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Parent Engagement in Elementary School

November 22, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Parent Engagement in Elementary School | How to guide your child through school, encouraging good study habits and healthy friendships while providing emotional support. | A father plays cards with his son and daughter.

As your child begins elementary school, your role as your child’s primary teacher transitions to his or her official teacher at school. While the school will now lead your child’s formal education, you still need to guide him or her through school, encouraging good study habits and healthy friendships while providing emotional support.

Here are some ways you can practice parent engagement while your child goes through elementary school.

Encourage Friendships
As your child starts spending most of the day at school, he or she will primarily be socializing with peers. According to Sunny P. Chico, author of YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher, “These early friendships teach your child how to interact with the world.”

Encourage your child to develop friendships with classmates and children from the neighborhood by arranging play dates outside of school, like inviting a classmate over on the weekend. Teach your child what being a good friend means: being kind and considerate of each other’s feelings.

Listen to Your Child
Think back to your childhood. Are there times when you tried to tell your parents something but they didn’t listen or didn’t understand the severity of what you were telling them?

Sometimes when our children reach out to us about problems, we dismiss them as trivial childhood quarrels or tattling. But it’s important for your child to know that he or she can express an issue and you will hear it. Listen to what your child is saying, ask questions about how he or she feels, and think about whether it might be a symptom of a greater problem, like bullying. If so, contact the teacher and work together to resolve the situation.

Eat Healthy
What are the typical breakfasts, snacks, and dinners your family eats during the week? If your refrigerator and pantry have healthy foods and limited junk or processed foods, your family is more likely to eat healthy, have better nutrition, and perform better at school and work.

Make slow transitions to healthier food. For example, the next time you’re at the store, instead of buying potato or tortilla chips, buy crunchy carrots and hummus to dip them in. Small changes can help your child transition to a healthier diet over time.

Address Struggles and Developmental Delays
If your child struggles with learning in any capacity, speak with his or her teacher about being tested for special education services. These services can range from speech therapy to additional help for disorders like autism or dyslexia.

By working with the teacher to determine what struggles your child is having in school, you will find out if there is a greater issue that you and the school can address to help your child learn and succeed. If so, start the process for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that defines what services, programs, or accommodations your child will receive from the school.

For a mother’s story about her son’s experience with an IEP, click here for Part I and here for Part II.

As your child grows, you will still nurture his or her social and emotional well-being, physical health, and academic development. Your role will change, but you are still your child’s strongest advocate.

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Parent Engagement in the Early Years

November 15, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Parent Engagement in the Early Years | Several examples of how you can practice parent engagement throughout the early years—from day one through kindergarten. | A father reads with his young children.

When raising a child, it’s hard to know when parent engagement begins. With a baby, you’re doing your best to meet the baby’s needs and fit in sleep when you can. Once the baby becomes a toddler, you’re working on small things, like motor skills and reading. But when should you start actively being an engaged parent?

The answer is at the very beginning, but the shape of parent engagement changes as your child grows. Here are several examples of how you can practice parent engagement throughout the early years—from day one through kindergarten.

Infancy and Stress
Raising a healthy and secure child starts in infancy as you hold, soothe, and interact with your baby. That nurturing helps the child develop a healthy sense of self that will allow him or her to better cope with stress when he or she gets older.

In addition to that nurturing, you can further help your baby by keeping your stress away from him or her. When you are stressed, your body produces toxins that affect your major systems. Babies and children can sense your stress as well, so keep the stress away by taking deep breaths, practicing yoga and/or meditation, and seeking therapy if necessary.

Toddlers and Vocabulary
Help your child develop his or her vocabulary by experiencing new things together.

For example, if you live in the city, take a day trip to the country. Your child will see new things and ask about them. If you see a silo on a farm, explain that it is used to store grain. Once your child seems to understand, point to the silo and ask what it is. Help your toddler continue to learn these vocabulary words by taking pictures and looking through them at home, asking him or her to name the things seen during the trip.

Early Childhood and Preschool
When your child is around three years old, you might consider sending him or her to preschool to start the formal learning process and prepare your child for kindergarten. Attending preschool can provide your child with many benefits, such as:

  • Learning concepts and skills, like colors, shapes, numbers, and letters.
  • Learning to play, share, and cooperate with others.
  • Learning to talk and listen to others, along with new words and proper grammar.

Starting Kindergarten
When entering kindergarten, it’s important that your child starts making his or her own choices. You can encourage making smart choices by giving your child healthy options. For example, ask your child if he or she wants yogurt or an apple as a snack. Does he or she want to play t-ball or basketball today? These options allow your child to eat healthy and exercise regardless of the choice, while it also empowers your child to have control over something in his or her life.

It’s not difficult to practice parent engagement. It’s as easy as nurturing your child, encouraging him or her to learn new things and meet new people, and slowly helping him or her learn to be independent.

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What difference does parent engagement make?

November 8, 2016

By Jessica Vician

What difference does parent engagement make? | "The more parents we have involved, the better we can help the kids.”

YOU Parent is a part of the YOU Program, a parent engagement program that unites teachers and parents to support a child’s academic success at school and at home.

The YOU Program team is dedicated to empowering parents and educators to support the child’s academic achievement through a holistic approach that addresses the child’s four core needs—social well-being, emotional well-being, physical health, and academic achievement. We teach parent engagement best practices through our 3-book set, YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher, and by delivering workshops to parents, teachers, and administrators throughout the country.

What difference does parent engagement make? These readers, leaders, and workshop attendees will tell you: it makes a world of difference. Here’s what they say:

“We feel strongly that the advantage of having parental engagement in our schools will make a huge difference in the future. Having the parents involved in this equation in education is critical.”
–Superintendent in Phoenix, AZ

“As a veteran teacher, I can say that this book should be a must read for all parents.”
–Illinois Teacher of the Year, Chicago, IL

“The workshop really helped us think more about our children and their environment. They helped us understand the importance of a child’s physical and emotional well-being and how that relates to school and what we can do to help motivate them.”
–Parent of middle school student, Phoenix, AZ

“I am a community advocate for community responsibility and understanding our roles. The YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher book series saves me so much time and gives me the tools I was looking for to share!”
–Community advocate in Philadelphia, PA

“When parents know they have help, students will be more successful.” 
–Superintendent in Los Angeles County, CA

“First time I have seen a structured, truly holistic approach to parent engagement. This program needs to be implemented in all schools. The more parents we have involved, the better we can help the kids.”
–Teacher, Dayton, OH

“The books were very informative, strategic, and organized. They will help manage the growth patterns of any child.”
–Mother, Chicago, IL

Now that you know what a difference parent engagement makes, what will you do? Ask your child’s school principal to host a parent workshop and read through the 3-book set to see what you can do to support your child, no matter what grade level. It’s never too late to become an engaged parent.

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5 Ways to Be More Engaged at Your Child’s School

November 1, 2016

By Jessica Vician

5 Ways to Be More Engaged at Your Child’s School

November is our favorite month at YOU Parent, because it’s Parent Engagement Month! The entire YOU Program is devoted to teaching parents the best parent engagement practices and educating teachers about partnering with parents for student success.

While effective parent engagement involves nurturing each of your child’s needs—social well-being, emotional well-being, physical health, and academic development—sometimes the hardest part is knowing how to be an engaged parent at your child’s school.

How important is education to your family?
Teachers aren’t the only people responsible for your child’s education. Children change teachers every year, but they don’t change parents. The first thing you can do to support your child’s education is to demonstrate how much you and your family value education, and therefore show your child how important his or her education is.

Once your child knows how much you value his or her education, you will likely see your child taking steps to succeed at school: behaving in class, doing homework, and asking questions of the teacher and you when he or she doesn’t know the answer.

While you can foster academic success outside of the classroom by engaging your child in discussions about school, certain subjects, and making sure he or she is doing homework, you can also play a role at school.

Talk to the teacher.
Start by proactively reaching out to the teacher to see how your child is doing in class. Email the teacher and ask how he or she prefers to communicate about your child’s successes or concerns. Then find out how your child is doing and ask the teacher for recommendations on supporting your child’s learning at home.

Volunteer in the classroom or at the school.
If you have time to volunteer as a classroom aide, to help at a classroom party, or chaperone a field trip, you express to the school that you are an engaged parent while also showing your child that you are invested in his or her education.

Join the PTA.
The Parent Teacher Association (PTA) at your school is a great place to network with other parents, teachers, and administration. You can directly influence your child’s education at the school by speaking with school staff, fundraising for school supplies, and learning about local and national issues that impact your child’s education.

Attend performances or games.
School isn’t just about academics. Support your child’s social and emotional development by attending his or her performances—like a school play, holiday program, or recital—or sports practices and games. It takes a lot of courage for a child to perform, whether solo or in a group, and your presence demonstrates how much you care.

Request parent engagement training.
The YOU Program, which is the parent engagement program upon which YOU Parent is based, offers various forms of training so that parents can learn how to best practice parent engagement with their children. You can learn the basics in a parent workshop and become a parent leader and train other parents at the school after attending a parent leadership training workshop. Ask the principal to offer a workshop at your child’s school.

By trying one or two of these suggestions, you will prove to your child that you support him or her in school and show his or her teachers and administrators the same. Use Parent Engagement Month to be more engaged at your child’s school.

Is your school hosting special activities for Parent Engagement Month? Tell us what they’re doing and what you will be attending in the comments below.

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Activity: Halloween Candy Trading Post

October 25, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Activity: Halloween Candy Trading Post | How do you let your child enjoy his or her spoils from trick or treating without eating too much (or whining about not having enough)? Try this activity.

After the trick or treating ends and the costumes are put away, there’s one last thing a parent has to worry about for Halloween: the begging and pleading for one more! piece of candy.

How do you let your child enjoy his or her spoils from trick or treating without eating too much (or whining about not having enough)?

If your child is in elementary school or above, make a trading game out of it. Assign relative values to each candy. For example, two rolls of Smarties are equivalent to one two-pack of fun-size Starburst. Not only does this game teach your children to use both mathematical and analytical skills, but it also turns the candy into a commodity that your child will start to see as more than just a sugary, fruity, or chocolaty treat.

Once you have assigned the relative values to each candy, invite your kids to divide their candy into the various categories you have assigned. If you need help determining values, watch this hilarious and accurate Buzzfeed video.

Then, invite your kids to trade according to the value system in place. Since there is a lot of excitement on Halloween night, let them trade a few days’ worth of candy that night (and eat some of it, embracing the inevitable sugar high). In the days following, host a candy trading post at the kitchen table after school or dinner so that your kids can honor the value system and continue to trade their candy each night for one dessert’s worth.

Continue the activity every night until all the candy is gone. As a parent, you choose whether to participate or supervise. If you have an only child, you should definitely participate—otherwise, whom will he or she trade with every night? If you don’t want to eat your candy, bring it to the office or treat your child with it after his or her supply is gone.

This Halloween candy trading activity is a great way to trick your kids into rationing their treats without whining and overindulging while developing their analytical and bargaining skills at the same time.

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