The price of your child


Recently, a government agency calculated that the cost, to middle income parents, to raise a child from birth to age 18 was $160, 140 (and that doesn't begin to include post-secondary tuition). Here's an amusing and thought-provoking look (from an anonymous author) at what you get for that money.

What you get:

  • naming rights; first, middle and last
  • more love than your heart can hold
  • butterfly kisses and Velcro hugs
  • endless wonder about rocks, ants, clouds and warm cookies
  • a hand to hold that's often covered with jam or chocolate
  • someone to blow bubbles and fly kites with
  • someone to laugh yourself silly with, no matter what the boss said or how your investments performed that day

What you get to do:

  • finger-paint
  • play hide and seek
  • butterfly kisses and Velcro hugs
  • catch lightning bugs
  • never stop believing in Santa Claus
  • never grow up

You have an excuse to:

  • keep reading Winnie the Pooh
  • watch Saturday morning cartoons and kids movies
  • wish upon a star
  • frame rainbows, hearts and flowers under refrigerator magnets and collect spray-painted noodle wreaths for Christmas, clay hand-prints for Mother's Day and cards with backward letters for Father's Day

You have the opportunity to be a hero for:

  • retrieving a toy from the roof of the house
  • taking the training wheels off a bicycle
  • removing a splinter
  • filling a wading pool
  • coaxing a wad of gum from a set of bangs
  • coaching a team that never wins but always celebrates with ice cream regardless

You get a front row seat to witness:

  • a first step
  • a first word
  • a first bra
  • a first date
  • a first time behind the wheel

You have the chance to become immortal, add another branch to your family tree and possibly, add a long list of limbs to your obituary in the form of grandchildren and great grandchildren.

You receive an education in psychology, medicine, criminal justice, communications and human sexuality that isn't offered at any college or university.

In eyes of your child, you have the power to heal bumps and bruises, scare monsters from under the bed, mend a broken heart, police a slumber party, ground him or her forever and love them without limits. Then, maybe one day, they, like you, with love a child without counting the cost.

How to take great notes in class


Better studying begins by being able to take good notes in class to study from in the first place. Here are 11 tips to make your child a more efficient note taker.

Sit front and center

Encourage your child to sit near the front and middle of the classroom or lecture hall. Fewer distractions occur here which means your child will be more likely to stay focused on what the teacher's saying.

Use a binder

Make sure students keep their notes in a binder rather than a notebook. This allows them to add, rearrange, or rewrite pages of notes, insert handouts and assessments in the proper chronological order and review materials covered in the chapter/unit much easier.

Use headings and dates

Have your son or daughter write a heading and date on every page so he/she can organize the pages in chronologically order in a binder.

Use loose-leaf paper

Take notes on loose-leaf paper. Make sure that students hole punch and add all of the handouts, assignments, quizzes, tests, etc. to their binder. Keep everything they've collected from the entire chapter/unit in chronological order.

Think before you write

Before your child writes anything down, encourage him/her to think about what the teacher is saying. Rather than writing everything the teacher says, choose only important phrases, terms, and concepts that your child needs to focus on when he/she studies.

Save examples and stories

Have your child write down the stories and examples that teachers use to illustrate points during lectures. These examples and stories are very important in creating connections in your child's brain. They help jog your child's memory while studying and writing tests and exams.

Look for clues

Help your child recognize cues that teachers give to indicate that something is important. For instance, they may repeat something several times, change the volume or tone of their voice, write it on the board or overhead, and/or creates lists for students. If your child misses the initial cue but later realizes that he/she should have writing the material down, just ask the teacher to repeat what he/she just said.

Leave spaces

Students should leave spaces between sections of notes, so they can add comments as they review, study or re-read notes.

Re-write or re-type

Students should be encouraged to re-write or even re-type notes to make them more organized and make studying easier. Re-writing notes also gives them a second chance to think about the material as they write or type it again. The more time that passes between taking the original notes and re-writing them, the less effective this strategy is, so prompt your child to do his/her re-writing soon after he/she takes the original notes. If your child's handwriting is messy or difficult to read, typing will help the legibility of his/her notes when he/she is studying.

Read and review

Students should review their notes often. The more times they read them, the easier it is to commit their notes to memory and the less time they'll spend studying them prior to a test or exam.

Get some professional help

If your require more assistance with paying attention in class, taking notes or studying, contact your nearest Oxford Learning location.

10 ways to build your child's memory


Having a great memory can help your child do better in school and on tests and get better grades. Here are 10 ways that you canuse to help your child improve his/her memory, including remembering facts, concepts, ideas, formulas and more:

  1. Make certain your child really understands the concept or formula he/she is required to memorize. Understanding a subject means that he/she is halfway to remembering it. Encourage your child to ask questions in class when he/she is unsure of an idea or fact.
  2. To remember something such as a name or math formula, exactly, word for word, get your child to make a rhyme or song from the information. Because humans are wired to remember music and its associations, setting facts to music can help children remember them.
  3. If they aren't already, help your child become interested in the subject they need to memorize. Check out books, stories, videos, movies or music on the subject. Or visit a museum or gallery. If your child gets interested in the material he/she is learning, he/she will surely remember it more easily.
  4. Make sure the first thing that your child studies is the thing(s) he/she wants to remember the longest.
  5. Whenever possible, encourage your child to use mental images to help him/her remember information. Suggest that your child close his/her eyes and get a picture in his/her mind of how the information looks in the textbook or notebook. Ask your child to visualize the notes on the page and see key words that he/she has underlined.
  6. Have your child make his/her own examples and illustrations. When your child creates his/her own system for organization (using specific colors for headers, making numbered lists of facts to be memorized, putting information into charts and graphs, etc.) he or she will be more likely to remember the information.
  7. Teach your child use a specific picture to represent an idea or concept. Another way is to create a mind map of various ideas and how they relate to one another.
  8. Have your child make a list of key words to explain an idea or subject. Then, form associations among the items they need to memorize. The more distinct the associations, the easier they'll be to remember.
  9. Encourage your child to explain the information he/she is memorizing to a parent, sibling or friend without referring to notes. Make it a challenge to see how much he/she can remember. Then go back and study the information again and again to memorize it totally.
  10. Your child should study notes by reading them through from start to finish, then focusing on the parts that he/she doesn't know as completely.

What is RSS?


Really Simple Syndication

There is some controversy over what the RSS actually stands for, but most agree with 'Really Simple Syndication'. The basic idea is that the content on a website is made available in a standard manner that can be read by a 'reader'. On the Oxford Learning website, we've made all of the articles in the Let's Talk section available in this fashion.

Why would I use RSS?

It's difficult to keep up with news on a variety of sites and RSS allows you to use a news reader program to regularly check many websites for new content. In the past, you may have subscribed to newsletters and received new content via email. RSS works in a similar fashion except you do not need to sign up or register with the website. You don't need to supply your email address and you can cancel at any time. You only need to add the RSS feed link to your news reader software. After that, the news reader program will check automatically for new content on any of your chosen sites very much like email. New articles, postings or other content will be displayed as 'unread' in your news reader software.

So, if you like the articles you found on our website and wish to have upcoming articles sent to you simply add the Oxford Learning feed to your feed list. Add this link to your news reader software RSS listing. You will have to check your news reader documentation to find out how to add these links. The news reader will then regularly check the Oxford Learning website for new content. When we post a new article on our website the news reader on your computer will automatically recognize that, download the article (or a summary of the article depending on the configuration) and present it to you. If you decide that you no longer wish to receive the feed, you can simply delete the feed from your feed list.

How many websites now offer RSS feeds?

Many websites already support RSS and the number is growing. Nearly all blogs and news organizations now offer RSS. You may have seen the following icon which represent available RSS feeds

Make the Homework Hour Happy Hour: Top 10 Tips


At one point or another we all have to pitch in a little bit to help our children complete their homework. Whether its going to the library with your daughter to get research materials, explaining fractions to your son, or quizzing them before the big test, we all want to be supportive and helpful.

And sometimes your child practices keen homework-evasive maneuvers, and then you have to turn into a homework commander, just to make sure that some homework gets done (hopefully not by you).

So what's the solution to prevent having to do it yourself, or nagging until your throat is sore?

When it comes to homework time, a little organization and strategic planning help to make the homework hour structured, so that kids don't have to rely on you, and so that you don't have to put on your nagging hat.

Follow our 10 homework tips to transform the homework hour from headache to hassle-free.

Top 10 Tips to Handle Homework:

  1. Set Up a Study Area—We've mentioned the importance of having a designated study area before—read our article on study stadiums here—create an area that is homework only, so that when your child sits in the homework area, the work gets done.
  2. Make Materials Available to the Homework Area—what tools does your child need to get the homework done? Use a container or box to keep all supplies handy: paper, sharpened pencils, pen, erasers, protractors, crayons, and calculator. Anything that your child may need access to during homework should be accessed easily so that he won't have to rummage around for it.
  3. Remove the Distractions— If the study area is the dining room table, and a TV is nearby, make sure that the TV is off. Or if the area is next to a window, and the falling leaves are just too distracting, switch places, or consider a change of location. But don't be too stringent, some people work best with a little background noise, like a radio playing quietly in the background.
  4. Set a Time Frame—there is a 10 minute rule of thumb for how long homework should take: 10 minutes for grade 1, then add ten minutes for every grade that follows. Following the formula, a child in grade six should have 1 hour of homework (60 minutes); a student in grade 12 should have two hours (120 minutes). So base your time allotment roughly on this schedule, and tailor to meet your child's needs—longer if studying for a test or for kids in advanced classes, less time for those who work quickly, or who finish the work in class.
  5. Offer Guidance—but don't do the homework for your child. Be close by, maybe sit at the table too, or in the next room, and read the newspaper, or read a book, so if your child asks a question she won't have to go looking for you.
  6. Use An Agenda— it's the key organizational tool for homework. They remind a student of tasks to be completed, and are also a great place to write down questions to ask the teacher, or for you to leave reminders for your child like don't forget that you have a dentist appointment at 11—remind Mr. Green!
  7. Stay Informed—talk to the teacher when you can, find out about upcoming projects that may require extra help, and find out how long the teacher feels that assigned homework should take. How does your child fit into the class average — it's good to be informed.
  8. Be a Role Model! When you set about determining the homework hour, practice what you preach. If this is the hour to do the things that need to be done, then join your child in the homework area to pay the bills, for example. Set a good example by your actions, read a book, do some research, or bring something home from work to complete.
  9. Offer Praise—you can never hear too much of the good stuff. Kids will appreciate that their efforts are not going unrecognized, and you'll help bolster their confidence.
  10. Watch Frustration Levels—don't let the homework hour become the hated hour. If your child is feeling stressed by the homework, or just can't master the concepts, then its time to seek help. Homework is unfortunately, a part of school—but it doesn't have to be the worst part.

Texting VS Writing: The Problem with Instant Messaging


IM Lingo

  • GTG— got to go
  • BRB— be right back
  • BBL— be back later
  • L8R— later
  • LOL— laughing out loud
  • NP— no problem
  • TTYL— talk to you later
  • TTFN— ta ta for now
  • ROFLOL— rolling on floor, laughing out loud
  • OTP— on the phone
  • JK— just kidding
  • IMHO— in my humble opinion
  • IMNSHO— in my not so humble opinion

This kid is only thirteen — how could she possibly be cooler than me? Where is she learning how to do all this stuff? Turns out, my cousin isn't the tech-wizard trailblazer that I originally thought. In fact, instant messaging is THE hottest communication method for the younger generations — almost any electronic device can be used to "text" a message to one's peeps (or people). Don't believe it? Turn on MTV or Much Music during one of the live request shows and watch as the side panels scroll along with what looks like the alphabet on crack. These kids know IM'ing — it's among their top social communication method.

Some kids have cell phones by the time they are in first grade. Before they can even spell, they can text their friends: WRU? [where are you?] or CUS [see you soon].

Call me old-fashioned, but I find this a little concerning.

Don't get me wrong, instant messaging is a great tool for social communication, but it can cause some serious issues the classroom, especially if your child is just developing writing/spelling/vocabulary skills. During the early education years, texting could be detrimental to proper language development. Here are some of the reasons why.

  • Spelling — vocabulary is key skill in early education. The first grades are all about vocabulary lists, and spelling tests, not to mention sentence writing. Spelling can take a hit when kids, during this critical learning time, use short forms before they know the whole word, let alone how to spell it.
  • Grammar — A big part of grammar is punctuation. It takes years to learn how to properly use it, and even then punctuation can be a landmine for mistakes. Online messaging has practically no punctuation, and is basically a grammar free-for-all.
  • Complete Thoughts — another key skills that IM has a blatant disregard for is that of the complete, cohesive thought. The major challenge in writing is to be able to express an argument clearly as a complete thought: with a beginning, a middle and an end. One word sentences that are prevalent in IM don't help to develop the complete thought skill - they detract from it.
  • Homework — it's hard enough to stay focused on homework without being distracted by the chiming alerts of a messaging system every few seconds. If your child struggles to complete his homework, be sure that he signs out of IM before he begins so that he can dedicate some uninterrupted time to focus on the task at hand: homework.

IM isn't all bad — I've been known to partake on occasion, when I just don't feel like talking. But then, I already have a firm grasp of our language and how it's used. Once kids develop strong language skills, then they can start learning all the variations, like IM — after all, it's a great social tool for staying in touch with friends — but it needs to be kept distinctly separate from proper language development.

So maybe my young cousin taught me a few things about IM (okay, she taught me everything I know) but when it comes time for her first university essay, I'm sure that I could show her a few things.

School Performance and Nutrition


Building good eating habits leads to better performance in school. Studies have shown that poor diets, especially diets that are too high in fats and sugars, can have a detrimental effect on behavior — particularly behaviors that can help children succeed in school. Poor eating habits can cause problems with concentration, mood, energy, and focus, and can directly impact a child’s ability to learn, not to mention that fats and sugars can cause childhood obesity.

Develop Healthy Morning Habits

Be sure to start the day off right by eating a healthy breakfast. Skipping breakfast can disrupt metabolism resulting in the same symptoms as a poor diet — and who can focus on the teacher over the rumble of a hungry belly?

Eating a healthy breakfast is part of a good morning routine. Keep it simple and nutritious, something that both you and your children can agree on. Is your family too busy for a sit down breakfast every morning? Cut up apples, a banana and some trail mix for a healthy meal that travels well. It’s easy for kids to eat during the morning commute.

A Mid-Day Habit

Beat feeling sluggish mid-day. High in sugar, sodas or soft drinks might seem like a good pick-me-up to get over the afternoon slump, but the energy boost they provide is only temporary, causing a crash to follow. Scientific research continually examines the link between refined sugar intake and hyperactivity and aggression. Simple carbohydrates like sugar, flours, and juices can all affect the body the same way. That’s why it’s important to choose whole grains, fruits, veggies, and other foods with a minimum of refined sugar.

A better snacking alternative is small amounts of proteins and carbohydrates, like natural peanut butter on celery sticks — it will provide more sustained energy to carry through to the next meal.

Healthy eating habits at home provide a good foundation for optimum performance in school.

Help Your Children Set Goals for Success - Top Ten Tips


Top Ten Tips for Parents

Tip #1: Act Now and Set Goals Early

  • Before school begins, sit down with your child and review last year's report card. Discuss successes and areas that need improvement and set goals in each subject area.
  • By setting goals early, you'll ensure your child is happy and confident and has the ability to succeed from September through June.
  • Don't wait until the first report card - children can fall too far behind and be left playing catch up for the rest of the year. Remember, children who start strong, stay ahead.

Tip #2: Take the Time and Listen Carefully

  • Listen carefully to the goals they would like to set for the year. But, don't limit them to academics; include extra curricular activities such as clubs or sports as well.
  • Be calm and show your children that they have your undivided attention. You just may find out more from them than you ever expected they would share. Ask what they are concerned about. Are they anxious about anything in particular? What were the biggest challenges they faced last year?

Tip #3: Set Goals That Are Achievable, Measurable and Believable

  • Successful goal setting means that goals are achievable, measurable and believable.
  • Achievable: Goals need to be set at a level that is more advanced than the level the child is currently working at, but not so advanced that it is unachievable or beyond reach.
  • Measurable: Goals need to be measurable so that both parents and students are able to track progress and success.
  • Believable: Children must believe in the goal and believe in their ability to achieve it for success.

Tip #4: Set Goals That Are Relevant To Your Child

  • Children must be motivated, otherwise nothing can be accomplished. It's essential that they perceive the goal as being of value to them, positive and beneficial in order for them to want to act on it. Positive thinking is a very powerful thing, so if they feel as though they can meet the challenge, they will.
  • Remember, goals are very personal and individual so make sure they truly reflect your child and who he/she is.

Tip #5: It's Never Too Early or Too Late to Set Goals

  • No matter what your child's age or level of ability, it's never too early or too late to teach them the fundamentals to help them succeed, and this includes setting goals.

Tip #6: Make Goal Setting a Family Affair

  • Be part of the solution - sit down with your child and set goals together.
  • Once these lines of communication are open and you have a dialogue going with your child, make a point of keeping it up.
  • Share your goals with family members (e.g., over dinner, in the car ride to school) so that everyone knows and can support your child as they work towards achieving these goals.

Tip #7: Be Supportive, Respectful and Encouraging

  • Show your child your respect by talking with them about their goals, as opposed to at them - let them take the lead.
  • Express to them your support of what they are trying to achieve and let them know that you are there to help them and encourage them every step of the way. This will help increase their confidence.
  • Be proud of your child's efforts as well as accomplishments.

Tip #8: Meet with a Third Party to Build a Plan for Success

  • Communicating with children can be difficult for parents, particularly when it concerns issues about school and grades. That's where Oxford Learning can help.
  • Once you and your child have sat down together to identify their goals, make an appointment with one of the experts at your local Oxford Learning centre. They'll help you and your child build a reasonable and realistic plan for achieving these goals with confidence, ease and success.

Tip #9: Incorporate Frequent Check-Ins

  • Monthly reviews of how your child stands against their goals are a great way to keep the momentum moving forward. It's also a great way to measure your child's success and progress in achieving their goals because it gives them a timeline to work towards.
  • Monthly check-ins will also let you know when the original goal has been achieved and that it's time to set a new one.

Tip #10: Reinforce and Celebrate When Goals are Achieved

  • When goals are met, celebrate! Positive re-enforcement will help to encourage your child to set new goals and continue on the path to success.
  • Limit the rewards you give your child on an ongoing basis, otherwise the rewards will become the motivator. Remember, the achievement of their goal is a reward in and of itself.
  • Look back on your child's accomplishments together to re-enforce progress and capabilities.

How To Study: Part 2



  • Carry a homework planner with you at all times - that means to every class. Enter homework, projects, tests and assignments as soon as you are given them. Do not trust your memory - write it down as soon as the teacher assigns it!
  • Choose a comfortable place. Sorry, lying on the floor, listening to loud music or having the TV on in the background will not cut it!
  • Check your homework planner and begin by asking yourself the following questions: What am I supposed to do? When is the assignment due? Where can I get the necessary information? How do I do the assignment?

Studying for Tests

  • Make a plan. Set goals for each session. Divide your material into units and assign one unit per day. Give yourself a three-day break before the test and make sure that you have learned all the units by then.
  • Study in short bursts. Fifteen minutes at a time is excellent. After 15 minutes, take a five-minute breather. Do some exercise. Stick your head out the door. Get refocused.
  • Use the SQRCRC method: Survey the headings, introductions and summaries in order to get the main idea. Question yourself. "What do I hope to learn by reading this note?" Read carefully for detail. Cover the work. Recite what you have just read, trying for main ideas and details. Check to see how well you have done.

Be Prepared

The future belongs to those who believe in their dreams!

How To Study: Part 1


Every day counts. Do a little review and studying each day. Schedule time for your homework and study. Have a plan and work your plan. No homework? Work on assignments; review and correct mistakes from class or tests; plan your study schedule for next week; memorize the "tough" stuff. Here are some tips to get you started:

Listen and Hear

  • Start every class by deciding to pay close attention. Whisper a reminder to yourself that you will understand everything that the teacher says.
  • Every five minutes or so, quietly summarize the lesson to yourself.
  • Jot notes of the main ideas as you listen. Underline or highlight key words.
  • When you don't understand something, make a note and ask someone to explain it to you later.
  • Notice what distracts you in the classroom. Take steps to make sure that it does not happen again. If you find that you are daydreaming, bring yourself back to task and try to fill in the parts you have missed.

Remember What You Hear

  • Everyone has a good memory if it is used properly.
  • Take your main idea class notes home every evening and expand them into a study note. Include subordinate and sub-details. At first you may have to use a text or your classroom notes. Eventually, with practice, you will be able to remember these details.
  • Review these notes to make sure that you understand them within two days and once more before you begin to study for a test.

The future belongs to those who believe in their dreams!

I forget what I studied just yesterday! There's got to be a better way!


There’s a big test this week and you stayed up all night last night cramming all the information that you need to remember to ace the test.

Now it’s a week later and you’re wondering what happened to all those facts, figures, and dates that you spent so much energy studying? You did great on the test, but now that some time has passed you barely remember what class you were studying for.

All those eleventh hour study-a-thons and the eventual and inevitable forgetting should be giving credence to what you suspected all along—that when it comes to studying and long-term recall, cramming doesn’t work.

Developing top-notch study skills is one way of combating the so-called forgetting curve. Skills such as starting early, paraphrasing, and active learning can help you avoid a last minute cram-a-thons and hopefully help you remember what you’ve studied for longer than one week.

Planning, organizing, time management, taking notes—Man, studying is a lot of work! Wouldn’t it be great if a computer could tell you when to study so that you never forgot? According to Wired Magazine such a program exists.

The program was developed in response to decades of research into memory and optimal learning. What researchers found was that there is an ideal moment to review material that you have learned so that you don’t forget it. It’s called the spacing effect and it’s the best-known way to remember what you have learnt so that you never forget.

You don’t need a computer to master this skill (although a computer program can help). The trick is to be able to recognize the moment when you are about to forget something and review at that moment so that you don’t spend too long studying something that you might only forget later. If you wait too long to review, then you’ve forgotten the material. Too soon and there’s no point.

Practice the spacing effect and improve your study skills. Here’s how:

  • Look up a word that you’ve never heard of
  • Write down the word and the definition on a piece of paper
  • Wait a day or so and try to see if you can remember
  • If yes, choose another word and wait longer
  • If no, choose another word and shorten the length of time
  • Keep track of how much time passes before you begin to forget

The theory is that if you study at the moment that you are about to forget, you will remember better and for longer periods of time.

School Systems not Keeping with the Times


An article in a recent issue of Time Magazine says that in a society filled will technological development, social change, and health care advances, one thing remains a shining beacon of the past: our school systems.

“Today’s economy demands not only high-level competence in the traditional academic disciplines, but also what might be called 21st century skills.”

The big issue, say the article’s authors, is that kids who graduate from our schools will not have the skills required to make it the world outside of school. It’s a global economy, and students need to be prepared for it in school, so that they can participate in the global market.

But what does this mean? What are the 21st century skills?

It’s things like:

  • Knowing more about the world—being globally literate
  • Thinking outside the box—having interdisciplinary skills
  • Becoming smarter about new sources of information—being media savvy
  • Developing good people skills—having excellent communication and team work skills

So, if schools aren’t modernized, then how can they possibly produce students who are able to compete in the modern world?

The answer, according to Time, is that for the most part, they can’t and they aren’t.

But, there are exceptions. The article gives some examples of “enterprising administrators” and what they are doing to adapt their curriculum to the ever-changing market. Things like teaching media awareness, information and communication technology awareness, collaborations skills, and second or third language development were noted in the curriculum in the standout schools.

Education analysts pointed to other key skills needed to make students globally viable:

  • Critical thinking
  • Making connections between ideas
  • Knowing how to keep on learning

How to Bring U.S. Schools out of the 20th Century. Claudia Wallis and Sonja Steptoe Time Magazine. December 18, 2006

What is your school, your kid’s school doing that is exceptional-that is cutting edge or forward thinking? We’d love to know.


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