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“N” is for Nutrition

Your car will not run without fuel, and neither will your body, including your brain. 

A child of any age is growing rapidly and needs plenty of food for energy and nutrients (protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals) to help supply the body with the building blocks to allow the cells to multiply and the body to grow. 

The inability to concentrate, feeling listless, unenthusiastic and headaches are all signs of insufficient nutrient intake.  The body begins to slow down by mid-afternoon after a day of high activity and little nutritious food.

The best way to maintain high-energy output is to ensure a nutritious breakfast, a healthy lunch and perhaps morning and afternoon tea.  A healthy round of vegemite sandwiches with a glass of water or milk will ensure the B Vitamins for energy production are in the body to spur the brain into motion.

The chief function of B Vitamins is to act as spark plugs for the body to assist in converting glucose into energy for fuel.  They are also important for the functioning of a healthy nervous system and in helping to promote relaxation in stressed individuals.  Very few vitamins are found in a packet of potato crisps and a can of coke.  A person will literally obtain more miles out of a banana than soft drinks and chips.

The importance of Vitamin C can’t be over-looked.  The highest concentration of vitamin C in the body is found in the adrenal glands because it is required to make cortisol and adrenalin for conditions of stress.  But the next highest concentration is found in the brain.  Why would the brain require vitamin C?  So, the body may produce dopamine, serotonin and melatonin.  Vitamin C helps to keep your sanity as well as your collagen intact.

There are five essential nutrients for effective brain function, and this includes memory.  Many teenagers are low in iodine, as can be said about the general population.  It is readily found in some seafood but if you do not eat seafood then you must obtain it from another source. 

Decades ago, iodine was placed in table salt so inland populations may have a non-seafood source of the nutrient.  If your family eats salt, then it may be beneficial to purchase iodised salt.  Other nutrients are omega-3 (from oily fish), iron (meat), zinc (almonds) and the B vitamins.

Two herbs gaining respect for their ability to aid memory are Ginkgo biloba and Gotu kola.  Ginkgo increases blood flow and fluidity to the brain.  Improved circulation aides brain function.

The quality of food is so important.  We do no good for our children when we give into their tantrums for low nutrient junk food.  Be parents to your children now and their friends when they grow up.

According to Henry Osiecki (B.Sc. Grad. Dip Nutr. & Dietetics) some symptoms of ADHD are like those of essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiencies.  Behavioural and learning problems, tantrums and sleeping disorders are common to both.  Supplementing with omega 3 has been shown to improve learning and concentration behaviour.

Other Nutritional Deficiencies in Learning – if your diet is inadequate then consider a quality multi-vitamin because:

B Complex

The functions of the B vitamins in mental alertness and energy are well established. 

EFA – Omega 3 & Omega 6

Introducing fish oil into a youngster’s diet may do wonders for concentration. 

Zinc

The functions of zinc and the immune system have been known for over 100 years.  Knowledge of its other functions is relatively recent.  Low levels of zinc are associated with low alertness, inability to think along abstract lines (learn a language e.g. English), mood and memory problems.               

Magnesium

One of the most deficient minerals in the modern western diet.  Low brain magnesium gives unrefreshed sleep, causes easy fatigue (important for the Krebs Cycle of energy production), poor concentration and daytime sleepiness.

By Peter Kenyon: North Brisbane Online Tutor

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“J” is for Just in Time

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” 
― 
Nelson Mandela

Is there a good time to seek out tutoring?  Does your son or daughter display any of these?

  • Lacks confidence with schoolwork
  • Becomes distraught about going to school
  • Struggles with Maths
  • Reads without interest or understanding
  • Reads through punctuation marks or skip lines completely

Of course, these indicators are not the only signs for a cry for help.  Any change in behaviour or mood may be an indicator that moves you to further investigation.

One thing you should not do is shrug off these indicators as, “Oh, it is only a phase they are going through.” because chances are it is a phase they will not get through.  The cause, or trigger, of the change may vary from changing teachers to taking your children out of school for off-season holidays.  The latter has a considerable effect on children in Year 3, 5 and 7.

Years 3, 5 and 7 appear to be the years when new concepts are introduced in Maths, and probably other subjects.  But we, at the tuition room, see these years as the most influential to the student’s development.  Basically, a lot of new stuff is taught in Maths during these years.  Missing one or two weeks during the school period has a lasting and recurring effect on that area of knowledge through the following years.

Back to our original question, is there a good time to seek out tutoring assistance?

You would think Year 1 students would not require tutoring assistance, after all they have just started school and what have they learned?  Prep is used to prepare children for Year 1 and it is at this stage they learn the simple things like singing the alphabet, counting to ten or twenty and spatial skills such as left, right, in front, under, first, second, last and inside and outside.  Even colouring in pictures helps to develop the fine motor skills required to hold a pencil to form letters while learning to write. 

Sometimes children miss some concepts, and this puts them behind during the first year because there is assumed knowledge in Year 1.  Yes, tuition does help to restore confidence to a Year 1 student.

It is always easier to help students who are in Year 2, 4 or 6 because these are the years before the next knowledge jump.  Catching them up in these years aligns their Maths knowledge for the next year jump in concept learning.  We have noticed the most distressed students who come to us are in Years 3, 5 and 7. 

When is the best time to bring a student for tuition?  When you notice a change in behaviour that continues for more than two weeks.  There is generally a reason for that change and if it is related to learning then tuition may be your answer.  Having said that, it is never too late to seek out tuition.  We have had students in Year 8 that have received tuition to cover knowledge short falls from Year 5.  No, it is never too late to help a student who wants to be helped.

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” 
― 
Confucius

By Peter Kenyon: XtraMile Tuition Strategies Tutor

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“F” is for Foundations

If your child was an average student last year, chances are they will be an average student this year.  If they struggled with maths last year, they will probably be struggling with maths this year.  Nothing changes unless something changes.  What must change to improve your child’s grades?

The first thing that must change is someone’s attitude.  Children are children and they will not change unless they are given a reason to change.  Telling them to do better or to change their ways will probably not get the result you, as a parent, desire because they do not know how to change.  They are children, they are young, and have a limited frame of reference when it comes to change.  They must be taught how to change.  At this stage, the biggest change must be in you as a parent.  You must make the decisions for them, and then guide them along the path.

One of the biggest issues seen with students is they have problems with weak foundations.  They simply don’t know their multiplication tables up to their year level and they don’t have in place a memory of subtraction and addition of the numbers up to twenty (20).   No matter how well a student understands the mathematical concept they are being taught at school, if they can’t perform the foundations, they will not be able to solve the maths problem.  Continually getting the wrong answer whittles away their confidence.

Every student needs to build strong foundations.  You can’t have lasting structure without strong foundations.

By Peter Kenyon: Online Maths Tutor

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“E” is for Enough Sleep

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” – Benjamin Franklin

And on the other side of the coin insufficient sleep will make children:

  • Hyperactive.
  • Lacking in confidence.
  • Irritable.
  • Inattentive; and
  • Fall behind in class

If this sounds like your youngster then it is so easy to fix.

Much study has been devoted to knowing how much sleep is needed, or not needed, to remain healthy and productive.  The conclusion being “…. there is a lot of individual differences in what children and adolescents need to sleep to be at their best.” (Australian Centre for Sleep Education).

As a general guide, primary school students require between ten and twelve hours of sleep per day, while secondary (higher) school students get by with eight to ten hours each night.  Research has indicated children of any age will arise at about the same time each day so the difference in hours of slumber occurs at the time of going to bed. 

What time should a child go to bed to be at their peak the next day?  To make this exercise easier and because Australian schools commence at 9:00 a.m. let’s assume our children get up at seven to start their day during the week.  This would require a primary school student to be in bed by 7:00 p.m. and no later than 9:00 the night before, and our secondary student in bed by 9:00 pm no later than 11:00.

The younger the child the more sleep required.  Students from grades one to three require closer to twelve hours of sleep each weeknight while those from grade four to six/seven may drop to needing ten hours of sleep. 

Problems occur with teenagers as their bodies are not ready for sleep when the clock says it is time for bed and they stay up whiling away the hours until slumber overtakes them.  Unfortunately, the activities they do while waiting to sleep may not be conducive to bringing sleep on and they miss out on their required sleep quota.  They then go into sleep debt which they try to reclaim on weekends by sleeping in.  This problem may be compounded by staying up later during weekend nights to interact with friends and sleeping even more of the morning away to further knock the body clock around and make sleeping during the week more difficult.  As a parent, you must take control of this situation.

Children deprived of sleep, like adults, are hard to rouse and will feel sleepy during the early part of the day.  Unlike adults, primary school students will become more active during the day, though still be less able to concentrate. 

Because they have become more wired, they will be less likely to fall asleep easily, thus becoming more sleep deprived.  Parents may have trouble identifying a young child who is not getting enough sleep because they are active.

Some home factors compound sleep deprivation in children.  Families in general are not going to bed as early as they need.  For one reason or another, parents are staying up later and as role models may be setting poor examples of a healthy lifestyle.

We see how the concentration of a child who has insufficient sleep is affected in our tuition room.  A student who the previous week was performing wonderfully on our program suddenly has low scores and answers very few questions.  When asked what they did the previous night the answer always involved a late night of movie watching, game playing, internet surfing or social media.  We have also seen how a poor student changes so quickly when they stop being tired.

You can take steps to create good sleep habits by cleaning up the bedroom and time leading up to retiring.  Some good sleep hygiene habits are:

  • No T.V., computer, mobile phone or exercise 1 hour before going to bed.
  • No T.V., computer, mobile phone in the bedroom.
  • No coke or caffeine drinks 2-3 hours before sleeping.
  • Set bedtimes and wake times and keep them to form healthy habits.
  • As a parent, be a good role model and lead by example.
Visit the Australian Centre for Education in Sleep website for a more comprehensive read.

By Peter Kenyon: Tutor

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“C” is for Copy Book

The downside to the Information Age is the decrease in fine motor skills used for writing. 

It is a problem presenting more often as laptops and tablets replace the use of pad and pen.  An increasing number of students are unable to form legible letters of the alphabet or write numbers clearly enough so they may read them thirty seconds later.

Some students going into Year 8 are incapable of writing between the lines of a paper or forming numbers within the squares of a quad ruled page.  Students in Year 5 are unable to produce or read their name in cursive script.  These students are struggling with the fine motor skills required to help them to learn.

An article by Maria Konnikova, “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades?”, suggests evidence is emerging of a greater link between handwriting and learning.  It appears children learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand.

Learning is a complicated process.  When we reproduce letters or anything else by hand, a plan is required before executing the action.  The result is highly variable in that it will not exactly represent the original.  Learning to identify variable representations is important to decoding letters when reading.

The research by Virginia Berninger, a psychologist at University of Washington, indicated that when a child who composed text by hand (either printing or cursive) “They not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on the keyboard, but expressed more ideas.”

There is also a suggestion of different neuropathways being developed in the brain when a child progresses on from printing to cursive writing.

Researchers at the University of California have reported laboratory and real-world studies of students learning better when they take notes by hand than when they type on a keyboard.

I ask you, “Is it time to throw away the pen and paper and adopt the technology of the keyboard?  Was it time to give up walking when we invented the car?”

My suggestion to help build a better student is to let your pre-school child use colouring books and pencils; jigsaw puzzles and building blocks; to help develop fine motor skills.  When they are at school continue to use the old-fashioned copy book, so your student may practise and learn to form letters and numbers.  Encourage them to practise twenty minutes a day until they are proficient with writing the printed word.  Allow this to develop into the practice of cursive writing so they may be able to record classroom notes in secondary school, lecture notes at university or record the minutes of a business meeting.

We may lose so much by giving up the pen.

By Peter Kenyon: Tutor

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“K” is for Kinaesthetic Learner

Kinaesthetic Learner 3Not everyone learns the same way, and that creates problems in classrooms and at home.

As a generalisation, there are three types of learners: auditory, kinaesthetic, and visual.  These are the main channels of learning.  It’s a generalisation because, a person is more likely to be a combination of two (or more) rather than simply one, as in being purely an auditory learner.  How do you identify a kinaesthetic learner?

Kinaesthetic learners just want to touch and feel everything. As adults, their mates give them plenty of personal space because they just want to playfully thump them all the time.  Their house is a mess because they just want to collect and pull everything apart, just to see how it works.  Putting it together again may be another matter.  Does this sound like someone you married?

It is easy to identify an adult kinaesthetic learner, but how do you identify it in your child?

Well for starters, their teacher will be strongly suggesting you attend Parent Teacher Nights, so they can discuss how disruptive this young pupil is in the classroom.  They fidget, leave their seat to touch things, move things and find it difficult to sit and learn.  They may not even be aware of their movements as they are easily distracted by the movement of others, and want to investigate.

This student needs a hands-on approach to learning so sitting in class and listening, reading from a book, or even taking notes from the whiteboard is not the best way for them to learn.  They will respond better when learning is through participation, such as in chemistry experiments, or building a model. These students do well in sports, drama and live for school lunch breaks.  By the age of seven, they have been categorised as being an under-achiever, or worse still, hyperactive.  But fear not.

Being a kinaesthetic learner is not a problem, as approximately fifteen percent of the population are kinaesthetic learners.  The problem is our education system is geared towards auditory and visual learners, and kinaesthetic learners are the speed bump in our systems road to education.  What can you do?

For starters, accept them for who they are, healthy active children.  Give them down time after an active session, and reward them for the tasks they perform.  These guys may be reward driven.  Kinaesthetic learners do best with images so paint them a picture of what you want from them and give them regular breaks while studying.

Your student is likely to become an actor, dancer, physio-therapist, massage therapist, surgeon, mechanic, carpenter, P.E. teacher, athlete, farmer, etc.

The point is, be patient, give them space and let them grow…

 

XtraMile Tuition Strategies makes learning fun again

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“Smells of fire” by Harry (aged 8)

Harry 2One night I left the stove on at my stinky house and I was woken by the unfamiliar smell of fire and hoary rubbish that I left on the table. By the time I got to the kitchen, I smelt the fire cooking a stale apple core and a decayed banana peel that smelt gross, and the dog food that smelt nice. The fireman said, ‘’You smell like you haven’t had a bath for 6 months!” and I said, “That’s true”. He sprayed rusty water on me with his big water hose until I smelt as lovely as a rose. While the fire brigade was busy washing me, my house was busy turning into a vessel of lovely ashes.

Harry, aged 8

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“Jonah’s Bad Day” by Harry (aged 8)

Angry treeThis morning, my friend, Jonah, who is eight year’s old, like me, shot a nerf-bullet to get his mate’s attention in the wood-house. They were both at Jonah’s family’s Californian farmhouse, just beside the magic tree. The bullet hit the magic tree in the face just as it was waking up and that hurt it a lot and it caused the tree to fall. The tree dragged itself up and then whacked the old wood-house into lots of bits of wood until the barn didn’t exist anymore. Jonah and his mate called 000 and the ambulance took them to the hospital.

Harry, aged 8. 

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“K” is for Kinaesthetic Learner

Bad StudentType ‘student’ into Fotolia and you have 14337 pages of pupils sitting quietly at their desk diligently working away.  DREAM ON.

We know all students are not alike because all children are not alike.  In a (teacher’s) perfect world all students would be just so, but …

Approximately 15% of the population are kinaesthetic learners and that means there will be no such thing as a quiet classroom.  Kinaesthetic learners just want to touch and feel everything.  Their friends are bruised because these learners just have to thump their mates.  Their homes are a mess because they have to pull everything apart, just to see how it works.  Does that sound like someone you married?

You can picture this in your husband, but how about your little one?  How do you know you have a kinaesthetic learner on your hands?  Well for starters their teacher will probably be calling you in to complain about how disruptive they are in class.  This student finds it difficult to learn through reading and writing.  They need the hands on approach so they do better in chemistry experiments, sports and acting.  They may not even be aware of their own movement and are easily distracted by the movements of others.

By the age of 6½ they are generally classed as under-achievers or worse still hyperactive.

What can you do with this learner?  For starters accept them for who they are. There is nothing wrong with them rather it is our education system that is not geared to accept 15% of the population.  As a parent, give them down time after an active session, and reward them for the tasks they perform.  These guys may be reward driven.  Kinaesthetic learners do best with images so paint them a picture of what you want from them. (For more information visit www.educ.uvic.ca)

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“Alligator” by Dardo (aged 9)

AlligatorWhen John and Jeff came to the ditch on the way to school, Jeff slipped and hit his head on a stick.  The ten-year-old twins were alike in many ways as both were playful and blonde.  John came down to Jeff to remove the stick from his head when suddenly a vicious alligator burst from the water and chased them up the slope and all the way to school.  The teacher opened the window and through a baton at the alligator and the kids ran into the school room.  The teacher said, “That’s what happens when you’re late for school’.

Dardo (aged 9) 

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