SLEEP: The Key to Academic Success

When I ask my students about their plans for the weekend, I hear “SLEEP!” more than any other activity.  At first, I thought it was a fluke – like it must have been a full moon or something that caused so many kids to tell me they were tired that day.  Then, after taking notes after meeting with teens from different schools, socio-economic backgrounds, and levels of popularity, I am now convinced that sleep is the biggest problem students have in school. 

First, schools start far too early.  Most teens are up doing homework until 10:00-11:00 pm, and then they’re on their phones until the wee hours of the night texting friends.  If they also play video games, they may be up when the sun rises – and sadly, parents don’t know because kids won’t divulge info that will cause them to lose privileges. Yup, they’re smarter than we are.

That’s why when I designed the schedule for Merit Academy, classes start at 9:00 am.  So even when kids are up until midnight, they can still get at least 7 hours of sleep.  Besides, students perform better midmorning and early afternoon so why start classes at 7:30 or 8:00 am?

I just read a great article about all kinds of non-drug sleep aids on the market. THIM is a small device that you wear on a finger that trains your body to fall asleep sooner and sleep longer.  During the training period, it actually wakes you up as you fall sleep to retrain your body to fall asleep. 

There’s another device called Dreem.  You can take a quick survey to determine what type of sleeper you are and get tips on how to improve your sleep.  Their new technology will be available this summer.

Sleep is the single most effective thing you can do to reset your brain and body,” Dr. Walker of U.C. Berkeley said. And every teen needs to embrace this.  Because they are teens, they are not looking at the big picture and really need their parents to step in to give them healthy guidelines to develop good sleep habits.  These tools can lead to less stress and more clairvoyance – and we do want them to be happy, don’t we?

UC Updates!

Now that May 1st has passed and seniors have accepted to their colleges (or you’re waitlisted), here are some important updates.

May 13:  Analytical Writing Placement Exam (AWPE)

May: Freshmen on the waitlists will receive notifications about admissions. If you get accepted to a college on the waitlist, contact the college that you originally accepted to so they know that you will not be attending (and so they can offer your spot to one of their students on their waitlists)

June 1: Transfer SIR (intent to register) deadline

June 30: ELC Student Contact Info Submissions deadline

July 1: Official transcript deadline

July 15: Other documents deadline (AP or IB exam scores for freshmen) or (IGETC certification for transfers)

Stay on top of your grades.  Remember, if any grades drop below a C-, you may lose admission to your college. Contact them right away to discuss your options.  If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

Keeping Our Kids Safe in the Apple World

Last week I blogged about Android apps to keep our little ones from accidentally getting into our personal programs on our phones and tablets.  Today, let’s look at the Apple world.  The good news is that iOS has all kinds of kid-proofing devices that are easy to use.  We all use our iPhones and iPads to entertain our kids when we’re in a pinch so let’s be sure that our kids can’t end up in the wrong places on our devices.

Forget about passwords to get into your device.  If they’re already using it, they’ve got access to everything! But there are some smart things you can do to keep your kids safe.  Use Guided Access to prevent your kids from leaving a particular app.  This means that you can set your iPhone or iPad to have one app open and lock it for the kids to play with it. They won’t be able to use any other programs on your phone or tablet until you unlock it.  You can also set parental controls in the Restrictions menu in Settings.  You can block access to Siri and FaceTime, prevent apps from being installed or deleted, and place age restrictions on music and movies in iTunes.  In Safari, parental controls can filter website to block adult content or limit searches to pre-approved websites.

With a little planning, you can keep your kids safe and out of your private zones.


Keeping Kids Safe in the Android World

Let’s be honest, we all use our phones and tablets to entertain our kids when we’re in a pinch – right? – so let’s be sure that our kids can’t end up in the wrong places on our devices.

Forget about passwords to get into your device.  If they’re already using it, they’ve already unlocked the key to your entire database. But there are some smart things you can do to keep your kids safe.  Android phones and tablets allow you to set a PIN lock on any app. This means that you can set your phone or tablet to have one app open and lock it for the kids to play with it. They won’t be able to use any other programs on your phone or tablet until you unlock it.  If you want them to access several apps, set up a guest account where you select the apps and they can roam around in their account without having access to yours. To set this up, open the Google Play Store app, go into Settings, and then Parental Controls.

If you need longer entertainment – for say car rides or emergencies -- set up the YouTubeKids app on your phone to ensure that they’re watching the shows and movies you approve. You can also run Kids Place and Kids Zone so your kids can run the apps you’ve approved and nothing else.

For the lucky kids who have their own phones, use MMGuardian to remotely monitor and control which apps they’re using and to create a schedule for when they can be on.

But if your kids have too many apps to keep track of on your phone, it might be easier to use AppLock to put a PIN on your apps that you don’t want them to get into.

With a little planning, you can keep your kids safe from the unsavory part of the world until they’re old enough to deal with it.


Summer Plans for High School Students

If you’re a parent of a high school student, you’re probably getting a lot of pressure from other families to send your child to some expensive summer camps on prestigious college campuses and load them up with SAT-intensive classes.  Umm. You’re probably hearing about how your neighbor’s kid is booked solid with back-to-back camps and programs that cost thousands of dollars. And, you worry that your child won’t be able to compete in the college admissions race.

But, don’t worry that your child isn’t keeping up with the Joneses this summer because colleges aren’t looking for those kind of students. Nope!  They might want the parent, but certainly not an entitled child whose parents did the research, paid the exorbitant fees, and forced them to participate.

Instead, keep your kids home this summer and encourage them to do a project. That’s right.  By brainstorming about doing something on their own over the summer, they’ll be using their creative parts of their brains and implementing something that they build by themselves.  This teaches kids how to innovate – which will make them more confident and capable young people.  Isn’t that what every parent wants for their children?  We don’t want robots who regurgitate facts or complain about life – we want kids who solve problems by creating solutions.

And, colleges want these innovative thinkers, too!  They don’t want students who insist on having study guides for tests because they don’t want to learn anything that will not be on the test.  They want students who demonstrate that they can start projects that can solve problems or that they do what they are passionate about. 

If you want your middle or high school student to have a life-changing experience this summer, have them do a project!  Check out ProjectMERIT for ideas.

Learn more about specific classes and the many ways we can make your child's summer the turning point in their academic careers!

[Check out the brochure here!]

Massive Google Docs Phishing Attack!

I got a strange email this morning from someone that I knew, asking me to open a Google Doc that they had shared with me.  People send me a lot of Google Docs, so I didn't read it super carefully, and even my IT guy thought it looked ok.  Only upon closer inspection did we realize that this was a phishing scam!

This email had a normal "Open in Google Docs" button, but rather than most phishing scams, this one pretended to be Google Docs, and it asked for permissions just like Google Docs might need.  Everything looked legitimate, but unfortunately, Google Docs does NEED permission from you to access your contacts, because they already have it.  This was a third party that was harvesting email addresses.  What it did next was to send the SAME email that I received to everyone in MY contacts list, from ME.  Yikes!

I immediately sent out an email to everyone who received the phishing email from me asking them to NOT click the link, and with instructions on how to remove the permissions and on how to change their Google password if they DID click.  The response I got from people was great; people respond well to someone being proactive.  Google has apparently fixed the problem and deleted all of the emails from their servers so it cannot happen again, but just in case, here's what you do when something like this happens:

First, change your password.  It's pretty much impossible for someone to get a password out of Google's systems, even with permissions, but it's a good idea, just to be on the safe side.  To change your Google Password, click here:  (Log in if needed)

Next, remove permissions from any application that looks suspicious.  You can do this by clicking here:

This link will take you to the "Connected Apps & Sites" page, and you can see all of the third party apps that you have given permission to, along with the day and time the permission was given.  If you think you've been the victim of an attack like this, check the date.  It's a good idea to clean this section out from time to time anyway!

Finally, I think it's good karma to pass on removal instructions, so I asked the recipients of my apology email to copy and paste the instructions and send them on to their contacts if they clicked the link like I did.

Be careful out there!

It's Almost Summer - Time To Explore!

With 3 months off from the rigor of school, extracurricular activities, and that dreaded homework, plan time for your kids to discover new interests. 

Just because your kids prefer computer games, that doesn’t mean that you need to stuff them into computer camps all summer.  Try giving them new experiences to possibly tap a hidden passion

Merit Academy builds summer programs around each child to encourage this type of exploration.  Think: robotics, aquaponics, arduino, stained glass, environmental science, and more! We also have unique academic programs that focus on writing essays, reading comprehension, and math foundation building. 

Our one-on-one classes are scheduled around your other summer plans and vacations.  It’s time to find that niche class to spark your child’s interest in something new!

Learn more about specific classes and the many ways we can make your child's summer the turning point in their academic careers!

[Check out the brochure here!]

Stealthing IS Sexual Assault - Call Them Out!

STEALTHING is sexual assault, and it is unconscionable! What kind of perverted and selfish person would remove a condom during sex without consent (or awareness) from the woman?  Reporters and legislators are discussing how to prove that removing or purposefully tearing a condom was done and whether or not the act is illegal because it occurs during consensual sex.  I believe the best way to stop stealthing now is to shame the man.

Yup!  Remember what happens every time a prostitution ring is busted and the madame or pimp threatens to make public their “blacklist” of prominent men who frequented their prostitutes?  That fear of public shame is a more powerful deterrent than criminal prosecution

Men who stealth would have a short list of dates if everyone knew about their unethical practices. So why make women wait until the government spends months, or years, trying to label the act, define it, and then decide whether or not it is actually illegal?  Women could put an end to it immediately by simply posting who “stealthed” on social media and telling everyone they know.  Right? 

After all, the sex was consensual so the man and woman knew each other.  They probably hang out with the same friends and acquaintances; their sexual activity was probably not secret.  So when women don’t come forward, they are actually condoning stealthing AND they are putting other women at risk. This infuriates me.

Removing a condom puts the woman at risk of unwanted pregnancies, STDs, and emotional distress.  It’s a violation of the woman’s body and it’s a betrayal of trust and respect.  This has to stop now and women need to come forward to call out stealthers.  When women expose men for stealthing, we need to embrace them because they are the real victims here

75% of Kids Who Die From The Flu Weren't Vaccinated

Still pondering the vaxing vs not vaxing question?  Here’s a new study that just came out 2 weeks ago. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers found that at least 75% of the children who DIED from having the flu between 2010 and 2014 had NOT been vaccinated with a flu shot.  Hmm. That means that 3 out of 4 children died because their parents didn’t protect them. 

Brendan Flannery, an epidemiologist with CDC’s influenza division, said “This is more evidence for the flu vaccine providing protection against disease and the severe complications that lead to (flu-related) deaths.”

It’s time to get our kids vaccinated!



10 Books to Help Preschoolers Learn to Love Themselves

Seems like we’re all on edge because we really don’t have control of our future due to the lunatic in the Oval Office. As I flip channels, the news centers around uncovering lies and announcing really scary scenarios about him on the brink of starting a nuclear war, building oil pipelines, and restarting the coal industry.

Our tension fills the air and unfortunately our children often feel our stress. When parents have such uncertainty, it leads to self doubt in our children. 

Here’s a list of 10 books (compiled by Melissa Taylor) for preschoolers to help them get to know and love themselves – despite the world around them.

Be Who You Are!
by Todd Parr

The Things I Love About Me
by Trace Moroney

I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem
by Jamie Lee Curtis

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
By Patty Lovell

By David McKee

Giraffes Can’t Dance
By Giles Andreae

The Sneetches and Other Stories
By Dr. Seuss

You’re Here for a Reason
By Nancy Tillman

Red: A Crayon’s Story
By Michael Hall

Stephanie’s Ponytail
By Robert Munsch