Some rest and brain food before FCAT tests this week
As we are sure you have already heard from your public school, Tuesday kicks off the all important FCAT tests. Students in grades three through 11 will take the reading, math and science portions of the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test beginning Tuesday and extending into next week.
I know some kids dread them, but my kids love FCAT week. The teachers make sure they get extra recess (something sorely lacking the rest of the year to make time for FCAT prep); there's often snacks to fuel up the brains and no homework to encourage early bedtimes and rest. If I had a nervous test-taker, I'd try to focus on those positives there. It is sorta sad that it takes a dreaded test to bring back things like recess and snack time, for a short time at least.
Regardless of your stance on the politics of this test, it can't hurt to help your kids do their best. FCAT scores carry a lot of weight. Schools are graded by how well students perform and schools that maintain an A or improve one letter grade are eligible for financial rewards from the state. Schools judged to be failing can be penalized by the state.
So we scoured education and pediatrics sites to find tips for you to help your kids be in the best shape for this high-stakes test. And don't just do it for the first day. Carry these tips through for the entire testing period.
Geez, did they not realize this was Daylight Saving Time when this was scheduled? Getting a good night's sleep is about the best brain food there is. One of the tips to getting the kids settled down and conked out is taking them outside (okay, now we'll admit it will be nice to have an extra hour daylight for this) and playing hard to work off any nerves and wear out their bodies so they fall into a deep restful sleep.
Set the stage for sleep and avoid stimulating activities like television or video games right before bed.
Most researchers say it's best to steer clear of the sugary, white-flour breakfasts, at least not without a protein pairing of some sort. Sugars tend to spike blood sugar and leave them hungry too quickly. Your best bets: oatmeal (even the brown sugar kind) because it gets absorbed slowly by the body. Also a protein and whole grain combo like eggs with toast, peanut butter and fruit with a glass of milk. Smoothies are also a fast breakfast and a way to sneak in protein, extra fruit and maybe even a spoonful of wheat germ.
Send in a snack for your child. Or even better, help the teacher out and send in some snacks for the class for the middle of the morning such as apples, whole grain crackers, nuts and cheese snacks (rather than sugary treats or white-flour crackers).
If you are one of those worry wart types, never let the kids see you sweat. There's nothing to be done about it now and what good would it do? Focus on having fun at home, taking time to unwind, getting some sleep and eating healthy.
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne