Family Academy Online Unlocks Learning Potential With a Variety of Learning Accelerators

Last December, we announced that Family Academy Online planned to offer Scientific Learning’s Fast ForWord this year. Well, we did that in February. We are currently in our 4th ten week session. Thirteen different students have participated for one or more sessions.

One parent who has had their children in the program since February reports, “My child has taken off with reading.” Another likes the option of having a child work a little more independently with the assurance that the time is spent productively. Even a mom whose son just began in September is thrilled with progress just a few weeks into the program. 

Scientific Learning’s Fast ForWord develops and strengthens memory, attention, processing rate, and sequencing – the cognitive skills essential for reading. By strengthening these skills, we see improvement in a wide range of critical thinking and reading skills such as phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, decoding working memory, syntax, grammar, and other skills necessary to learn how to read or to become a better reader. In over 250 studies, research indicates that learners can see achievement gains of 1-2 years in as little as 8-12 weeks. While Fast ForWord is a literacy based program, studies that monitor progress confirm that it also improves other areas because Fast ForWord teaches one how to learn. Fast ForWord is definitely based on the now, well accepted concept of neuroplasticity that extends throughout life. Interactive activities of this program follow the important concepts of short, frequent, intense (i.e. full focus) that distinguish neuroplasticity. Fast ForWord is a learning accelerator with recommended protocols of 30 – 50 minutes 5 times a week (ideally the daily sessions are spread throughout the day in 10-15 minutes sessions.)

Now in November, we are adding Scientific Learning’s Reading Assistant which improves reading fluency and comprehension. Once a student has progressed far enough in the Fast ForWord products, we have the option of moving them into Reading Assistant for one or more ten week session. Our next Fast ForWord / Reading Assistant session begins November 18. Those interested should contact us as soon as possible to get on the list.

We also provide online Brain Training. This option begins with an assessment and then the student and parent have frequent video conferencing (some time with student and some time with parent to help with brain training at home). For example our neurodevelopmentalist meets with the family two times a week for 30 minutes. Further assessment occurs as the ND guides the parents in observations at home, allowing the ND to build an individualized neurodevelopmental plan (INP) in concert with the parent at a pace that fits the family’s schedule. \

To learn more follow the Family Academy Online tab to the Getting Started tab on Steps will include free information in video seminars and articles. Finally, the parent submits a client history form and schedules a 30 minute free phone or Skype consultation to get questions answered and to discuss the different options.

Questions?  Call Maggie Dail 253.581.1588 or email at For more information about the products visit:  www.scilearncom.



Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina Brain Rule # 6 (part 2)– Long-Term Memory – Repeat to Remember

In the previous rule, Medina presented Short-Term Memory and in the beginning of rule 6 he explained Working Memory, now he begins discussing Long-Term Memory. Up to this point, memory is short lived. However, understanding how to get something into our long-term memory remains very useful.

Next, our long-term memories are consolidated with other memories by current stimuli. For instance, a childhood memory of a German shepherd dog may be stimulated by watching a documentary about a dog of the same kind. Without the stimulus to remember, that childhood memory would remain dormant. Therefore, the ability to retrieve memories gains importance. “…our retrieval systems are powerful enough to alter our conceptions of the past while offering nothing substantial to replace them. Exactly how that happens is an important but missing piece of the puzzle.” (p. 127)

Two models of long-term memory have emerged: 1) memory passively imagines libraries; and 2) memory aggressively imagines crime scenes. (p. 127) Both of these models are correct. Early on our memory is like a library, but as time goes by it is more like a detective’s search. Sometimes a long-term-memory can be distorted as the detective fills in the missing pieces in an attempt to come up with the complete story.

Knowing that our memories can be inaccurate, it behooves us to provide our brains with repetition. “The typical human brain can hold approximately seven pieces of information for less than 30 seconds. If something does not happen in the short stretch of time, the information becomes lost.” (p. 130)

Three ways to reinforce memory:

  1. Space Out the Input – the left inferior pre-frontal cortex is stimulated when one is retrieving a memory. (p. 132-133) According to the neurodevelopmental approach, we encourage short, frequent input.
  2. Sparking Interest – As in a romance or what we often call falling in love, “long-term potentiation” is the idea that increasingly limited exposure can result in increasingly stronger responses. (p. 133-136) Neurodevelopmentalists recommend “intense” or “focused” input as a part of learning.
  3. Steps in Long-Term Memory

1)      “Sensory information comes into the hippocampus from the cortex, and memories form in the cortex by way of the reverse connections.”

2)      “Long after the initial stimulus has exited the hippocampus and the relevant cortical neurons are still yapping (communicating) about it.”

3)      “While these regions are actively engaged, any memory they mediate is labile and subject to amendment. But it doesn’t stay that way.”

4)      “After an elapsed period of time, the hippocampus will let go fo the cortex, effectively terminating the relationship. This will leave only the cortex holding the memory of the event.” P. 137-138

Finally, the last step is “forgetting.” “Forgetting allows us to prioritize events. Those events that are irrelevant to our survival will take up wasteful cognitive space if we assign them the same priority as events critical to our survival.’ (p. 143)

Medina summarizes Rule 6 with the following statements:

1)      “Most memories disappear within minutes, but those that survive the fragile period strengthen with time.”

2)      “Long-term memories are formed in a two-way conversation between the hippocampus and the cortex, until the hippocampus breaks the connections and the memory is fixed in the cortex – which can take years.”

3)      “Our brains give us only an approximate view of reality, because they mix new knowledge with past memories and store them together as one.”

4)      “The way to make long-term memory reliable is to incorporate new information gradually and repeat it in time intervals.” P. 147

With this, Medina completes his discussion of memory. As time goes on, we begin to understand more and more about how we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”, and yet we must be reminded that our understanding is still very limited because the Psalmist asks “who can know it?” (Psalm 139).

Iron and Thyroid — More Important Information

If you are new to our blog, you may not have read our previous posts on hypothyroidism. You may find our past posts on this topic in the Health Issues category. Even though we offer educational solutions we also look at health issues that appear to impact learning. Since our goal is to unlock learning potential, we do make referrals to medical / health professionals.

Iron and Thyroid is yet another aspect to the complex situation.  The following article explains how iron can be tested, treated an its relationship to the thyroid.

Home Schooling in High School: Planning A Course

You have done your overall planning for the four years and you know which classes your student needs for this year. Now what? There are a number of alternatives for teaching the different subjects.

1.         Many purchase textbooks for each class and have the student work through the texts, answering the questions and taking the tests. This can be an easy way with at least some assurance that you are covering all the bases. For a student who works well independently, this could work. It would give that student a starting and finishing point. Skills developed using this method may include reading comprehension, some writing skills and some time management skills. On the other hand, for a student who struggles with reading and writing, or needs more interaction with others, it may not be the best way. Also, it may be boring for some students. While those unfamiliar with the subject matter, using a textbook can help, but remember that no textbook perfectly covers every aspect of the topic that you may consider important for your child to learn.

2.         Others choose to delegate one or more of the courses to specialists in those fields. This can be in the form of a local class (home school co-op, community college classes, enrollment in a private school that works with home schoolers) or online.

3.         Perhaps you grew to enjoy unit studies in the earlier grades or your student gets bored with the textbook / class choice. You can integrate different subjects into a unit study or just apply the unit study approach to individual classes. At the high school level, you can actually get much more input from your children and allow them to do much more of the planning.    Here are some possible steps:

  • Find a scope and sequence online for the subject or a grade level textbook (borrow or find at Goodwill or library sale). Using a scope and sequence or table of contents in a book provides an outline or list of concepts usually covered for that subject. You have the option of excluding or including different parts, but this provides a guide.
  • Brainstorm – make a Mind Map of all the ideas that come to mind. To make a mind map, begin by writing the large topic in the center of a blank sheet of paper. Branch out adding more to this web of ideas and groups of ideas.  Write anything that comes to mind. Later you can rewrite using only the ideas that you want to use.
  • Brainstorm or make additional entries for each of the ideas on your mind map.
  • Enter the activities and resources on the course plan in your planner where they can be checked off as completed.

4.         With a little more planning, you can combine subjects like History and English. As you brainstorm you would use the scope and sequences for both of these subjects. By doing this, you can include a number of types of assignments that develop a wide variety of skills including research, hands-on-projects as well as reading and writing. I am not suggesting you double count work done in an integrated class. This can allow for more in-depth coverage of an area.

If the unit study approach sounds interesting, but hard to implement, try it first with one class. As you become more experienced, you can expand to other courses. You may also benefit from working with a home school consultant in this area. As a homeschooling parent, you are in the driver’s seat of your child’s education, and you have many choices.