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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

This is the beginning of National School Counseling Week! Today, stop to talk to your children about the importance that ATTITUDE plays in their lives in in their academic success.  Attitude can shape your child's future for the positive AND for the negative! The inventor Thomas Edison said, "Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but by how we react to what happens, not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life."  A positive attitude causes a chain reation of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes. Teach your children to be the kind of people who are able to have a positive attitude in all things and to look for the lesson to learn in difficulties.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Yawn, Snore, Sleep Some More: The Importance of Sleep

Read Across America week is so much fun for the teachers, parents, and students at Vieau School. Thursday, sleepware will be appropriate dress for school as we read and celebrate "The Sleep Book." Dr. Seuss wrote this book in 1962 and even supplied it with a warning on the inside of the cover that says, "this book is to be read in bed." His intentions are very clear . . . this book is intended to put a child to sleep!

We all know that this is not so easy sometimes.  Does this sound familiar?
  • The only way I can get Carlos to sleep is if he sleeps with me.
  • Miranda insists on having the television on in her room in order to sleep.
  • Roberto tosses and turns in bed for hours before finally falling to sleep.
  • Cynthia will not get up in the morning.
  • Eduardo won’t go to bed until I go to bed which is about midnight.

If you have experienced some of these problems with your child, you are not alone.  Many parents have problems getting their children to go to bed at night but most don’t understand that the problems of lack of sleep are generally carried into the school day.  Research shows that children who don’t get enough sleep frequently exhibit or are at risk for:
  • Poor academic performance and lower grades in school
  • Lower test scores
  • Difficulties with focus, attention, and concentration
  • Fatigue or lethargy in the classroom
  • Hyperactivity in the classroom
  • Irritability with peers and adults
  •  Emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, sadness, anger, or worry
  • Weight problems that lead to obesity and risk of diabetes
  • Frequent illness and autoimmune problems

Sleep is one of the basic nutrients in life just like food.  I have never heard a mother or father in my office say, “I really don’t care too much about feeding my child.”  If you think about sleep in the same manner that you think about food, you gain a new perspective on its importance. So how much sleep does your child really need?  The Centers for Disease Control and the National Sleep Foundation agree on the following guidelines:
  • Newborns (up to 2 months): Infants have the widest range: from 10 ½ to 18 hours a day is normal
  • Babies (Up to 1 year): Sleep patterns should fall into nap (1 – 4 naps a day) and bedtime patterns (9 – 12 hours a night). 
  • Toddlers (ages 1 – 3): 12 – 14 hours per day that includes one midday nap
  • Preschoolers (ages 3 – 5): Most preschoolers need 11 – 13 hours a night and the need for naps diminishes by about age five.
  • Elementary Age Children (ages 5 – 12): 10 – 11 hours a night
  • Teens (ages 13 and up): 9 – 9 ½ hours a night

So these are the guidelines.  What if your children haven’t read the guidelines and have some very bad sleep habits? What’s a parent to do?

1) Declare it a new day and be the boss. Healthy sleep habits start at an early age but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to set new guidelines for sleep.  Set a bedtime for your child and follow through.  It may be difficult in the beginning, but don’t give in.  You have to outlast your whining, complaining child because you are the adult and you know that a healthier night’s sleep will pay off in the long run.  If your child argues, say “I love you too much to argue” and calmly tuck him/her in.

2) Keep bedtimes (and getting up times) consistent.  Consistent bedtimes, even on the weekend, will help keep your child’s body clock in a healthy routine. Inconsistent bedtimes are like homemade jetlag.  Research says that staying up three hours later on the weekend is equivalent to flying across three time zones every weekend.

3) Prepare your child for bedtime.  Give him/her warnings.  For example, “just a reminder, lights off in 30 minutes.”  Then remind them again at ten minutes.  Children like warnings so that they can finish their activities whether it is play or work.

4) Establish pre-bedtime routines.  Warm baths, brushing teeth, getting jamies on 30 minutes prior to bed, listening to calming instrumental music, or reading a bedtime story are all routines that will help children wind down and get ready to sleep.

5) Choose the right bedtime story.  Reading to your child is very important but 
choosing a book before bedtime that helps prepare their brains
is very important and some books can cause their brains to “gear-up” instead of calm down.  For example, books that include adventure, lots of action, loud noises, concept books that teach, or books that require kids to follow directions like stomping, jumping or otherwise might prove to have the opposite effect. Here is a link for some of the best bedtime books for kids:

Of course, The Sleep Book by Dr. Seuss is an excellent choice for a bedtime story!
6) Don’t let homework be a “right before bedtime” activity.  Homework is supposed to turn the brain on and keep children thinking.  If their brains are in active mode right before bedtime, they will have a hard time turning their brains off when it’s time to curl up under the blankets.

7) Turn off all technology. Statistics show that 77 percent of children use television as part of their pre-bedtime routine. While it might seem that the sitting still that is required for media use should help children wind down for bedtime, research shows that the brightness of the screens on televisions, video games, and cell phones can delay both the necessary drop in core body temperature and melatonin production that makes it necessary for the body to fall asleep.  This could delay a child’s sleep onset for up to two hours. 

8) Avoid anything with caffeine or sugar as an ingredient at least four hours before bedtime.  Caffeine is a stimulant and makes children more alert and energetic, the last thing you want your child to be right before bedtime.  Read labels of the foods that your child consumes before bedtime but some examples of high caffeine/sugar foods are sodas, tea, cocoa, chocolate, popsicles, candy, ice cream, frozen yogurt, or cakes.  In addition, some cold-relief medications include a healthy dose of caffeine so read the labels of any over-the-counter medications.

9) Keep your child’s room cool and keep the technology out of the bedroom. The hormones and rhythm system that helps regulate our sleep are temperature sensitive and light sensitive. A room that is too warm can slow the beginning of sleep and disrupt that important REM (the deepest) sleep.  There is also new research that shows that the light of a television or the constant “lighting up” of a cell phone when a new message or notification arrives, can keep a sleeping child (or adult) from achieving or maintaining REM sleep.  Many teens tell me that they sleep with their cell phones right next to them and many socialize all night on Facebook or through texting so is it any surprise that they come to school tired and not ready for learning?

10) If your child has a difficult time falling asleep, try different techniques until you find something that works. For example, a) tuck him/her in with the promise of checking in on them in ten minutes if the problem is being separated; b) turn on mellow, classical, or instrumental music. Music with words sometimes stimulates the mind;

c) Use “monster repellant” (spray bottle of colored water) to run the monsters out of the room; 

d) Teach your child to use relaxation techniques.  Here’s a link to the “I Can’t Fall Asleep Game.”  It’s a simple to use routine that can help kids learn to relax and fall asleep on their own:

11) Consult your pediatrician or a sleep specialist if your child has continued problems that don’t respond to your interventions.  There are children who have sleep disorders like sleep apnea, nightmares, restless leg syndrome and night waking.  In addition, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 16% of kids snore a few times a week and can be cause for concern.  Children’s snoring is not like adult snoring and doctors now believe that even a little snoring could be a major cause for concern because children’s developing brains can be deprived of oxygen.  Bottom line is that if your child continues to have problems with sleep despite your efforts to implement healthy guidelines, see a doctor.

Healthy sleep habits start at an early age and lead to a happy disposition, positive self-esteem, and success in school and peer relationships.  But it’s never too late to start.  If your child has unhealthy sleep habits, start the new trimester with some changes. In the words of one of America’s founding fathers:

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. ~ attributed to Benjamin Franklin

Monday, March 3, 2014

Reading Leads to High School Graduation?

Do you ever hear these words?

“Daddy, will you read a book to me?”

“Mommy, can’t I have one more bedtime story?”

If you do, jump for joy because these are the words that lead to high school graduation and success in life.  Sound like a drama queen making a big deal out of nothing? Here’s the reality.

Recent research highlights several important facts when it comes to success in school.
  • Children not ready for kindergarten are only half as likely to read well by third grade.
  • Children not reading well by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.
  • Third grade reading level represents such a critical benchmark because it’s when children make the leap from learning to read to reading to learn.

Statistics like this make a pretty strong case for making “yes” the answer to those sweet little childlike requests even when you are exhausted from your day. 

Young children who are read to frequently are also more likely to:

  • Count to 20 or higher (60% vs. 44%)
  • Write their own names (52% vs. 40%)
  • Read or pretend to read (77% vs. 57%)

These are facts that are difficult to ignore.  Children who are read to at home enjoy a substantial advantage over children who are not. Here are 10 of those advantages. (Statistics from U.S. Department of Education, Educational Testing Services, and National Education Association).

1. Reading to young children increases basic speech skills and encourages “pretend reading” (when a toddler pages through a book while jabbering nonsensical words and sounds).

2. 25% of children who were read to three or four times in the last week by a family member recognized all letters of the alphabet.

3. In addition to nurturing reading comprehension, frequently reading to children helps increase attention span, memory retention, and stronger self-discipline.

4. The more types of reading materials there are in the home, the higher students are in reading proficiency.

5. Reading to children introduces them to new experiences that could be stressful. 

6. Children who do more reading at home are better readers and have higher math scores.

7. Reading a lot is one of the crucial components of becoming a good reader. The only way to get good at it is to practice.

8. The more students read for fun on their own time, the higher their reading scores are.

9. Middle school students read the most! 70 percent of middle school students read more than 10 books a years compared with 49                                                                percent of high school students.

10. Reading to children helps them view books as fun and a pathway to knowledge rather than a chore. Kids who are exposed to books are much more likely to choose books over video games, television and other forms of entertainment. 

Here’s the link to the   Ready Nation's Study if you’d like to read it for yourself but the most important thing to remember is to read and read often. It's one of the best gifts you can give your child!

Dr. Seuss reading one of his bestselling books for children.
More than 12 million copies have sold and it's been translated in 12 languages!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss: 30 Things You Might not Know

March 3 begins Vieau School’s annual participation of "Read Across America," an annual reading motivation and awareness program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading on March 2, the birthday of beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss. 
But WHO was Dr. Seuss anyWHO? 

  1. His real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel.
  2. His mother’s maiden name, Seuss, if correctly pronounced rhymes with “voice” not “loose”.
  3. He never had any children of his own.
  4. He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, the grandson of German immigrants.
  5. He felt traveling helped his creativity and he visited at least 30 countries in his lifetime.
  6. While on an ocean voyage, the rhythm of the ship's engines inspired the poem that became his first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.  
  7. Mulberry Street was rejected by 20 publishers before it was successfully published.
  8. Mulberry Street in his hometown is less than a mile from his boyhood home on Fairfield Street.
  9. Geisel attended Dartmouth College and graduated in 1925
  10. He attended Oxford University from 1926 – 1928 but he left without earning his PhD.
  11. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Dartmouth in 1956.
  12. He added the “Dr.” to his pen name because his father had always wanted him to be a medical doctor.
  13. In 1927, he earned $25 for his first nationally published cartoon in The Saturday Evening Post but he didn't always get paid in cash.  Once he was paid with shaving cream and hundreds of nail clippers. 
  14. His other pen names were Dr. Theophrastus Seuss, Theo LeSieg, and Rosetta Stone.
  15. He used the pen name Theo LeSieg (Geisel spelled backwards) for books that he wrote but didn’t illustrate.
  16. He published 46 children’s books.
  17. Green Eggs and Ham is the result of a bet that he couldn’t write a book using only 50 words. 
  18. Horton Hears a Who is an allegory for the bombing of Hiroshima and the American post-war occupation of Japan.
  19. How the Grinch Stole Christmas was a criticism of the materialism and consumerism of the Christmas season. 
  20. The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins was inspired by a pompous looking man Geisel saw one night while riding home on a train.  He wondered what would happen if someone knocked the hat off his head and decided that the man was so full of himself that another hat would probably appear on his head as a replacement.
  21. His books were the inspiration for 11 television specials, 4 feature films, a Broadway musical and 4 television series.
  22. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 but never won the Caldecott Medal nor the Newbery Medal (prestigious children’s literature awards).
  23. He won three Academy Awards.
  24. During World War II, he worked in the animation department of the U.S. Army.
  25. He was a perfectionist and would sometimes spend up to a year on a book.
  26. He sometimes threw away 95% of his material until he settled on a theme for his book.
  27. In May 1954, Life magazine published a report on illiteracy among school children. The report suggesting that children were having trouble reading because their books were boring. This problem inspired Geisel’s publisher, prompting him to send Geisel a list of 400 words he felt were important for children to learn. The publisher asked Geisel to cut the list to 250 words and use them to “bring back a book children can’t put down.” Nine months later, Geisel used 225 of the words given to him to write The Cat in the Hat.  It was an instant success. 
  28. Why did the Cat in the Hat wear a hat?  It might be because the author loved hats and collected them.  In fact, there is a National Touring Exhibition of his hat collection going on right now! Check it out at: Hats Off to Dr. Seuss!
  29. In 2002, the Dr. Suess National Memorial Sculpture Garden opened in his birthplaceof Springfield, Massachusetts. It features sculptures of Geisel and many of his characters.  
  30. Geisel died on September 24, 1991, at his home in La Jolla, California at the age of 87.  He received his star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame in March 2004 to commemorate what would have been his 100th birthday.

Words of wisdom from Dr. Seuss:
"I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.  Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope and that enables you to laugh at life's realities." 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Do You Know a Future Engineer?

What are the job prospects for girls who want a STEM/Engineering career?  Engineers have significantly higher starting salarys than other college graduates and the field of engineering needs more women.  This is what the statistics say:

  • Only 12% of engineers are U.S. women; 2% of engineers are women from underrepresented minorities.
    -National Science Foundation, 2009
  • Today, women earn about 80 cents on the dollar compared to men and for African-American women and Latinas, the pay gap is even greater.
    -U.S. Department of Labor, 2012
Here are median annual salary figures for different engineering technology specialties:

Engineering Technology SpecialtyMedian Annual Salary*
Aerospace Engineer$103,720
Chemical Engineer$94,350
Civil Engineer$79,340
Computer Software Engineer$93,470
Electrical/Electronic Engineer$87,920
Biomedical Engineer$86,960
Industrial Engineer$78,860
Mechanical Engineer$80,580
Petroleum Engineer$130,280
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook

The fact is, we need more women engineers and the job opportunities abound. Encourage a girl you know to dream big and dream about a future in engineering!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Meet Sabrina....Future Engineer

Girls in engineering.....what the statistics say:
  • When given a choice in 4th grade whether to continue studying math, 91% of girls say “yes.” 
  • By 12th grade, only 50% of girls continue. 
  • As a result, women account for less than 20% of the bachelor’s degrees in engineering, computer science, and physics; make up less than 12% of the engineering workforce; and hold only 10% of physics teaching positions at American colleges and universities. 

This week, encourage the STEM/Engineering potential in the girls you know!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

STEM and Girls: Today is ”Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day!”

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day is in its thirteenth year but our country is still faced with some daunting statistics regarding women in engineering. 

  • Women constitute 48 percent of the U.S. workforce but hold just 24 percent of the U.S. jobs in STEM.
  • Only one out of every ten STEM professionals is a minority woman.
  • Women make up only 10 percent of U.S. engineers.
A career in engineering can be a “game-changer” for our girls but we still have much work to do when it comes to encouraging them to successfully pursue their engineering potentials and passions and move along the STEM pathway toward a successful career in engineering.

Why is engineering a great career for girls?  Check out this list of descriptors associated with engineering and then hold the list up next to a girl that you know. 

Engineers are:


Independent thinkers



Strong communicators

Team Players
Goal Oriented
Improvement seekers

Sound like a girl you know? These are some of the signature traits of an engineer and girls naturally possess so many of these qualities.  Add to these characteristics the fact that girls are so often born with a desire and passion to make a difference in the world around them and you have all the makings of a potential engineer. 

Job outlook? Engineering is expected to grow by 10 percent in the coming decade and experts say demand for engineers is expected to grow as we face the challenges that will be created by a growing population and dwindling resources.  

Introduce a girl you know to engineering.  Here are some simple things you can do starting today.

  • Try some simple activities designed to increase curiosity and problem solve.

  • Start a "dream session" by watching this video with your favorite girl or a group of girls and then discussing.  Go Girl! Engineering a Bright Future for Today's Girls  
  •  Introduce a girl you know to the Engineer Girl Website.  This website covers everything from an introduction to contributions of historical women in engineering,  to what engineers do and what pathways will take young girls toward a future in engineering.
  • Looking for unique gifts for girls that will bring out the innovator in your girl?  Check out Goldiebox for their toy/book sets that encourage girls to "read and build along." Goldiblox is a company that believes girls deserve more choices than dolls and princesses.
  •   And if that's not enough, check out this inspirational and amazing Rube Goldberg "Princess Machine" - created by girls for girls! Watch it and be inspired to create your own!

-Sarah Ban Breathnach