Homework blues | Handwriting clue to heart disease

Homework blues: Improving your child's study habits
Sep 05, 2008: Do you find yourself constantly battling with your kids to study and do their homework? You are not alone. The truth is, kids are not born with the study habits needed for them to do well in school. They must be taught.

Homework gives children a chance to review what they learned in class. It also teaches them to work independently and encourages self-discipline and responsibility.

Good habits are best formed at a young age, but it is never too late to start. Use the following guidelines as a place to begin with your kids. The more involved your children are in the discussion, the more likely they will develop good study habits that will follow them into high school and beyond.

* Determine a good study time. Some kids work better right after school; some need some downtime first. You may need to work around an after-school activity, team practice or religious school. Set a schedule and stick to it. If there is no homework one day, have them use this time to read or work on long-term projects. It's important for children to get used to studying every day.

* Get organized. Pin up a school calendar where your child can record assignments and then check them off when they're completed. Have pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, calculator and paper handy. This will also show how much you value their study time and space.

* Avoid interruptions. Take messages if the telephone rings and turn off the TV and cell phones. Don't let children play video games until homework is done. The fewer distractions, the better.

* Take a break. Research shows how long children in different grades can stay focused:

o First- and second-graders - about 15 minutes

o Third- and fourth-graders - about 20 minutes

o Fifth- and sixth-graders - about 30 minutes

Use a kitchen timer to allot 15 to 30 minutes for focused study, and then give your kids a five-minute break. This will help them be more focused during the set study time.

* Find a comfortable study space. Make sure that the study area has good lighting and is kept at a comfortable temperature. Provide a table or desk that has enough space for writing.

* Ask to see your child's work on a regular basis. Show interest in what your child is learning. Ask questions.

Many children have planners where they are required to write down their homework for the day or week. This is another way you can help them stay organized and on top of their assignments.

* Stay connected with the teacher. If you see grades that are below par, ask to meet or speak with the teacher to see what your child can do to improve. Most teachers are glad to give parents their school extension and/or e-mail address.

* Give children the responsibility for their own homework. Children need to know that ultimately, they are responsible for doing their homework and for studying. The parents' role is to provide support. If you put too much effort into your children's homework, they will not learn how to do it themselves. They will also not learn the consequences of being lazy and getting poor grades. Let your kids see that their own hard work can reap benefits they can be proud of.

Most important, emphasize progress in your children's school work - not perfection. At the end of a marking period, talk to your kids about how they can improve their grades. Let them know you have high expectations, but that the key is that they always do their very best. Putting extra thought and effort into their work should be rewarded, too.

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Handwriting clue to heart disease
A graphologist is conducting a study to find out whether handwriting can reveal the early signs of heart disease.

Christina Strang, from Wiltshire, compared handwriting samples of 61 cardiac patients from Swindon with those of healthy people.

Ms Strang says that when writing we rest the pen for milliseconds and these so-called "resting dots" could show possible heart malfunctions.

Her research showed twice as many "resting dots" among the cardiac group.

Ms Strang, 53, has worked analysing handwriting for 12 years and is based in Chippenham.

She was inspired to investigate the link between potential health problems and handwriting after learning about the work of Professor Alfred Kanfer.

Professor Kanfer, born in 1902, was a handwriting consultant in the Austrian government who was sent to Dachau concentration camp during World War II and then lived in the United States.

He worked with the American Cancer Society in the 1950s, exploring the possible early detection of malignant diseases through the analysis of handwriting.

Ms Strang said: "I managed to find a statistically significant difference in the writing of patients with cardiac disease and my control group.

"I've found one particular movement in the writing, although I actually believe there's far more than just the one link, and my research is going to be continuing, looking to see if I can find those other links as well.

"In the group I used, some had been diagnosed and some hadn't, so I'm hoping to do a completely new group of people who have not been diagnosed with heart disease and the idea is to see if I can pick out the ones that will ultimately be diagnosed."

She explains that she examines the number of "resting dots" - the place where the pen stops momentarily in the course of a stroke - as part of her analysis.

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Education for the forgotten children
Karachi: While the education system of the city is perhaps in its worst ever state, the education boards and government sector schools as well as the concerned authorities are frequently accused of corruption. Still there are people who have been devoting themselves to the deprived sections of the city without any interest of reward under the umbrella of particular organisations.

A worthy social effort, in this regard, by the Citizens' Education Development Foundation (CEDF) pertains to promoting education among less privileged children. The CEDF was founded in 1986 when a concerned citizen opened her own house and her heart for the well-being of children who lived in her own neighbourhood. Dr Naseem Salahuddin a well known doctor has been running several home-based schools and a mobile school for decades now to educate the forgotten children of our city.

The organisation started off with a single home-based-school at the founder's own house. Gradually the need was felt for more home schools in nearby Katchi Abadis of Gizri and Shah Rasool Baksh Colony. Later a bus designed as a school on wheels for about 40 children was purchased. This mobile school goes to the areas where there are either no schools to meet the demand for education.

According to the CEDF administration, the home-based-schools and mobile school are open for children who have never been to any school and live in Katchi Abadis around DHA. These children have missed formal schooling because of the financial inability, the absence of a school in their area, lack of transportation, social restriction on girls, or the apathy of parents who are themselves illiterate.

Presently, the CEDF has 13 home-based-schools with 274 students and one mobile school with 160 students. Each school runs a two-hour shift from Monday to Saturday with about 20 students of which about 50 per cent are girls. The CEDF also has a student sponsorship programme under which students graduating from the CEDF's home or mobile school get funds for purchasing books and uniforms for their higher education. The CEDF's student sponsorship programme sponsored more than 600 students in 2006 to attend the nearest government schools. For a mere Rs2000 a needy child receives education for a whole year, claims CEDF.

Organisations such as these are instrumental in promoting female literacy, as about 50 per cent of the students in the CEDF schools alone are girls. In some cases the educated girls have gone on to complete their matriculation degree or are in college while others are gainfully employed.

Dr Salahuddin while speaking about the foundation of the CEDF explained saying, "When I used to go to my workplace (Liaquat National Hospital), I would observe these deprived children from some 20 to 25 shanties near my house playing in mud and wandering about. I called their parents and offered to teach them, which is how my home school started." Later she arranged a teacher and even her own children helped. "My employee who is literate (Matric) also gave them basic education at my home that is how my first informal home school came into being," she said, adding, "I gave different incentives to students such as food, drinks, milk, eggs, ice creams etc to attract them to home school."

The school would be of two hours that these children attended including my maid's children, she continued. "I started off with some 10 children, which gradually increased and it became difficult to manage such a large number of students at one place. Therefore I asked my neighbours for another home school and then gradually more home schools opened. "We went door-to-door to ask parents send their children to home schools and from there we educated several children and sent them to nearby government schools," she added. Some 7,000 students were given basic education by home and mobile schools of the CEDF, while some 500 students are educated every year, claimed Dr Salahuddin. The News

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