Friday, March 17, 2017

Who Controls your Life, you or your Phone?

I love my iPhone and the multitude of things that it does.  However, I have noticed that smart phones can be pretty addicting and all-consuming.  Have you noticed:

  • people walking down the street and driving (yikes!) looking at their phones

  • your child/teen/spouse keeping his or her face glued to the phone while you are trying to have a conversation

  • increased addiction to social media and news that may be real or fake due to the easy proximity of the phone

  • family dinners that consist of phone engagement rather that family engagement

  • procrastination of homework and chores due to the endless fascination with the phone

  •    forfeiting of real life activities and events in favor of just sitting around with the phone
  • that your child texts all night instead of sleeping 

The list goes on.  Let’s think about setting limits.  Perhaps phones should get down time so conversations and real human interactions can flow.  We don’t need phones at meal time.  We can put away phones before bed, possibly in a separate room if the phone is too irresistible.  We can even declare a day or part of a day as phone free, and put all the phones in a basket, and maybe play a board game or go for a walk.

If you think perhaps your phone controls your life, and maybe your kids’ lives, take pause and re-take control of your life.  Set a good example for your kids and nudge them into activities that are so much fun, they won’t miss their phones.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Practicing Good Sleep Hygiene

 Most of us know that getting sufficient sleep is important to maximize productivity.  The exact amount needed varies from person to person.  However, due to stress or annoying body rhythms, sometime it is difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. 

Here are 13 tips to improve your whole family’s sleep hygiene: 

1. Get moderate exercise daily, preferably in the morning or late afternoon.

2. If you can’t fall asleep in 20 minutes, read some more or switch rooms. It is much easier to fall asleep when you feel sleepy.

3. Maximize exposure to bright light during the day and minimize it at night. Use a nightlight in the bathroom.

4. Create comfortable sleep conditions (think mattress and temperature).

5. Read something relaxing in bed to get your mind off your own stuff. Use a book or kindle, but not a bright light.

6. Limit naps to less than 30 minutes, or else you will fall into a deep sleep, and it may be difficult to fall asleep again later.

7. Some foods, like bananas, have tryptophan, which can help you fall asleep.

8. Your body naturally produces melatonin at night, but if you don’t feel sleepy, over-the-counter melatonin at bedtime may help.

9. Avoid stimulants or sedatives close to bedtime, including coffee, soda, chocolate, and alcohol.

10. Avoid heavy meals.

11. Minimize liquids 2-3 hours before bedtime.

12. It really helps to add some down time to the end of your day.

13. If you have trouble falling asleep, do not look at the clock. You don’t want to get stressed about not getting enough sleep, which can make falling asleep even harder.

Source: Peter J. Houri, Sleep Specialist from the Mayo Clinic

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Shocking Truth About Multi-Tasking

How does Multi-Tasking Affect Productivity?

When we multitask, it often seems like we are getting so much accomplished.  But our brains are fooling us.

Did you know that the brain can’t really do two things at the same time?  When we multitask, the brain has to rapidly shift its attention from one task to another.  Then it has to shift back.  If you multiply these shifts by all the times you switch activities, you will actually lose some time.  MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller noted that our brains are "not wired to multitask well... when people think they're multitasking, they're actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there's a cognitive cost."

One reason people love to multi-task so much is the illusion of getting more accomplished more quickly.  Another reason is that for every tiny task that you perform, such as answering a text, your brain rewards you with a dollop of dopamine, our reward hormone that we get for instant gratification.

In addition, research shows that while focusing on one activity, the brain uses the hippocampus for memory; however, while multi-tasking, the brain uses the stratum, which leads to superficial understanding and shorter term memory of the material.  Therefore, if you really want to be efficient, you need to concentrate on one project at a time.  The gratification dopamine burst will be less frequent, but your accomplishment will be real and comprehensive.

Do you have children or teens who are addicted to their phones?  By interrupting their homework to check texts and answer Face Time, they will not accomplish their homework as thoroughly and will certainly lose time.

Here are some strategies for maximizing productivity by limiting multitasking:

·         Do not multi-task projects that require thought, analysis, and judgment, like many homework assignments.  Give these tasks your full attention to maximize performance.  Take breaks to check email, phone calls, or go for a walk, but concentrate on your task for at least 20 minutes straight.
·         If you must multitask, choose 2 activities, one which is mindless.  For example, folding laundry or doing dishes can easily be paired with talking on the phone.  Regarding homework, limit multitasking to background music and using the internet to help research a project or calling a friend specifically about a project.
·         You and your child can do an experiment.  Try an activity while concentrating exclusively on it and again while multitasking.  Which way has the better result?
·         Keep an eye on your child by having him do homework in a family area or have an open door policy to his room.
·         Have family dinners with a no-electronics policy to generate bonding and meaningful discussions.

Finally, how do parents multitask?  Do we “listen” to our children and spouses while doing one or two other activities, or do we give them our full attention?  It’s true that many of us have too much to do each day, but we, too, will improve productivity and reduce stress while keeping multitasking to a minimum.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

National Bullying Prevention Month: How to Stop Bullying

How to Stop Bullying

In observance of National Bullying Prevention Month, we are taking the opportunity to highlight the seriousness of bullying and some strategies to prevent and stop it.

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose. (

“You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user,” Facebook requires people to pledge when they sign up. Users also agree not to fake their identities or to post content that is hateful or pornographic (The Atlantic)

Most of us have been a victim of bullying at some time in our lives.  As we have seen by news reports of suicides that resulted from being bullied, bullying is a serious matter.  I hope these strategies will help some of you find ways to prevent and stop bullying.

Types of Bullying

Physical: Hitting, punching, kicking, picking a fight
Verbal: name calling, insults, teasing, mean jokes, gossip
Emotional: Purposely leaving someone out or embarrassing them
Cyber-bullying: spreading rumors online or receiving insulting texts by phone, text, or email

Strategies for Children and Teens

Physical: Do not engage.  Assertively tell the person to stop and walk away.  If there is a fight, you will get hurt and also get in trouble.
1.      Look the bully in the eye and firmly tell him to stop.  Be assertive and use confident body language.  Example:  “Cut it out, Jim!”  Stand up tall.  Think to yourself, he is acting like a jerk and won’t get away with putting me down.
2.      Stay calm.  Even if you feel upset, don’t let your emotions show.
3.      If the bullying persists, tell an adult you trust who can make an impact.  Telling is not the same as tattling.
4.      If you see someone being bullied, stand up for him or her, and try to get some friends to join you.  Offer friendship to a victim.
5.      If you are tempted to tease someone in a mean way, think about what it would be like if someone were doing this to you.  Look for your better side.
Emotional:  This kind of bullying can often be found inside your social group.  You can tell the perpetrators to stop, and you can seek other friends who treat you with respect.
Cyber-bullying: You can report this to the service provider, which can block the person from trying to contact you.

Strategies for Parents

1.      Pay attention.  If you notice something is wrong with your child, talk about it. Converse with your child on a daily basis and be open to hearing things you don’t like without being critical, so your child will confide in you.
2.      If you find out your child is being bullied, take it seriously and take action.  Suggest the strategies above.
3.      If you find out your child is a bully, it is time to have a serious discussion about the implications.

No one deserves to be bullied.  Do not tolerate it for yourself or others.  Together, we can make the world a kinder place.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Top 5 Grammar Mistakes

Top 5 Grammar Mistakes

If you want to look smart, it is best to reduce your grammar mistakes.  Here are five of the most common mistakes made even by excellent writers!

1.       Using an apostrophe for a plural word – example: The class will meet on Wednesday’s.  This is plural, so it should by Wednesdays.  If you aren’t sure about adding an apostrophe, ask yourself if the word is plural or possessive.  A possessive word gets an apostrophe, like “the bike’s tire is flat.”

The most common misuse of the apostrophe that I’ve seen refers to a family – you should write “the Johnsons,” not “the Johnson’s”.

2.       Using an apostrophe for its when it isn’t possessive– example: “The tree lost it’s leaves” is incorrect because “its” is not a contraction for “it is.”  The correct sentence is, “The tree lost its leaves.”  Also correct is “It’s time to go” because in this case, “it’s” is a contraction for “it is.”

3.       Capitalization Remember that you only capitalize proper nouns, which are the names of people or places.  For example, “our school’s principal” is not capitalized, while “Principal Heller” is, since it is a name.

For a title, you capitalize each word except the small words like is, for, and, about.  A sample title is “All about Eve.”

4.       The use of I – “Henry and I went to the store” is correct because without Henry, it would be “I went to the store.”  In this case, I is the subject.  “They gave Jane and I a big thank you” is not correct because in this case, I is the object, which should be me.  “They gave Jane and me a big thank you” is correct because without Jane, it would be, “They gave me a big thank you,” not “They gave I a big thank you.”  To get this right, just remove the other person and see how it sounds.

5.       Less vs. fewer - Less refers to amount, such as “less water.”  Fewer refers to something that can be measured by number, like “fewer apples.”  About ten years ago, Bob Green, a columnist from The Washington Post, convinced the Giant Supermarket to change the fast line sign from “10 items or less” to “10 items or fewer” so that they could be grammatically correct.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Countdown to the First Day of School

We all know about brain drain that can come from our much needed summer breaks.  Most students can benefit from transitioning back into academics before the first day of school.  Here are some transitions that can pay off next month:

1. Everyone should be reading for pleasure.  It doesn’t matter what you read.  Any kind of reading improves comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and writing.  Always read something enjoyable, and take your book wherever you go.

2. Review math.  You can order review books online or get a tutor to help review last year’s math to get the brain ready for this year.

3. Practice writing.  Send emails or cards to friends and relatives or keep a summer journal.

4. Review for PSAT, SAT, or ACT.  Summer is the best time to practice without having school homework to do as well.

5. Assess your potential needs for the school year.  Working with a tutor or academic coach at the beginning of the school year improves focus and prevents the workload from becoming overwhelming.

6. Start off strong! Contact Tutoring for Success to create your personalized tutoring plan for the 2016-2017 school year.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Surviving through the Last Month of Summer

Surviving through the Last Month of Summer

Most of us have spent plenty of time traveling, relaxing, swimming, and hanging out this summer.  Don’t forget to balance summer fun with a bit of reading and review for school in order to start the new school year well prepared.

·         Establish Routines – If your kids are like some kids I know, a day without structure equals a day lounging and playing phone games.  Add some structure to your days with schedules, allowing time for exercise (hopefully swimming in this heat wave), life skills like cooking, trips to local attractions, and time for reading and academics.           

·         Don’t  over-plan – Many children don’t get enough down time during the school year.  Allowing time to pursue interests like art and music, hang with friends, and just chill, is important and necessary.

·         Go Outside – Don’t let TV be an all day baby-sitter.  Summer weather is fabulous, and even on hot days, you can enjoy an evening bike ride, swim, or walk.

·         Create Bored Jar – Have your children write down all the fun things they’d like to do on slips of paper. Fold up those things and put them in empty jar. When you find yourselves with a free day, have your child pull out of the jar randomly to see what slip suggestion you get.

·         Take Occasional Trips – Trips can range from museums, Mount Vernon, and Arlington Cemetery to water parks and beaches.  Take some time off to explore on a regular basis to create fabulous summer memories.

·         Remember to Read – As an avid reader, I was always in the middle of a gripping novel and still am.  Summer allows the time to read even more, preferably page turners.  Everyone should pick out their own books of choice.  It doesn’t matter if the books are junky, silly, or too easy.  Any kind of reading will improve vocabulary, spelling, fluency, and writing skills.

·         Get Ready for the School Year – Three months is a long time to ignore academics altogether.  It is a great time to review math, practice writing, and spend time to prepare for the SAT and ACT.  And don’t forget those summer assignments! 

·         Get a Summer Tutor – To help focus on a plan of action, get a tutor this summer to help build up weak areas, review for standardized tests, and give an extra push to maximize readiness to learn this Fall.  Call us any time for free phone consultation and to match you with a tutor – 703-390-9220