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3 All Natural Ways to Boost Your Test Scores

study better for tests

study better for tests

3 All Natural Ways to Boost Your Test Scores

You’ve showed up for class, read the material, and turned in your homework. So why didn’t you get a good grade in the class? Ultimately, it all comes down to The Test.

To be fully prepared for a test you most certainly need to know the material. But do you also know that there are 3 simple things you can do out of the classroom that will help raise your test scores? Testing experts chime in on how to prepare your body, mind and spirit for better test results.

3 Out-of-the-Classroom Tools to Improve Test Scores

1. Eat to Test Well

Students perform consistently better in school and on tests when they’ve eaten strategically beforehand. Here are some great guidelines for pre-test meals:

• Nix the Sugar: Sugar, which is in everything from ketchup to Corn Flakes, wreaks havoc in young minds. It alters their dopamine pleasure response, and is particularly disruptive to their ability to concentrate. According to a report in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology,a 1986 study took a look at the effects of sucrose on preschool children. Researchers discovered that in all subjects, there was a decrease in learning performance after children were given a sugary drink. This was most notable within 45 to 60 minutes following ingestion of the sugar.

What to use instead of sugar or the dreaded high fructose corn syrup? Substitute healthy replacement sweeteners such as Stevia and honey. Satisfy the sweet tooth and enjoy a stable charge of energy – without the jittery highs and the crash-and-burn lows you get from refined sugar.

• Power Up on Protein: Eggs, beans, seeds and nuts are protein-rich foods that the body uses to manufacture amino acids. Amino acids are precursors to the neurotransmitters, or specialized brain cells, which help you to maintain mental acuity and motivation. Although eggs are generally considered a breakfast food, they can be eaten as part of a meal or snack anytime during the day.fish oils improve mental capacity for studying A half-cup of cottage cheese, 1 cup of yogurt or 1 oz. of hard cheese provide between 10 and 15 oz. of protein, approximately one third of your daily protein requirement, according to the National Institutes of Health. Source: “The Best Foods to Eat Before An Exam,” by Susan Brassard/Livestrong.com.

• Go Fish: Humans have referred to fish as brain food for more than 2,000 years. Omega-3 oils are fundamental to human development and survival. Fresh-water and wild fish are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. Since the nutrient is necessary for learning, concentration and memory, it’s essential to provide your brain with an adequate supply. If salmon, sardines or trout don’t appeal to you, walnuts, hazelnuts or cashews are good alternatives. Omega-3 supplements are also available in capsule form. Source: “The Best Foods to Eat Before An Exam,” by Susan Brassard/Livestrong.com.

• Avoid Caffeine and Simple Carbs: Caffeine just adds to your jitters and your energy high will eventually crash from it, spiraling into weariness and maybe even a headache. Not good for test results. If you want a quick energy boost, eat a slice of whole grain toast before your test. Add some organic peanut butter to give your snack some heft and protein. Link to more information from YesPhonics™ about how to Eat Your Way Smarter, here.

2. Move Your Way Smarter

exercise boosts test scoresIt may sound silly to have a stationary bike, a treadmill, or exercise balls in the classroom, but the students at Chicago’s Naperville Central High School, are laughing all the way to the honor roll. Their experimental exercise program has doubled reading scores and boosted math scores by a factor of 20. After walking on the on the treadmill for 30 minutes, students were able to solve problems up to 10 percent more effectively. Read more at Mercola.com.

Studies all over the world are bearing out the same data: physical exercise helps reduce stress, connect brain synapses, and improve performance in school. Research released in the January 2012 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine,shows “strong evidence of a significant positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance.” Further to the point: “…being more physically active is positively related to improved academic performance in children. Exercise may help children’s thinking by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain. It may also help by increasing levels of norepinephrine and endorphins to decrease stress and improve mood….”

Physical exercise that helps reduce test anxiety can be as simple as walking, running, swimming, dancing, and event singing, according to advice from Bucks County Community College Newtown Pennsylvania. “At the very least, walk up and down stairs or raise your arms over your head.”

Researchers at George Washington University agree, stating “Aerobic exercise will help you to release anxiety and excess energy and, as a result, reduce body tension.”

Another idea: Throw some things into the air simultaneously. Juggling for 10-20 minutes before a test has been shown to raise SAT test scores by 10%.

3. Positive Visualization

Just like an NBA basketball player visualizes the ball swishing through the net before he shoots his free throw, you can visualize a successful test, swishing your way to a great grade.

positive mental visualization helps to get better test scoresThe Graduate Division of the University of California, Berkley offers this advice: On the night before your exam (right before you go to sleep works well), find a quiet place to relax. Close your eyes. Pull your eyes to the top part of your head, roll up and back, then take two slow, deep breaths. Do this a couple more times to get you more relaxed.

Now, visualize yourself in the classroom taking the test. See yourself receiving the test, then calmly, confidently taking the exam. You see many of the questions you had formulated while you pretended you were the professor. You are organized and alert. You are enjoying taking the test because you want to demonstrate just how much you know about the material.

Create this movie in your head. You are in command and in control. Repeat the positive visualization again in the morning, right before you get out of bed. When test time comes you will have already seen yourself confidently taking the test. Refer to this personal movie anytime during the test. This positive visualization will help you realize what you are capable of achieving.

• Don’t Forget to Breathe!
Those of us with test anxiety – including me – know how stressful testing can be. The trick to calming these nerves is right inside your own body.

Start with your breath, to calm the pounding heart and soothe your chattering brain. “…Many people, who have learned to perform well on tests, incorporate breathing exercises into their strategy,” according to the experts at The Complete Test Preparation Website.

These experts offer good breathing exercises that are perfect for the testing room because they’re done while sitting down (including sitting down at your classroom chair), and also because they’re designed to relax you quick enough to help you just moments before you start the exam. Read more in “Breathing Exercises to Relieve Test Anxiety.”

“The University of New Mexico Biomedical Research Programs report that, “you can do breathing exercises at anytime, before, during, and after the test. Breathing helps you stay emotionally grounded and rids the body of excess tension. It is also an effective way of reducing stress of any kind and only takes a moment to do.”

Their advice: “If you can, close your eyes. Inhale through your nose deeply and slowly. Exhale slowly through your mouth. Do this two to three times or whenever you feel excess anxiety building up. This is an easy and effective exercise to do throughout the test.”

More Resources:
San Diego’s Southwestern College reports that the anxiety we often feel before an exam is “normal and positive; it motivates us to want to perform at our best level.” But when anxiety “becomes problematic when this nervousness is so high that it interferes with test preparation and performance.”

Don’t let panic or anxiety detract you from applying your full attention to your test. Use the tools of diet, exercise, visualization and breathing to help you ace your next exam. No books required!

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5 Grade Boosting Activities that Have Nothing to Do With Books!

brain power children activities

5 great grade boosting activities

5 Grade Boosting Activities that Have Nothing to Do With Books!

Ask yourself the question: What do YOU do for fun?

It’s not always that easy to answer.

For kids, it can be particularly challenging, as they often feel powerless within the demands and momentum of daily life. (Unless of course they have a car. Then you have another set of problems on your hands.)

You’re more likely to be successful if you offer your child something they think will be fun to do.

Routine exercise is easy enough to say, and much harder to get kids to do (especially sedentary children). Exercise routines can be particularly important for home-schooled children, who may not have mandatory physical education classes, or a playground full of Jungle Jims to goof off on during recess.

So let’s explore the benefits of movement, and seven specific ways to motivate your little Couch Potatoes into brain-popping action.

First and most important, it has to be fun for your children!

1. Feed the Ducks

Find something unique and whimsical that will truly engage your child’s mind and body at the same time. Find a park in your area and bring that loaf of stale bread that nobody wants to eat. If you feed them, the ducks will come!

Other ideas for engaging mind/body activities include scavenger hunts and – for the more technologically inclined –  geo-caching. Another spin on the treasure hunt is to take your kids to a yard sale once in awhile. A few dollars go a very long way. Kids learn to interact with the sellers, maybe bargain a bit, and come away with a treasure that they found for themselves, and that wasn’t store-bought.

2. Go Outside

Studies in the new field of epigenetics show that people who get outdoors and into the woods reduce their stress level by 17%. This number goes up when they physically touch the ground in what’s called ‘earthing’ or ‘grounding.’ Read more from “Get Outside” about how the outdoors can improve your child’s concentration, reduce stress, boost creativity & critical thinking, improve vision and more.

Urban parks can be found in every city in America. Pack a knapsack with some apples and cheese, a bottle of water and a camera, and get out into the great outdoors. Give your child the camera and a challenge to take pictures of interesting shapes, or unique colors, or ten different kinds of leaves. Or just walk and talk. The possibilities are endless.

3. Turn Your Backyard into a Playground

You’ll find plenty of opportunities for moving around in your own backyard. (No chores allowed this time.) The easiest thing to do to change things up is to gather up a blanket, plates, knives, forks and spoons and head out the door for a family picnic. Do it up right, with lemonade, burgers, watermelon and all the fixins. (Don’t do all the preparations for them; your kids must help with this.)

Here’s another idea: plant a vegetable garden. It’s great fun to watch carrots and tomatoes grow, and the kids can harvest them for salads. If you don’t have a backyard, or the funds, to go “all out” on this, create an Italian herb garden in a big pot with basil, thyme, and oregano. When it comes time to make spaghetti sauce, the kids get to help by picking herbs from their very own garden.

Another, more ambitious, thing to do right out your backdoor: create an obstacle course with your kids, for them, yourselves or the family dog. This can be great fun. Materials will range in price, but some things you might find laying around the garage, such as old tires, big boxes, and rope.

4. Parks & Recreation

Municipalities all have park & recreation departments and you will want to familiarize yourself with this fantastic local resource. Not only do they manage area parks, most also host team sports, group hikes, and classes. This is a great way to get your kids involved in basketball, volleyball, snow sports, jogging, any any number of physical activities.

Quick fix: your local school or high school has tetherball, basketball and tennis courts just sitting there waiting to be used. Your child doesn’t need to be a super athlete. Sometimes they just want somebody to watch them play. Maybe you can’t tag along on every excursion to the playground, but whatever you can do to support their physical activities will encourage them as they start to change their sedentary lifestyle – particularly in the beginning. You’re aiming for good habits, new routines, and a lifelong commitment to movement.

5.   Martial Arts

Kids can get their kicks in a healthy way by practicing a martial art, such as taekwondo, kung fu, karate, judo, and aikido. Rather than promoting violence, martial arts develop discipline in children, as well as respect for themselves and others, self-control, socialization skills and mental focus.

In fact, Parenting Magazine reports that, “many parents whose children have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) report great success with these programs because self-control and concentration are exactly the skills underdeveloped in ADHD kids.”  Further, “… it’s the respect kids learn, whether from bowing or standing still and waiting for the next command, that can be the most important benefit: It often carries over into school, helping to improve behavior and even grades, according to recent research.”

Resources for Parents
• The National Institutes of Health website offers advice, news, and other resources
• Find your local Park & Recreation Association
• “How Phys Ed Changed One School,” Mercola.com
• “Karate Kids: The Benefits of Martial Arts,” Parenting Magazine

Stay tuned for Part 4 of “The New Roadmap for Smarter, Happier, Healthier Kids,” where we’ll discuss the power of reading and its effects on children’s understanding of themselves and the world.

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4 Healing Properties of the Great Outdoors

 

Healing properties of the sun offer a wide array of health benefits. 4 Healing Properties of the Great Outdoors

1.Explore The Wild

Time spent in nature offers things you’ll never find on your couch, in front of the television, on a treadmill, or (note to parents) behind a cocktail. Mounting research shows that activities in the great outdoors offer deep, restorative, immune-system-boosting, stress-reducing relaxation. Something as simple as a long walk in the woods can lift your mood, cause you to think more positively, and feel more internal calm and greater harmony with the world around you, reports Tina Vinum, expert in exercise physiology.

In the classroom or home-school environment, this can translate to greater confidence and belief in one’s self and one’s abilities. The restorative experience of a lifestyle that includes outdoor activities can also aid in reducing stress about school, homework and test anxiety.

2. Be Positive

And this isn’t just woo-woo, nature-freak speak. The science behind behavior patterns show that levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate our moods, rises when we are outside. Exposure to nature also reduces pain and illness and speeds recovery time. You also breathe better outside, as outdoor air is 75% less polluted than indoor air, according to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Positive mood produces broader attention, more creative thinking, and more holistic thinking,” according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. Students overall experience of school can shift to a very positive force, instead of what many children rank as “just slightly above going to the dentist.”

3. Get Moving

Even at the cellular level, “exercise encourages your brain to work at optimum capacity by causing nerve cells to multiply, strengthening their interconnections and protecting them from damage,” reports Dr. Joseph Mercola, M.D., NY Times best-selling author, and the Huffington Post’s 2009 “Ultimate Wellness Game Changer.”

Just as a healthy body functions at a more efficient rate, a mind working at full power – or even at a vibrant, engaged pace – will absorb, process and retain information better than a tired, sluggish and apathetic brain.

4. The Power of Light

Outdoor light (direct Vitamin D you can’t get by drinking milk) is vital to the immune system, makes us “feel better,” and increases academic learning and productivity, according to Rae Pica, a children’s physical actecialist and the author of 18 books for teachers and parents. Pica also reports that physical activity optimizes the brain’s performance by increasing the capacity of blood vessels, allowing for the delivery of oxygen, water, and glucose (brain food) to the brain.

Indoor activities, and particularly mind-numbing digital media, while touted as ‘relaxing’ are actually counterproductive to a child’s health, education and overall well-being.

See our resource list below to find specific, tangible things you can do now to help shape your children’s mental, physical and emotional well-being long into the future. Clearly the benefits of engaging your children in outdoor activities goes much deeper than getting good grades!

Resources for Parents
• The National Institutes of Health website offers advice, news, and other resources
• “Reduce Stress in the Great Outdoors,” Athleta Chi
• ”7 Reasons Why Kids Need Recess,” by Rae Pica

In Part 1 of the “New Roadmap for Smarter, Happier, Healthier Kids,” we discovered the truly damaging effects that television and video games can have on young minds (link).

Stay tuned for Part 3 of “The New Roadmap for Smarter, Happier, Healthier Kids,” where we’ll reveal 5 things you can do now to boost your children’s grades, confidence and well-being.

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The Damaging Effects of Digital Media

what parents can do about violent video games

what parents can do about violent digital media

The Damaging Effects of Digital Media

One of the simplest things you can do to make your child smarter is to get them off the couch. Studies show that children who put down their video games and get some exercise test higher in school, solve problems more effectively, and are less prone to depression and anxiety.

Getting your children off the couch sounds simple enough, but it’s not so easy.

They are watching television, texting, playing on their computers, and getting caught up in kids video games more than ever before. And this trend is dumbing down our students. The Nielsen Company recently revealed that kids spend almost 28 hours per week watching television. And that doesn’t count time spent on video games, cell phones, or computers, which bumps that number up to an astonishing 55 hours per week.

Do your children flop onto the couch after school and stay there until dinnertime? They are not just turning off their own brains, they may actually be doing themselves harm. Children who view as little as three hours of television per day could be at risk of behavioral problems, depression and increased aggression, according to a report published by the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 

Media Violence 

The impact on children of all the drama and violence on television and in video games is tremendously disturbing. Study after study show that children naturally imitate what they see and hear, and when exposed to media aggression, they become desensitized to violence, fearful, and more aggressive themselves. Adding to the problem, violent characters in television and video games are often glamorized and portrayed as role models, and do not always suffer proper consequences for their violent behavior.

Since the 1950s, more than 1,000 studies have been done on the effects of violence in television and movies. The majority of these studies conclude that children who watch significant amounts of television and movie violence are more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior, attitudes and values (Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 1999).

When young children are exposed to something frightening in the media it can be traumatic for them. Telling young children what they see is not real may not help to console them as young children are not able to distinguish between reality and fantasy.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports that American children watch an average of four hours of television daily, and that “television can be a powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behavior.”

AllPsych Journal reports that “Research has also shown heavy television viewers, watching four or more hours per day, put in less effort at school, have poorer reading skills, play less friendly with friends, have fewer hobbies and activities, and are more likely to be overweight.”

Interestly, building children’s language and reading skills can help them cope with what they view, and put it in its proper perspective.

“A well-developed language system gives the brain a well-developed mental function,” say Dave Grossman and Gloria DeGaetano, in their report, Stop Teaching Our Kids To Kill. “When a child is able to verbalize and think on higher levels the easier it will be to teach children about consequences of violence. A rich vocabulary enables a higher level of articulation of feelings, opinions, and ideas about media violence that a less literate child cannot [fully express].”

Experts encourage parents to limit the amount of time their children have access to television and video games. Setting rules and boundaries helps, such as requiring children to finish their homework and chores before watching television or playing video games. And when did we get to the point in our culture where there needs to be a television in every room? At the very least, take the TV out of your child’s bedroom.

Children are society’s most vulnerable and precious population. Every minute they spend in front of the television, computer, or video console, is an opportunity missed to be doing healthy things, such as playing outdoors, exercising, reading, or engaging with their family and friends.

Resources for Parents

• The National Institutes of Health website offers advice, news, and other resources

12 Tips to Control the Television, The Children’s Trust

Violence and Aging, Los Angeles Times

Understanding Violent Behavior in Children, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Children & TV Violence, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

The Psychological Effects of Violent Media on Children,  AllPsych Online

Your Kids & the Media, The Children’s Trust

• “Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill,” Dave Grossman and Gloria DeGaetano

Stay tuned for Part 2 of “The New Roadmap for Smarter, Happier, Healthier Kids,” where we’ll discuss the healing properties of the great outdoors.