I hold as a fundamental belief that all Children want to learn and succeed in school, although they may eventually compensate for their learning struggles by appearing not to care. To a child to whom learning does not come naturally, he has to use so much mental effort to concentrate and learn during the school day that he cannot fathom the idea of having to continue at home in the form of homework. If you have ever taken an academic class in a foreign language, you might recollect the effort it takes to concentrate. One can spend only so much time in such a focused state before all attention is lost. I can remember such a time when I took a linguistics course at a university in Mexico where I was an exchange student learning Spanish. The class was so cognitively demanding that I could only concentrate for about 15-20 minutes, after which I was really not capturing the information. My brain was simply too tired.
Children who struggle are not able to keep up with their classmates in one or more areas, which can be as frustrating to the teacher as the student. Why do so many students struggle? Many experts who have carefully observed children with learning difficulties have noticed that most, if not all, of these children also have issues with motor and balance. They have come to realize that motor development and learning go hand in hand. I have found this to be true in my own practice. A couple of years ago, when I didn’t know what else to do, I simply put jump ropes in the hands of my 4th -6th grade students and not a one of them initially could jump rope. Now, I not only test my students for their developmental level in mathematics (see Appendix D for my developmental math assessment), but I check for a variety of markers of their motor development as well. I have been noticing that students with more severe learning problems also have more severe motor issues than others.
Learning difficulties are often neurologically based, and can also lead to behavior and emotional problems. Studies have indicated that more than 80% of prisoners had a serious learning problem as a child (Ratey, 2008). Allan Bermann found that visual perception was the disability that occurred most often in a group of delinquent children, followed by auditory memory and language deficit (Phelong, 1997). If we rather than just an academic or behavioral one, especially at a young age, how many of them could we save from a lifetime of struggle?
---From my book: Movement Makes Math Meaningful: Away from the Desk Math Lessons Aligned with the Common Core, Page 11
“A healthy body is a platform for flourishing a healthy mind.”
― Pawan Mishra
Clean Eating as a Vegetarian
If you are a vegetarian, you might be looking for a way to eat healthier, but also avoid meat and possibly dairy products as well. Luckily, a clean eating diet is one of the easiest to follow and still maintain a meatless lifestyle. Here are some tips for eating clean as a vegetarian.
Add Plenty of Healthy Fats
As you know from your current vegetarian lifestyle, you need to make sure you get protein and fat from food sources not related to meat and seafood. Luckily, there are still lots of healthy fats that provide good nutrients without anything that isn't allowed on the clean eating diet. Keep eating plenty of healthy fats like nuts and seeds, flaxseed, avocados, olive oil, and canola oil. These oils are better to use instead of butter. Even if you allow yourself dairy on your vegetarian diet, you should avoid dairy on a clean eating diet unless it is from grass-fed cows.
Eat Lots of Fruits and Veggies
Naturally, the majority of what you are going to eat on a clean eating diet is fruits and veggies. Try to pile them on, not skimping at all. You don't need to worry as much about your macros with clean eating, as long as you know to recognize your body's hunger signals and stop eating when you are full. Most of your meals should consist of lots of fresh produce, preferably not frozen and never canned. Start picking up your produce at health food stores or farmer's markets for more variety and to save money.
Go For the Complex Carbs
Carbohydrates are okay to include while practicing a clean eating vegetarian diet, but you want to avoid your refined carbs. These tend to be overly processed and include foods like white pasta, white rice, and white bread. If you're going to have rice, grains, or pasta, at least go for the complex carb version, including whole grain or sprouted versions. There is also brown rice pasta, which is even better for you than traditional whole wheat pasta. These also happen to be good sources of fiber and some protein as well, which is always essential to have included in a vegetarian diet. Add in plenty of quinoa and oats as well.
Avoid Processed ‘Veggie’ Foods
The clean eating diet is about eating as many clean, fresh, and whole foods as you can. An easy way to know what to eat or not eat is to look at the food's packaging. If the food is in plastic or a box, it probably is processed in some way. For example, if you wanted to eat hummus, making it yourself is a better choice than buying a tub of it that's been processed and distributed to your local health food store. However, if the tub is sold behind the deli counter, they might make it right in the store and package it themselves, which doesn't require processing.
Incorporating movement in the curriculum is beneficial because:
---This if from my book: Movement Makes Math Meaningful: Away from the Desk Math Lessons Aligned with the Common Core, pages 8-10.
“Rest and your energy will be restored.”
― Lailah Gifty Akita, Think Great: Be Great!
Tonics That Help With a Cold or Flu
Do you wonder what to do when you catch yourself feeling rundown?
When you get the common cold or come down with the flu, the last thing you feel like doing is eat or drink anything. However, hydration is essential, and you need to try to get those vitamins in any way you can. An easy way to get your nutrients is with a tonic, which is a drink that not only provides hydration but essential nutrients that help soothe your sore throat and heal your body as well.
Honey and Lemon Tea
Our first tonic is extremely easy to make and uses just a few ingredients. I make it for myself often (because I love the boost it gives me) and it is entirely natural. You aren't putting any preservatives or chemicals into your body when you are ill or feeling depleted. When you have a cold or flu, one of the most prominent side effects is having a sore throat, often with congestion and a cough. This honey and lemon tea is an excellent tonic to help with that. All you need for the simple tonic tea is hot water with a little lemon, honey, and some ginger. Letting it steep overnight is best because the nutrients from these ingredients blend perfectly into the water, so all you have to do is heat it up the next morning.
How to make your tonic:
1 cup lemon or lemon balm tea
1 tablespoon honey
1 inch fresh grated ginger
Apple Cider Tonic
Apple cider vinegar is so good for you with and comes with a long list of health benefits. Apple cider vinegar is excellent for boosting your immune system and reducing inflammation in the body. You can drink this tonic when you have a cold or flu and to also prevent illnesses as well. In addition to the apple cider vinegar, you want to add other ingredients that will help with a cold or flu, such as spices like ginger and garlic, some turmeric, and a little honey to improve the taste and make it a little sweeter.
How to make your tonic:
1 cup water
1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon raw honey
Orange Honey Tonic
Our final tonic that is helpful when you are experiencing a cold or have come down with the flu is the orange honey tonic. This tonic has a beautiful golden orange color thanks to the turmeric powder in the tonic. You will also use some water, raw honey, apple cider vinegar, and a little bit of lemon zest in the drink. You can serve this cold or hot, though serving it with hot water similar to a tea often makes it a little easier to drink when you are ill and have a sore throat.
How to make your tonic:
1 cup warm water
Juice from 1 orange
1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon raw honey
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ inch fresh grated ginger
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It is the tradition of our education system to believe that individuals will learn best if they are presented with lots of information, in the form of a lecture or 2-dimensional written form, and seated still with eyes forward and taking notes. However, for real learning to occur, throughout our lives, hands-on learning in an environment with rich sensory experiences is optimal (Hannaford, 1995).
Even if instinctively teachers know that children need to do so, often times the classrooms are packed and teachers simply do not feel that they have the room. Others might fear chaos or a rise in discipline problems if they allow students more freedom in the classroom to move around, or simply feel that there is not enough time in the school day. However, there is plenty of evidence to support that having the children sit for long periods of time is actually doing more harm than good. In fact, it can be the very reason that discipline problems arise in the classroom in the first place.
Some movements are better than others in specifically supporting brain development. Slow, efficient, and specific movements that are designed to make sure the brain is built correctly is better than fast, disorganized movement, which is why children who are hyperactive, although always moving, still find learning difficult (Kokot, 2010). But even if teachers do know how to do this, incorporating any kind of movement in a lesson is beneficial, especially for these hyperactive learners, because they do not possess enough balance and control to sit still. Sitting still is truly uncomfortable, and their reticular activating system (RAS) of their brain needs extra stimulation of any kind to move the information on to the higher part of the cerebral cortex. Therefore, involving the senses through movement helps children pay attention and helps them recall the information by engaging the whole brain.
The research is flooding with reasons why teachers should get their students up and moving while learning new concepts.
--From my book: Movement Makes Math Meaningful: Away from the Desk Math Lessons Aligned with the Common Core, Page 8
“Expressing your human need for ongoing spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional nourishment starts in your home.”
― Linda L. Eubanks
Herbs to Boost Your Immune System
As you begin to take better care of your self, natural remedies for your immune system range from using essential oils to changing your daily habits. Another great way to give your immunities a nice boost is with certain herbs. Here are some of the top healing herbs that can help you fight off the cold and flu.
You will not find this recommendation surprising, as Echinacea has long been associated with boosting your immune system and helping to prevent the cold and flu. Echinacea is an herb that contains natural antibacterial and antiviral properties. These properties help you to fight viruses and illnesses, as they can boost white blood cell production in your body. White blood cells are needed to help fight infections as you come into contact with them.
Another herb, I find to be really healing for your body and help to boost your immune system at the same time is elderberry. Elderberry is a unique herb that is very healing, helping to fight off different types of infections, including influenza (flu) virus, bacterial infections, and viral infections. There have been numerous studies looking at its effectiveness for your immune system. You can use different parts of this herb, from the flowers to the leaves and even the bark.
The next herb to be mindful of is called calendula. Calendula is one of those herbs where the name sounds familiar, but people aren't fully aware of what it is or how it can benefit them. Calendula is a plant with healing flower petals that look similar to marigold flowers. These have been used for many medicinal purposes, as they naturally reduce inflammation, fight bacteria, and contain natural antioxidants. Calendula when appropriately used can help prevent your body from free radical damage, which can also in turn help to improve your immune system.
While not technically an herb, the leaves used in green tea are also fantastic for your immunities and helping to avoid the cold and flu. Green tea is also a good source of antioxidants, as well as boosting your immune system to keep away infections and viruses. Try to drink 2-3 cups of green tea a day. The good news here is that green tea has a lot of other health benefits as a bonus, from aiding in your weight loss efforts to improving your skin.
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While working in a 90% Spanish-speaking, inner-city school in a district that was a few years into its teaching reform movement, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. There were a growing number of students who were being sent to the counseling center on a daily basis, my class included. Although there was no research study to prove it, I instinctively believed that the more rigid, structured, and somewhat scripted our teaching became, the less compatible it was for the population of students we were serving. Although our knowledge of how to teach reading, writing, and mathematics drastically improved, I could not help but wonder if we were doing a huge disservice to our students by no longer having our learning structured in such a way that provided natural movement breaks through rotations and incorporating activities that were both more engaging and meaningful in building the students’ background knowledge.
One year, I felt the need to try to reach out to what I considered to be my “kinesthetic” learners. I started asking myself if there was a way to teach reading and math to my struggling 5th graders by using whole body activities. After all, I had heard the term “phycho-motor” activities from the kinder wing and knew it had something to do with moving to learn letters and sounds, but that was the extent of my understanding. Since I was stronger in my understanding of teaching mathematics, I chose to start there.
One day, on the spur of the moment, I came up with an activity using a 100-foot measuring tape. Described in more detail in part 3, it involved taking out my students and having them estimate how far 100 feet would be and to walk the entire 100 feet in increments of 10 feet, initially with their eyes open, then with their eyes closed. By the end of the 100 feet, they had internalized how far 10 feet was. Children and adults alike have such a hard time with estimating large measures, since they have such little experience measuring using those amounts. Years later, I consistently used this same activity with my university methods students and when estimating the distance of the 100 feet, I received the same results, some severely under or over-estimating. The only student who was ever spot on was a young woman who ran track.
Soon after, my teaching career took a turn and I left the classroom to become a support teacher and later a university instructor. For a few years I had forgotten about my quest of creating lessons that integrate movement to support math learning until one day, a few years ago, I had the privilege of participating in a professional development trip to a rural school in Guatemala. On the first day, Jim Barta, the lead professor from Utah State
University, working with the 6th grade class, used masking tape to create a 100 square grid on the cement floor. He engaged the students in problems that involved computation with decimals. It was at that moment when my original question resurfaced, and this time I did not want to let it go.
Starting a new teaching job that involved pulling small groups of struggling study its affects on learning. The first year I had a few different groups of students spend about a month going around the school to measure the outside perimeters of each of the 10 buildings. We started with the rectangular buildings and then progressed to those comprised of more complicated shapes. They had to measure and record on grid paper the footprint of each building. This not only challenged their measuring skills, but their visual-spatial skills as well. One day, I was walking back to class with a group of 4th grade students when one of them spontaneously blurted, “I feel really good!” Surprised, I asked him why, to which he replied, “I don’t know, but I feel really good!”
The particular student who made this comment was one that was awkward, and clumsy. I knew that something about moving and being outdoors for the 45 minutes was really good for him physically. At this point, I decided that I needed to find out what the affects of movements were on a deeper level. Was it just fun and enjoyable, or was there more to movement, which affected the body on a deeper level? This prompted me to dig into the literature and research, which has been forever life changing. What I discovered is that, not only is movement an essential modality of learning for all students, but it is absolutely critical for our struggling learners and those with special needs.
---From my book: Movement Makes Math Meaningful, Pages 5-6
It is glaringly obvious to teachers across the US that the children have been changing in the last several years. There is a huge increase in hyperactive, impulsive, aggressive, obsessive, compulsive behaviors, as well as individuals with specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and processing. This is due to a combination of many factors, such as the current technology use, current SAD diet (standard American Diet) and other environmental toxins. Our children's brains are being rewired and systems are being bombarded resulting in their brains becoming imbalanced.
In the past 8 years, I have spent every spare moment studying and researching what to do to help struggling students. Partly because that was the population I worked with and partly because I have a son with autism at home. Not to help them cope or compensate, but to help them recover, become more whole and no longer need assistance.
I have learned from functional neurology, Brain Gym, Rhythmic Movement Training, and functional medicine how the brain grows and develops, and how physiology effects brain growth and vice versa. I have also learned how to go back to earlier stages in order to support development so that learning can eventually happen more naturally. The brain develops beginning in the brainstem and connections need to be made from there to the basal ganglia, thalamus and frontal cortex. Also, the brain grows from the motor cortex out, so if there is difficulty in either the brain stem or motor cortex, the next parts are severely compromised. Many of our children do not have appropriately connected frontal lobes causing them to be impulsive and unable to make decisions. Some struggling children have weak right hemispheres (those with more affective and social disorders) and others are weak left (those that struggle with academics and processing).
In my role as math specialist I was able to use bits and pieces of what I had been learning and witnessed nice results, but it was only bits and pieces. My whole goal in spending all this time and money in research, learning, and intervention programs and equipment was that I wanted to give my students a $6000 curriculum for free in the public school system. If you take a student to a good learning specialist for a reading disorder, they will tell the parent that they are going to work on reading, not by reading. The specialist is really going to target brain development through the integration of primitive reflexes, strengthening early movement patterns, providing lots of sensory input targeted to the weak hemisphere, and cognitive activities that target weak areas, such as working memory, or auditory processing (as examples). This work is done for 1-1.5 hours 3-5 days a week, with extensions done at home, such as home movement programs and by removing gluten and dairy from the diet, which is usually a must as well because brain disorders are also chronic brain inflammation, which essentially have roots in food sensitivities - and gluten and dairy are the biggest culprits.
I have been around reform curriculum for quite some time and yes, we do need to think about our tier 1 instruction - it makes a BIG difference in overall school performance. However we still have about average of 3 kids in each classroom who are struggling on a more fundamental level. As a school system, we need to start to acknowledge this and strategize what we want to do about it. Occupational therapists across the country are seeing a rise of 30% of children who are not on the ASD spectrum in need of support in recent years.
If we really want to make a difference, we need to re-think how we are supporting students. Granted, some only need minor homework support, but many others need something deeper, whether or not they are on an IEP. In fact, in my educational experience, so many children who need support are not low enough to qualify for an IEP, thus end up falling through the cracks.
What can we do?
Ideally? Based on the laws of neuroplasticity the key is intensity, duration, and frequency. That means that 20 minutes a week of a therapy for anything is not very effective. To effectively change the brain, children need to be provided a daily 45 minutes to 1 hour program giving them 1-1 support with sensory stimulation targeting the weaker hemisphere (as determined by a questionnaire filled out by parent or teacher). That stimulation includes vision, auditory, tactile, and proprioceptive. While their hemisphere is being targeted, student engages in sensory activities that target the growth of the corpus callosum, reflex integration, development of core muscles (necessary for proper output of brain waves), fine motor development, and cognitive skills. Those cognitive activities include tasks such as auditory memory, visual memory, working memory, auditory processing, etc. One day a week, the child should receive an in-depth balance to help shift the body’s readiness to learn.
In this scenario, one skilled teacher would be able to see 5 students daily. If the program were quarterly, then 20 students would be able to be serviced in the year. Ideally, learning centers run a minimum of 12 weeks. 12 weeks on a daily rotation would be 15 students and on an every-other day rotation would be 30 students, although time for assessment and program design need to be taken into account. One assistant trained by the skilled teacher would be able to double the case load, and so on. It is possible to see some students with similar issues in groups of 2, but a ratio more than that compromises the focus that the child is putting on his program.
Small groups can be run for students who need less intensive intervention and could be 20-30 minute program using the Listening Program in combination of specific exercises or sensory experiences.
Who is needed to make this successful?
Learning specialists (Reading, math, ESL, speech, occupational therapists, Special education teachers and their aides, etc.) are all perfect candidates. Imagine just taking 3 people and reallocating them to target struggling students, we could impact a lot of kids. The problem is that in the current structure of our educational system, each one of these professionals are pretty much handcuffed as to what services they can or cannot provide.
What will it take?
It takes the desire and guts to break away from the status quo and determination to significantly change the life of these children and not just to try to help them cope and put band-aids on their problems.
There should be an investment in equipment. If a school wants to do this right, they would need some equipment to set up a basic movement room, such as some gym mats, a mini-trampoline, and a balance beam. Some additional technology that I would highly recommend, based on research and efficacy, would be at least one license for the Interactive Metronome®, At least 6 sets of The Listening Program, a Visagraph®, and some sets of Forbrain®.
There also needs to be an investment in training. Obviously individuals need to be trained in how to use the above equipment, but they should also be trained in the fundamental principals of neurodevelopment. All teachers in a school should take at least the first course of Brain Gym®, so that they are all on the same page and using the same language. Children moving from class to class will be receiving the same message and support. Specialists should take at least 3 levels of Brain Gym® in order meet the needs of the individual student. Primary teachers and specialists should also receive training in Blomberg Rhythmic Movement Training®, where they learn deeper strategies for brain development and primitive reflex integration.
Classroom teachers should be able to conduct whole class and small group balances throughout the day, in order to increase learning readiness for the upcoming lesson. Specialists should be able to, and free to, conduct a deeper 1-1 balance at minimum of once per week.
A leap into the future
Our children are changing at an alarming rate through forces that are out of our control. The increase of wireless technology, social media, processed and artificial foods, GMO foods, pesticides and herbicides, and the near daily spraying of chemicals into our atmosphere are all some of the ways that are children are being bombarded from birth with toxins that they aren't developmentally ready to handle. The inability to inappropriately detoxify and deal with environmental and emotional stressors causes chronic inflammation in the gut and, consequently, in the brain, leading to learning, behavior, and motor challenges.
The schools might not be able to control all of the toxic exposures, though they could minimize much if children were to work on wired computers and only have access to real, unprocessed foods during the school day; however, they can shift their thinking into how we can take the child and support them by using fundamental brain developing principles.
Educationally, we are going in a direction as if the children were like those of the 80's, before the astronomical rise in the toxic burden. The educational shifts are great, but are not sufficient for those who have brains that are not making the connections as they should. We need to be bold and make that leap to address true individual needs, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase "No Child Left Behind."
Want to take the first step?
Why Everyone Should Meal Prep One of the tips you will be given often when you look up clean eating diets is that you should meal prep. The reason this is so effective is because it is more convenient and ends up saving time, plus it really gets ahead of those temptations you might have. Here are some of the top benefits of meal prepping and planning on the clean eating diet.
You Can Avoid Unnecessary Snacking
The first reason you should consider meal prepping is so you can avoid snacking on foods that aren’t clean. This is a very common pitfall among people who are used to hitting up the vending machine at work or grabbing a few cookies for a snack. If you prepare before the week begins, you should already have all the clean snacks you need, from fruit and nuts to homemade clean baked goods and won’t need to grab a candy bar while at the gas station.
It Ensures You Have Enough Food for the Week
In addition to avoiding the little snacks that can add up fast, you can also make sure you have all the food you need for a week or longer. Another common pitfall of clean eating is that you run out of food for meals later in the week, leading you to getting fast food or ordering pizza, since it’s easier than going back to the store. By planning out all your meals, you can then prep them and have all the hard work done so that cooking is a breeze.
Your Week is More Streamlined
Nobody wants to spend time each day figuring out what to pack in their kids’ lunches and deciding on what to cook for dinner. If you spend a good portion of your day thinking about what to cook, you are stressing yourself out, and that mentality often leads to failure of these types of diets. This is a brand new healthy lifestyle and one that does take some prep work. Think about how easy it will be going through your day knowing your breakfast and lunch is packed and ready to go, and everything for dinner is scheduled, prepped, and ready to put in the oven. It really does not get any simpler than that.
Remember that meal prep isn’t always cooking ahead of time, but prepping ingredients like chopping veggies, putting smoothie packs together, and making salads.
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As we can see in the visual to the right, learning develops in steps or phases, and academic knowledge is the culmination at the top. Successful learning in school is dependent upon strongly developed underlying processes. Although each of the processes, or rungs, are not learned in isolation, they do build on one another and weaknesses in the lower part of the ladder effect all the rungs above. Therefore, when trying to address issues in the higher levels, it is important to look more closely at the steps below to determine where more hidden weaknesses lie. Addressing these areas will support the development of the upper rungs, sometimes without ever directly doing interventions in those areas.
This means that there should not simply be one approach when helping your child. The school's typical response, especially in this day and age of high stakes testing, is to remediate by providing more instructional opportunities. This method works best when the deficit is that the child has missed educational opportunities for reasons such as a move, undiagnosed hearing loss that is now being corrected with hearing aides, or illness that may have kept the child out of school for an extended period of time. Sometimes the child has matured since the time of when initial learning took place and is now more developmentally ready to receive it.
Experienced teachers can attest that children who struggle usually have other identifiable characteristics, such as not being able to jump rope, having poor balance and coordination, no being able to sit still, constantly falling or crashing into walls, and having poor fine motor skills in writing and/or speech. Their learning struggles are deeper than needing more instruction. If this is the case, the intervention needs to go beyond simply providing more academic support.
Lisa Ann de Garcia, MA, MEd.