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Should my child join a robotics team?

Posted on Jan 16, 2018 12:00:00 PM by Laurel Robinson

You may have been hearing about robotic teams lately, and wondering if it’s a good fit for your child. There are several robotics teams in the area, and they are worth looking into!  

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First, though, consider the cost and the demand on your schedule.  Teams may meet 2-3 times per week, and fees of $100-$300 may be due up front.  If there is not room in your schedule during the school year, look into a summer robotics camp.

A robotics team can start as early as age 6-10, with a lego-based league that is a more gentle introduction to robotics principles. By high school, the teams are still fun, plus hard work, and more oriented toward coding and technology. FIRST calls their Robotics Competition “the ultimate Sport for the Mind,” and quotes its high-school student participants as saying it is “the hardest fun you’ll ever have.” In addition to FIRST leagues and competition, there is also VEX Robotics with its own teams and competition schedule.

At any age, kids who participate in a robotics program can gain a variety of skills from the experience: in addition to analytical thinking, math, and coding, they will inevitably experience trial and error; problem solving, managing time, resolving conflict, working with a team. These are the kind of life skills that kids can only learn by doing.  

Reading and the Brain: Why is Reading Easy for Some Children and Not for Others?

Posted on Feb 20, 2016 6:00:00 AM by Kim Schlauch

reading and the brain

Consider this.  Children who read for 5 minutes a day are exposed to 182,000 words in a year.  Children who read for 20 minutes a day are exposed to 2 million words in a year.  The bottom line is that the more children read, the better they read, and the more they learn.

Unfortunately, in many cases, getting children to read for 20 minutes a day is easier said than done.  Some children simply lack the motivation to spend time reading and need parental encouragement in order to do so.  However, other reluctant readers may not like or want to read as a result of difficulties beyond basic motivation.

At a recent Liberty Christian School Coffee & Conversation, Mrs. Joan Collins, SpellRead Director, shared insights on how people learn to read, predictors of success in reading, reading difficulties and intervention.  Here is some of what she had to share with those who attended this informative session.

Oral Language vs. Reading Skills Development

When it comes to language development, while some aspects are innate, others must be taught.  For example, oral language, which includes receptive language, or the ability to listen to and make sense of English speech, as well as expressive verbal language, or the ability to speak and make oneself understood in English are natural and are developed in children in their early years.  On the other hand, reading and writing must be explicitly learned through conscious, applied effort.  In other words, reading and writing must be taught.


7 Essential Skills of Reading

There are seven sequential steps as it relates to developing the skills to read.  They are:

  1. Phonemic Awareness: Hearing the Sounds.  Phonemes, or individual sounds, are the building blocks of language.  Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify and manipulate the individual sounds within words.

  2. Phonics: Spelling the Sounds.  Phonics is the system by which 26 letters (graphemes), alone and in combination, combine in ways to encode words and meanings.  Instruction in phonics helps students gain knowledge of letter-sound correspondence

  3. Decoding.  This invloves the ability to attach sounds to letters that spell a printed word.

  4. Word Identification.  This is the ability to read a word at the level of automaticity.

  5. Fluency.  This is the ability to read text quickly and accurately.

  6. Vocabulary.  This is the knowledge of word meanings.

  7. Comprehension.  This is ability to construct meaning from text.

The first three skills, phonemic awareness, phonics, and decoding, form the foundation of the learning process and offer the greatest predictor of success in reading.  Furthermore, struggles at the foundation will have a trickle up effect.

Brain Function and Reading Struggles

In many cases, struggles with these foundational skills and the resulting poor reading performance may not stem from learning disabilities, but rather from dyslexia, a disorder resulting from a disconnect in the brain’s processing of graphic symbols.

Symptoms of this condition may include:

  • Delayed speech
  • Trouble recognizing rhyming words
  • Mispronouncing words
  • Directional confusion (left vs. right)
  • Multiple ear infections
  • Slow to acquire reading skills
  • Recognizes a word on one page but does not recognize the same word on the next page
  • Slow choppy oral reading
  • Letter reversals due to left-right confusion (i.e. b and d)
  • Difficulty completing reading or writing assignments independently

The presence of multiple symptoms may indicate a need for assessment and reading intervention.

Liberty Christian School currently works in partnership with Mrs. Collins and SpellRead to provide assessment and intervention options for families in our community who may be in need of these services.  For more information regarding this topic, please visit the SpellRead website.

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5 Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language for Children

Posted on Feb 16, 2016 3:00:00 PM by Kim Schlauch

foreign language class

Learning a foreign language can be a rewarding experience and open many doors for children and adults alike.  Additionally, making the effort to pick up a second language at a young age can offer benefits far beyond the ability to speak in another tongue.  Here are five benefits of learning a foreign language for children.

Strengthened Brain Development

When children are young, their mental receptors for language acquisition are very active and they can pick up a foreign language quickly.  Learning a foreign language can provide mental exercise for their brains, which can assist with the development of brain functions including memory, speech, and information processing.

Greater Ability to Focus

Research indicates that exposure to a second language plays a major role in cognitive development, leading to better attention skills.  Children who learn a foreign language at a young age can develop a better capacity to maintain focus, a key factor in academic success.

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Enhanced Music Skills

Studies have shown that children who study a foreign language tend to have better musical skills.  This is due to the fact that the brain uses the same neural mechanisms for music and foreign language generation.

Better Command of the English Language

Learning a foreign language can help children better understand how language works, including grammatical rules and language mechanics.  This knowledge can improve their grasp of language as a whole, including their primary language.

Improved Academic Performance

Children who learn a foreign language have the opportunity to become better thinkers and learners since it supports brain and cognitive development.   In addition, learning a foreign language helps reinforce core subject areas such as reading, social studies and math.  Studies have also shown that learning a foreign language can lead to higher SAT test scores.

In addition to all of these benefits, learning a foreign language can help children become more culturally well-rounded.

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