Sunday, December 18, 2011

Interpersonal Connections: Teaching the Gift of Giving over the Holidays

Image Detail  You must be the change you want to see in the world.
Mahatma Gandhi
Indian political and spiritual leader (1869 - 1948)  

  By now, many students in the U.S. are on Christmas Break or will be in the next few days. It's really busy at this time of the year, but don't forget to take a few moments to teach your kids, young and old, about giving and expecting nothing in return. Except, for some good feelings.
  As I was reading one of my favorite magazines and relaxing form end-of-semester turmoil, I noticed the December issue of Self magazine had listed in the bottom of the majority of the pages a worthy charitable organization.
  Here is short list of some charities that you and your kids may donate to this season, or anytime!

  Please do not forget to check your community and donate locally too! Happy selfless giving!
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~From Amanda @LearningConnections

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Service Saturday: FAFSA Help!

 Image Detail FAFSA? What is that? It is the acronym for the financial aid form that every college student has to fill out while they are applying for colleges or continuing their college education. This financial aid form is filled out immediately after your taxes are filed. The form is available electronically from the U.S. government website. It is not compatible with any other web browser except for Internet Explorer.
  I have been training my family for the past two years on how to fill these forms out. Why? Because even though it is available electronically, there are many parts to fill out. We help you decode the FAFSA, website, and materials required to fill the form out properly, accurately, and in a timely manner. The financial aid process is the most difficult administrative duty you will have to do for your child or yourself. This is why we are offering FAFSA paperwork help as a service. Minimum charge will be $45 per hour but watch for special prices during tax time! Call us to make an appointment and bring your filed tax forms with you!

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At least with us, you will get a smile! Get this poor woman in financial aid some chocolate!
~From Amanda @LearningConnections

Monday, October 10, 2011

Why you need to like fractions, decimals, proportions, and ratios.

Image DetailWhen one investigates the reasons why art and nature appeals to so many people, there are a variety of reasons. Ask yourself, what draws your eye into the picture? Is it just the colors? Lack of color? Is it the placement of the subject? Have you ever thought about the ratio and placement of what the artist is trying to convey?
  The Fibonacci Sequence is a sequence of numbers, such that when they are added, they create a sequence. For example:
0+1 = 1
1+1 = 2
1+2 = 3
2+3 = 5
3+5 = 8

This gives us the beginning sequence of 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, and so on. Well, Fibonacci sequence is related to the Golden Ratio which is related to a number called Phi. Many of us are already familiar with Pi and the decimal value associated with it, 3.1415, and know that this number is unending. Phi is very similar with a never-ending number, 1.618. 
  So far, we have only seen whole numbers and decimals. I think the pictures in nature will help us see these ratios better.

Pascal's Triangle relates to the Fibonacci Sequence!

Even very cool fractals follow the pattern!

And weather patterns? Non-linear dynamics! 

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This ratio can help us understand how to play piano better.
So why is it important to find these natural patterns? What do they have to do with anything? Plenty! The US only produces 6% of the engineers this country hires every year. We need more engineers! The better we understand these ratios as they apply every facet of our lives, the easier it will be to become more creative in problem solving. The most important trait necessary in any industry today! If you are interested, visit the website I linked in this blog post for more information about how the Golden Ratio works. The material is more geared toward high school and community college levels. Enjoy!

~From Amanda @LearningConnections

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Your First Tutoring Meeting with Learning Connections

  Your child needs tutoring and you have at some point called or emailed to set an appointment with us. What should you expect on your first meeting with us? Should you bring anything special? Here is what to expect with your first meeting at Learning Connections:

What to bring:
  • Recent standardized test scores. For Southwest Virginia, that would be current SOL scores. 
  • Recent paperwork or printout of grades in each subject. Grades are only part of the story. We really like to see the graded homework because it allows us to understand your child's thought process from the first meeting. 
  • Current Homework Assignments. Your child will be doing their own homework, of course, but this will be guided. We will ask the student how they would solve the problem or answer the question and give them strategies they need to solve it on their own. This is where we start rebuilding self-confidence.
  • Binder. If your student is required to keep a binder, let us look at it. Many students are not very well organized and we can help them set up a system that acts in conjunction with the way they learn.
What we do when you arrive:
  • Introductions! After a brief introduction to your tutor, the tutor will be working with your child. We look through the materials that you have supplied us with. We will also have activities prepared to gain a deeper understanding of your child's learning style. 
  • Expect to sign a learning contract and agreement. This is pretty self-explanatory. You are contracting us for a service and this is where the ground rules are set. The contract lists student/parent expectations and what is expected from us, as a business. We will have a copy and you will have a copy.
  • Expect recommendations and suggestions from your tutor for the upcoming week. Without the continued support from parents during the week between appointments, your child may forget some of the strategies later in the week. Consistency is important for kids receiving tutoring services. Your child may need us for a short time but they will need you for the rest of their lives. 
~From Amanda @LearningConnections

Monday, September 19, 2011

Interpersonal Connections: Interim (Progress) Reports

 Image Detail Football games, cheerleading, music lessons - this is a busy time of the year for parents and their children. Many school systems will be releasing their Interim (or Progress) Reports within the next two weeks. Visit your child's school website for exactly when to expect these reports. While these are not the definitive grades for the first term, they can provide valuable information for parents and set the tone for the school year. Here are a few tips for parents on how to best handle the information:

  • Don't just read the grades. Read the whole report. There is often more information besides the grades. 
  • Hit the internet. If you have questions about the grades themselves, go to the school's website before calling the teacher. These days, student's grades are accessible to parents through the school's website. The site will give you a compilation of the grades in any subject. 
  • Set an appointment with the teacher. If your school does not have the student's grades readily available for internet viewing or if you need something clarified, your child's teacher will have valuable insight as to why and how your child is struggling.
  • Ask the teacher to sign your child's planner. Read and check the planner everyday. Homework will be listed as well as notes from the teacher. Planners make it easier for you to check and make sure your child has completed their homework. I never believed my kids when they said "I did it in school." Very often, they may have started it but not finished it. This will go a long way to preventing student apathy.
  • Provide your child with a homework folder. That way, you can check your child's homework for completion and it is easier to find in their backpack.
  • Check your child's backpack for excess papers. Organization is one of the most important tools your child can have and it will give you a chance to show them how to keep paperwork in order. 
  • Review comments carefully. If your child's progress report indicates that they are talking too much or not paying attention, takes these statements seriously. Talk with your child about why he/she is exhibiting this behavior. Don't pitch a fit, you have to begin developing real conversations with your child that will make it easier for them to come to you when they are struggling. Remember that time spent on talking or staring off into space is time your child has lost in learning. Remind your child that they need to be courteous and respectful for their teacher and that learning is the most important thing your child can do. 
It can help make the school year a lot smoother when teacher, parent, and child cooperate!
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~From Debra @LearningConnections

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Teacher Helpers: Biology Coloring Workbook

The Princeton Review: Biology Coloring Workbook
Author: I. Edward Alcamo, Ph.D.
ISBN: 9780679778844

The Princeton Review Biology Coloring Workbook by Edward Alcamo: Book Cover  I absolutely adore this series from the Princeton Review! It's a great way to add more content to high school and college Biology classrooms! One page is a description of the biological process involving the picture that follows. What an outstanding way to connect verbal intelligence and spatial intelligence! There are many great web resources for coloring pages too! The nice thing about having it in this workbook is that you do not have to hunt for these materials online. 
  This reminds me of the days in 6th grade Science in middle school. My science teacher, Mr. Berube, would assign all the diagrams on Monday. In his class, we would have to copy, color, and label all the diagrams in that section of the textbook and turn them in by Thursday. I am sure that most of us did not realize how invaluable this tool would be when it came to standardized tests. In order to draw the diagrams, you would have to dissect them and tie it all back together. Boring, lifeless worksheets? Nope! 
  Boost your student's spatial abilities and get coloring!

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Can you color and label this? The top diagram is an animal cell. The bottom diagram is a plant cell.

~From Amanda @LearningConnections

Friday, September 2, 2011

Teacher Helpers: Environmental Chemistry Workbook

Environmental Chemistry
Written by David E. Newton
ISBN:  9780825150456
  If you are a high school Chemistry or Community College teacher looking for more resources for the classroom with practical applications, you should take a look at this workbook! I do not recommend this for new students to Chemistry as they should have some basics down before attempting to understand the problems in the text. The workbook runs through the gamut of environmental chemistry in the atmosphere, water, and solid wastes. This workbook would be a great addition for gifted students. Environmental Chemistry would also serve well for higher level home-school students. 
   What I really like about it, besides the detail, is the activities presented in the book. It will force the students to do (*gasp*) research! It can also serve as a great starting point for more in-depth science experiments. It also takes a look at how environmental policies are effecting changes in the environment and vice versa. The practical applications will help train students for future environmental jobs. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Logical Connections: Prep for Science Fair Over the Summer!

  At the end of my sophmore and junior years in high school, we were always reminded to start our science fair projects over the summer. Most of us laugh and balked at the idea of doing any actual work over the summer that was related to school. Reflecting back on the summer between my junior and senior years in high school, had I not done a lot of research and talking to scientists in the field, my project would have been a dismal bleep on the science fair radar instead of opening the door to a world of endless opportunities.
  Experiences similar to mine are important to an adolescent or emerging adult as they try to define themselves in today's world. Even if the student does not go into the science field, this is the first practical experience they will receive into the adult world of projects and problem-solving. Here is my advice to parents and students, in middle school or high school, about beginning a research project.
  • Research the topic.  Start with the web and find topics and projects that interest the student. Narrow down to one particular topic and bring what you know to your local college library. Many librarians will be more than happy to assist students find relevant material. I have used college libraries since middle school because they carry a much broader collection. It would not hurt to browse the local library either.
  • Keep a reflective journal. All scientists keep a journal as a requirement for the project. Why? What if you discovered something that no one else has seen yet? The research experiment must be reproducible in order for other researchers to test the reliability and validity of your work. The journal should also include research dates and experiment dates. Your journal acts as the evidence for the research paper and makes it easier for you to document your resources.
  • Find a mentor. Without the help of my high school Physics and Chemistry teachers, I would not have met and spoken with so many experts that did the research behind the articles I had read. Learning Connections does offer mentor services for middle and high school science fair projects. Here is what we do:
    • Make sure the project falls withing the guidelines of ISEF rules and regulations and assist with filling out paperwork.
    • Guide the students to ensure best practices are being met concerning the scientific method. 
    • Proofread research paper and project board. 
    • Assist with resources and experts in the field to broaden student's understanding and depth of project.
    • Prep students for judging.
  Whew! That sounds like a lot of work, right? Let me tell you something, I went to my school's science fair with a project that discussed the effectiveness of suntan lotions. This is where I met my mentor in high school, Mr. Sheldon Smith. We were not talking about suntan lotions within ten minutes into the conversation but about the hole in the ozone layer and what I thought might be the problem! From there, I met scientists at Harvard and NASA-Langley and was attempting to make a less than 2 lb. laser to fly on a NASA-Wallops balloon. I was able to present my research at the State MIT Science Fair my senior year. What an experience! All it takes is one person to believe in you and what interests you to spur what has been one of my most memorable high school experiences. That alone can make the difference in your child's education!
  Since then, our people at Learning Connections have worked on Scientific Review Committees, conducted Middle School Science Fairs, served as volunteers on Regional Science Fair Committees, mentored student projects, and judged numerous science fairs since 1996. If you have any questions, contact us through our Facebook page! 

~From Amanda @LearningConnections

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Naturalist Connections: It's a Jungle Out There!

  With the weather warming up and the kids getting out of school soon, what is a parent to do when your child utters those infamous words "I'm bored"? I thought a good way to spend the summer on this blog would be to turn our attention to helping parents or any extended family member that may be caring for your kids over the summer, with creative ways to entertain the troops. I am the oldest of four children in my family and the youngest sibling is 17 years younger than me. Yes, I have heard those words over and over and over... well, you get my point.
  One of the things I used to do when my younger brother and sisters were growing up was to make sure that I had a stash of art supplies and other things that might come in handy. Some advice I can give you is to fall in love with the dollar store to stock up on "things-to-do" items, be patient, and be flexible. Sometimes it might take an hour or two out of your day just to help them get their imaginations fired up and out of the "I'm bored" syndrome. 
  One activity I enjoyed a lot as a kid was taking a nature hike. Now, you can do the same with your child and make it an enjoyable activity. Here are some things to do on your nature walk:
  • Pick up leaves or flowers (non-poisonous!) that you can bring home to press between the pages of your favorite books.
  • Look under rocks for salamanders or other lizards, up in the trees for birds, and on the ground for animals in their natural habitat. Use your digital camera to take pictures. 
  • Listen to the natural sounds in the area. Ask your child to describe them to you. Are any noises man-made? What birds are making the songs that you hear? Is there a wind causing some of the sound? 
Baby Bunny free desktop wallpapers Animals Rabbit

Things to do once you get home from your nature hike:
  • Download and print some of the pictures from your digital camera. Have your child make captions or create a story to go with the pictures.
  • Take some of the treasures from the hike and help them make a scrapbook. Look up the items in a field guide or online to teach them a little bit more about their treasures. 
  • Use the photos and encourage them to create a new plant or animal that has never been seen before but might live in the area you visited. What's the name of the new discovery? What does it look like? How does it behave? 
  • If your child has an instrument or if there is a piano, have them recreate the sounds they heard on the hike. 
  I am sure there are many more things you can do on a nature hike than I have listed here. So don't throw your arms up in the air when your kids are bored. Come back for an occasional visit to my blog just to get started! Sometimes the simplest activities are the most rewarding!

~From Amanda @LearningConnections