In This Issue
Food for Thought: Executive Functions in the Kitchen

We've all been there. It's 7:30 on a weeknight. You've worked hard all day and are starving, but there are no leftovers, or not enough to make a full meal. Your fridge is filled with an assortment of unprepared healthy foods: raw kale, half a cucumber, two raw potatoes, and a pack of still-frozen uncooked chicken thighs. How long will it take to combine these ingredients into something that everyone will eat? You're hangry, and DiGiorno ends up on everyone's plate for the third time this week.     
With many people stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we supposedly have more time to cook or prepare fresh meals. I don't know about you, but I can't say that I have all the time I would like to do everything I dream of, even now. However, more and more research is emerging that shows what we eat affects the health and function of our brain, and it's in our best interest to eat in a way that supports our mental capabilities. With that in mind, I'm making an effort to incorporate more organization and planning into my meals so that I can successfully eat healthy foods. 
Make a plan 
  • Plan out your week of meals so you don't need to go to the grocery store five times a week.
  • Make a list before going to the grocery store and check to make sure that you indeed don't have those ingredients before leaving home. 
  • Set reminders on your phone or schedule specific meals for certain days, especially if you need to use an ingredient before it expires. 
Time management 
  • Use our  Guess/Actual Timesheet to learn how long it actually takes to prepare some of your favorite healthy meals so that you can schedule them appropriately. 
  • Make a list of the different things you want to cook and how long they take. Can you cook several things in the oven at the same time? Can you multi-task if two foods need to be prepared simultaneously? 
  • Don't have time in the mornings? Make overnight oats the night before! If a smoothie is all you can stomach, cut up ingredients over the weekend and put them into serving-sized bags that you just need to dump into the blender.  
Nobody is perfect, and we shouldn't feel ashamed of doing the best we can in our busy lives. However, incorporating some of these tips might help you pull off a few well-planned meals throughout the week and teach your children healthy habits. After all, executive functioning skills are as important for work and school as they are for home life!

September 2020
Preparing for a New School Year in the Age of COVID
These last six months have been unusual, to say the least. COVID-19 severely altered our daily lives, and while it is impossible to determine who was impacted the most, many people would agree that children experienced a uniquely difficult time. The sudden transition to distance learning, where they had less classes, less homework, and less structure, was jarring. Many students lost motivation and found it challenging to put forth effort. With a new school year upon us in times that are still uncertain, many parents are rightly concerned that their children might still lack that motivation - especially since many schools are using hybrid models or engaging in virtual-only learning. There are several steps you can take to help ensure that your children are successful this school year. 

Similar to the end of the previous school year, many students will find themselves taking classes from home again. While some preferred this change, many struggled to remain focused or motivated. Here are key things you can do to create an environment that is conducive to productivity: 
  • Create routines. Children need structure to help them remain grounded, and creating daily routines can help provide stability in these odd times. From waking up at the same time every day to eating lunch at the same time each day, it is important to keep students on a routine. After they receive their virtual learning schedules that detail when they have live classes, have your children fill out time logs to help them manage their time and plan in advance when to work on assignments. 
  • Set boundaries. For many children, taking classes at home makes it feel as though they are in school 24/7, and that can quickly deplete their interest in completing their work. There should be a clear separation from "school" and "home" when virtual learning begins. For example, children should complete their schoolwork in a specific room or section of a room - ideally, not their bedroom. If they come to associate one particular space at home with "school," this can reduce distraction and procrastination. 
  • Manage technology. Our children will be on the computer much more than usual given that their classes will be delivered electronically. It is extremely easy for students to have a class open in one tab and a YouTube video in another, as their teacher cannot see what they are doing. If technology proves too big a distraction, using website-blocking software can help students use their devices responsibly. Additionally, when in a live class or completing homework during scheduled work periods, students should leave their phones in a separate room so that they do not feel tempted to distract themselves from their assignments.

Even during a normal school year, it can be challenging for students to put forth effort if they do not feel motivated. When students do not see a purpose to a task or perceive it as too difficult or boring, they are apt to avoid it. Virtual learning can exacerbate this tendency, but there are many things you can do to help your children feel more engaged with their schoolwork.
  • Be creative. With children learning from home, it is important to encourage them to find fun ways to interact with their material. For example, if your children love video games, have them create a school avatar, one whose quests involve passing tests, reading, and posting in a discussion forum. Using tools such as Bitmoji or Habitica can lend a strong sense of creativity to schoolwork, which can aid students in feeling more invested in their academics.
  • Create goals. After the first week of school, where students will gain a better understanding of their workload and teachers' expectations, encourage your children to set daily, weekly, and monthly goals for themselves. Creating this sense of purpose can help students recognize that completing a certain task will enable them to reach a personal goal. Your children should write these goals down and place them in a noticeable location so that they can easily refer to them. 
  • Set up weekly meetings. Receiving feedback is a simple but effective way to help students maintain motivation and push themselves to try harder. Each week, your children should meet with a certain teacher (or parent, if they so desire) to review progress for the week and check in on goals. This is a great time to track your children's progress to help them become more comfortable with learning in a new format. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way our children learn, but that does not mean that the learning stops. Creating a productive home setting and modeling different ways to maintain motivation are just two important steps to ensuring that this school year begins on a strong note. Setting up extra mentoring sessions with your children's Educational Mentor or Speech-Language Pathologist at Thinking Organized can also help children adjust to virtual learning. The crucial thing to remember is that students can thrive in a virtual learning environment when given the right tools!