems isn’t going to calm your kid down — or even help them do better, says Dr. Bailey. Instead, plan something that will take everyone’s mind off the test, like family game night or a pizza party. A healthy snack an hour before bedtime and a soothing bath will help them nod off.

 

THE MORNING OF:
  • Fill her up. Start the day off right by serving up a morning meal of complex carbs and protein, says Dr. Bailey. Greek yogurt with fresh (or frozen) fruit and honey or oatmeal with nuts are way better than sugary cereals, which can just cause your child to crash when they need energy the most.
  • Be on time. Kids can get anxious about arriving late and then having to rush to prepare for the test, so set the alarm ten minutes early to get everyone out the door without last-minute chaos.
  • Connect with a friend or teacher. Talking about pre-test jitters with a teacher or a close pal can be a good way to chill. “Not only will it make your child feel less isolated, but it’ll release some of the nerves they may have,” says Dr. Bailey.

Omega Learning® Center offers State Test Prep customized program offers your student an initial evaluation test, completion of practice test sections, review of missed questions, strategic remediation, and validated test-taking strategies. Stop by an Omega Learning® Center near you.  http://omegalearning.com/find-tutors/ 

Omega Learning® Center offers Tutoring K-12 with certified teachers for every subject in school.

Source: http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/study-skills-test-taking/how-to-beat-test-stress

January Parent Action Plan

1. Talk to your child.

In terms of school, ask your child how things are going with school and what subjects are their most and least favorite. Ask what they wish would happen so that the rest of the school year is awesome. Find out what he or she thinks are their areas of strength and need. Then share that information with his or her teacher. (More on this in #3.)

Ask about their friends and classmates. Decide if their extra-curricular activities are working out or not. Find out any help is needed with school and friends.

Does your child need you to check in every night? Does your child need to pack his or her backpack each evening before bed? Does your child need to spend less time with a certain friend? What can you, as a parent, do to help?

2.  Get organized.

Help your child organize their backpack and folders. Clean out all of the old so there’s room for the new.

Go through your family folders, emptying out the papers you no longer need. If you have a central “command station” in your house (usually your kitchen, mud room, or office area), clean it out.

Replenish your child’s school supplies, tend to broken binders, run the lunchbox through the washer. Make sure that everyone — and every thing — is geared up to begin the New Year fresh and ready to learn.

3.  Send an email to your child’s teacher.

Make it short and sweet and simply ask if there’s a time you can chat about your child’s progress. Perhaps it’s over the phone, or maybe it’s in person. Maybe email is best.

Share with the teacher what your child told you about his or her needs, and see what you all can do to make it happen. You are a team when it comes to your child’s education; you must all work together to ensure your child’s school success. Make sure the teacher knows that you’re here to help!

Before we know it, we’ll be wrapping up the school year, so don’t let January pass by without adding these three important topics to your to-do list!

Omega Learning® Center offers Tutoring K-12 with certified teachers for every subject in school. Stop by an Omega Learning® Center near you.  http://omegalearning.com/find-tutors/ 

Source: http://www.scholastic.com/parents/blogs/scholastic-parents-raise-reader/3-things-all-parents-should-do-their-kids-january

8 Reading Tips for the Winter Break

Just because it’s winter break, doesn’t mean your kids should stop reading. These tips will help you keep them turning the pages

1. Give books as gifts. Whether it’s for Christmas or Hanukkah, a birthday, or any special occasion, novelty isn’t just a motivator for children — all of us like the shiny new thing we just unwrapped. It’s human nature, so why not use it to promote reading?

2. Tame the nagging dragon. I am a bossy mom. I am. I have to tame my natural desire to nag my kids a lot. When we nag — even if we are nagging about something fun — we suck the fun out of it. Don’t suck the fun out of reading by always suggesting your kids go read.

3. Don’t oversell books. “This is the BEST book ever!” Is it? Really? If we oversell the book we might end up falling flat. Instead, approach books as mysteries. “I heard this was really good, but I want to know what you think!”

4. Start a great book NOW. My 8-year-old and I are reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Tonight he suggested we go to bed early every night so we can get 20 extra minutes of reading in … so he can watch the film during winter break. (But he’s gotta read the book first!) He’s eight and he’s suggesting we go to bed EARLY to read. I wish I could say that is because I am such a great mom, but it has more to do with J.K. Rowling being such a great author.

5. Have a book exchange. For younger kids you could call it a playdate, but older ones might prefer to have it deemed a party. The activities are the same. Everyone brings a book to trade. This is a great way to re-gift any books that were gifted to your kids that they already own, or have no interest in reading.

6. Make time to do nothing. Think about why you read at the beach or on vacation or on a plane. Because there is nothing else to do. I adore reading but life gets busy and sometimes I need it to slow All. The. Way. Down. before I remember to snuggle up with a book. Why do we expect anything different from our kids? Start planning do-nothing-days for your kids to push them back to the bookcase.

7. Pack books for the planes, trains, and automobiles if you travel over the break. Whether you pack a bunch of heavy books or fill up your eReader, have them ready and they will get read.

8. Slow down and let your kids see you reading. Not only will it be good for you to slow down in general, but kids who see their parents read for pleasure are much more likely to read for pleasure themselves.

Source: http://www.scholastic.com/parents/blogs/scholastic-parents-raise-reader/8-tips-getting-your-kids-to-read-over-winter-break

Staying Motivated During Winter Break

You’ve turned in all your assignments, finished all your final exams and attended that very last class. Fall semester is complete.

Now, high schoolers can focus on the relaxing weeks of winter break. Winter break can provide students with the much-needed opportunity to take it easy and to give their minds a break from school work in between semesters.

Of course, while it’s important to unwind for a bit, students should be wary of totally shutting their minds off during this winter vacation. Avoiding brain drain is crucial, as it helps ensure students return for the spring semester with fresh minds to tackle the rest of the school year with success.

This is particularly important for high school juniors and seniors, whose academic performances face especially high stakes with college admissions staff.

So, what can students do to keep their minds active and still enjoy the downtime of winter break? Three current college students shared some suggestions and personal examples.​

1. Read a book or book series:​ This idea might not sound immediately appealing to many students, as they do plenty of reading for their classes throughout the school year. However, required reading can feel like more of a chore than reading for pleasure, and busy school schedules often make it difficult for students to find the free time to do the latter. Enter winter break.

Surina Das, a senior at Arizona State University, recommended students read to keep their minds alert.​

“Take this time to explore new authors and genres, and maybe find something new that you never expected to enjoy,” says Das. “I usually read at least one Jane Austen book each year, and usually during winter break while drinking a cup of tea and snuggling in my blanket.”

Something else to consider is choosing a book that is relevant to a part of your life or perhaps even a course you are taking in school. University of Missouri sophomore Olivia Bleeker says she used this tactic to help her stay fresh in her AP European History class.

“I picked a fictional book based on real historical events to read over break, so that while I wasn’t studying the actual material, my brain was staying informed of that time period and things that were happening during that time,” she says.

2. Engage in thoughtful conversation and activities with others:​ Sometimes, interacting with other people can be just the type of stimulation your brain needs to stay active. Bleeker recalled some creative ways to combine the chaos of family visits during holidays with ideas to fend off brain drain.

This included playing complex board games like Risk and Scrabble with out-of-town relatives, both exercising the brain and catching up with family members. She also found that simply talking with family could open up a world of interesting recollections and lessons.

“I would simply ask my older relatives to tell me stories about their past and when they were growing up. The stories I have heard really grown me as a person and given me a lot of different outlooks on life over my small perspective before having these conversations,” says Bleeker.

“Many times, keeping your brain active doesn’t look like secluding yourself off away from everyone else to solve a Rubik’s cube, but rather incorporating thought-provoking activities into your everyday activities instead of mindless ones,” she says.​

3. Review class​ notes and get organized:​ There is no need to spend an inordinate amount of time during your vacation working ahead on school work, but there are likely at least a few small opportunities for you to make the back-to-school transition easier later.

Mackenzie Miller, a Tennessee Technological University senior,​ says she found this activity quite beneficial.

“Toward the end of break, I [found] it really helpful to look over the last chapter or two of my notes in any yearlong class. That way, the most recent information was fresh in my head and I wasn’t playing catch-up when the second semester started,” she says. “You can forget a lot in a week and a half of winter break in high school, and if you don’t keep up with reviewing, it only gets worse in college.”

Miller also suggested taking some time to organize things like your notes, planner and calendar.

“By keeping everything spaced out in my planner, I was able to keep up with my work and avoid all of the stress that would have come with it. Not only was I less drained, but I was getting my projects done so far in advance that I had time to relax and have fun,” she says. “Letting everything pile up eliminates any time to relax. Plan ahead by organizing your planner, and it’ll make your semester a breeze.”

Source: http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/college-admissions-playbook/articles/2015-12-21/avoid-winter-vacation-brain-drain-with-these-student-approved-tips

Christmas Around the World

Christmas Day is celebrated all around the world in many different ways. Although traditionally a Christian holiday, people from all cultures now celebrate Christmas.

The true meaning of Christmas

Christmas is traditionally a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ over 2000 years ago.

Most people know the story of Joseph and a heavily pregnant Mary arriving in Bethlehem only to find that there was nowhere for them to stay. Eventually, an inn keeper gave them shelter in a stable at the back of his inn. This is where Jesus was born and placed in a manger.

Many modern-day traditions are a result of this event, including gift giving (various people came to visit Jesus and brought gifts) and placing a star at the top of a Christmas tree (it is recorded that a star hovered above the stable and guided people to see Jesus).

Christmas traditions

Gift giving

Exchanging gifts is probably the most popular Christmas tradition. This represents the ‘spirit of giving’ for which Christmas is known. As well as giving to friends and family, it is important to think of people less fortunate than ourselves at this time of year. Many people choose to donate to charities that support work with families who will not receive gifts at Christmas.

Sharing a meal

Another common Christmas tradition is sharing a meal with family or friends. A traditional Christmas meal might consist of a cooked turkey or ham, roasted vegetables and Christmas pudding. This meal originated in countries where December is in winter. In Australia, because December is in summer, many people choose to eat meals that include BBQs (which can be cooked outside), seafood, salads and other things that are great to eat in summer.

There are also other treats to enjoy at Christmas, such as mince pies, candy canes and marshmallow-filled chocolate Santas.

Putting up decorations

Many people decorate their house at Christmas time. The most popular decoration would definitely be a Christmas tree with tinsel, ornaments and maybe even lights. Some people even decorate their whole front yard with lights and encourage people to walk past at night to enjoy them. You will also see lots of decorations in shops and sometimes on the streets in busy areas.

Another interesting Christmas decoration is mistletoe. Have you heard of it? The original mistletoe custom says that if you find yourself and someone else standing under the mistletoe you have to give them a kiss. Traditionally, if a man wanted to kiss a woman beneath the mistletoe he would have to pluck a berry from the sprig. However, if there were no more berries left, there would be no more kisses!

Christmas in other countries

Christmas is traditionally a Christian holiday, but in modern times it has been embraced by people of all faiths and cultures around the world. Although there are many differences between the ways in which cultures celebrate Christmas, there are also many similarities too.

Discover how Christmas is celebrated in some other parts of the world, below.

India

The Christian community in India has many Christmas traditions that would be familiar to us, such as attending church services, singing carols and exchanging gifts.

However, they do not decorate a traditional Christmas tree: instead they decorate banana or mango trees. They also make sure that they have a large stock of home-made sweets for visiting family and friends and often place clay lamps on the roof of their house to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Greece

In Greece, Christmas Eve marks the end of 40 days of fasting. It is celebrated with the baking of ‘Christopsomo’ or ‘Christ bread’. Families decorate the crust of the large, sweet loaves with symbols of their professions.

Christmas trees are not traditional in Greece. Instead, most houses have a bowl with a piece of wire across it. They tie a piece of basil to the wire and fill the bowl with water to keep the basil alive. Sprinkling the water from the bowl around the house is thought to keep bad spirits away.

Egypt

Did you know that in Egypt (and some other countries) Christmas is celebrated on January 7, not December 25?

Egyptian Christians will fast for the 40 days before Christmas (eating no meat, poultry or dairy). They break their fast after midnight mass on Christmas Eve with a meal known as ‘Fata’ (bread, rice, garlic and boiled meat).

Denmark

In Denmark, and many other European countries, presents are exchanged on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. The presents are opened after a big meal has been shared and everyone has danced around the Christmas tree. In Denmark, children know Father Christmas as ‘Julemanden’ which means ‘Christmas man’.

Ethiopia

Ethiopians call the Christmas celebrations ‘Ganna’ and celebrate Christmas Day on January 7. Traditionally, Ethiopians fast completely on Christmas Eve (January 6) and then get dressed in a special white garment called a ‘shamma’ at dawn and go to a church service to celebrate.

Christmas food in Ethiopia includes a traditional dish called ‘wat’, which is a thick and spicy stew containing meat, vegetables and sometimes eggs.

Venezuela

Traditional nativity scenes, depicting the birth of Jesus, are set up in many countries. In Venezuela, a ‘pesebre’ is built out of a frame and canvas before being painted. Like a nativity scene, it depicts the birth of Jesus, including the entire landscape, hills, mountains and valleys, with Bethlehem and the manger at its centre.

Lebanon

In Lebanon, about two weeks before Christmas, children plant seeds in cotton wool. They water them every day leading up to Christmas and when the seeds have sprouted and grown green stems, they add them to a nativity scene, surrounding the manger with grass.

Australia

In Australia we enjoy a hot summer Christmas rather than the cold European and North American white Christmas. Instead of sitting inside by the fire, Australians enjoy the sun by having pool parties and barbeques, or by going to the beach, where we build sandcastles instead of snowmen. Seafood is also very popular, instead of a hot roast turkey.

Christmas fast facts

  • Did you know that the song ‘Jingle Bells’ was written in the American town of Massachusetts by James Lord Pierpont? It was originally sung to celebrate Thanksgiving, not Christmas!
  • Officially, there is still a law in Britain which makes it illegal not to attend church on Christmas Day. It also states that you cannot use a vehicle to travel to the church. Of course, even though this law still exists on paper, it is no longer enforced.
  • Until 1939, Rudolph (the red-nosed reindeer) was known as Rollo.
  • Did you know that in the United Kingdom, there is an old wives’ tale that says that bread baked on Christmas Eve will never go mouldy?
  • The inventor of strings of electric Christmas lights got the idea from the string lights used in telephone switchboards in the late 1800s.
  • In England, Christmas celebrations were banned from 1644 until 1660 by an Act of Parliament. Some politicians thought that Christmas was a wasteful festival and the celebrations were against Christian beliefs.
  • In the Middle Ages, housewives spread rosemary on the floor at Christmas time, so that the leaves would release a fragrant scent when stepped on and crushed.
  • The first-ever nativity scene was set up in a cave by Saint Francis of Assisi in Italy around 1224. He had to gain permission directly from the Pope before he could proceed.

Source: http://www.forteachersforstudents.com.au/site/themed-curriculum/christmas/facts/

5 Ways to Thank a Teacher

Take time out to celebrate the work of your local educators during American Education Week. Below are some ideas for helping your child (and you) express gratitude for your teachers. You can use them all year long too.

1. Share memorable moments. With your child, make a scrapbook for their teacher filled with their favorite things about school. Include stories, artwork, and photographs. Invite your child to decorate the book and be sure to include a note from you as well.

2. Give a gift a day. Leave a small treat in your child’s teacher’s mailbox each day of the week. Simple but meaningful gifts, like a handmade card or a much-loved snack, will thrill your child’s teacher.

3. Use your words. Write a letter to your child’s teacher expressing your gratitude. Help your child write a letter, too, and then invite them to decorate both. Place them in a double-hinged picture frame and invite your child to present the gift to their teacher.

4. Lend a helping hand. Volunteer to chaperone a class trip, assist with large art projects, provide snacks once a month, or take care of the class pet for a weekend. It’s a great way to help out while learning more about your young one’s school activities.

5. Throw a “thank you” party. Organize a potluck party for your child’s teacher. Ask each set of parents to bring in a different dish, and invite children to decorate the classroom. At the end, make sure everyone works together to clean up — except the teacher!

Omega Learning® Center offers Tutoring K-12 with certified teachers for every subject in school. Stop by an Omega Learning® Center near you.  http://omegalearning.com/find-tutors/ 

Source: http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/more-school-involvement/5-ways-to-thank-teacher

Winter Checklist From Freshmen to Seniors

Freshmen

The beginning of high school is an exciting time. Your child may be adjusting to a new school, making new friends and becoming more independent. But your child still needs your help and involvement. Here are some things you can do together during the winter months.

  • Start thinking about financial aid. It’s not too early to look into types of aid that could help you cover college costs.
  • Discuss next year’s classes. Make sure your child is challenging him- or herself — and taking the courses college admission officers expect to see.

Sophomore

As your child settles into the high school experience, it’s a great time for him or her to take on new challenges. It’s also not too early to explore colleges, college majors and career goals. Use the list below to help make 10th grade count.

  • If your child was not offered the PSAT/NMSQT as a 10th-grader, they may be offered the PSAT 10 in February or March. They are the same test, just offered at different times of the year.
  • Review PSAT 10 or PSAT/NMSQT results together. Log in to the student score reporting portal with your child to learn what she or he is doing well and which skills your child should work on to get ready for college and career.
  • Start thinking about ways to pay for college. Most families get help paying for college costs.
  • Encourage your sophomore to consider taking SAT Subject Tests. Many colleges require or recommend taking these tests to get a sense of your child’s skills in a certain academic area. In general, it’s best to take a Subject Test right after taking the relevant course.
  • Discuss next year’s classes. Make sure your child will be challenging him- or herself and taking the courses college admission officers expect to see.

Juniors

Junior year usually marks a turning point. This is because for most students and families, it’s when college planning activities kick into high gear. Here are some things you can do this during the winter break to support your child and give him or her the best options.

  • Review PSAT/NMSQT results together by logging in to the student score reporting portal.
  • Help your child prepare for the SAT. Many juniors take the SAT in the spring so they can get a head start on planning for college.
  • Discuss taking challenging courses next year. Taking honors courses or college-level courses like Advanced Placement as a senior can help your child prepare for college work — and these are also the courses that college admission officers like to see.
  • Encourage your junior to consider taking SAT Subject Tests. Many colleges require or recommend taking these tests to get a sense of your child’s skills in a certain academic area. In general, it’s best to take a Subject Test right after taking the relevant course.
  • Encourage your child to take AP Exams. If your 11th-grader takes AP or other advanced classes, have him or her talk with teachers now about taking these tests in May.

Seniors

Senior year is a whirlwind of activities. This is a big year for your child as he or she balances schoolwork, extracurricular activities and the college application process. Use the suggestions below to help you and your child successfully navigate this important time.

  • Work together to apply for financial aid. Have your child contact the financial aid offices at the colleges in which he or she is interested to find out what forms students must submit to apply for aid. Make sure he or she applies for aid by or before any stated deadlines. Funds are limited, so the earlier you apply, the better.
  • Learn about college loan options together. Borrowing money for college can be a smart choice — especially if your high school student gets a low-interest federal loan.
  • Encourage your senior to take SAT Subject Tests. These tests can showcase your child’s interests and achievements — and many colleges require or recommend that applicants take one or more Subject Tests.
  • Encourage your child to take AP Exams. If your 12th-grader takes AP or other advanced classes, have him or her talk with teachers now about taking these tests in May.

Source: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-started/for-parents