Monday, March 31, 2008

Get in the groove with Hip Hop Harry

I've got a kid that loves to move. He will totally get down anytime he hears music. Like yesterday, we're walking down the street and suddenly he starts busting a move that would make a Chippendale blush.

Enter Hip Hop Harry and his new video Move Those Feet. Hip Hop Harry is an award-winning series from Discovery Kids that uses a lovable bear named Hip Hop Harry to not only teach some killer dance moves, but also life lessons. Hip Hop Harry aims to teach kids about language, problem solving, and social skills - all while having some good, rocking fun.

Monkey Man's favorite episode of the DVD was "Fancy Footwork," which features two sisters named Savannah and Sophina who are in a big dance contest - on different teams that are competing against each other. The girls learn that it's not necessarily about winning, but about doing the best that they can. He talked about that episode ALL DAY. And the day after that.

In the rest of the video, the kids learn fun ways to exercise, they rhyme words to make a poem to perform, and a girl who is a ballet dancer learns that hip hop can be fun too. The video isn't overly produced, but is fun and energetic. Monkey Man was completely entranced by the video for the entire length, which almost never happens - I could count the number of times that's happened on one hand!

I found the video to be fun, energetic, and colorful. Monkey Man might be toward the top of the age range that would find Hip Hop Harry engaging, but he certainly did enjoy it and I've seen him dancing around the house a lot more lately.

Hip Hop Harry's "Move Those Feet" is available through Amazon. Give it a try and bring out the dancing fool in your house!

Thanks to Parent Bloggers Network for another great product! Make sure you stop by and see what everyone is talking about!

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Help your child be a superstar with Your Child's Strengths

At a young age, I became acutely aware that I was different.

I began reading at 2-1/2 with a bang, reading a billboard on the side of Route 46 and shocking my mother to the point where she almost drove off of the road.

By kindergarten, I was already reading books way beyond my years and was sent to the library during class time so I could read books and write little book reports while the rest of my classmates were learning the alphabet.

By sixth grade, I discovered quite by accident that I had scored extremely well on the IQ test given by the gifted and talented department, leaving the director scratching her head and wondering what to do with me.

I was really blessed with a wonderful group of teachers that encouraged me at every turn. Miss Coupian, my second grade teacher, planned a special curriculum for me focusing on one of my passions at the time - the exhibition of the relics from King Tut's tomb. I dove into it head first, devouring everything that I could get my hands on. My sixth grade English teacher, Mrs. Herman, also took a special interest in me and I blossomed in her hands. I was a top student, a mainstay on the honor roll, and active in all kinds of school activities.

And then, there was high school. I was weak in math, and although I was in the advanced math class I soon learned that because I wasn't one of the teacher's favorites (and honestly, if you weren't a boy on his soccer team you didn't make the cut) I was considered persona non grata. I wasn't the only one - we would raise our hands, ask questions, request meetings with Mr. Magliaro after school, and honestly it was like we were aliens from another planet to him. He just could not get us to understand trigonometry at all. I struggled that whole year, going through two tutors and barely passing the class. Until that point I had been more than adequate at math - but that year was enough to break my spirit. I pretty much lost all interest in anything but English class and skated through the last two years of school. I was done. I felt like a failure.

Reading the first few chapters of Your Child's Strengths by Jenifer Fox brought it all flooding back for me. I remembered all of the joy that I had in school when I had things to do that I was interested in - I seriously loved school and couldn't stand to miss a day. It was high school, when suddenly I was thrust into an unsupportive atmosphere, where I lost that passion for learning.

Jenifer Fox has been a teacher and administrator for over 25 years, and is currently head of the Purnell School in Pottersville, NJ. She embraces a theory called "The Strengths Movement," where an individual's strengths are embraced and developed instead of focusing on weaknesses. In the book, she discusses three main strengths - Activity Strengths, Relationship Strengths, and Learning Strengths. With the workbook activities within the book, the reader is given the tools to discover these strengths and learn how to use these strengths in daily life. By picking out these strengths, it helps us determine what path to help our children down to help them use the strengths to be successful individuals not only in school, but in their lives as well.

I strongly agreed with Fox's belief that the school systems of our country have moved so far into the "teach to test" grind thanks to the No Child Left Behind Act that we have put the blinders on and judge children by their success or failure on standardized tests. Children are so much more than bubbles on a test form, and not everyone is a good test-taker. Given the opportunity to explore their strengths, rather than keeping to the "straight and narrow" mandated by the American educational system, there is no telling what our children could learn and accomplish.

The information in Your Child's Strengths is extensive, almost to the point of being overwhelming - but I strongly encourage readers to stick it out, and break the book up into portions over a number of days versus trying to plow through it in one day. Jenifer Fox provides such great insights into the American educational system as well as ways to unleash your child's strengths that it's worth reading every word. And not only should parents read this book - but it should be required reading for all teachers as well. It's that good.

So what happened to to me, the brilliant child prodigy, you might ask? Well, after floundering through my first year of college, I took a little time off to work and then reenrolled in the local community college. It was there that I had two amazing professors - Mr. Rohrer, who made history come alive in a way that I didn't know that it could, and then an adjunct professor (whose name escapes me) who finally got that math portion of my brain to work again and I passed with an A. Me, an A! You don't know how badly I wanted to rub that in Mr. Magliaro's face. It was such an amazing feeling, and it inspired me to get my associates degree in Education and then continue on for a BA in English.

Yeah, I'm working in construction for a living...but you know the beauty of it all? About 80% of my job involves math. And it's all thanks to that teacher that finally cracked the case of the Math-Addled Brain.

Stop by Parent Bloggers Network and read the other reviews of Your Child's Strengths - and thanks to PBN for giving me the chance to review this book. Your Child's Strengths is available through Amazon, where you can also find a list of cities where Jenifer Fox will be stopping off on her book tour!

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