When it comes to paying for college, be realistic and do your homework

It’s that time of year when families are mentally processing their high school senior’s college financial aid award and quietly freaking out. I know I was doing that last year, and I had researched my patookie off to learn the costs of my daughter’s college choices in advance. We used net-price calculators to gauge financial aid, yet we still got caught up in hoping for a stratospheric windfall from one of her preferred schools.
A couple colleges were generous with aid — in fact, they met our “need” — but that pesky “expected family contribution” on our FAFSA was still ours to pay. We live in a state whose public schools don’t offer big scholarships to anyone, and our EFC equals the cost of an in-state college, so living at home and commuting was the only cheaper option. At least I was somewhat mentally prepared for the price tags of the colleges she had applied to.
But many families have that deer-in-the-headlights look right now because until they received the financial aid letters this spring, they had no idea how much college would cost. A friend recently posted on Facebook how angry she was that our state’s flagship school wasn’t offering her daughter any need-based aid other than a small loan. I remember that feeling from last year. My straight-A daughter was accepted to the same university, and of seven colleges, it was the only one that didn’t offer her a dime. I was mad. But it was kind of my issue. If I had dug deeper, I’d have learned that, as a rule, this school doesn’t give scholarships to in-state students, even those who are top scholars. The paltry scholarships it does award are reserved for nonresidents, and I could have told my friend her daughter wouldn’t get any money. Still, it’s hard not to hope.
That’s the crux of it, though. We can moan and groan about college costs, but it’s up to us to do our homework because hope isn’t a strategy. Deciding at the last minute — like this young man and his family did — to take on burdensome debt isn’t in our young people’s best interest. Or our families’.
The hard part, of course, is when no college is affordable. The sad truth is that college costs have increased so much, so quickly that many middle-income folks can’t keep up, even if we plan carefully. Because, you know, the cost of living.
But it’s us regular income folks, especially, who need to research cost. For most, that means not getting caught up in a brand-name school. Sure, if your kid is an amazing scholar who’s found a cure for cancer, there’s room for aiming high, but make sure their college list includes a few non-brand-name schools too. Don’t make kids crazy with stress thinking that those colleges that fully meet need are the only answer. Those are tough schools to get accepted to, so make sure they have an affordable backup plan.
In short, go where the money is. It won’t be at the highly selective colleges. It won’t be at those California UC schools either because those are hot and they’re public. It might mean a regional state school. It might mean commuting. That doesn’t mean kids should rule out selective colleges entirely. I know students attending selective colleges on good need-based aid, including my daughter. But her college still wants a quarter of our income (the same as the cost of a public in-state school), because that’s how our FAFSA rolls.
Information on college costs abounds; families just have to take the time to learn about it. Yes, families are busy, but this is one big enchilada you and/or your kid are paying for. And you can’t start teaching yourself about college costs in the spring of your child’s senior year. That’s way too late. I started reading up during my daughter’s sophomore year in high school because I’m like that. It still didn’t shelter me from the shock.
Colleges are under no obligation to offer our kids a hugely discounted ride just because we didn’t do our research. You can argue what you will about the insanity of rising college costs, and I’m right there with you, but we still have to do our homework.
If you have a high school junior, learn your EFC. Knowing what the feds expect you to pay is a huge head start to preparing, if only mentally. This calculator helps you predict both your federal EFC and your institutional EFC (for private colleges). Most people want to vomit when they see the number. But at least you’ll know it.
After that, tell your kid what you can afford, and give him parameters for his college search. Prestigious public or out-of-state universities likely won’t be your friend. Expensive private colleges might do a good job of meeting your financial need, but not if they reach schools for your child. Your child will do better applying to schools that want them. Look at schools where grades and SAT/ACT scores fall in the top third or quarter.
Use net-price calculators on the college websites to see what they predict (be aware, some are not great; the more they ask, the better they are). Play with grades and scores to see what kind of merit aid spits out. If it doesn’t ask for grades or scores, your child might be aiming too high. It depends on the school. My daughter’s school didn’t ask for academics and rarely gives merit aid, but she got a chunk of need-based aid because they wanted her. The net-price calculator did a good job of forecasting the award, although we didn’t count on it until the letter arrived. Be sure to learn about “gapping” (colleges offering admission without enough financial aid) and “front-loading” (a package that offers more for freshman year than later years) because college is a four-year (or more) plan.
The biggest challenge is figuring out how to start the search. It’s overwhelming, and your student probably has their own ideas of where to go. Mine sure did. Start talking to friends with older kids, especially friends in the same income bracket. Learn what their favorite resources are. I’ve included a list of mine below.
My second child is starting junior year of high school in the fall, and I’m not looking forward to going through the process again. The part that keeps me up at night is this: I do have a handle on college costs, and it still feels untenable. I’m kind of hoping for a gap year in our house. One that doesn’t cost any money.
Favorite resources:
Joanna Nesbit writes about education, parenting and family travel. Find her work atwww.joannanesbit.com or follow her on Twitter at @joannanesbit.

How Your Sleep Position Could Affect Your Brain

By Neha Kashyap, dailyRx News Reporter

Are you a back or a stomach sleeper? The way you sleep may be linked to the likelihood of neurological decline.

Researchers from Stony Brook University found that side sleeping, compared to back or stomach sleeping, may more effectively remove brain waste and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases.

At this time, the research has been conducted only in mice.

“It is interesting that the lateral (side) sleep position is already the most popular in human and most animals — even in the wild — and it appears that we have adapted the lateral sleep position to most efficiently clear our brain of the metabolic waste products that built up while we are awake,” said study co-author Maiken Nedergaard, PhD, a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center, in apress release.

The brain’s cleansing process, called the glymphatic system, clears waste when cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) filters through the brain and exchanges with interstitial fluid (ISF).

This process is similar to the way the body’s lymphatic system clears waste from the organs. It is most efficient during sleep.

Brain waste includes amyloid and tau proteins, chemicals that can negatively affect brain processes if they build up. If this waste is not properly disposed of, the chances of neurological diseases can increase.

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness and difficulties with walking, balance and coordination.

Dr. Nedergaard and team used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to observe the glymphatic system.

The brains of the mice who slept in a lateral (side) position were found to more efficiently remove waste when compared to the brains of supine (facing upward) or prone (facing downward) mice.

“The study therefore adds further support to the concept that sleep serves a distinct biological function and that is to ‘clean up’ the mess that accumulates while we are awake,” Dr. Nedergaard said.

Although human studies are still needed to confirm these findings, this experiment brings new insight on how sleep position affects the brain.

This study was published August 4 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Information on funding sources and conflicts of interest were not available at time of publication.

The Amazing Science of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving can be about more that putting up with annoying relatives, gorging on a dead bird, and passing out in a football-enhanced stupor. In fact, Thanksgiving can be an opportunity to practice one of the most powerful health-promoting actions that exist.

Giving thanks.

Gratitude, it turns out, makes you happier and healthier. If you invest in a way of seeing the world that is mean and frustrated, you’re going to get a world that is more mean and frustrating. But if you can find any authentic reason to give thanks… anything at all that you’re grateful for in your life or in the world and put your attention there, an overwhelming body of research indicates you’re going to experience more joy, vitality, and inner peace.

Gratitude doesn’t just make things feel better — it also makes them get better. According to recent research, gratitude is good for your physical, emotional, and mental health. People who express more gratitude have fewer aches and pains, better sleep, and stronger mental clarity.

If Thankfulness Were A Drug…

“If [thankfulness] were a drug,” Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, head of the division of biologic psychology at Duke University Medical Center, tells us, “it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.”

As Dr. Doraiswamy explains, studies have shown how the expression of gratitude leads to measurable effects on multiple body and brain systems.

These include:

  • Mood neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine)
  • Reproductive hormones (testosterone)
  • Social bonding hormones (oxytocin)
  • Cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters (dopamine)
  • Inflammatory and immune systems (cytokines)
  • Stress hormones (cortisol)
  • Cardiac and EEG rhythms
  • Blood pressure, and
  • Blood sugar

Does Gratitude Really Cause Good Fortune?

When I heard all this, I was skeptical. What if people who are fortunate, or who are particularly healthy, just feel more grateful? Does gratitude really cause good fortune, or is it just a byproduct?

The answer surprised me, and it may surprise you, too.

In a study conducted by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., at the University of California at Davis and his colleague Mike McCullough at the University of Miami, randomly assigned participants were given one of three tasks. Each week, participants kept a short journal. One group briefly described five things they were grateful for that had occurred in the past week, another five recorded daily hassles from the previous week that displeased them, and the neutral group was asked to list five events or circumstances that affected them, but they were not told whether to focus on the positive or on the negative.

Keep in mind that these groups were randomly assigned and that nothing about their lives was inherently different, other than the journaling they were doing.

The types of things people listed in the grateful group included: “sunset through the clouds,” “the chance to be alive,” and “the generosity of friends.”

And in the hassles group, people listed familiar things like: “taxes,” “hard to find parking,” and “burned my dinner.”

After 10 weeks, participants in the gratitude group reported feeling better about their lives as a whole and were a full 25 percent happier than the hassled group. They reported fewer health complaints, and they were now exercising an average of 1.5 hours more per week.

In a later study by Emmons, people were asked to write every day about things for which they were grateful. Not surprisingly, this daily practice led to greater increases in gratitude than did the weekly journaling in the first study. But the results showed another benefit: Participants in the gratitude group also reported offering others more emotional support or help with a personal problem, indicating that the gratitude exercise increased their goodwill towards others, or more technically, their “pro-social” motivation.

What’s The Brain Science Behind All This?

Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson puts it this way: “The neurons that fire together, wire together … The longer the neurons [brain cells] fire, the more of them that fire, and the more intensely they fire, the more they’re going to wire that inner strength — that happiness, gratitude, feeling confident, feeling successful, feeling loved and lovable.”

And what’s going on in the brain leads to changes in behavior. Grateful people tend to take better care of themselves and to engage in more protective health behaviors, like regular exercise and a healthy diet. They’re also found to have lower levels of stress. And lowered levels of stress are linked to increased immune function and to decreased rates of cancer and heart disease.

So it seems, you take better care of what you appreciate. And that extends to your body, and also to the people around you.

Good For Your Relationships

Not only does saying “thank you” constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can also help you win new friends, according to a 2014 study published in Emotion.

The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or you send a quick thank-you note to that co-worker who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead to new opportunities.

In a 2012 study conducted by the University of Kentucky, study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were found to have more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.

But What About Tough Times?

As I was learning about this research, I was still a bit skeptical. Life can at times be brutal. Sometimes just surviving can feel like an accomplishment. Can you really feel grateful in times of loss?

Yes, you can.

In fact, findings show that adversity can actually boost gratitude. In a Web-based survey tracking the personal strengths of more than 3,000 American respondents, researchers noted an immediate surge in feelings of gratitude after Sept. 11, 2001.

Tough times can actually deepen gratefulness if we allow them to show us not to take things for granted. Dr. Emmons reminds us that the first Thanksgiving took place after nearly half the pilgrims died from a rough winter and year. It became a national holiday in 1863 in the middle of the Civil War and was moved to its current date in the 1930s following the Depression.

Why would a tragic event provoke gratitude? When times are good, we tend to take for granted the very things that deserve our gratitude. In times of uncertainty, though, we often realize that the people and circumstances we’ve come to take for granted are actually of immense value to our lives.

Dr. Emmons writes: “In the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope. In other words, gratitude can help us cope with hard times.”

In good times, and in tough times, gratitude turns out to be one of the most powerful choices you can make.

Putting Gratitude To Work For You

If you want to put all this into practice, here are some simple things you can do to build positive momentum:

1) Say Grace: This Thanksgiving, or anytime you sit down to a meal with loved ones, take a moment to go around and invite everyone to say one thing they are grateful for. Even if you eat a meal alone, you can take a moment to give thanks.

2) Keep A Daily Gratitude Journal: This really does work. And yes, there’s an app for that.

3) Share The Love: Make it a practice to tell a spouse, partner or friend something you appreciate about them every day.

4) Remember Mortality: You never know how long you, or anyone you love, will be alive. How would you treat your loved ones if you kept in mind that this could be the last time you’d ever see them?

Thank You

Thank you for reading this. Thank you for being grateful for the blessings and even for the challenges that come your way. When you express gratitude, you make your world, and our whole world, better and brighter. Thank you.

Follow Ocean Robbins on Twitter: www.twitter.com/oceanrobbins


Gratitude Thanksgiving The Science of Gratitude Brain Science Gratefullness

Is ADHD Making You Procrastinate?

The problem has been defined as “voluntarily delaying an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse-off for the delay.” Sound familiar?

Why do we procrastinate? According to one team of experts—made up of Drs. Joseph Ferrari and Timothy Pychyl—and quoted on psychologytoday.com, there are three basic types of procrastinators:

1. Arousal types or thrill seekers who look for the euphoric rush of getting something done at the last minute.

2. Avoiders who may be acting out of fear of failure, or otherwise avoiding painful emotions they have attached to the task at hand.

3. Decisional procrastinators, who struggle with—you guessed it!—making decisions.

And while the vote is split on whether procrastination is learned or biological or both, everyone agrees there’s a proven link between procrastination and ADHD.

If you struggle with procrastination, time management strategies can help you compensate for poor attention and decision-making skills. (Check out this slideshow filled with tips to help you prioritize and organize your life better!)

A growing number of kids and adults struggling with ADHD and/or procrastination, however, are turning to personal, one-on-one brain training. Brain training strengthens weak attention skills that are associated with ADHD. In fact, the most common diagnosis among families seeking help at LearningRx is ADHD.

Brain training doesn’t just alleviate the symptoms of ADHD or compensate for the weak skills that are creating the problem. Instead, it strengthens the underlying brain skills of attention and decision, eliminating the problem altogether. In fact, LearningRx, the premiere personal brain training company in the world, says that more than a third of kids and adults who come to them on ADHD meds are able to stop or reduce medications before even completing the 12 to 32-week brain training programs.

Want to get more done in your life? Click here to find a LearningRx Brain Training Center near you, then give them a call and ask for a free brain training demonstration.

– See more at http://www.learningrxblog.com/adhd-and-procrastination/#more-950

Blink Patterns of Autistic Toddlers Reveal Fascinating Insights

We don’t think much about blinking. For the most part, it’s an involuntary process that keeps our eyes hydrated. But when we blink, we lose information, even if it’s just for a fraction of a second. In fact, during a typical day, blinking means you spend about 44 minutes with your eyes closed.

This is why, when we’re watching something that interests us, we tend to blink less often. Again, it’s not something we think about, just an involuntary response to not wanting to miss out on whatever has captured our attention.

A recent study of the blink patterns of two-year-olds –some of whom were typically developing children and some of whom had an autism spectrum disorder—revealed fascinating insights on what is actually happening in their brains.  Noticing that children blink less often while watching videos, researchers wondered if toddlers with autism, who have impairments in social communications, would show the same blink patterns as typically developing kids.

They showed 93 toddlers a video featuring two children in a wagon who get into an argument over whether the wagon door should be open or shut.

What they discovered was that typically developing toddlers blink less—indicating increased interest—during the emotional exchange between the two children in the video.

Toddlers with autism, however, blinked less—indicating increased interest—during the parts of the video that showed physical objects in motion, such as the wagon door being slammed.

Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer for Autism Speaks, says that if a child is not visually engaged with the social world, it can “impact the development of neural systems that underlie social behavior which rely on social stimulation for development.”

One of the benefits of the study is that it provides a way to measure a child’s interest and engagement with various stimuli, and can even be used to gauge the effectiveness of various therapies. 

– See more at: http://www.learningrxblog.com/what-do-blinking-patterns-tell-us/#more-1073

Sand Art Activities to Help Children Cope with Feelings


By Guest Blogger Kim Peterson, MA, LPC-S, RPT

Understanding feelings, being able to identify our feelings, and sharing our feelings are important for a person’s emotional and psychological wellness. Happy, sad, angry, proud, afraid… these are all normal feelings. As a psychotherapist, I spend most of my day helping others sort out and cope with these feelings, and as a mom, I take time to teach these skills to my children as well. I’ve written before about the impact of sand play in a child’s life, but I especially love the idea of using colored sand as a tool for teaching and coping with feelings.

Sand art has been around for quite some time now. I love it because the final products are beautiful and each different in their own way. I incorporate sand art activities into therapy sessions, as well as to help my own children learn about and cope with their feelings.

Glass Bottles of Sand


Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Various Colored Sand
  2. Sand art bottles- Various kinds includeSand Art Bottle Assortment packs,Under The Sea Theme, and Melissa & Doug Sand Art Bottles (my favorite).
  3. Funnels. I use this3″ Sand Art Funnel
  4. Sand Art Bracelets
  5. Art tray (optional) to keep the mess contained. I keep various sizes of the Creativitrayson hand. They are a life-saver for cleanup, whether it’s sand, paint, or other crafts.


“Happy Feelings” Bottle or Bracelet:

  • Identify five or six positive feelings. Examples include:Happy, Peaceful, Proud, Excited, Thankful, Loved, Looking forward to__________.
  • For each positive feeling, choose a color of sand and ask your child to talk about aperson, place, thing, or time when he or she felt that particular feeling.
  • While talking about the memory or story associated with that emotion, the child pours the colored sand into the bottle or bracelet. He or she can fill the bottle with one sand color (representing one positive emotion) or lots of colors (representing many positive emotions). Let your child know he/she can look at or hold the bottle any time they need help remembering these positive feelings and memories.

“Mixed Emotions” Bottle:

  • Mixed Emotions Sand Bottle
  • Have the child identify an experience during which they felt mixed emotions. An example might be starting a new year at school and feeling scared, excited, and insecure. Or welcoming a new baby brother or sister and feeling happy and proud, but also anxious and neglected.
  • For each feeling, choose a color of sand.
  • While talking about the memory or story associated with those emotions, the child pours the colored sand into the bottle. Your child can layer the colors, use more of one color than the others, even mix the colors before pouring in the bottle.
  • Talk with your child about how the filled bottle represents that we can have many feelings, sometimes about the same experience or even all at once. Talk about how sometimes feelings get all mixed up until we’re not even sure what feelings are in there. Explain that talking to someone, like a parent or counselor, can help us sort out mixed up feelings

“I’m Loved” Sand Bracelets:

We have all heard of friendship bracelets, and this idea is an extension of that idea done with a parent and child. This is especially good for children with separation anxiety or who have to be away from a parent for an extended amount of time.

  • The parent and child each make a bracelet.Sand Bracelets
  • Each person chooses a few colors that represent something they love about the other person. For example: “I love how you hug me tight when we are together and will choose purple to remember that.”
  • Each person, while talking about what each color means, pours the sand into the plastic bracelet.
  • Encourage your child to wear the bracelet to feel close to you when you are apart. You can each wear the bracelets you made representing how you feel about the other person, or exchange the bracelets to remind yourselves how much the other person loves you.

To the right is a picture of my daughter’s sand bracelets (she wanted to make more than one!).


Kim Peterson is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Clinical Supervisor, and Registered Play Therapist with a private practice in Kingwood, Texas. This article originally appeared on her blog at Kim’s Counseling Corner.

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– See more at: http://www.learningrxblog.com/sand-art-activities-to-help-children-cope-with-feelings/#more-1976

Please Stop Talking!


Please stop talking. That’s what your child who is a kinesthetic learner is thinking – more often than you realize. Please just stop saying words, and let me do something. Let me please get up out of my chair. I’m going crazy here! Some teachers or parents may think a child is being stubborn, impatient, or a know-it-all, when really they just want you to get the message: they learn by doing, instead of listening.

If you have a little boy who would rather tear his truck apart than drive it around the living room carpet, he’s probably a kinesthetic learner. Does your daughter’s teacher complain that she’s always getting up to sharpen her pencil or ask to go to the bathroom? Don’t worry – it’s not ADHD, she’s a kinesthetic leaner. Does your high school student fall asleep on the couch with his textbook on his face? Kinesthetic learner.

And it doesn’t change when we become adults and enter the workforce – as a kinesthetic learner myself, I know. While my co-worker explains a process in minute detail, I’m tuning out. It’s not that we kinesthetic types don’t care, we just don’t know how to learn that way. Think your car mechanic has read much about the way cars work? Probably not, because he’s most likely a kinesthetic learner. We just can’t learn when somebody else is at the wheel. While you’re telling us the steps, or handing us a manual, we’re thinking, “I’ll just figure it out for myself when I get my hands on it.”

The problem is, some things can’t be “figured out” very easily. Very often we need to know facts and data and formulas in order to pass classes, navigate databases and function well in life. So, what to do? Here’s one option, for parents, that may help: since many children who learn kinesthetically get frustrated with data and formulas, one way you can stimulate the brain, reduce boredom, and make these necessary lessons easier, is by integrating physical activities into the lesson. Though it’s not a perfect fix, integrating physical activity into lessons does help the kinesthetic learner to more easily process needed facts and figures. Here are some great ideas from dyslexiaparents.blogspot.com.

Ball Games

You can shout out an adjective to your child while throwing a ball to them. Your child will then give the correct synonym or antonym and throw back the ball . You could adapt this game to practice all sorts of grammar points eg different tenses, It could also be used to test maths skills eg multiplication , addition etc. The options are endless.

Pavement Chalk Maths

Get your child to solve problems on the pavement instead of on paper to make it more fun.

Maths Hopscotch

Put numbers into hopscotch squares. Call out a problem in addition, subtraction, multiplication, division etc. and have your child hop to the two numbers in the problem and then the answer. (Note: make sure numbers are accessible to each other).

Times Table Aerobics

Choose a times table you want to practice with your son or daughter. Decide with your child on some aerobics movements to do, like jogging on the spot, touching toes, twisting from side to side etc. Afterward, your child can chant their tables while completing the aerobics moves.

Maths Twister

Adapt your twister game by putting numbers on your Twister board. Afterward, you can make up problems for your child to solve, like 5 x 8, 5 + 8, etc. Make it harder or easier depending on the age or skill level of your child. If you don’t have Twister you could make your own from 20 blank pieces of paper joined together with the numbers 1-20 clearly written on them (place them in 4 rows of 5). The children are then told instructions such as “Put your left foot on the answer of 3 add 5” and so on. Repeat until the child has 2 feet and hands on the numbers.

Flash Card Games

Make up two different sets of colored flash cards to make a matching card game with opposites, fractions and decimals etc. Tie some string strategically around your garden. Afterward, use clothes pegs to attach the flash cards to the string. Have your child find the matching cards.

Make up a Treasure Hunt

Write some problems on cards for your child to solve and also explain where the next clue can be found. If your child gets the right answers give a small reward or treat in the end.

Using some of these techniques with your child can help them learn important facts and figures without stressing (or tuning) out.

Many thanks to Ann at the Dyslexia Parents Blog!  See her original article here.

– See more at: http://www.learningrxblog.com/kinesthetic-learner/#more-430

Hello Central California Moms and Dads


This is my first post!  I want to say thank you for joining me on CentralCalMom.com.  I envision this site becoming a reference for all Central California Parents and a platform for everyone to get to know each other!  I will be posting local events for the family, services provided to children with learning disabilities, fun/healthy recipes and craft ideas and much more!  Feel free to contact me with any question and/or comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can!