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Sugar Awareness Week: The Effects of Too Much Sugar on Children’s Learning

Believe it or not, sugar doesn’t actually cause children to become hyperactive. That’s right! Although this myth has been closely held by many for a long time, it was proven without a doubt in a 1994 study that sugar has no effect on children’s energy levels. What a relief! Sugar does, however, have several interesting effects on kids’ learning. We all love sweet treats, but it’s important to monitor your children’s sugar intake.

Too much sugar can impede memory skills. Over-consumption of sugar has been proven in multiple studies to decrease memory span by literally “slowing down” the brain’s synaptic activity. Although a candy bar may be tempting before starting homework, some fruits or vegetables (or any healthy snack) will be far more beneficial to the learning process.

Sugar causes cravings. We love sugar because it activates our brain’s pleasure pathways. Sweet treats produce a reward response, and overconsumption can turn this into a cycle of endless cravings. There’s nothing wrong with having a sweet tooth, but keep in mind sugar is still a treat. Feeling hungry is a distracting feeling, especially for kids trying to complete their homework. A healthy snack will keep them satisfied far longer than a chocolate bar!

Too much can cause anxiety. Although the hyperactivity myth isn’t true, “sugar crashes” are a very real phenomenon. Consuming too much sugar causes our brains to constantly release serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a large role in our moods and emotions. Too much can deplete these reserves, leading to feelings of anxiety and depression. Teenagers are already dealing with physical and hormonal changes as it is, and studies have shown that they are even more prone to these sugar-related crashes.

Sugar has a long-term effect on learning. A comprehensive study at UCLA showed that a diet high in high-fructose corn syrup literally slowed down the brains of rats. Because of the numerous effects sugar has on brain pathways and neurotransmitters, the scientists in the study concluded that sugar “over the long term alters your brain's ability to learn and remember information.”

There’s nothing wrong with having the occasional sweet treat! Rewarding yourself with a candy bar, chocolate, or a piece of cake is a pleasure everyone should take part in. However, it’s still important to remember that your kids’ sugar intake should be moderated. We like sugar because it makes us feel good – but these natural effects can be habit forming and damaging to the learning process. Long-term over-consumption can lead to more serious health problems, like diabetes. For this year’s Sugar Awareness Week, we urge everyone to cut back on sugary foods!

Academic Success Formula: How Extraordinary Students Get Results

Chapter 2.1: Envisioning an ‘A’ Student: Developing a Growth Mindset

When a student is struggling in school, there is usually more to the issue than just academic abilities. Nearly every parent tells us that they know deep down something could be done to make school easier or more approachable for their student, but we often end up focusing too much on grades. At Tutor Doctor, we don’t believe “fixing” grades should be the true goal of tutoring. Although important, merely addressing grades is only a temporary solution. We believe that helping a student to develop their own positive strategies and attitudes towards education is essential to the learning process – and ultimately what leads to their own personal fulfillment.

Every student is truly unique, and there is no blanket solution that works for everyone. Grades are merely a reflection of the student’s academic habits, and no two students are exactly alike.

At eight-years-old, Emma was a well-liked student in her school, but often received average grades because of her tendency to be quiet in class. Emma was very social when it came to her hobbies and her friends, but lacked the confidence to participate in the classroom. When we gave Emma a math assessment, she completed 80% of it perfectly. The remaining problems were simply left blank – a classic example of how Emma, like many students, would “close up” when approached with concepts she didn’t understand. After working with Emma intently, she soon became engaged in the material, and was able to approach these problems with critical thinking and confidence. The issue holding Emma back was not her academic strengths, but rather her mindset when it came to effective learning. At Tutor Doctor, our goal is to help students develop a “Growth Mindset” – a more engaged and motivated attitude towards learning in general, even when challenged.


Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist, performed a detailed study to examine how a student’s mindset affects their overall performance in school. With thousands of students participating in the study, Dweck was able to divide them into two groups, one of which received brief training on the “Growth Mindset.” The results were staggering.


Here are some of the widely disproved beliefs held by the “Fixed Mindset” students:


As a contrast, the “Growth Mindset” group of students had a much more positive attitude towards learning and education in general:


Positively encouraging students to challenge themselves is more crucial to the learning process than fixing a low grade in a specific subject. Students need to be encouraged to make mistakes! We actually learn more when we make mistakes because they require us to examine our work to find where the error occurred. This has been proven scientifically as well – Dweck’s research from MRI scans shows that every time a student makes a mistake in school, a new brain synapse is formed. This is what the Growth Mindset is all about – accepting that concepts that challenge us are a good thing, and through perseverance and application, we CAN do it!


We have had countless students that, right off the bat, we know they will not benefit from conventional approaches to teaching. Until the student’s habitual response to learning, growing, and making mistakes has changed, the process will continue to get harder (and ultimately, the problem will worsen). Whether it’s a fixed mindset, fear, stress, or lack of interest – students have many different reasons for struggling in school. At Tutor Doctor, we believe there is more than the ‘A’ grade. Success and achievement can only come from a positive attitude towards learning, and we believe everyone has the potential inside them, just waiting to come out. Our brains are designed to grow and learn, and when we set our mind to something, there is no limit to what we can achieve!

Find out more about our book HERE.

Welcome the New Year with Tutor Doctor’s Goal Setting Tips

Are you planning to make a new year’s resolution? We suggest setting a new year’s goal instead! When you set a goal, you have a definite end result in mind that you are working towards. Some goals may be harder to reach than others. Whatever your dreams are for 2018, here’s some great tips to help you achieve your goals!

Categorize your goals by difficulty. Before trying to figure out the steps to achieve your goals, you should determine how difficult they are. A goal of “graduate from the college of my dreams” is a bit more difficult than, say, “get my driver’s permit!”

Estimate completion time. It’s also important to give yourself a time-frame when setting goals. Bringing up your grade in a certain class next semester might be a 5-month goal, but “exercise twice a week” may be a year-long goal (or more!). You need to think about how long your goal will actually take to complete before breaking down the steps needed to get there!

Be realistic. Although we’re sure “make a million bucks this year” is a goal everyone can get behind, try to be realistic about what can actually be accomplished in the near future! Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by trying to complete unrealistic goals.

Plan out the path. Now that you have a goal in mind, try breaking down the steps needed to get there. For example, say that six months from now, you’d like to be able to run a mile in 7 minutes. Right now, you can do 10 minutes. Every month, try to get 30 seconds faster. After two months, you’ll be at 9 minutes. Four months in, you’ll be trying for 8 minutes, and so on and so forth!

Find a way to measure your goal. It’s important that you have a tangible way to measure your progress towards achieving your goal. Rather than choosing a subjective or vague goal like “lose some weight” (a popular goal ever new year!), quantify it – “lose 15 pounds in 3 months.” If you don’t have a way to measure your progress, it’s hard to gauge how close you are to completing your goal (and to make necessary adjustments). With that in mind…

Determine if your goal is rigid or fluid. It is crucial to know how strict your goal is. If your goal is rigid, it means you aren’t willing to budge on the result. Sometimes it can be good to have rigid goals! Fluid goals are open to change and adaptation. For example, if your goal is to get into your top college of choice, it should not be a rigid goal, but rather a fluid goal. If you don’t get accepted to your dream school, you shouldn’t give up on going to college! Instead, go for an alternative. Life is full of unexpected changes, and generally larger/long-term goals are better planned with a fluid approach.

Find out what resources are available to you. Take advantage of local resources to help you advance towards your goal! Here’s some examples – if you want to get better at money management, sign up for a finance seminar. Want to raise your math grades? Find out what days extra help is offered at school. There’s plenty of resources out there – make sure to use them!

From all of us here at Tutor Doctor, we’d like to wish you all a very happy new year. Set your goals, plan a path, and make it happen! Most of all, follow your dreams. Let’s make 2018 a great year!

Family Activities During the Holidays

It’s that time of year again! The holidays are around the corner, and it will soon be a new year! Although it can be tempting to spend vacations sleeping in every day, you might want to try some of these cool family activities to keep you (and your loved ones) active and entertained during this holiday season!

Volunteer
As we’ve touched on in previous blogs, volunteer work is not only a great way to bond with your family, but also does wonders for your personal health. It’s a rewarding feeling to know your actions have directly helped another in need, and volunteering can be a wonderful family group activity. During the holidays, many volunteer organizations run themed events – for example, gift wrapping for donated toys that will go to less fortunate children. There’s no better way to get into the holiday spirit than giving to others!

Family traditions
Every family is different, but the feeling of enjoyment that comes from spending time with your family and continuing holiday traditions is universal! Whether you like to decorate with lights, pick out a tree, or scavenge for gelt – participating in family traditions are a great reminder of what makes the holidays so special to us: being around the people we love! If you don’t have a tradition, no problem – make one! Creating a new tradition is a ton of fun, and you can look forward to it again next year.

Watch a movie or play a game
Got a family movie or board game you’ve been putting off watching or playing? There’s no better time than the holiday season! If you and your family have some time off, it can be a lot of fun to marathon movies or partake in gaming activities together. Team-based games, like Pictionary or Charades, can be especially entertaining!

Cook some food
Regardless of your background or culture, eating delicious food around the holidays is a tradition everyone can get behind! Cooking and baking are fun activities to do with friends and family members, but the best part is seeing the reactions on people’s faces when they try your culinary creations. Many holiday sweet treats are great for family activities – try setting up a cookie decoration station and let your imagination run wild.

Go shopping or make a gift
Gift-giving is part of the holidays, and the feeling we get from giving a present to a loved one is truly something special. Some families like to go to a mall or store and “split up” so everyone can surprise each other with gifts. Or, if you have siblings, try teaming up to think of a great gift for mom or dad! Most importantly, keep in mind that the old saying “it’s the thought that counts” is still very true – it’s not about how expensive a gift is, but rather the effort and thought that went into it. Sometimes a handmade gift means more than anything that can be bought in a store.

During this cheerful time of year, we hope you enjoy spending time with your loved ones. From all of us here at Tutor Doctor, we sincerely wish you a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season!

The Best Way to Balance Study and Fun Over the Holidays

This time of year, many of our students will find themselves on a well-deserved break from school! Everyone should try to take a breather during the holiday season, but it can be hard to get “back into gear” when vacation is over. Most teachers give assignments over the holidays, and knowing how to balance study and fun can “make or break” your vacation!

Make a schedule. Regardless of what you have been assigned during the holidays, it’s generally always a good idea to make a schedule. If you are required to complete a reading assignment, try splitting up the pages into different days so you won’t get bogged down. If you’ve got an essay or a big project, plan out what days you’ll be working on it. The most common problem for students during the holiday break is procrastination. You don’t want to find yourself with only a few days left of vacation and a backlog of assignments to complete. That’s no fun! By making a schedule to stay organized, you can avoid these problems altogether.

Prepare for the return to school. Many students transition to a new semester when returning from holiday break. If you have preparatory assignments or classroom materials that need to be purchased, the holiday break is a great time to get it done! If you know you will need a new binder or notebook for your next semester of class, go school shopping and take advantage of some of those great holiday deals!

Get your family involved. Teachers often assign larger projects over the holidays because they know students will have several weeks at home to work on them. These big projects can be a lot of fun, but students often delay on starting the assignment and find themselves rushing to complete it at the last minute. At Tutor Doctor, we’ve seen all sorts of holiday projects – poster presentations, dioramas, scale models, science projects – just to name a few! These projects are usually more “hands on” than typical assignments and can be a great way to get your family involved (and spend time together)!

Don’t forget – it’s vacation! Most importantly, don’t forget to relax! After all, it is a holiday break! The holidays are a great time to unwind and catch up on life. Even if you do have assignments for school, you should still enjoy your vacation and time off. The main goal of our previous points – especially creating a schedule – is to maximize the amount of relaxation time you have! Many students procrastinate, and although this may temporarily allow them to ignore work, the problem doesn’t go away. You don’t want to be staying up until late the last week of the holiday break to rush through assignments when you should be using that time to enjoy the remaining days of your vacation!

As always, we wish you all a very happy holiday season! We want all of our students to keep up with their assignments, but don’t forget to have fun and enjoy your time off!

Great apps to help your children learn to code

Coding, the art of writing in computer language, is essentially the backbone of all technology today. From the apps on your cell phone to the headlights in your car, everything is designed and controlled by programming code. Considering that technology is a vital part of modern society, it’s no surprise that educational professionals are recommending kids start learning these skills early. Learning to code is similar a learning a second language, and it is easier to acquire if exposed to at a young age. A whopping 71% of all new STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) jobs are in the computing field! There is no better time to prepare for the future. Here are some great apps that focus on coding for kids!

Tynker is a fun app that makes coding approachable for all ages. Using colorful characters, fun minigames, and treasure collecting, students are given interesting coding-based challenges they must solve to progress. Tynker also works with interlocking blocks of code, so students can easily learn popular languages like JavaScript and Python. What’s also really cool about Tynker is that it shows students some of the real-life applications of code. Minecraft, an incredibly popular building block based adventure, is one of the most played video games in the world right now. Tynker allows students to create their own custom modifications to Minecraft, allowing them to make custom character skins, objects, and more! By doing this, students are able to directly see how coding is implemented in real world scenarios – in this case, video game programming!

Kodable is also a very cool visual-based app that teaches kids JavaScript, a great entry-level language. Kids direct cute characters along maze-shaped paths, collecting coins along the way, all while learning syntax and variables. Kodable is perfect for younger students (K-5), and their programs are even recommended for kids as young as kindergarten level. JavaScript is a fundamental programming language used in nearly all website design, so it’s definitely a great place to start!

CodeCombat almost feels like a video game, but it’s a fantastic code teaching app for all ages! Students are able to play levels and make changes to the code, allowing them to see the results in real-time. CodeCombat is a lot of fun for older students, and the creators can boast over 5 million players. The app is also available in many different languages – the service is so popular, it has already been translated into over 50 languages!

Daisy the Dinosaur is the perfect way to introduce code to young children. Best for ages 5 to 7, Daisy the Dinosaur allows kids to move Daisy using basic commands to learn the fundamentals of coding. Another great feature of this app is the split-screen setup – kids do all the coding on the top screen, and immediately see the results of their work on the bottom screen, causing Daisy to perform an action. This app is also completely free, so it’s a great starting point!

Coding skills are required to learn any programming language, and there is no better time to introduce your kids to these concepts. Technology is increasing rapidly, and we rely more and more on it every day. From the next smartphone to self-driving cars, coding will be responsible for many of the technological advancements of tomorrow. The future generation of programmers will be the kids that start learning code now, so don’t delay!

Why your kids should consider volunteer work

Volunteer work is a great way of giving back to your community, and also helps to foster a sense of personal self-accomplishment! Helping others actually has some surprising benefits that may not immediately come to mind when we think of volunteer work! Here are some great reasons to consider volunteering in your community.

Volunteering helps your community and the people around you. This is probably the most obvious benefit, and undoubtedly the main goal of what volunteer work is meant to accomplish! There are many forms of volunteer work out there, depending on what you are personally invested in. On a local scale, many choose to volunteer in soup kitchens during the holidays to ensure everyone has access to a hot meal. Others may choose to participate in “can drives” to create food and care packages for less fortunate families. Larger organizations often focus on even bigger projects – for example, Habitat for Humanity works to build affordable homes for low-income families. Volunteers are directly responsible for building these homes, and you can be a part of it too!

Volunteering is good for your health. Believe it or not, volunteer work is seriously beneficial to your personal health, both mentally and physically. Volunteers feel a sense of pride and accomplishment from knowing their actions directly helped another in need. Researchers have proven this by examining brain activity and hormone levels in volunteers; helping others makes us feel happy, and volunteer work can even be a great way to combat anxiety or depression. Volunteers often report an increase in their self-confidence as well. It’s a known fact that altruistic behavior – the practice of selfless concern for the well-being of others – helps us to build self-esteem, positive attitudes, and a sense of purpose in our communities. Multiple studies have also shown that volunteers reap physical health benefits as well – lowering your risk of heart disease, decreasing high blood pressure, and improved cognitive skills, just to name a few!

Volunteering looks great on college applications. Volunteer work is a fantastic way to give yourself the extra “edge” on college applications. Extra-curricular activities are always a plus for college applications, and many schools weigh volunteer work very highly when making admission decisions. Many prestigious universities – including UC Berkeley, Dartmouth College, Johns Hopkins University, Carnegie Mellon University, and plenty others – consider volunteer work to be an important factor when evaluating a prospective student’s qualifications. In fact, in a survey of admission officers from 32 of the top universities, 70% said they preferred to see a student that focused on a specific volunteer mission. Of those same officers, a whopping 92% said they were more impressed with a student that spent four years volunteering at a consistent organization. In other words, by choosing a cause you are passionate about and doing consistent volunteer work at an organization that addresses these issues, you can give yourself a serious edge over other applicants.

There’s really no reason not to volunteer – between the numerous health benefits, investments in community pride, and professional advantages, volunteering is an activity everyone should consider participating in!

Why your kids should consider volunteer work

Volunteer work is a great way of giving back to your community, and also helps to foster a sense of personal self-accomplishment! Helping others actually has some surprising benefits that may not immediately come to mind when we think of volunteer work! Here are some great reasons to consider volunteering in your community.

Volunteering helps your community and the people around you. This is probably the most obvious benefit, and undoubtedly the main goal of what volunteer work is meant to accomplish! There are many forms of volunteer work out there, depending on what you are personally invested in. On a local scale, many choose to volunteer in soup kitchens during the holidays to ensure everyone has access to a hot meal. Others may choose to participate in “can drives” to create food and care packages for less fortunate families. Larger organizations often focus on even bigger projects – for example, Habitat for Humanity works to build affordable homes for low-income families. Volunteers are directly responsible for building these homes, and you can be a part of it too!

Volunteering is good for your health. Believe it or not, volunteer work is seriously beneficial to your personal health, both mentally and physically. Volunteers feel a sense of pride and accomplishment from knowing their actions directly helped another in need. Researchers have proven this by examining brain activity and hormone levels in volunteers; helping others makes us feel happy, and volunteer work can even be a great way to combat anxiety or depression. Volunteers often report an increase in their self-confidence as well. It’s a known fact that altruistic behavior – the practice of selfless concern for the well-being of others – helps us to build self-esteem, positive attitudes, and a sense of purpose in our communities. Multiple studies have also shown that volunteers reap physical health benefits as well – lowering your risk of heart disease, decreasing high blood pressure, and improved cognitive skills, just to name a few!

Volunteering looks great on college applications. Volunteer work is a fantastic way to give yourself the extra “edge” on college applications. Extra-curricular activities are always a plus for college applications, and many schools weigh volunteer work very highly when making admission decisions. Many prestigious universities – including UC Berkeley, Dartmouth College, Johns Hopkins University, Carnegie Mellon University, and plenty others – consider volunteer work to be an important factor when evaluating a prospective student’s qualifications. In fact, in a survey of admission officers from 32 of the top universities, 70% said they preferred to see a student that focused on a specific volunteer mission. Of those same officers, a whopping 92% said they were more impressed with a student that spent four years volunteering at a consistent organization. In other words, by choosing a cause you are passionate about and doing consistent volunteer work at an organization that addresses these issues, you can give yourself a serious edge over other applicants.

There’s really no reason not to volunteer – between the numerous health benefits, investments in community pride, and professional advantages, volunteering is an activity everyone should consider participating in!

Great Educational Apps for All Ages

At Tutor Doctor, we think technology is awesome! When it comes to “apps”, people often think of social media, entertainment, or email. Believe it or not, there are actually a ton of great educational apps that help make the learning process fun and engaging! Here are three of our top picks, which are great for students of all ages.

  1. Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a fantastic app that offers a multitude of online classes, which include (but are not limited to) math, science, computing, arts, humanities, and test prep. The best part is that Khan Academy is completely free! You can use this app on any platform, whether you’re at home on a computer or on-the-go using your phone. Younger students are given an assessment test that effectively places them at the right grade and difficulty level. By employing educational videos and practice problems, Khan Academy has proven to be a viable option for “outside the classroom” education. In fact, Khan Academy is now backed by the US Department of Education, so we highly recommend taking advantage of this free app!

  1. Duolingo

Duolingo is one of the best language-learning apps out there. Using fun educational games and visual aids, Duolingo makes learning a foreign language easy and accessible to students of all ages. Duolingo offers a huge array of languages to choose from, including Spanish, French, German, and Italian. Duolingo packs a huge amount of content into a small app – 23 languages and 68 courses are currently offered. Plus, it’s completely free! The creators of Duolingo say that 34 hours in the app is equitable to a semester of class at school, so if you’re looking for a convenient way to learn foreign language on your own time, Duolingo may be a great option for you!

  1. Udacity

Udacity is a best for older ages, including high school and college level students that want to learn and pursue new career paths. Udacity offers courses from highly in-demand industries, often in technology. There are some very cool classes on Udacity – Web and App Design, Virtual Reality Development, Self Driving Car Technologies, and Artificial Intelligence – just to name a few! In fact, Udacity offers “nanodegrees” in these field-specific areas. Although you can expect to spend $2000 USD for a full set of nanodegree courses, Udacity is so confident in the program that they back up their services with a job guarantee: if you can’t find a job upon graduation, they will pay for your tuition. For students interested in entering modern career paths and working with technology, Udacity is a great place to start!

 

Apps are an awesome way to learn! Although it can be tempting to check out that new cat video someone just sent you, we recommend checking out some of these great educational resources next time you have some free time. We think you will be impressed at how these apps utilize and take advantage of technology to make learning more fun and engaging. There are tons of other great learning apps out there, so don’t hesitate to browse your app store and challenge your mind!

Tips to Help Tackle Cyberbullying

“Trolls,” as they are known on social media, can be described as this generation’s new bullies. However, unlike traditional bullies, social media trolls often have the advantage of remaining completely anonymous – and as a result, have little risk of repercussions. Social media can be a great platform that helps people all over the world to stay connected, but it’s important to keep an eye on what your kids are being exposed to. If you discover that your child is being bullied by a troll, here’s a few tips that may help:

Remind them that social media is not real life. Although this may seem rather obvious, a reality check is always a good thing. The New York Times recently highlighted a study that documented the average teen clocking in 9 hours per day using some form of online media. With so much exposure, it can be easy for kids to blur these lines and take the harassment personally.

Report the behavior. Every major social media site takes trolling and cyberbullying very seriously and provides a corresponding form to report it. Several social media websites are implementing keyword filters to help block abuse. When you report trolling, you are helping these networks to improve their prevention tools.

Let them know they aren’t the only one going through this. Unfortunately, bullying is widespread. One in three students experience traditional bullying, and a whopping 34% report being exposed to cyberbullying in their lifetime.

Try not to downplay how serious this is to them. Although it can be difficult to understand why kids are so affected by what people (usually strangers) say to them on the internet, it’s important to take these issues as seriously as they do. Very sadly, there has been a substantial increase in cyberbullying-related teen suicides over the last few years. Bullying is bullying, regardless of the delivery, and trolls can be just as hurtful.

Tell them not to engage. The best thing to do is to immediately block the troll and ignore them. As with most bullies, trolls are hoping to get a reaction from their targets. By responding, you are essentially “feeding the flames.” In general, trolls will move on if they don’t get a response. If the troll refuses give up, continue to not engage and report the user.

If it gets bad, report it to the police. If at any point personal information is distributed or the harassment begins to involve threats of violence or stalking behavior, call the police immediately. Until recently, there were no laws addressing cyberbullying. Now, however, it is considered an extremely serious crime that can result in a felony charge, or even jailtime.

Explain to them why people bully to begin with. Ultimately, it’s important to explain to your kids that bullies only do what they do because they themselves are unhappy. Kids that are bullies generally have low self-esteem and feelings of powerlessness. This behavior directly drives their hostility towards others that don’t have these same feelings.

As we mentioned earlier, social media can be a great way to keep in touch with people, and studies have shown that these platforms even help encourage learning by providing students with access to a vast amount of knowledge and information. However, it’s important to keep an eye on what your kids are being exposed to on social media – and watch out for trolls!

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