Home school Preschool Rocks!

With a growing number of parents choosing to home school their child(ren), I thought  a reprint of the following post, Home school Preschool Rocks! by MommieKate on October 25, 2010 might be helpful for some of our readers who are considering homeschooling as an option.

Six weeks ago I officially joined the many who have decided (at least for now) to educate my son at home. Let me just say: IT IS AWESOME!  I admit, I didn’t feel that way at first.  I was excited and then (while doing endless internet research) it hit me.  Hit me hard.  I mean, this is one of the biggest decisions that will affect my little boy FOR LIFE.  I started to panic. Have you seen the ka-zillion choices out there? There are so many different education styles and ten times that in curriculum choices. I became overwhelmed.  Nauseated even. And then…

I found some lovely blogs that helped bring me back to “OK, I can do this” state.  More on them later (plus links). While I am in no way an expert, I did figure out a few things over the summer.  Here is a summary of my Crash Course for Home School Newbies:

  • Start with the legalities. Find out what the laws are in your state.  This will help guide you through your curriculum choices. You may not even want or need a curriculum. My state is one that has few requirements and gives parents great freedom.
  • Consider your own skills and limitations as well as your family’s. Do you follow a tight schedule, a flexible routine, or do you fly by the seat of your pants?  Are you creative?  Do you need the guidance of a curriculum? How much guidance?  What is your budget? I chose mine based on flexibility and budget.
  • What support will you have? Is your spouse on board?  Will he be able to help – to what degree?  Is there a homeschooling group in your area? I joined a local Christian HS group to get ideas & guidance from veteran parents and for the field trip opportunities.
  • Have a firm idea of why you want to pursue this. You will want it in neon flashing lights.  I’m not kidding- it starts with the curriculum choices, the HOURS of prep work, and ends with a lot of negative questions and comments from others. It’s fun, it’s rewarding, but it is HARD WORK.
  • Relax and keep it all in perspective. Nothing is set it stone. You will explore and change styles, methods, and curriculum many times as you grow and your school days go by.  You’ll learn as you go. You may even change your mind all together about home education. Homeschooling is ALL ABOUT FLEXIBILITY and doing what is best for each stage of your family’s life. What I’ve learned so far is Home school Preschool Rocks!
Don’t stress.  Trust God to guide you.  Trust yourself.  Have fun.

I want to give blog hugs to Sue, thehomeschoolchick and to Erica at confessionsofahomeschooler. These ladies gave me confidence, a place to start, and shared a sense of humor in the process. They have great links to other helpful sites. If you are homeschooling you probably already know them.  If you are still in the consideration stage, go check out their sites- you’ll be glad you did. Also, to find out your state’s laws visit http://www.hslda.org/laws/default.asp.  HAPPY HOMESCHOOLING!

 

 


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The Added Benefits of Taking Music Lessons in Childhood

Kids playing music demonstrating the added benefits of taking music lessons in childhood

 Beyond the obvious benefits of learning music, a study looks at the added benefits of taking music lessons in childhood.

The study was published in the  Journal of Neuroscience.  It states that adults who took music lessons as children have a heightened ability to process sounds. They are also better at listening.

Northwestern University researchers looked at 45 adults who had music training in childhood and compared them to those with no musical training during childhood. Those with even a few years of musical training in childhood had enhanced brain responses to complex sounds.

The participants were divided into three groups: those with no musical training, those with one to five years of lessons, and those with six to 11 years. Most in the study had begun music lessons at about age nine.

The study found that those who had music lessons were better at hearing fundamental frequency. This is the lowest frequency in sound and is crucial for speech and music perception. It enables recognition of sounds in complex and noisy hearing settings.

In a university news release, Nina Kraus, a professor of neurobiology, physiology and communication sciences, stated “Musical training as children makes better listeners later in life,” She continued, “Based on what we know about the ways that music helps shape the brain, the study suggests that short-term music lessons may enhance lifelong listening and learning.

Many children take music lessons for a few years, but few continue with formal music instruction beyond middle or high school. We help address a question on every parent’s mind: ‘Will my child benefit if he or she plays music for a short while but then quits training?”

Note: While the research showed an association between musical training and better listening skills, it does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

(SOURCE: Northwestern University, news release.

More Information: The American Music Therapy Association: other benefits of music.

 

 

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Dietary Supplements Are Popular, but are They Safe?

supplementsThe NIH offers a look at dietary supplements including vitamins, minerals, botanicals and more. 

When you reach for that bottle of vitamin C or fish oil pills, you might wonder how well they’ll work and if they’re safe. The first thing to ask yourself is whether you need them in the first place.

More than half of all Americans take one or more dietary supplements daily or on occasion. Supplements are available without a prescription and usually come in pill, powder or liquid form. Common supplements include vitamins, minerals and herbal products, also known as botanicals.

People take these supplements to make sure they get enough essential nutrients and to maintain or improve their health. But not everyone needs to take supplements.

“It’s possible to get all of the nutrients you need by eating a variety of healthy foods, so you don’t have to take one,” says Carol Haggans, a registered dietitian and consultant to NIH. “But dietary supplements can be useful for filling in gaps in your diet.”

Some supplements may have side effects, especially if taken before surgery or with other medicines. Supplements can also cause problems if you have certain health conditions. And the effects of many supplements haven’t been tested in children, pregnant women and other groups. So talk with your health care provider if you’re thinking about taking dietary supplements.

“You should discuss with your doctor what supplements you’re taking so your care can be integrated and managed,” advises Dr. Craig Hopp, an expert in botanicals research at NIH.

Dietary supplements are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as foods, not as drugs. The label may claim certain health benefits. But unlike medicines, supplements can’t claim to cure, treat or prevent a disease.

“There’s little evidence that any supplement can reverse the course of any chronic disease,” says Hopp. “Don’t take supplements with that expectation.”

Evidence does suggest that some supplements can enhance health in different ways. The most popular nutrient supplements are multivitamins, calcium and vitamins B, C and D. Calcium supports bone health, and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants—molecules that prevent cell damage and help to maintain health.

Women need iron during pregnancy, and breastfed infants need vitamin D. Folic acid—400 micrograms daily, whether from supplements or fortified food—it is important for all women of childbearing age.

Vitamin B12 keeps nerve and blood cells healthy. “Vitamin B12 mostly comes from meat, fish and dairy foods, so vegans may consider taking a supplement to be sure to get enough of it,” Haggans says.

Research suggests that fish oil can promote heart health. Of the supplements not derived from vitamins and minerals, Hopp says, “Fish oil probably has the most scientific evidence to support its use.”

The health effects of some other common supplements need more study. These include glucosamine (for joint pain) and herbal supplements such as echinacea (immune health) and flaxseed oil (digestion).

Many supplements have mild effects with few risks. But use caution. Vitamin K, for example, will reduce the ability of blood thinners to work. Ginkgo can increase blood thinning. The herb St. John’s wort is sometimes used to ease depression, anxiety or nerve pain, but it can also speed the breakdown of many drugs—such as antidepressants and birth control pills—and make them less effective.

Just because a supplement is promoted as “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe. The herbs comfrey and kava, for example, can seriously damage the liver.

“It’s important to know the chemical makeup, how it’s prepared, and how it works in the body—especially for herbs, but also for nutrients,” says Haggans. “Talk to a health care provider for advice on whether you need  supplements in the first place, the dosages and possible interactions with medicine you’re already taking.”

For vitamins and minerals, check the % Daily Value (DV) for each nutrient to make sure you’re not getting too much. “It’s important to consider the DV and upper limit,” says Haggans. Too much of certain supplements can be harmful.

Scientists still have much to learn even about common vitamins. One recent study found unexpected evidence about vitamin E. Earlier research suggested that men who took vitamin E supplements might have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. “But much to our surprise, a large NIH-funded clinical trial of more than 29,000 men found that taking supplements of vitamin E actually raised—not reduced—their risk of this disease,” says Dr. Paul M. Coates, director of NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements. That’s why it’s important to conduct clinical studies of supplements to confirm their effects.

Because supplements are regulated as foods, not as drugs, the FDA doesn’t evaluate the quality of supplements or assess their effects on the body. If a product is found to be unsafe after it reaches the market, the FDA can restrict or ban its use.

Manufacturers are also responsible for the product’s purity, and they must accurately list ingredients and their amounts. But there’s no regulatory agency that makes sure that labels match what’s in the bottles. You risk getting less, or sometimes more, of the listed ingredients. All of the ingredients may not even be listed.

A few independent organizations conduct quality tests of supplements and offer seals of approval. This doesn’t guarantee the product works or is safe; it just assures the product was properly made and contains the listed ingredients.

“Products sold nationally in the stores and online where you usually shop should be fine,” Coates says. “According to the FDA, supplement products most likely to be contaminated with pharmaceutical ingredients are herbal remedies promoted for weight loss and for sexual or athletic performance enhancement.”

To make it easy to find reliable information, NIH has fact sheets on dietary supplements at http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-all/.  NIH also recently launched an online Dietary Supplement Label Database at www.dsld.nlm.nih.gov. This free database lets you look up the ingredients of thousands of dietary supplements. It includes information from the label on dosage, health claims and cautions.

“Deciding whether to take dietary supplements and which ones to take is a serious matter,” says Coates. “Learn about their potential benefits and any risks they may pose first. Speak to your health care providers about products of interest and decide together what might be best for you to take, if anything, for your overall health.

Safe Use of Supplements

  • Tell all of your health care providers about any dietary supplements you use. Some supplements can interact with medications or affect medical conditions.
  • Read the label instructions for use.
  • “Natural” doesn’t always mean safe. For up-to-date news about the safety of particular supplements, check http://nccam.nih.gov/news/alerts.
  • Too much might be harmful. Don’t take more than the recommended dose.

Source: NIH News in Health

NIH Office of Communications
and Public Liaison
Building 31, Room 5B64
Bethesda, MD 20892-2094
nihnewsinhealth@od.nih.gov
Tel: 301-402-7337

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New Year’s Resolutions: A Family Affair

 New Year’s resolutions are a family affair. Adults can help children to understand the meaning of resolutions, and how and why we make them.

The following New Year tips are from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). They are offered to help parents encourage their children to make healthy resolutions.

resolutionsResolutions for Preschoolers

  • I will clean up my toys and put them where they belong.
  • I will brush my teeth twice a day, and wash my hands after going to the bathroom and before eating.
  • I won’t tease dogs or other pets, even friendly ones. I will avoid being bitten by keeping my fingers and face away from their mouths.
  • I will talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I need help, or  I am scared.
  • I will be nice to other kids who need a friend or look sad or lonely.

Resolutions for Kids, 5 to 12 years old

  • I will drink reduced-fat milk and water every day, and drink soda and fruit drinks only at special times.
  • I will put on sunscreen before I go outdoors on bright, sunny days. I will try to stay in the shade whenever possible, and wear a hat and sunglasses, especially when I’m playing sports.
  • I will try to find a sport (like basketball or soccer) or an activity (like playing tag, jumping rope, dancing or riding my bike) that I like and do it at least three times a week!
  • I will always wear a helmet when riding a bike.
  • I will wear my seat belt every time I get into a car. I’ll sit in the back seat and use a booster seat until I am tall enough to use a lap/shoulder seat belt.
  • I’ll be friendly to kids who may have a hard time making friends.I’ll asking them to join activities such as sports or games.
  • I will never encourage or even watch bullying, and will join with others in telling bullies to stop.
  • I’ll never give out private information such as my name, home address, school name or telephone number on the Internet. Also, I’ll never send a picture of myself to someone I chat with on the computer.
  • I will try to talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I have a problem or feel stressed.
  • I promise to follow our household rules for video games and internet use.

Resolutions for Kids, 13 years old and older

  • I will try to eat two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables every day. I will drink sodas only at special times.
  • I will take care of my body through physical activity and eating the right types and amounts of foods.
  • I will choose non-violent television shows and video games.  I will spend only one to two hours each day, at the most on these activities.  I promise to follow our household rules for video games and internet use.
  • I will help out in my community by  giving some of my time to help others.  I will work with community groups or join a group that helps people in need.
  • When I feel angry or stressed out, I will take a break and find helpful ways to deal with the stress.  I will exercise, read, write in a journal or talk about my problem with a parent or friend.
  • When faced with a difficult decision, I will talk about my choices with an adult whom I can trust.
  • When I notice my friends are struggling, being bullied or making risky choices, I will talk with a trusted adult and attempt to find a way that I can help them.
  • I will be careful about whom I choose to date.  I will always treat the other person with respect and not force them to do something or use violence. I will expect to be treated the same way in return.
  • I will resist peer pressure to try tobacco, cigarettes, drugs or alcohol.
  • I agree not to use a cellphone or text message while driving and to always use a seat belt.

 

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Holiday Shopping…Be Careful Out There!

It’s holiday shopping time. A time when millions of Americans, mostly women, who already have a full plate of responsibilities, add shopping for family and friends to their plates. Is it any wonder that we are so  focused on shopping lists, budget concerns and holiday deadlines that we may forget to be aware of our surroundings and our personal safety when shopping?

image of women holiday shopping

Here are a few things to remember when holiday shopping in shopping malls, local stores, holiday fairs:

The Parking Area:

  • Pay attention to your surroundings; don’t walk and text. You will make yourself an easy target
  • Park in a well-lighted space as close to the entrance of the store as possible and near other vehicles.
  • Before you get out of your car, roll up the windows and lock your car doors when you get out of the car.
  • Have your keys in-hand when approaching your car. Check the back seat before getting into your car.
  • Don’t leave packages in plain view either in the passenger or back seat of the car. Put your packages in the trunk before leaving one parking lot and driving to another.
  • If you take packages to the car but plan to return to the store or mall, put the gifts in the trunk, then  drive your car to a new location within the parking lot.
  • Don’t carry too many packages at once. You are easy prey for shoplifters and pickpockets.

Holiday Shopping in Stores:

  • Carry your purse close to your body, don’t let it hang on your shoulder, by the straps.
  • Keep your purse on you, don’t put it in a shopping cart or place it on a check-out counter while you pay for what you are buying.
  • Use credit cards or checks instead of cash. Make sure that only one credit slip is printed with your charge card.
  • Wait until asked before taking out your credit card or checkbook.  A  thief can look over your shoulder and get your account information.

Good hunting for those holiday shopping bargains!

Source: The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC)

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