Though I am well aware that for many parts of the country summertime has been in full swing for a few weeks now, here in New York graduation hats are flying tonight and tomorrow. That means that summer has, once and for all, officially begun. In the spirit of the summer season, I wanted to share two great articles that deal with important summertime issues for children on both “ends” of the educational spectrum. The first article is advice from authors Lynne F. Jacobs and Jeremy S. Hyman excerpted from their book, The Secrets of College Success. This short article offers seven awesome tips for graduating seniors about beginning the college academic life. As a college instructor for over a decade, I wholeheartedly agree with these tips (especially #7!) and hope that both parents and future freshman are able to use them this summer. School counselors as well may want to check these out for their new seniors coming in the fall. The next article deals with the other side of raising kids: toddlers. A new study from Oregon State University sheds some important light onto the role that parents play in kids’ activity level. With increasing attention being paid to the obesity epidemic among young children, knowing how parenting style and choice affects even the youngest members of our family is important. Summertime is a time for leisure, but that doesn’t mean it should be dedicated to screen time. 7 Things Graduating Seniors Should Know About College From The Secrets of College Success by Lynne F. Jacobs and Jeremy S. Hyman, as appeared in the New York Times Here are some things that incoming students should know about college: You Have Control Over Your Courses You do not have to confine yourself to a set of preselected courses that are designed to help incoming students fulfill general education requirements. As you select your courses, be sure that each one is on the right level for you (in some cases, one can substitute higher level courses for more basic ones). Once you’ve picked your program, you should attend each of the classes and decide whether the professor is someone from whom you can really learn. Often, there are many instructors teaching the same course, and using the drop/add process, you may be able to get a much better teacher. Every Class Counts There is a lot of redundancy built into high school courses. Many classes go over what was done before, some classes are devoted to preparing for tests, and, once in a while, you don’t really do much at all. In college, it’s different. Professors have only 30 or 40 lectures in which to cover the subject, so they try to make each class count. If you miss more than a few lectures, you’re likely to miss out on content that will be difficult to fill in on your own. You Are Expected to Do a Lot of the Work on Your Own You need to be your own boss. Figure out when things need to be done and do them. The professor or teaching assistant might remind the class when papers are due, but no one will contact you when the deadline has passed and you haven’t handed in your work. You will also need to propel yourself to study. While a recent study shows that the average college student spends about 15 hours outside of class preparing, if you poll professors, you’ll find that they expect two hours of preparation for each class meeting. So, if you’re taking 15 class hours, the professors assume you’ll be spending 30 hours a week studying. That equates to four hours a day, if you’re doing your homework seven days a week. The Testing Is Often by ‘Sampling’ Exams in college are not 100 percent comprehensive — that is, the tests will not cover every topic or problem discussed in class. Instead, professors often select a representative sample of problems or topics, and test the students on only those. This is because professors are looking for depth of thought on some issue. When preparing for exams, then, it’s often a better strategy to prepare the central points in greater detail rather than going over everything superficially. College Papers Are More Than Just Reports College papers require analysis and research. In college, you may be asked to break down some issue into its parts and offer some evaluation of your own. You may be asked to consult original documents and scholarly sources and offer your assessment of them. This is in sharp contrast with what is expected of written assignments in high school, some of which require no more than a simple summary of what others have said on Wikipedia, and articles found on Google, newspapers, and magazines. You Don’t Have to Pick a Major in Your First Year Many colleges now encourage students to declare a major at orientation; this allows students to get started on some directed course of study, and it helps colleges manage course offerings. It may be a good idea to declare your major right away, especially if yours is a four-year program like pre-med, music, or a world language. In more cases than not, however, it’s better to wait until you’ve taken a few courses — especially upper-division courses in a given field — before you commit to a major. A reason students take so long in completing their degrees is that they successively change majors when they’ve picked wrong; and each time they pick, they’re committing themselves to 10 or 12 required courses. The Professor Would Like to Help You Succeed Professors are not distant figures whose job it is to give lectures in large auditoriums and spend the rest of their time doing research. In addition to those tasks, professors are also teachers, whose self-conception is often invested in whether students are doing well. They are often delighted to help students construct a paper or prepare for an exam. They also have office hours throughout the week so they may devote time to helping students. You should plan to visit each professor at least once during the semester. The office hour can be one of the few times at college for one-to-one engagement with a genuine expert in the field. Parents – Not TV – May Determine Whether Kids Are Active or Couch Potatoes From and Oregon State University Press Release Researchers at Oregon State University have confirmed what we knew all along – children in this country are increasingly sedentary, spending too much time sitting and looking at electronic screens. But it’s not necessarily because of the newest gee-whiz gadgets – parents play a major factor in whether young children are on the move. In two studies out online today in a special issue of the journal Early Child Development and Care devoted to “Parental Influences of Childhood Obesity,” OSU researchers examined how parenting style – whether a strict but loving parent or a less-involved and more permissive parent – was associated with sedentary behavior. Overall, they found that children who had “neglectful” parents, or ones who weren’t home often and self-reported spending less time with their kids, were getting 30 minutes more screen time on an average each week day. More disturbing to lead author David Schary – all of the children ages 2 to 4 were sitting more than several hours per day. “Across all parenting styles, we saw anywhere from four to five hours a day of sedentary activity,” he said. “This is waking hours not including naps or feeding. Some parents counted quiet play – sitting and coloring, working on a puzzle, etc. – as a positive activity, but this is an age where movement is essential.” Schary, a doctoral student in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU, said parents were grouped into four commonly used scientific categories – authoritative (high warmth and control), authoritarian (controlling, less warm), permissive (warm, low control), and neglectful (low control and warmth). While all the children in the sample of about 200 families were sitting four to five hours in a typical day, parents in the more neglectful category had children who were spending up to 30 additional minutes a day watching television, playing a video game or being engaged in some other form of “screen time.” “A half an hour each day may not seem like much, but add that up over a week, then a month, and then a year and you have a big impact,” Schary said. “One child may be getting up to four hours more active play every week, and this sets the stage for the rest of their life.” Some might wonder whether parents who were less participatory during the week days made up for it during the weekends. Actually, just the opposite happened. Sedentary time increased nearly one hour each weekend day. Bradley Cardinal, a professor of social psychology of physical activity at OSU, co-authored both papers with Schary. Cardinal said sedentary behavior goes against the natural tendencies of most preschool-age children. “Toddlers and preschool-age children are spontaneous movers, so it is natural for them to have bursts of activity many minutes per hour,” he said. “We find that when kids enter school, their levels of physical activity decrease and overall, it continues to decline throughout their life. Early life movement is imperative for establishing healthy, active lifestyle patterns, self-awareness, social acceptance, and even brain and cognitive development.” In a separate study, Schary and Cardinal looked at the same group of participants and asked about ways parent support and promote active play. They found that parents who actively played with their kids had the most impact, but that any level of encouragement, even just watching their child play or driving them to an activity – made a difference. “When children are very young, playing is the main thing they do during waking hours, so parental support and encouragement is crucial,” Schary said. “So when we see preschool children not going outside much and sitting while playing with a cell phone or watching TV, we need to help parents counteract that behavior.”
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