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Prevention is better than a cure

Modern medicine is overwhelmingly reactive rather than proactive. It is better to prevent disease instead of trying to find cures for diseases after they occur. The reasoning here is similar to why you change the oil in your car, rather than wait to fix a blown engine. At Helen Doron we believe in promoting both a healthy, plant-based diet together with a range of exercise methodologies for children, in order to prevent disease later on in life and to promote a lifelong appreciation of their bodies. These are taught and practiced daily, using fun activities specially designed to encourage the children to participate in and more importantly, enjoy themselves. By providing a plant-based diet, we are giving children the best possible start in life, preventing all too common diseases like diabetes and heart conditions that are now being found even in very young children (1). The phenomenon of childhood obesity has now reached epidemic proportions, especially in the developed world where children are both overfed and under nourished (2). To provide food that has been scientifically proven to promote healthier children, we have adopted strategies used by professional nutritionists who specialise in the connection between diet and health in young children. Exercise has been shown not only to encourage heathier lifestyles in children, but also to increase their concentration and energy levels, leading to better academic performance (3). Helen Doron programmes such as Ready Steady Move employ a variety of exercise methodologies including yoga, Pilates, martial arts and dance to encourage overall body strength, coordination, balance and fitness. The physical and mental benefits of yoga have been known for millennia, but have now been proven in many scientific studies including the comprehensive overview by Alison Ross and Sue Thomas (4). These include reducing the effects of many diseases such as diabetes and mental illness whilst improving sleep, flexibility and concentration. Yoga is especially beneficial for children, as it promotes the correct muscle and bone development to build strong, yet supple bodies – bodies that will attain healthy postures and just as importantly, understand how to relax in the face of the continuing bombardment of stress that pervades modern day living. Pilates is a regimen followed by many adults around the world for its myriad of health benefits, but unfortunately not taught to children (as opposed to yoga which is becoming more and more popular) (5). Helen Doron is a forerunner in this branch of childhood development including regular Pilates workouts in its Ready Steady Move programmes starting as early as age three and half. By the time the children complete three years of the Ready Steady Move course, they will have learnt and practiced a significant amount of Pilate techniques designed to improve both core muscle and kinaesthetic abilities. These in turn aid in producing correct breathing, neck alignment, rib and scapular stabilization and pelvic mobility. Dance like martial arts encourages both brain development and overall health that in turn leads to better concentration, mood, spatial recognition and even long-term memory (6). This, coupled with the physical
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Language Development in Children by Helen Doron

I’d like to discuss language development in children and how kids can easily learn a second, third – even fourth language. Now children are absolutely amazing; they are limited only by what we can present to them in a systematic manner. In fact, if we could systematically present 20 languages to them, they would learn 20 languages – because the brain is unlimited in its capacity. And while that would be a very rare extreme, still there are many situations in which children have to deal with three or four languages at once. So in order to ensure that your child has the best possible chance of learning these languages, there are several crucial elements to have in mind. And the first one is that it is never, ever too early to start.   The Earlier the Better I’m absolutely horrified when I hear parents say, “But why speak to him, if he can’t speak back yet?” Well he’s never going to speak if you don’t speak to him first! Children won’t learn to speak through osmosis, or out of the air. It’s not mysticism; it’s pure, practical science. Input equals output, and you must speak to your child if you want him or her to develop their language skills. There is actually a great deal of research to support this. In fact, we know today that children actually start learning language in the womb. Now, the next question I hear a lot is: “How should I speak to my child?”       Motherese and Language Plus One Happily, you probably already know the answer to this question – for two amazing language-related phenomena happen to a new mother upon the birth of her child. The first phenomenon is that she suddenly develops the miraculous ability to speak ‘Motherese.’ This language has several elements: It is slightly slower than normal speech, and it has a higher pitch and different intonation. Certain words are emphasized and vocabulary is simplified. It’s all automatic and instinctive, and helps the child to learn. It’s actually not limited to mothers: Fathers, siblings and grandparents also find themselves speaking this new language naturally and with ease. The second phenomenon is that parents have the instinctive knowledge that in order to develop their child’s language abilities, they must present her with what she understands plus one level above. If you speak to children using only words and concepts they understand, they won’t progress. So “Language Plus One” is an instinctive and crucial part of language learning. And finally, we come to:   Read, Read, Read Just go out and fill your home with books – there is a wealth of fantastic material you can read to young children and it is one of the best ways for them to pick up the language. And don’t worry about what they do or don’t understand. Knowledge is gained gradually, and what they can’t grasp the first week, they will the next. This will develop their linguistic understanding, their
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What to do when your bilingual child won’t speak English

Well, first of all don’t worry. This is a completely normal reaction and I hear this from almost all parents where English is not the native language of the country. In this environment, their children are fully exposed to the local native language and but they are also integrating a second, or even third language. Their children may be learning English in a class they are taking or they may have an English-speaking parent, family member or nanny who very diligently speaks to them in English. While this exposure may encourage and promote English language learning, in actuality, the children may not want to speak in any language other than the local mother tongue. So, how can you help your child speak? Input is Essential        If your children are Helen Doron English students, have patience and they will soon speak in English outside of the lesson. If the child is in an environment where he sees that he is not being understood, he will indeed switch languages, even when very young. Otherwise, the child will sit in his comfort zone and speak the most natural, easiest language that he is able to. You can increase the input; identify some English DVDs and CDs that your children like and let them enjoy listening without pressuring them to speak.   Provide as much enjoyable input as you can, and let them start producing English at their own pace. Read to Your Child        Read to your children in English— Find some good English picture books that your children enjoy looking at with you and read them together at story time. You can’t read too much! Provide them with material that interests and encourages them. Let them read for pleasure. If the child is older, see how you can support and encourage him or her to enjoy reading. With my youngest, it was Harry Potter. At the age of 14 he wouldn’t read anything but the sports newspaper, in Hebrew. So one day, I brought him the first two Harry Potter books, in English, and said, “I’ll read a paragraph aloud, then you’ll read a paragraph, in English.” He sat up and looked at me and then politely participated. After the first chapter, he motioned to me to leave and he continued reading on his own. The first book led to the second and the third books and he became a fluent reader in English and his language has been enriched. Sing Lots of Songs        There is so much great music for children available online. Go to the Helen Doron Song Club on YouTube for younger children or find teen channels with songs, such as Helen Doron Radio. There is something very special about hearing and singing songs in English. Songs capture the children’s attention and allow them to absorb language that is often far beyond their cognitive abilities. It will help them understand the culture and they will feel more attuned to the language and encouraged to speak more, because they
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Healthy Food Choices for Your Child – Debunking the “milk myth.”

Healthy Food Choices for Your Child – Debunking the “milk myth.” Many of us were raised on dairy products and our mothers were told, and believed, that milk is nature’s perfect food. Research, however, is showing that this isn’t the case. The idea that milk and dairy products are good for you and the key source of calcium in a healthy diet is actually a myth. Some Key Milk Myths: “Milk is “nature’s perfect food.” Cow’s milk might be ideal for baby cows, but not for humans. Did you know that more than 60 percent of people are lactose intolerant, which can lead to uncomfortable symptoms like upset tummy, cramping, and bloating. Regular consumption of dairy products has even been linked to different cancers. “Milk builds strong bones” Strong bones come from adequate exercise and calcium-rich foods. Did you know that plant-based alternatives such as almond milk, soymilk and rice milk can easily provide your child’s daily requirements for calcium? You can find sweetened, unsweetened and even flavoured plant milk, puddings and more. “Kids need milk to be healthy” After babies are weaned from breast milk or formula, they do not need any type of milk to be healthy. Milk consumption during childhood has even been linked to colic and type 1 diabetes. That chronic runny nose, recurrent ear infection or dark circles under the eyes? These often come from consuming dairy products. Are you concerned that something might happen if your child stops ingesting dairy products? Its true, something will happen and it is for the better. Children’s health often improves when dairy is eliminated. Set a goal. Eliminate dairy products from your child’s diet, substituting other calcium-rich foods for 6 weeks and take note if your child’s runny nose, upset tummy, ear infections and overall well-being improve. This can be the first step in in creating a better nutritional plan for your child.
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Should English Teachers be Teaching Values?

When we teach, values are always implicit. Showing respect for others, taking turns, assuming responsibility and turning in assignments on time are key values that are an integral part of what students learn in school. These values teach children not only to be good class members, but are a basis for learning to become good citizens and community members. Which values are best? The question isn’t whether or not teachers should be teaching values, but what kinds of values should teachers help students develop. First, by being a positive role model, a teacher models the right behaviours. These include honesty, showing respect for others, taking responsibility for one’s actions, cooperation and caring. Students are the reflections of their teacher. The way teacher acts, behaves and talks, is observed and evaluated by the student. Secondly, by teaching students how to think and evaluate what they are learning, they are teaching values along with course content. For example, a lesson that teaches about Earth Day not only teaches facts and numbers, but also about caring for the environment. Language impacts our values English teachers, by the very nature of their course content, teach values. The languages that we learn and speak impact the way we think, the way we see the world, and the way we live our lives. When children learn a second language, they learn more than words. They learn about different cultures, about different ways of thinking and about how to accept and respect differences. More than 30 years of experience in teaching English as a Foreign Language has shown me that the original methodology that our trained Helen Doron teachers use in the classroom to teach English supports learning good values. Our teachers use positive reinforcement, which teaches students respect for others, as well as respect for themselves. Learning through fun and games in small groups of 4-8 students teaches good sportsmanship and team building skills.
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The Best Way to Teach English

Finding the Best Way to Teach English When my daughter Ella was four years old, she began learning to play the violin with the Suzuki method, which teaches young children to play musical instrument before reading notation. Dr Suzuki called this ‘the language of music’. He did this by repeated home hearing of the portions of music to be studied and positive activities in class to teach the young hands how to play. And he also made sure the children received positive feedback so they felt successful. I realised that this is actually how we should be teaching foreign languages: to very young children and by a way that imitated the manner in which they learn their mother tongue. It was clear to me that this had to be through repeated background hearing of language portions at home so that the brain would receive repeated hits and make the language part of its physiology, and by positive reinforcement by the teacher. Initially, I assumed that someone must have already developed such a methodology for teaching English, but this wasn’t the case. So, in 1985 I started teaching young children ages 1 to 6 with the goal of finding testing my theory of how it was best for young to learn English as a foreign language. To create the home background hearing that could be repeated, I created audio cassettes, which consisted of me plunking on the piano while singing, as well as making home recordings of poems and stories. It worked really well and the following year I had many more students and, because there was such great demand, I realised the need to train teachers in the methodology and materials. Clearly I also needed to create professional learning materials. Right from the beginning, my true passion was for the very young ages, because I believe that if a child has a good foundation, it is for life. This foundation extends beyond the classroom. Early parent-child bonding and helping parents to understand their children’s full potential during the early years not only makes for good learning but gives the child a basis for success, joy and self-confidence that has a very real impact on their children’s development. At these early ages, up to the age of seven, the child’s brain is primed for learning. The right mental stimulation and physical activities create greater brain connectivity and in turn, more neural pathways. This prepares him or her to succeed. Find out in part 2 how a fun and stress-free learning environment, based on support and positive reinforcement means that a child will believe in himself, learn easily and will have a foundation of confidence for life. Learn more about Helen Doron English and Helen Doron Kindergarten programmes.
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More than English, Values for Life

Over the past 30 years, I have seen and experienced how the Helen Doron methodology has helped children successfully learn English. While I am gratified that the method has been effective, I was interested to hear from teachers, teacher trainers, franchisees and Master Franchisors that the effectiveness of the method has gone beyond the classroom and has individually changed their family lives, their relationships and even the way they do business. I am not surprised because the Helen Doron method isn’t about just teaching English; it gives the teachers and their students a mindset and a foundation for success that extends beyond the classroom. I was recently contacted through social media by a gentleman who told me that the methodology had a lasting impact on him. A former Helen Doron English teacher, he understood that the learning process is dynamic and that it is necessary to adapt content and the method for learning to match the stage and level of development of the learner. As his teaching experience and career role changed, he moved to the U.S. and was able to take the tools he learnt in his HDE teacher training and successfully apply them to his work in industrial design. Helen Doron teachers are trained to provide positive reinforcement and build on how children naturally learn. The whole process of learning reinforces for the child that ‘yes, he can!’ He is encouraged and nurtured and this support is, in so many ways, counter to the traditional methods of teaching and even, of parenting. The methodology teaches people and takes them through a process of how to give feedback and how to help children grow. This positive approach creates a healthy mindset which affects all our relationships, not just those in the classroom. This is how parents should encourage their children. While parents might feel that they need to be critical or negative, it is truly unnecessary. When parents understand that positive reinforcement is a wonderful example for their children, it can extend to all their relationships. Family life improves, even professionally to train others; it can be used anywhere. Helen Doron English teacher training courses not only provide international qualifications that allow the teacher to teach anywhere in the world but gives them valuable life skills. In our teacher training courses, I see teachers go through a process. It is not just learning how to give positive feedback, it is about reaching deeper, learning to go back inside and be a child and come out in a positive manner. The playfulness brings the teacher out and teaches them techniques that they can use for life. I would not be surprised if people come on the course just to be deeply ingrained in our philosophy. They are being given skills for life. Find out more about the successful Helen Doron methodology HERE. Interested in teaching or other career opportunities with Helen Doron, click HERE.
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Learning Naturally with the Spiral Method Part 2

Helen, let’s please continue our conversation about the various elements that contribute to the success of the Helen Doron methodology; what makes the method work? There are a variety of components that contribute to the success of the methodology, and we have more to explain about the important features that spiral learning contributes to its success. Spiral learning is a relatively new concept in education. Rather than trying to master a subject all at once, spiral learning teaches a concept gradually and repeatedly, reinforcing concepts over time. The idea is that each time a student encounters the topic; the student expands their knowledge or improves their skill level. It is a very natural process. I’ll share an interesting anecdote with you: I had a two-year-old child attending one of my classes that was mostly four-year-old children. In the early years we didn’t have the wealth of learning materials that we now have and we varied the ages in the classroom. Today we are more precise. This child was what we today might call hyperactive and he spent all his time going around the class moving and making sounds like an airplane. When I would teach a new idea he would stop, the airplane would come into land and he would sit mesmerized and lap it all up. When I finished teaching the new materials he would get up and return to flying around the class again. He knew what was new material, it was absolutely clear. Spiral Learning is a much better method than the mastery method. When you teach mastery method, even if it is through different and enjoyable activities, the material is not new and this does not stimulate the children the way new information does. The children want to learn new ideas. They are comfortable with not having complete mastery of all the information from the start. They do not feel that they need to know the information thoroughly before they continue and learn something else. With spiral learning, when the students return to the information the next month or year, they will learn it in a new and different context. They will learn different nuances of the concept and they will gain an even richer understanding of the language. For example, what is the word ‘train’? To a toddler, the word simply refers to a ‘choo-choo train’ but as the child grows and learns, the word takes on additional meanings and what might come to mind is long back of a wedding gown, a ‘wedding dress train.’ The word ‘train’ can also be used as a verb – to teach, or ‘train’ someone. There is also the concept of a ‘train of thought’ and so on…. So, with each stage of development, when the child learns the word ‘train’ in a different context, he understands that the meaning can have many different nuances. If spiral learning is a natural way of learning, then why is the mastery method still used so much? The truth is, some
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Spiral Learning – A Successful Approach to Learning for Your Child

More than 2 million children have learnt English through the Helen Doron methodology. What is the secret to your success? How does the method work? There are many features of the methodology that contribute to its success, let’s focus now on the concept of spiral learning. Spiral learning is a relatively new concept in education. Rather than trying to master a subject all at once, spiral learning teaches a concept gradually and repeatedly, reinforcing concepts over time. The idea is that each time a student encounters the topic; the student expands their knowledge or improves their skill level. It is a very natural process. How is spiral learning a natural process? Think about how you taught your baby. Did you bring him into the kitchen and say, “We are going to sit here until you learn all the utensils—spoon, cup, fork, table and so on.” I imagine you did not do this and rather, taught him through the process of active participation. ‘Here is your cup. What is in your cup? Ooh, yes you have juice in the cup. Would you like a spoon to put into your cup? And so on…’ What you are doing is using the language and you are repeating the word and using sentences to emphasize the words and ideas you are trying to get across. It is an expected way of learning. Nobody has sat down in the garden with their young child and said, “Alright we are going to learn everything about the garden and won’t go back inside until you have mastered the information. “It’s not a natural way to learn, it’s not how we do things. We learn information in context and we learn it over time and it’s an intuitive way of learning. My method teaches 70% familiar content and 30% new ideas because children need to be introduced to the new, even if they don’t yet know the old thoroughly. It is essential to remember that children are constantly growing and changing, even from week to week. A child one week is completely different from the next week and for sure, when there is a month between reintroducing ideas, there can be a whole universe between how the child grasps information and processes what he is learning. Back in the 1980s, when I first began teaching English, we had just produced, the English For All Children programme. Book 2 taught parts of the body and I had a feeling that one of my group of 3 to 5 year olds wasn’t ‘getting it’. I felt they didn’t know the information well enough, so I decided to teach the didactic things that I knew that everyone else taught, even though it wasn’t my teaching methodology or philosophy to do so. I decided that the class would learn the parts of the body, I had a full arsenal of activities, and games— from bingo to lotto to memory game to movement, hide, and seek. We came out of that lesson and
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Are Your Food Choices Slowing Down Your Child?

To state that balanced nutrition is essential for proper child development seems obvious enough in itself, yet worldwide, parents are not caring enough for their child’s IQ, EQ and motor development simply by not providing the correct nutrition to their children – even though they can afford to. Paradoxically, many children in developed countries are undernourished because of a lack of correct nutrition due to a diet based on fast foods, high in sugar, salt and bad fats. We are pleased to bring you a weekly series of blog posts and an opportunity to learn from educator and linguistic scientist, Helen Doron. Helen has been teaching English to children for 30 years. She is the founder and CEO of the Helen Doron Educational Group and created a unique methodology for teaching English, maths, fitness, and infant development with original and revolutionary learning materials. This week’s question: How does nutrition affect brain development and learning? Helen responds: Obvious, No? A nutrient-rich diet is essential for children to develop optimal brain function. A recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health followed the dietary patterns of nearly 4,000 children from birth for over eight years. The study found that toddlers who ate a nutrient-rich diet full of fruits and vegetables had higher IQ scores when they reached 8 years of age compared to the toddlers who consumed processed foods full of fat and sugar. The foods that the toddlers ate had a dramatic long term effect on their brain function. Nutrition plays an important role in brain development during all stages of childhood. Whereas the brain grows fastest in the first few years of life, it continues to develop throughout adolescence. So it is important that children of all ages consume a high nutrient diet to ensure adequate brain development. Beginning with Breastfeeding Breastfeeding mothers who themselves eat a high nutrient diet pass on those nutrients to their children, improving their children’s cognitive development and overall health. In fact mothers who take care of their own nutrition, fitness and wellbeing during pregnancy are already giving their unborn children a head start in life. Children who are breastfed for at least six months have higher IQ scores than children who are raised on formula. A greater proportion of an infant’s diet made up of breast milk also correlates to greater brain volume in adolescence. This is due in part to the DHA content of breast milk, since DHA is a major component of brain cell membranes. Breast milk is not only an important source of DHA, but it provides many other essential nutrients for the developing brain, as well as promoting the health of the immune and respiratory systems and supporting overall childhood health.  Upon the introduction of solid foods, greater consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with higher IQ and better memory skills when children reach 4 years of age.  In school-age children, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, as well as increased cholesterol intake have been linked to diminished intelligence and poor academic performance. Eat the
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