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Helping Your Child Choose a College

November 20, 2014

By Kevin Rutter

Helping Your Child Choose a College | Graduates toss their caps in the air.

Every year I work to support my students in finding the right college or university for their future studies. The most important thing I emphasize is that it is a process. It requires a great deal of planning, determination, and adult encouragement.

There are three areas in the college application process that cause the most trouble for students and provide the greatest opportunity for parents to assist.

Personal Statements 
A personal statement is a short and focused essay where a student writes about who he or she is and where he or she wants to be. These statements are often required as part of the application to a college or scholarship, as they help the selection committee get a better idea of the student’s academic and personal strengths. It is a great chance for the student to demonstrate who he or she is beyond what the transcripts show. Writing a good personal statement is also a process that needs plenty of time for thinking, writing, editing, peer review, teacher feedback, more writing, and more revision.

Parents, encourage your student to write a personal statement during junior year so he or she can get used to the process. Writing about oneself can be very difficult and I often have students who have no idea what to write about. As a parent, you are uniquely qualified to help define your child’s best qualities and provide a few examples of where you have seen your child using his or her positive characteristics.

FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is the most important part of the college process because it will determine how much grant money will be available to your child. A grant is the amount of money a child can receive toward educational expenses without having to pay it back. There is a limited amount of government grant money and it operates on a first come, first serve basis. If you submit the application too late, the money will be gone.

Parents, you have a critical role in completing the FAFSA. The forms will require you to provide evidence of your family’s income by using your tax documents, W-2 and 1040 forms. You will be able to submit the FAFSA sooner if you have this information available. All schools offer free services to parents to help prepare these documents, so take advantage of them.

Comparison Shop
Students have no idea about how much things cost and often fall in love with a school or program without regard to the price tag. Shop around! For example, community colleges sometimes offer the same certifications at a very discounted price.

Before your child decides which school to attend, look together at every option and have a serious discussion with your parenting partner and child about costs. Taking these first steps should help get your child on the right path to choosing a college and financing his or her education.


My Story: Parent Engagement in Action

November 19, 2014

My Story: Parent Engagement in Action | Jairo, Beatriz, Tizoc, and Moctezuma sit in front of a Christmas tree.

Photo courtesy of Beatriz Castro

Parent Engagement Month serves as a reminder to boost our parenting efforts toward helping our children become successful, happy adults. During a recent visit to a California school district that has implemented our YOU Program, we met Beatriz Castro.

Beatriz is an extraordinary example of an engaged parent. A proud mother to her two sons, Moctezuma, 4, and Tizoc, 3, she and her husband are expecting a baby girl in December. She immigrated to the United States from Morelos, Mexico when she was 7 years old with her parents and three siblings for a better education and opportunities. While she struggled with balancing work and college herself, she has prioritized her children’s education so they will have a successful future.

When Beatriz enrolled her sons in an Early Head Start program in 2011, she took a big step toward prioritizing their education. The next year, she boosted her parent engagement efforts by getting involved with the Policy Council Committee at her Early Head Start school. During this time she learned more about the program, the financials, and the critical role parents play in a child’s education. She has brought that knowledge into her daily life with her kids and currently serves as the treasurer for the State Preschool Policy Council.

When Beatriz and her husband first planned to have children, they wanted to ensure their kids would have love, attention, communication, discipline, and an education. In her own words below, she tells us how she gives those things to her children everyday. These daily activities are a great way to bring learning into your home. Even the smallest efforts make a difference.

Getting Dressed
A typical day in our home is a consistent routine. We get dressed, but we make getting dressed a learning experience. The boys love to match clothes, so we discuss colors, shapes, stripes, and lines. As they get dressed, we also talk about the letters. What letter begins with sock? If they don't remember, I make the sound of the s. Sometimes, we do it by singing scissors, scissors sssss, sssss, s.

Both boys know the sounds of the letters already, so that's why they catch on fast. I'm still practicing the ABCs and sounds with my youngest, Tizoc, but he’s learning quickly.

The next thing we do is have breakfast. Depending on what we eat, we discuss the benefits of the food. What does milk give us? Calcium! What does calcium do for us? It makes our bones strong and healthy.

Brushing Teeth
After breakfast, we brush our teeth. Although the kids start the process, I help them at the end. We say front teeth, right side, left side, back teeth, molars, and lastly tongue. Then we rinse while cleaning our toothbrushes with water and putting them back in our cups.

Tying Shoes
We then prepare to start the day outside. They put their shoes on, and I tie Tizoc’s shoes by showing him how to do it first. Moctezuma knows how to tie his shoes already so he does it on his own. I taught him when he was 3½ years old.

Driving to and from Preschool
We put on our seatbelts when we get into the car. Sometimes Tizoc cries because he is having trouble.  If he says he can’t buckle it, I say that I can't help him until he tries first. However, I let him know that I can help him if he cannot do it. He always tries, and then he says, "I did it mommy! I'm a big boy!" So I acknowledge him by telling him what a good job he has done!

On the way to school, we listen to their favorite songs like "ABC Rock," "I am a Pizza," "Slippery Fish," and "Letter Sounds."  Then I drop them off at school.

Later, when I pick them up, they are so happy to see me and share their wonderful day. They tell me what they ate, what they learned, and what activities they worked on that day. On the way home, we listen to favorite songs again.

Lunch and Playtime
When we arrive home, we eat lunch if they have not already eaten. It is a tradition that we always try to eat every meal together as a family. The boys help me set the table and put out the food, and then we sit down and discuss our day in more detail, one by one. We also talk about the type of foods we are eating (like we do in the morning). After the boys are done, they clean up their plates, bring them to the sink, and I give them another chore, liking cleaning the table and drying the dishes. As they do that, we sing the ABCs or count 1-20 together. Then they do chores, make their beds, and take out their trash from their room. I reward them with a piece of candy and a sticker.

After that, they play for one hour. These activities range from Legos, puzzles, reading books, or playing with toys. During this time, I usually do my cleaning.

Afterward, we do homework from school and homework from home, which are alternative assignments that are different from the school. I bought them their favorite activity book, which they love to do. Moctezuma likes to connect the dots, and by doing that he practices his ABCs and numbers. Tizoc is learning numbers and letters right now.

Post-Homework Playtime
Then we play outside together, and a little after, they play by themselves while I get ready for dinner. They usually play soccer, or golf with their father when he gets home early from work. When the kids shower, I teach them about hygiene and the importance of staying clean and healthy.

At the end of the day when they are ready to sleep, my husband and I read to them. We read together so that they can learn efficiently, then we choose another that they read by themselves. While reading, they recognize things we are already learning about in everyday life: colors, shapes, places, settings, numbers, and more. Anything you see everyday in the street, we practice. That is how I taught Moctezuma to read at 4 years old: anywhere you go, you see numbers, letters, colors, shapes, etc. It's so practical and easy.

I love it, because they surprise me in how much and how quickly they learn. We do the same thing when we go out hiking—we talk about the environment and the importance of caring for it. They also know how to sign basic words and their names. Spanish is their first language, as we speak it at home, and English is their second language.
Beatriz has said that the YOU Program taught her how easy and practical it is for parents to teach their children throughout the day. As she mentions above, children absorb information quickly—all you have to do as a parent is provide the small lessons for them to pick up. A huge thank you to Beatriz, who is an inspiration to parents everywhere and a great example of an engaged parent.


Tuition Costs: In-State, Public, + Private

November 18, 2014

By Nikki Cecala

When I was in high school, I couldn’t wait to get out of my hometown. I wanted to live somewhere new and start fresh. I presume this is the feeling of most high school students. It’s a craving for an escape from the bubble of routine and normality. While going away to a 4-year college affords teens greater independence and exposure to these new experiences, it’s important to consider the tuition expenses and other costs.

Your teen can leave his or her hometown and attend several types of colleges. There are in-state public schools, out-of-state public schools, and private schools. Note that private colleges and universities often charge one tuition rate for all students regardless of where they reside, due to reduced state funding. Usually the cost of private institutions is significantly higher than public institutions. Attending an out-of-state public school could be less expensive than attending a private institution. In-state public schools are often a lower-cost alternative to the other two options.

Of course, the biggest expense regarding any type of college is tuition, but there are other costs to consider as well. Based on the College Board’s Trends in College Pricing 2013 report, I put this chart together to show you the cost difference in schools and where the money goes, from tuition and fees to room and board to books and school supplies. According to their research, the average cost difference between an in-state public school and a private school is over $24,000 a year!

Tuition Costs: In-State, Public, and Private | Total costs for in-state: $31,228; out-of-state: $45,638; private: $55,587

Reduced Tuition Options

As you can see, in-state public schools are significantly more affordable than out-of-state public and private schools in any location. However, there are some schools that offer reduced tuition loopholes in case your student is interested in an out-of-state or private school. Some colleges will waive residency requirements to students whose parents are policemen, firemen, teachers, or are in the military. At Texas A&M University, non-Texans who earn a competitive scholarship of at least $1,000 qualify for in-state tuition rates. It can also be beneficial for your child to attend your or your parenting partner’s alma mater. Northern Oklahoma College waives non-resident fees for children of alumni of several Oklahoma schools.

There are also tuition aid programs that reduce out-of-state tuition for qualifying students who attend school in one of the four geographic regions in the United States. The benefits vary by region, state, and school, so research the benefits in your area accordingly. Here are good places to start: 

Check out the below websites for further information about the entire college process.

Each year, the cost for a college education rises. Don’t give up or let your teen be discouraged. If you do your research thoroughly, it can save thousands of dollars and help your student attend the school of his or her dreams.


8 Parent Engagement Activities

November 13, 2014

By Jessica Vician

We love parents. Show us your pride as an #EngagedParent.

Our goal at YOU Parent is to provide tools that help you raise your child to the best of your ability through parent engagement. But what is parent engagement?

Parent engagement is a collection of activities you can do with your child that aid his or her core needs: social, emotional, physical, and academic development. From birth through high school and beyond, there is always an opportunity to engage with your child, but some ways are easier than others.

Here are eight parent engagement activities that you can do with your child. Each activity addresses one of the four core needs.

Easy: Sit down for a family dinner and talk about your days. What was the best thing that happened all day? What was the worst? What did each of you learn that day?

Difficult: Have a few of your child’s friends over for dinner. Ask about their families, favorite subjects in school, and their hobbies. You can learn a lot about your child through his or her friends. Getting the kids to talk might be tough at first, but in the end it will demonstrate to your child that you care about his or her social life.

Easy: Tuck your child in for bed and lay beside him or her to cuddle for a few minutes before sleep. Show your love with a hug or squeeze.

Difficult: If your child is acting distant or difficult, confront him or her directly and don’t end the conversation until you know the real reason your child is acting that way. Confrontation is uncomfortable, especially if you’re not prepared for the response. But helping your child address a problem now can save his or her life later—especially if your child is dealing with depression, bullying, or other serious problems.

Easy: Talk a short walk with your child. Catch up on each other’s lives.

Difficult: Train for a 5K with your teen. Training might be challenging, but accomplishing something together is a memory you both will cherish forever.

Easy: Check your child’s homework each night and ask him or her to tell you about the work. How did your daughter get the answer to that math problem? Ask her to talk you through the formula or equation.

Difficult: Email the teacher to proactively communicate about your child’s progress. While sending an email isn’t difficult, taking the first step and reaching outside of your comfort zone might be. Don’t worry—teachers want to hear from you before there’s a problem, so you will be making a great impression.


Standards-Based Report Cards + the Common Core

November 12, 2014

By Maureen Powers

Standards-Based Report Cards + the Common Core | An apple and pencil sit on the desk in front of a grading scale.

The school year started months ago. Regardless of what part of the country you live in, progress reports or quarterly report cards have been issued. While you likely want to review those reports to evaluate how your child is performing, there is a chance the grading system may have changed.

Some schools continue to use traditional letter grades A through F but many schools now use Standards-Based Report Cards. What are these standards? Standards describe what students are expected to know and be able to do at each age and grade level. Student progress is determined by measuring how close the student is to being “proficient” at the skill in the standard.

The acronym FAME can help parents remember progress toward the standard:

F= Falls Below the Standard

A= Approaches the Standard

M= Meets the Standard

E= Exceeds the Standard

In the Unites States today, 43 states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have adopted the Common Core State Standards for children in elementary through high school. Understanding what your child is expected to know and be able to do is important and will help him or her be successful in school. You can find more information about your state’s requirements through the Core Standards website.

In addition to the elementary through high school students, all 50 states in the nation have now created early learning standards for three- and four-year-old children. Many states have even added educational guidelines for infants and toddlers. The American Psychological Association has created a State Resources for Early Learning Guidelines Toolkit where you can find links to the early learning standards in your state.

You might need to use your child’s teacher as a resource in deciphering a new report card. Ask if the report card measures what students are expected to know for that reporting period or by the end of the school year. If you don’t understand the new criteria, contact the teacher and ask him or her to walk you through the report and explain how your child is performing. This is a learning opportunity for parents, too.

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