The Learning Habit + Hyper

Rebecca Jackson, co-author of The Learning Habit.
A groundbreaking approach to homework that helps kids succeed in school and life.
Issues: Recent research on learning—what works and what doesn’t; managing our kids’ media use; supporting academic homework and reading; mastering time management; communicating effectively; learning to focus; developing self-reliance.

Timothy Denevi, author of Hyper.
A personal history of ADHD.
Issues: What it’s like to be a boy who can’t stop screaming or fighting or fidgeting; startling stats about ADHD (1/5 of high-school-age boys and 11 percent of all school-age children have been diagnosed with ADHD; the evolution of drug treatments; understanding this complex and controversial diagnosis.

Fly Me to the Moon—Well, Almost…

People have been fascinated with flight ever since the first human set eyes on the first bird. And even if we can’t do the actual flying ourselves, there’s something about launching things into the sky that’s almost as good. This week we had a chance to review three different toys that go up—way, way up—and come back down. One stays airborne for just a few seconds, the other two for at least a few minutes. All three have made it on to our current faves list, and we’re sure they’ll be on yours as well.

strat-o-slam poof slinkyStrato-Slam Rocket Battle Blast (Poof-Slinky)
When it comes to flight, this is about as low-tech as it gets (short of simply throwing something into the air). But the lack of flashing lights and whirring motors does nothing to detract from the high-fun levels. The design is simple: slide a foam rocket onto one end of a flexible hose that’s attached to an adjustable launching dock. The other end of the hose goes into a round chamber that’s a little bigger (and a lot quieter) than a whoopee cushion. Stomp on the chamber, and your rocket takes off. The harder you stomp, the higher it goes—up to 200 feet, according to the manufacturer. Hard to verify, but we can say that our rockets were so high up that we could barely see them. The Strato-Slam comes with six foam rockets and two launching docs, air hoses, and chambers, and is literally a blast. That second chamber more than doubles the fun by adding an element of head-to-head competition. For ages 5 and up. Retails for about $37.

hot wheels street hawkStreet Hawk Remote Control Flying Car (Hot Wheels)
Any self-respecting Pixar fan knows that cars can talk, make plans, and fall in love. But can they fly? If you ask Hot Wheels, the answer is a solid Yes, much to the joy of all those little (and grown up) boys and girls who can’t get enough of those miniature race cars. Made of light-yet-very-durable foam, the Street Hawk handles well on the road—as long as there isn’t much wind. When you and the kids get tired of gravity, switch to flight mode and you can fly your car as high as 200 feet. The lightweight construction makes doing airborne tricks easy. But it’s a little hard to control in the wind, and soft landings take a lot of practice. Fortunately, it’s such a great way to spend time with the kids that you won’t mind those minor inconveniences. Ages 8+. Retails for as low as $55.

sky viperSky Viper Camera Drone (Skyrocket Toys)
The bad news about Sky Viper is that if you want to master its four blades and six-axis gyroscope, you’ll have to put in some serious practice time. The good news is that it’s so engaging and entertaining that you (and the kids, if you let them near it) will be tempted to call in sick to play with it. The control unit has everything you need to do flips, barrel rolls, and other stunts (some are pre-programmed, others you’ll figure out on your own) and take video (up to 30 minutes) or stills (more than 1,000). Either way, it’s amazing what you can see from up there. The included data cable makes transferring images to your computer or YouTube a snap. The control unit requires 4 AAA batteries (not included) and the drone itself charges very quickly. It also comes with a very handy set of replacement blades. Ages 12 and up. Retails for around $80.

When Nutrition Guidelines Backfire

Dear Mr. Dad. A few weeks ago you wrote that parents shouldn’t try to force kids to eat their vegetables because it could backfire. I see the logic in having only healthy foods around the house and letting the kids decide how much they want to eat. But what are we supposed to do when they’re at school? Is there some way to get cafeterias and snack bars to serve only healthy foods?

A: Great—and very tough—question. Yes, it’s possible to get schools to serve healthy foods. This past summer, I read a great article about lunches at one school in France, where all the food is locally sourced and prepared (including freshly baked bread every day), the menus are reviewed by a certified dietician, and the only beverage is water. Unfortunately, attempts to nudge American schools in that direction have been both heavy-handed and unsuccessful.
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Dads: Don’t Let Your Kids Down

don't let your kids down

don't let your kids down

Fathers, if you don’t let your children work with you around the house and don’t slow down and transmit basic life skills to them, you are letting them down. Big time.

Which one is you?

Alex’s dad is busy all the time. He is a hard worker, a good provider, and can handle just about any household emergency that arises. Last week, the toilet clogged and threatened to overflow. Alex’s dad quickly lifted the float ball to stop the water, then began clearing the obstruction. Alex wanted to help, but her dad thought the job too messy and too urgent for a child. “Get back, this is important!” he yelled. Alex’s heart fell as she returned to watching television alone.

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What I Learned About My Struggle With Gambling Addiction

Contributed by James Kelly

I’m a gambling addict. What started as a simple after work activity with the guys from the office quickly spiraled into something that became an obsession. At the height of my addiction, I was gambling not only entire paychecks, but also taking advances on my future pay, selling things from my own house, and even borrowing money from friends and relatives. I was past the point of being able to call myself a recreational gambler. I was an addict.

I needed help. Luckily, I sought treatment. My wife and I started researching gambling rehabilitation centers, and decided on one based on its proximity to my home. It helped that it was a male-only facility with experts on staff that were well-versed in the nuances of addiction.

Here’s what I learned:

It’s a disease.
My wife, my friends, my family… they all thought that this was as simple as me stopping. What they didn’t realize is that the brain of an addict is wired differently from those that aren’t. If I had stopped going to the casino, I would have just sought out other means to fulfill the high that was brought on by gambling. It became something that was no longer fun, but instead a drug that I needed in order to get through my day-to-day life.

I couldn’t fix it on my own.
I didn’t just wake up one day and decide that I might have a problem. The problematic behavior was quite apparent for months before I ever sought treatment. In fact, I knew that each trip to the casino was a bad idea, but yet I rationalized it internally and went anyway. I was constantly telling myself that I had discovered a new trick, a strategy, or had a hot tip that would ensure success and that this could be the one that brought me back into the black for the year. I couldn’t stop, and there was no amount of self realization that could make me not place that next bet.

The gambling addiction was merely a symptom of an addictive behavior.
I was an addict. The gambling part was merely a symptom, much like an addiction to alcohol, drugs, or sex. I was seeking a high that only my problem behavior could facilitate, and if it hadn’t been gambling  then it could have just as easily been alcohol.

Support following my treatment was just as important – if not more so – than the treatment itself. 
After I finished treatment, I was at a crossroads. I wasn’t gambling anymore, but I was at a point where I was only accountable to myself, and that was a scary proposition. I quickly sought additional care through the form of group and individual therapy that would help me to make it through this trying time. I needed someone – besides myself – to remain accountable to, and I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. My post-sobriety treatment kept me accountable for my actions, and may have been the biggest overall factor in my recovery. In fact, I’m still utilizing group therapy to this day, even thought I haven’t placed a wager in months.

It’s been months since I’ve placed my last bet, and I know now that I’ll never be able to place another one… even casually. I know that there are triggers in my behavior and if they aren’t avoided one harmless wager can send me spiraling back into the exact life that I chose to leave. I’m an addict, and that will never change. What will change, however, is how I deal with my addiction. I’m on the road to recovery now, and I’d encourage anyone who may have a problem to seek the help they need, before it’s too late.

James Kelly has had many personal struggles with addiction over the past 6 years but is able to take more steps forward when he is open about it. Writing, blogging, and talking about his personal development has put himself into an all-time best position with his family and friends and being open has gotten James this far, there is no limit to how far he can move past previous mistakes to a happy future.