Monthly Archive: September 2014

Young man looking at bright colorful sketch on brick background. Creative and analytical thinking concept

Did you know that Steve Jobs was a “low-tech” parent?  Meaning–he did not allow his kids to turn into tech-junkies by spending hours on end playing with tech-toys. He stated, “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

Surprising isn’t it?! I think most of us would assume that one of the greatest tech geniuses of all times would want his kids to have a technology edge and allow them unlimited use. Not so…

And Steve Jobs was not the only parent who clamped down on his kid’s tech-use. Other tech geniuses like:

Chris Anderson: C.E.O. of 3D Robotics,

Alex Constantinople: C.E.O of OutCast Agency, 

Evan Williams: founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium

They also limit their children’s use of technology by putting strict rules regarding its’ use.

Why? Is there something they know that we don’t know? 

Yes. They understand this very important truth: we live in a 3-dimensional world and technology is a 2-dimensional world. Living consistently in that 2-dimensional world can cause a host of problems in learning, social interactions, and emotional development.

Think about this:

Are you a User or Creator?

Steve Jobs was the genius tech-creator, but we are the users. And, there is a big difference between the two. Cultural critic Roland Barthes lamented in the 1970s that the wooden block’s children used to play with were in decline, and it was sad because now children were taught to be users, not creators.

Are we teaching our children to be users rather than creators? If so, the consequences will be far-reaching.

Let me be clear on one point: I’m not against technology. Not, at all. To me, technology is neither good nor bad—its value is predicated on how it is used.  In many respects, it is an amazing tool; provides a wealth of easily-accessible information; allows for the storage of information; a tool that provides a quick communication with people, and has the ability to keep us in touch with long-distant family and friends.

But its’ overuse can cause addiction; significant learning issues, and dehumanize us.

Like everything in life, it needs controls. I guess Shakespeare knew what he was talking about when he said: “Moderation in all things…”

I am passionate about learning, including what helps people learn and what impairs learning. For years I have gathered data on the harmful brain effects of too much technology. The studies show that the overuse of technology literally changes brain circuitry and can contribute to (and perhaps cause) many serious disorders.

Too much TV

Too much technology causes a host of problems with kids

Here’s some food for thought:

Too Much Technology? Look for these signs: 

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder,
  • ADD/ADHD attention-deficit disorder (focusing, attention to tasks, etc)
  • Visual Perception (related to reading, reading comprehension, math)
  • Narcissism
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Body dysmorphic disorder (how children view their bodies—most video games portray Barbie-like and He-Man-like unrealistic body types)
  • Mood disorders: Depression, Mania, etc
  • Addictions
  • Loss of empathy—especially when there is a video-game addiction which can cause desensitization and emotional distance

Help Your Kids Monitor Technology

Parents—please help your kids control the amount of time they spend on television, Facebook, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and cell phones, etc. Pediatricians suggest no more than 45 minutes-1 hour per day on tech devices. They also recommend that a child under the age of two should be nowhere near technology.  

When your child (up to age 10) is on the computer, sit with them and monitor what they are seeing. “Co-viewing” is important because it allows you to talk to your child about the advertisements, the videos, the images, etc., they are seeing. You want to be your child’s first teacher—not the Internet.

Need help? Here are some things we did to help our kids control their technology use that might be helpful to you:

Charts: Create a chart (click below for the FREE printable) where you can daily record how much time each person in the family is spending on technology. It may surprise everyone just how much time is wasted on these two-dimensional screens. After a month of careful charting, sit down with your family and discuss ways you can limit its use and what activities you can do instead.

Parents: it’s important that you do this exercise with your kids. It will give you an opportunity to evaluate how much time YOU spend “plugged in.” What kind of tech role model are YOU? And are your children mirroring YOUR tech-use behavior?

Charts Lead to Self-Monitoring

One of the goals for monitoring technology is to teach your child about being responsible for what he chooses to do with his time. And hopefully to choose (at least most of the time) activities that will enhance his life rather than be time-wasters.

We got our first computer in 1985. It was easier back then to control because there was no Internet, no cell phones, and rather boring video games. Our first three sons were not that interested in the computer, but our last son loved tech toys and would have spent his entire life playing games, etc. if we didn’t have some rules in place. We tried several things, but one strategy worked the best.

Our Most Successful Strategy for Monitoring Tech Toys

For every minute our sons spent on a tech device, they had to spend an equal amount of time practicing their musical instruments. Example:

10 minutes playing video games = 10 minutes practicing the piano

15 minutes watching TV = 15 minutes practicing the piano, etc.

The result: over time our boys learned to self-monitor the time they spent on technology. It freed me from being the policeman and taught them responsibility in how they chose to spend their time.

Another idea: the program, RescueTime may help your child. It’s a time management software that can help them be aware if they are spending too much time on Facebook, the Internet, etc.

One more thing: if you are putting the brakes on tech-use with your kids, there will be a “time hole” and someone or something (or both) is going to need to help her fill that hole. There are tons of things your kids can do instead of being “plugged-in,” but they may need you to guide them–especially in the beginning. 

Next up: Exchange Technology for these Brain-Building Activities


Happy family playing guitar together at home

Parents taking music lessons with their children

Sharlene 2014

I love oatmeal cookies, but I like everything–including the kitchen sink (as they say)– in them. These are amazing oatmeal cookies–moist, flavorful, and delicious. I like to make oatmeal cookies during the fall, in fact, I think the words autumn and oatmeal cookies are synonymous.

I do not like flat oatmeal cookies and I found that after you make the dough, if you put the dough in the refrigerator for at least one hour and preferably overnight–they will be plump, moist and have the perfect amount of crunch to them! So, here is the recipe for the very best oatmeal cookies you have ever tasted! And–try putting in the walnuts, the raisins and the apples (and even dates, if you want)–you won’t be sorry–I promise!

Oatmeal cookies


½ pound (2 sticks) butter

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

3 cups Quaker Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)

1 cup raisins (optional)

3/4 cup chopped dates (optional)

1 cup walnuts (optional)

1 cup shredded apples (optional—but I like these in the cookies because it makes them very soft and adds a wonderful texture and flavor)



  1. Heat over to 350 degrees
  2. Beat together butter and sugars until creamy
  3. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well
  4. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt, mix well and add to mixture
  5. Stir in oats, raisins, nuts, dates and apples
  6. Put in a plastic bag and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight
  7. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto un-greased cookie sheet
  8. Bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown
  9. Leave 1 minute on cookie sheet: remove to wire rack



Sharlene 2014

human brain with arms and legs who plays the violin, 3d illustration

Today’s blog is a continuation of how music involvement will build a bigger, better brain. It will help your children in every aspect of their schooling—reading, writing, math, language arts, spelling and vocabulary. Last week we talked about how music strengthens the auditory cortex and how that helps with reading and speech and language. Today we are talking about how music builds and strengthens the visual/spatial areas of the brain. 

Brain-builder #2: Music strengthens the visual/spatial cortex and helps with math and science…

 Music strengthens the visual/spatial areas of the brain. Spatial people solve problems in their minds-eye; they think in pictures; they understand higher forms of math and science and they are usually very creative (they dream in color while most people dream in black & white).


 56unnamedThink Albert Einstein whose visual/spatial areas of his brain were 25 percent larger than most people! He was an accomplished violinist and credits music with organizing his brain and helping him to solve intricate theories and problems. His friend said that Einstein used music for inspiration and that the answers to complex problems came to him in the midst of playing his violin.

 Studies show that when a child learns a musical instrument it primes, prepares, and develops the spatial areas of the brain in such a way that a child is able to understand science, technology, engineering and math more easily. These are called STEM subjects. Interestingly, educators are now calling it: STEMMM. This stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Medicine and Music–because more and more people and educators are realizing the importance of music. They should–Music was considered one of the four pillars of learning during the time of Pythagoras. If they understood it’s importance–then so should we!

Kids practicing 1

 The visual/spatial areas of the brain are also tied to creativity. Creative problem-solvers will be needed for 21st century problems. When you get your children involved playing a musical instrument, you will begin to notice a correlation between their problem-solving skills and their musical skills.

Jason Violin-1037

 This is such an important brain-building activity—so sign your kids up for music lessons this week! If you have young children–check out the program: “Let’s Play Music.”


Sharlene 2014

background with cucumbers

Cucumbers are a warm season vegetable, but thanks to warm weather in various parts of the country year-round, we are able to purchase this amazing veggie twelve months a year!

Here are just some of the ways to enjoy this versatile vegetable:


Contain Vitamins: Cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day. Just one cucumber contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.

A Great Pick-Me-Upper:  Feeling tired in the afternoon? Put down the caffeinated soda and pick up a cucumber! Cucumbers are a good source of B vitamins and carbohydrates that can provide that quick pick-me-up that can last for hours.


Eliminates Fog in the Shower: Tired of your bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower? Try rubbing a cucumber slice along the mirror; it will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.

Free your garden of pests: Are grubs and slugs ruining your planting beds? Place a few slices in a small pie tin and your garden will be free of pests all season long. The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent undetectable to humans, but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area.


Cellulite—Be Gone! Looking for a fast and easy way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool? Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes. The phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite. Works great on wrinkles too!!


Helps Headaches and Hangovers: Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache? Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake up refreshed and headache free. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost; keeping everything in equilibrium and avoiding both a hangover and headache!!

Curbs Bingeing: Looking to fight off that afternoon or evening snacking binge? Cucumbers have been used for centuries and often used by European trappers, traders and explores for quick meals to thwart off starvation.


Shines Shoes: Have an important meeting or job interview and you realize that you don’t have enough time to polish your shoes? Rub a freshly cut cucumber over the shoe– its chemicals will provide a quick and durable shine that not only looks great but also repels water.

Works like WD 40: Out of WD 40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge? Take a cucumber slice and rub it along the problematic hinge, and voila, the squeak is gone!


Relieves Stress: Stressed out and don’t have time for massage, facial or visit to the spa? Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water. The chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber with react with the boiling water and be released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown the reduce stress in new mothers and college students during final exams.

Cleans Your Breath: Just finish a business lunch and realize you don’t have gum or mints? Take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to eliminate bad breath.  The phytochemcials will kill the bacteria in your mouth responsible for causing bad breath.


Tarnish Be Gone!: Looking for a ‘green’ way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel? Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean. Not only will it remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but is won’t leave streaks and won’t harm you fingers or fingernails while you clean.

Works on Ink, Crayons and Markers: Using a pen and made a mistake? Take the outside of the cucumber and slowly use it to erase the pen writing. Also works great on crayons and markers that the kids have used to decorate the walls!

Healthy for Pets: Last, the lowly cucumber is also a healthy snack for your pets!



Sharlene 2014

Group Of Students Playing In School Orchestra Together

The kids are back in school. You can breathe a momentary sigh of relief, but now you want to know how you can support their learning experience and help them to become the best students they can be. So, if you really are interested in helping your child in school and are invested in their academic success–please read this..

After spending the last thirty years studying how music affects the brain, I’m convinced there is nothing like listening to classical music and taking music lessons to build a bigger, better brain in children and adults. Why? Because listening to music and playing a musical instrument  is the ONLY thing we do that exercises the entire brain—left, right, front and back—simultaneously. Take a look at this chart–there isn’t an area of the brain that music doesn’t impact!

Brain on music

 Bottom line: learning a musical instrument it is like giving the brain an aerobic workout accompanied by fireworks!


 There are many different music programs in communities all over the U.S. Find one and enroll your child in it. Some programs, like “Let’s Play Music,” offer programs from 18 months of age and above. It is now in 26 states in the U.S. and in Canada.

Let's play music 2

 This program is so comprehensive in its musical scope that it builds the three areas of the brain most needed for learning: the auditory, the visual/spatial, and the motor cortices.  Over the next few days I’m going to talk about these three areas of the brain that music can strengthen and how it relates to learning. I will also illustrate how the “Let’s Play Music” program fits into each one.  First, the auditory cortex:

Brain-builder #1: Music strengthens the auditory cortex and helps with reading and language…

 Do you know that the auditory cortex of the brain is five times smaller than the visual cortex? So it is already established in the brain that we learn quicker and easier by visually looking at something. But here’s the rub: when a child learns to read, they must use their ears first, (auditory cortex) and their eyes second (visual cortex).  Think back when you were learning to read. All those letters on the page looked like Greek and it wasn’t until your teacher said the word, and you used your ears, that you understood how to say the word. So the rule for reading is: ears first to hear the pronunciation of the word and eyes second to visually recognize the word.


From various brain scans, scientists know that learning a musical instrument strengthens all areas of the auditory cortex thereby making it easier for a child to read, to understand directions, and to process information in the classroom and elsewhere. It also reaches children who are learning disabled as all learning issues begin with auditory processing, or not being able to understand what you hear.

 Kodály is a music program that develops and strengthens the auditory cortex and is used in LPM.  Kodály trains children to sing on pitch without the aid of an instrument. It’s called solfege and it takes practice! While singing they also use certain hand signals called curwen that reinforce the learning. This training strengthens the auditory cortex thus making reading, writing and processing of information easier. It also helps with memory skills as they learn different songs with different rhythms. Aural or listening skills are learned when the child listens to the varying pitch, rhythm and harmony of a multitude of songs.  This singing method is an amazing brain-builder!

Check in your area and see if you have a “Let’s Play Music” program. If not, check to see if you have a Kodály program. You will be embarking on a powerful brain-building experience for your child that will increase their chances for academic success! (I talk about both of these programs in my book).

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series–next we will be discussing how music affects the visual/spatial areas of the brain and how it translates into successful learning.


Sharlene 2014

There are very few authors that children of all ages remember with more love and cheerfulness than Theodor Seuss Geisel, affectionately known as “Dr. Seuss.” Most people can distinctly recall the first time a parent or school teacher introduced them to one of Dr. Seuss’ books. For most of us, it was a magical moment—one locked inside our memory banks; never to be erased.

I was in kindergarten when my teacher, Mrs. Shelby read to our class Dr. Seuss’s newly published children’s book, “The Cat in the Hat.”  Who didn’t instantly fall in love with that zany cat; his mischievous antics and those out-of-the-box illustrations? And for those of us who were raised on Dr. Seuss, it was a natural course of events to in turn read his books to our own children—thus passing down an important read-a-loud legacy of musically rhyming words, oddly funny illustrations, and never-ending fun.

Dr. Seuss 4

Like most of you, our book shelves were over-flowing with many different children’s authors, but Dr. Seuss reigned supreme—“Horton Hatches the Egg,” “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and the list goes on and on.

Despite Seuss’ death in 1991, his books live on and even some of his “lost” books are now appearing on bookstore shelves.

Dr. SeussOn September 9, 2014 Random House will publish “Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories.” The story behind this book and other “lost stories,” of Dr. Seuss have an interesting history…

In the early 1950s, this former ad man and modestly successful children’s book author published a series of illustrated stories for children in magazines like Redbook. They were short; two-to-three page spreads with stamp-sized drawings and minimal coloring. He was hoping to publish them in a book, but in 1957 his book, “The Cat in the Hat,” became an immediate best seller and while some of his magazine articles were later published, many were not. These so-called “lost” stories are now being published for the first time. The first collection was published in 2011 under the title, “The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories.” It reached No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list and now Random House is betting even bigger with “Horton,” with 250,000 copies first print-run.

Dr. Seuss 1

Dr. Seuss 3So take some time today—go and read to your child or grandchild your favorite Dr. Seuss book. For me, that favorite was “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.” I recently purchased the collectors edition with the idea of giving it to one of my son’s families. But for now, I’m enjoying it myself…maybe later it will find its’ way into the hands of one of my darling grandchildren.

You may want to check out Amazon or your favorite bookstore for this new Dr. Seuss adventure story—“Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories.” I have no doubt, it is another winning Seuss classic!  And, by the way–have you ever read “You’re Only Old Once,–A book for Obsolete Children?” I think it’s time I read this one!

Dr. Seuss 2 Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014



Cathedral Notre Dame, Reims, Champagne, France

Question: What do classical music and the Cathedral of Notre Dame have in common?

 To answer this question, we need to talk music studies. There are studies on music that date from the 1800s to the present. In each instance, classical music is always the genre of music that is researched. Have you ever wondered why this is so?

 Let me explain by using a simple architectural comparison:

 Go outside and face your home, apartment building, or the condominium, etc., that you live in. Notice the structure; notice the design and notice the architectural shapes that go into making your home. You probably see squares, rectangles, a couple of triangles and maybe an oval or round shape. In terms of mathematical proportions and the elemental structure of your home or any building in your city, they can be compared to the musical structure of every genre of music EXCEPT classical music.


A simple achitectural structure

 In order to understand the architectural structure of classical music, you need to think of the Gothic cathedrals of Europe. Think of the Cathedral of Notre Dame—look at the structure, notice the intricacies, the details, the complexities of the patterns and the multifaceted and complicated architectural structure. The mathematical proportions and elemental structure of Gothic cathedrals represent classical music.

Cathedral 2

Cathedral of Notre Dame

Like these cathedrals, classical music is intricate, detailed, complex and filled with multifaceted patterns and complicated architectural structure. It is this complexity and intricacy that strengthens the neural processes of our brains.  No wonder when you listen to classical music that all areas of brain—left, right, front, back portions light up! And no wonder this music builds a bigger, better brain!

Cathedral 1

Suggestion: listen to at least 30 minutes of classical music each day. Refer to the Resource Section of my book for examples. It will be the best aerobic exercise you can give your brain! I personally would first listen to Mozart’s Piano Sonata in D for Two Pianos-I love that piece of music and once you hear it, it’s bound to become one of your favorites for stimulating and exercising your brain!


Sharlene 2014

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