“Puberty Before Age 10: a New ‘Normal’?”

Puberty Before Age 10: A New ‘Normal’?


Published: March 30, 2012

One day last year when her daughter, Ainsley, was 9, Tracee Sioux pulled her out of her elementary school in Fort Collins, Colo., and drove her an hour south, to Longmont, in hopes of finding a satisfying reason that Ainsley began growing pubic hair at age 6. Ainsley was the tallest child in her third-grade class. She had a thick, enviable blond-streaked ponytail and big feet, like a puppy’s. The curves of her Levi’s matched her mother’s.

Elizabeth Weil will discuss this article and other issues regarding early-onset puberty on The Times’s Facebook page at 3 p.m. E.S.T. on Monday, April 2.

“How was your day?” Tracee asked Ainsley as she climbed in the car.

“Pretty good.”

“What did you do at a recess?”

“I played on the slide with my friends.”

In the back seat, Ainsley wiggled out of her pink parka and looked in her backpack for her Harry Potter book. Over the past three years, Tracee — pretty and well-put-together, wearing a burnt orange blouse that matched her necklace and her bag — had taken Ainsley to see several doctors. They ordered blood tests and bone-age X-rays and turned up nothing unusual. “The doctors always come back with these blank looks on their faces, and then they start redefining what normal is,” Tracee said as we drove down Interstate 25, a ribbon of asphalt that runs close to where the Great Plains bump up against the Rockies. “And I always just sit there thinking, What are you talking about, normal? Who gets pubic hair in first grade?”

For the rest of the article, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/magazine/puberty-before-age-10-a-new-normal.html?_r=1

Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education

From ted.com:

In 1999, Sugata Mitra and his colleagues dug a hole in a wall bordering an urban slum in New Delhi, installed an Internet-connected PC, and left it there (with a hidden camera filming the area). What they saw was kids from the slum playing around with the computer and in the process learning how to use it and how to go online, and then teaching each other.

In the following years they replicated the experiment in other parts of India, urban and rural, with similar results, challenging some of the key assumptions of formal education. The “Hole in the Wall” project demonstrates that, even in the absence of any direct input from a teacher, an environment that stimulates curiosity can cause learning through self-instruction and peer-shared knowledge. Mitra, who’s now a professor of educational technology at Newcastle University (UK), calls it “minimally invasive education.”

“Education-as-usual assumes that kids are empty vessels who need to be sat down in a room and filled with curricular content. Dr. Mitra’s experiments prove that wrong.”

Linux Journal

[ted id=949]

Dr. Ronni Cohen-Sandler’s thoughts on motivating children

See below for an excerpt from clinical psychologist Dr. Ronni Cohen-Sandler’s newsletter.

Boosting Motivation

For parents who value education, one of the greatest challenges is raising kids who just aren’t all that interested in school. It’s exceedingly frustrating to watch teens and tweens procrastinate, do the minimum work to get by, and shrug off lackluster grades. Mothers and fathers who see it as their parental responsibility to help kids achieve their potential often step in, doing everything they can to boost their children’s motivation and improve their scholastic performance.

Paging the Homework Police

Mothers and fathers I see in my practice often double-check assignments that teachers post online, sit down with their middle school students to monitor nightly homework, quiz their kids before tests, and supervise each and every step of long-term projects. Parents email their high school students’ teachers for weekly progress updates, pay their kids to take advanced classes, and offer rewards in return for desired results. Most recently, I witnessed parents promise a 14-year-old an iBook and a 15-year-old a brand-new car if they earned specific grades. The question is, do teens and tweens benefit from these interventions and incentives?

In my experience, when parents devote their evenings to supervising their kids’ assignments and test preparation, grades sometimes improve–at least temporarily. But lasting change is rare. Worse, these efforts are often completely ineffective. Just this week, two teens I see in therapy happened to describe their reactions to their parents’ reminders and “lectures” about school. Amanda, a high school freshman, said, “My mother’s nagging me about my homework isn’t going to make me more motivated.” Lloyd, a sophomore, expressed that his parents’ efforts, however well-intentioned, often backfire: “Every time my mother tells me to do something for school, it just makes me want to do it less, even if I had been intending to do it.”

For the rest of the article, go to: http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?llr=xya8vadab&v=001T68Z-93cJFaKBYBugZ27ql5UB1SSgKz9UXI-ICb5iiRuluw1oXKxKD4wJHLnkt2V2sPFhZvhCTt6D1otMTJWDAvnuHII479ObMdwiX0ZCtnr52E0qyXn4g%3D%3D

Local Speaker: The Impact of the Early Years on the Development of the Life-long Learner

 The Wonder Years Can Last Forever

The Impact of the Early Years on the Development of the Life-long Learner

By Douglas J. Lyons, Ed.D.

Executive Director, Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Greenwich Country Day School Performing Arts Center

8:30 a.m. Coffee

9 a.m. Presentation


In the past two decades, dramatic advancements in neuroscience have given researchers a better understanding of how children, adolescents, and adults learn. Scientists are discovering how memory works and what contributes to or interferes with good memory function. Two components of this research are particularly important for parents and teachers. These critical factors are the role of emotion in learning and the impact of the school environment in developing the ideal graduate, defined as the life-long learner.

After 40 years spent working with students and families, Dr. Lyons will share research and personal anecdotes that illustrate the influences that shape a child’s journey from innocence to maturity.

Doug Lyons has been the Executive Director of CAIS (Connecticut Association of Independent Schools) since July 2004. A graduate of Villanova University, Doug has a master’s and doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He began his career in public education, working for twenty years in the New Jersey public schools. In 1992, he left the superintendency in Mt. Lakes, N.J., to accept the position of headmaster at The Greenwich Country Day School, where he served for 12 years.


The GCDS Speaker Series, sponsored by the Parents Association, seeks to promote parent education by presenting interesting and pertinent speakers, authors, and educators for discussions and lectures. For more information, contact Cary Keigher at caryk@optonline.net or Polly Hanson at pollyhanson1@mac.com. Or call Andrea Mann 203-863-5651. Lectures are free of charge.


“In South Korean classrooms, digital textbook revolution meets some resistance”

From a Washington Post article:

By , Published: March 24

The Washington Post

SEOUL — Five years ago, South Korea mapped out a plan to transform its education system into the world’s most cutting-edge. The country would turn itself into a “knowledge powerhouse,” one government report declared, breeding students “equipped for the future.” These students would have little use for the bulky textbooks familiar to their parents. Their textbooks would be digital, accessible on any screen of their choosing. Their backpacks would be much lighter.By setting out to swap traditional textbooks for digital ones, the chief element of its plan for transformation, South Korea tried to anticipate the future — and its vision has largely taken shape with the global surge of tablets, smartphones and e-book readers.

But South Korea, among the world’s most wired nations, has also seen its plan to digitize elementary, middle and high school classrooms by 2015 collide with a trend it didn’t anticipate: Education leaders here worry that digital devices are too pervasive and that this young generation of tablet-carrying, smartphone-obsessed students might benefit from less exposure to gadgets, not more.For the rest of the article, go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/in-south-korean-classrooms-digital-textbook-revolution-meets-some-resistance/2012/03/21/gIQAxiNGYS_story.html?wpisrc=emailtoafriend

The Hunger Games Review

The “Hunger Games” movie premiered last weekend.  The book series is extremely popular with many of our Middle School students, and the movie is a little controversial as it includes many violent images.  The movie is rated PG-13 and I imagine some parents are debating whether it is appropriate for their daughters.

Have you seen the movie?  If yes, please use the “comment” feature of this blog post to share your thoughts on the appropriateness for middle schoolers.

Here’s the review from commensensemedia.org:

Parents need to know that although the bestselling Hunger Games books are enormously popular with tweens, there’s a clear distinction between reading about violence and seeing it portrayed on screen. Developmentally, the 10- to 12-year-olds who’ve read the book may find the movie’s visceral, sometimes bloody teen-on-teen violence upsetting — especially the brutal scene that opens the Games, in which several teens are slaughtered by their fellow contestants. Even young teens need to be mature enough to deal with the 20+ deaths in The Hunger Games; characters are viciously dispatched with various weapons — including spears, arrows, and swords — as well as by having their necks broken, their skulls cracked, and their bodies ravaged by carnivorous and poisonous creatures. Despite the violence (which is, overall, less graphic than the novel’s descriptions but is still very intense), the movie explores thought-provoking themes about reality television, totalitarian government, and screen violence as entertainment. And Katniss, the main character, is a strong heroine who’s resourceful, selfless, and a true survivor. Her mentor, Haymitch, is initially depicted as a cynical drunk, but he ultimately proves to be a valuable ally.

Positive messages:Thought-provoking, complex messages. Teamwo…Thought-provoking, complex messages. Teamwork and loyalty are valued, but deception and artifice are also rewarded. The will to survive, the fragile relationship between a dictatorial government and its oppressed people, rebellion as a preferred option to obedience, and the distinction between image and reality are all addressed. There are many discussion-worthy themes in the movie, and they touch on everything from the micro/personal to the macro/political.
Positive role models:Katniss is a strong, resourceful, capabl…Katniss is a strong, resourceful, capable young warrior who looks after those she loves. Her entire journey is based on a selfless decision to take her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games. Despite the horrific circumstances that she and Peeta are forced into, they find a way to stay true to themselves and protect each other (and, in Katniss’ case, Rue). Peeta encourages Katniss to not let the Capitol make her a pawn in their game. Gale, Katniss’ unconditional friend, promises to provide for her family in her absence. Haymitch is a flawed but ultimately committed mentor to Katniss and Peeta; Cinna offers Katniss sympathy and support.
Violence:As in the book, The Hunger Games’ central “pageant” …As in the book, The Hunger Games‘ central “pageant” is a televised battle to the death: 24 children between the ages of 12 and 18 (12 girls, 12 boys) are selected to participate in a bloody reality show-style contest in which there’s only one victor. There’s a pervasive sense of peril and tension, and once the Games start, there’s an immediate bloodbath, with vicious weapon use, a fair amount of blood, and several dead bodies — though the quick editing means that the most gruesome bits aren’t lingered on. The young combatants proceed to die from spears, arrows, knives, deadly insect bites, attack by genetically modified dog-like creatures, and poisonous berries (some deaths occur off camera). A couple of the tributes also have their necks snapped or heads bashed. The Gamemakers purposely devise situations to try and kill off characters, including a scary fire with fireball projectiles; another scene has a large explosion. Katniss is badly burned; Peeta has a nasty knife injury. Earlier in the movie, there are scenes of characters practicing with weapons and demonstrating their deadly skills, as well as gory snippets of footage from earlier Games. Scenes of a riot and subsequent retaliation by government forces.
Sex:Peeta reveals that he’s had a crush on Katniss since they…Peeta reveals that he’s had a crush on Katniss since they were kids, and the two kiss a couple of times, one time pretty passionately.
Language:Very infrequent use of words like “damn,” “hell,” an…Very infrequent use of words like “damn,” “hell,” and “oh my God” (as an exclamation).
Consumerism:No product placements in the film, but the viral …No product placements in the film, but the viral marketing and merchadise tie-ins for the movie (and books) include a line of themed nail polish, as well as apparel, jewelry, games, and more.
Drinking, drugs, & smoking:Haymitch is often drunk; he ha…Haymitch is often drunk; he has a drink in his hand for the first half of the movie — though as he gains focus/motivation, he drinks less. Several dinner and party scenes show adults and teenagers drinking various brightly colored beverages/cocktails.
For information on how to talk to your kids about the movie, go to: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/hunger-games

“The Dark Side” of Facebook

Facebook’s ‘dark side’: study finds link to socially aggressive narcissism

Psychology paper finds Facebook and other social media offer platform for obsessions with self-image and shallow friendships

Facebook mark zuckerberg

Too many ‘friends’? A psychology paper has found a link between Facebook and other social media and socially disruptive narcissism. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Researchers have established a direct link between the number of friends you have on Facebook and the degree to which you are a “socially disruptive” narcissist, confirming the conclusions of many social media sceptics.

People who score highly on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory questionnaire had more friends on Facebook, tagged themselves more often and updated their newsfeeds more regularly.

The research comes amid increasing evidence that young people are becoming increasingly narcissistic, and obsessed with self-image and shallow friendships.

For the rest of the article, go to: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/mar/17/facebook-dark-side-study-aggressive-narcissism 

Google’s First Female Engineer

Google Exec Marissa Mayer Explains Why There Aren’t More Girl GeeksMarissa Mayer Women In Tech

First Posted: 07/06/11 01:58 PM ET Updated: 09/05/11 06:12 AM ET

In 1999, Marissa Mayer, then a recent Stanford University graduate, joined a little-known startup with fewer than 20 employees that she calculated as having a two percent chance of success: Google.

Now, as a senior executive with the search giant, Mayer is one of the most powerful women in Silicon Valley. Her work at Google influences how hundreds of millions of people access information on the web and she plays a key role in shaping Google’s most important products, from the look and feel of its homepage to popular features like Google News and Gmail, as well as its more recent forays into location-based services.

One of the most iconic women in tech today, Mayer’s career path offers lessons for how to attract more women to a male-dominated field and undermines the assumption that to foster more female techies, it’s early or never. Mayer, who calls herself a “proud geek,” did not grow up obsessed with computers — she bought her first one in college — or with dreams of becoming the next Bill Gates. She wanted to be a pediatric neurosurgeon.

To read the rest of the article, go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/06/google-marissa-mayer-women-in-tech_n_891167.html?ref=women-in-tech

Creative Problem Solving That Led to Scientific Discoveries

From ted.com: “Adam Savage walks through two spectacular examples of profound scientific discoveries that came from simple, creative methods anyone could have followed — Eratosthenes’ calculation of the Earth’s circumference around 200 BC and Hippolyte Fizeau’s measurement of the speed of light in 1849.”

“Why Bilinguals Are Smarter”

Why Bilinguals Are Smarter

Harriet Russell

SPEAKING two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.

For the rest of the article, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-benefits-of-bilingualism.html