Happy New Year! I tried to steer away from the stereotypical "New Year's" blog post but the idea kept drawing me in. Since the advent of social media, I am keenly aware of the New Year's resolutions that my friends, family, and followers create. NBC News found that New Year's resolutions regarding health and organization beat out travel and reading this year. Get Healthy. Get Organized. Live Life to the Fullest. Learn New Hobbies. Spend Less/Save More. Travel. Sound familiar? How many of you made a similar resolution last year? this year?
I was impressed, however, that 4,746,560 searches were made in reference to the New Year's Resolution - Read More! I LOVE this New Year's Resolution. However, I'm not quite sure that this is one that I, myself, can resolve to do. Anyone that knows me will testify that I already read an immense amount! Although, if Hermione's Time Turner really worked, I would surely read more!
Anyways --- Education seems to be a distant thought when conjuring up a new, soon to be broken, New Year's Resolution. So, here are FIVE super-easy New Year's Resolutions to enrich your child's education that you can actually keep!
1. BRAIN FOOD!
Since you, and maybe your entire family, already resolved to 'eat healthy' this year, this resolution should be a no-brainer! Ok, but seriously, how does this enrich my child's education? This answer is simple.
Eating Healthy + Less Sugary Foods = More Focused = Improved Learning
I'm not advocating for an all-out soul-crushing calorie counting diet. I'm not asking you to give up sweets forever, rid your life of gluten, start juicing or embark on one of the many other popular diets of today. As a country, we may resolve to do this every year, but these strict diet resolutions are amongst the first to fail.
Less Sugar. Less Caffeine. That's it. It's that simple.
Your child does NOT NEED that highly caffeinated Frappuccino from Starbucks, the chemically engineered Energy Drink from the convenience store or the sugar coated cereal. Have you taken a minute to look at the ingredients on the back of a box of Lucky Charms? Cinnamon Toast Crunch? We tell children that they can't eat their Halloween Candy for Breakfast but, nutritionally speaking, they already are! Swap water for that Frappuccino and fruits and vegetables for those quick junky snacks. When we opened HEROES Academy I noted that most of our students were coming to class with high caffeine beverages. So, we decided to ban all beverages, excluding water, altogether. The results were miraculous. The students were more focused and more productive. Limiting the sugar intake of your children just might 'cure' them of their hyper-activity. At the very least, it can't hurt!
I know that our phones, tablets, and other devices are our most prized possessions in the 21st century. Amazon's Echo Dot was one of the most popular presents this year. I'm not a huge fan of turning my daily tasks over to a robot but even I took part in this fad...It might seem easier to tell Alexa to "Turn off the Lights," "Convert 1/4 Cup to Tablespoons," "Set a Timer for 30 Minutes," "Read a Bedtime Story," and even calculate interest on your loans but these 'conveniences' are actually putting your brain to sleep! Do you really need Alexa to help you name your un-born child? Do you really need to check your phone every five minutes? What would happen if you didn't check Facebook, Twitter, or E-mail for an hour? Nothing tragic. I promise.
Seriously, spend one hour each day completely unplugged and see the results! Spending time away from the screens can lead to less stress, relaxation, better sleep habits, patience, stronger relationships, and more. Unplugging gives your brain TRUE rest time. Even engaging in brief activities while unplugged means that your brain is more engaged with the task or activity at hand. It helps keep your brain at its cognitive best. This article from Huffington Post provides you with "5 Steps to Making Unplugged Time a Daily Habit." Try it out and let me know the results!
3. GAMIFY YOUR HOME
Over the last few years, 'gamifying' the classroom has grown in popularity. So, why not 'gamify' your home? Gamification is the application of game playing to other activities -- such as learning! Pick one night per week, or even per month, for a family game night! My students LOVE the games we play in the classroom. Try these out:
4. FAMILY READING TIME
Set aside twenty minutes per day to read! Are you wondering what you can possibly do during your unplugged hour? Well, here's your first idea. Spend 20 minutes per day reading. Make it a family activity. If your children see you reading then they'll want to read. Simple, right? One of my students read over 30 books in 4 months. Her younger brother piggy-backed on her reading excitement and read almost the same! His mom reports that he 'won't stop reading.' Over the summer, it was a struggle to get him to pick up a book. What an improvement! Check out this link for book recommendations.
Do you need some motivation? Start a family reading challenge. You can use something super simple such as a sticker chart. The Kindle Reader also allows you to track your reading progress. Pick a few bookmark dates. For example, whoever reads the most books by Easter will receive a certain prize, get to pick a restaurant to eat at or even escape chores for a day or two! The prize doesn't have to be the same for every individual. Pick goals, methods, and rewards that match each person!
5. MATH MINUTES
ONE MINUTE per day! Yep, you heard me. One Minute. That's it! This is yet another brilliant way to spend your unplugged hour! Students must know their math facts to be successful in higher level mathematics. Most of the students at HEROES Academy start out in September barely able to complete 30 math facts up to 6 x 10 in one minute. By the end of December, most students (even those in 2nd grade!) can now complete 60 math facts up to 10 x 10 in one minute! Check out this link for more information on WHY this is important or CLICK HERE for math minute practice sheets!
A New Year's Resolution doesn't have to be big and scary. It doesn't have to take over your life. It doesn't have to make you miserable -- like some dieting and budgeting resolutions can be. These five simple resolutions will enrich your child's learning. They'll do better both in and outside of school. So, which of these will you be trying for the New Year? What's your New Year's Resolution?