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10 Ways to Promote Learning at Home

May 19, 2015

By Maureen Powers

10 Ways to Promote Learning at Home | Learning can happen anywhere. In fact, the most important learning happens outside the four walls of a classroom. One of the best things parents can do for their children is to offer experiences beyond those that normally take place at school. Here are 10 activities you can use to promote learning at home.

Imagine two children in the same classroom. One child has never cooked a meal with his parents and one has been cooking with her grandmother at least once a week since she was old enough to stir with a big spoon.

The class reads a book about a family preparing tamales for a holiday meal. The child with no cooking experience has difficulty understanding the words used in the story and building a picture in his mind as he reads about what the family is experiencing.

The child with cooking experience pictures and understands the vocabulary very quickly and easily.

Learning can happen anywhere. In fact, the most important learning happens outside the four walls of a classroom. One of the best things parents can do for their children is to offer experiences beyond those that normally take place at school.

Psychologist Lev Vygotsky found that learning happens when children interact with their communities. New experiences can build vocabulary and give children more knowledge about their world, which is called “prior knowledge.” Children need this prior knowledge as a foundation for learning new things and making sense of them. It affects how easily they can learn and organize new information, according to the author Marilla Svinicki.

Now that you know how important it is to provide learning opportunities at home, how can you create those teachable moments?

  1. Cook with your children. PBS Parents gives great ideas and instructions to get you started.
  2. Allow children to help you make minor, age-appropriate repairs around the house. Name the tools you are using and talk about what you are doing and why. Let your kids tinker, using this website to find free repair manuals for just about everything.
  3. Go outside and mark off a two-foot area of the ground. Watch for any insects that enter or exit the area. Talk to your children about the insects you see and take pictures to look them up later at the library or on the computer.
  4. Attend free experiences offered at the local library. Libraries are a great resource for learning activities designed for children of all ages.
  5. Many communities offer free concerts in the park during the summer months. Check with your local parks and recreation department and let your children experience live music. Point out the different instruments, encouraging them to find the sound each one makes in the song.
  6. When your child wonders about something out loud, talk to him or her about it. Then research it on YouTube. You can learn how to do just about anything by watching videos and tutorials.
  7. Khan Academy is a free website and a great resource for learning just about anything, even HTML coding for kids.
  8. Get an annual pass to the local zoo or science museum. Many museums offer reduced or free admission once a week. Let your kids touch any interactive displays and talk about the animals or exhibits.
  9. Visit the closest national park. Consider purchasing an annual pass that will get your family into all the national parks for a reduced fee. Military families can get a pass for free.
  10. Travel, try new things, explore your community and remember to talk, talk, talk to your children about what they are seeing, hearing, experiencing, and thinking. Ask questions and listen to their answers. You will end up learning something, too!

For more tips to develop your child's academic skills at home, check out our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, now available on Amazon

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9 Ways to Show Your Teacher Appreciation

May 5, 2015

By Maureen Powers

9 Ways to Show Your Teacher Appreciation | National Teacher Day May 5 | National Teacher Appreciation Week May 4-8 | #ThankATeacher

Children in the U.S. spend an average of 900 hours in school each year. That is a lot of time! Teachers play such a huge role in our children’s lives that special teacher appreciation days are scheduled around the globe to recognize them. This week is Teacher Appreciation Week in the United States and today we celebrate National Teacher Day.

The National Education Association describes National Teacher Day as "a day for honoring teachers and recognizing the lasting contributions they make to our lives." Think about all the special things your own child’s teacher has done this year.

How can you show that special teacher how much you appreciate what he or she does for your child without spending a lot of money?

  • Give a special handwritten note of appreciation from you or your child
  • Gift a picture of your child and the teacher in a pretty frame 
  • Donate your time to cut out projects or copy papers
  • Gift coupons the teacher can cash in for help in the classroom, especially at the end of the year
  • Make homemade cards 
  • Ask your child to give the teacher hugs throughout the week
  • Gift drawings and other artwork created by your child
  • Donate books for the classroom
  • Share a small token of appreciation for every day of the week

What else can you do? Visit the National Education Association website to meet the 2015 Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples, to download celebration artwork and videos for special events, and even applaud your favorite teacher on social media for a chance to win $100!

If you are feeling crafty, check out Pinterest for creative ways to show you care.

Whatever you decide to do, take a moment to let the special teacher in your life know how much you appreciate his or her hard work.

Looking for activities that will help your child grow to his or her potential? Check out our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, now available on Amazon

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Why Testing Matters to Your Child’s Education

April 14, 2015

By Maureen Powers

Why Testing Matters to Your Child’s Education | Standardized tests aren't just an annoyance to parents, students, and teachers-- they're critical for state funding. Learn why these tests matter for your child's education. | A student fills in the multiple choice circles with a pencil on a test.

It’s spring and your child’s school is gearing up for standardized state assessments. Children are stressed, teachers are tense, and everyone just wants to get through testing season. Is all this anxiety necessary? Yes! Schools and teachers have a lot to lose if standardized assessments are not taken seriously.

By law, every state in the U.S. must administer state achievement tests to measure what students know and are able to do. The operating budgets in many school districts are often determined by the results of student growth on state standardized assessments. Many public schools have adopted performance pay, which gives teachers additional money if their students score well. In short, more money in schools means your children will be more likely to receive a better education.

Now that you know why these tests are so important to your child’s overall education, what can you do to help?

  • Make sure your child is in attendance all days of testing. Many schools are penalized for poor student attendance, which will affect funding.
  • Encourage your child to do his or her best and express your confidence in him or her. Anxiety and fear of failure can affect test performance.
  • With your child, explore the test questions for the standardized assessment in your state well in advance of the test. Cramming is not a good strategy, as these tests measure knowledge gained over time, not simple facts.
  • The assessment results are often available only after school is out for summer vacation. Make an appointment to speak with your child’s teacher at the beginning of the new school year to go over the results of the standardized assessments so you know your student’s strengths and opportunities for improvement and you are in a better position to advocate for him or her.
  • Visit the US Department of Education website for additional ways to help your child succeed.

By knowing why these standardized tests matter and how they can impact your child’s education, you can hopefully use these tips to help your child study and perform to the best of his or her ability.

Want more tips on preparing your child for academic success? Our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books help parents from birth through high school graduation and beyond. Now available on Amazon

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My Story: How I Found Great + Affordable Daycare in Head Start

April 2, 2015

By Nikki Cecala

My Story: How I Found Great + Affordable Daycare in Head Start | Struggling to find affordable daycare? Depending on your household income, your child may be eligible for Early Head Start. | In the photo, a group of preschool kids join arms together and smile for the camera.

Like most parents, I want what is best for my child. One of those things is daycare. The benefits of daycare are well-worth the cost, which include developing social, emotional, and academic skills, providing supervised physical activity, and taking some of that responsibility off of a parent’s plate. But it can be a struggle to afford daycare, especially if you are a single parent, one-income household, or have multiple children. According to Michelle McCready of Child Care Aware America, a childcare advocacy group, “it’s the highest single household expense in most regions of the country.”

As I added up the numbers, I realized that three days of daycare a week for my son would cost me as much as a month’s rent. Some daycares cost even more. I became very discouraged that I couldn’t give my son the daycare and education I knew he would benefit from because I wasn’t making enough money. As my search continued, I discovered a program called Head Start.

According to their website, “Head Start promotes the school readiness of young children from low-income families through agencies in their local community.” There are two programs: Early Head Start serves infants, toddlers, and pregnant women; Head Start primarily serves three and four year olds. Together, these affordable programs support a child’s development from birth through age five, addressing mental, social, and emotional development.

You can learn more about these programs on their website, including locations, how to apply, and how much funding the state provides for the programs. Having gone through the application process, from initial research to acceptance, I can offer some tips to help you pick a program that fits your and your child’s needs.

Research
Take the time to research everything you can about the program you wish to enroll your child in. I found Yelp quite useful. The reviews are honest and most are directly from the parents.

Update your child’s information
Make sure your child’s doctor appointments are up-to-date, including their shots, dental visits, and anything else.

Plan a visit
Most Head Start programs will allow you to bring your son or daughter to sit in for a half day at the facility. This is a great opportunity to check out how the place is run, how the children act and most importantly, to see if it’s a good fit for your child. Observe and ask as many questions as you need to in order to make the right decision.

Timing + Pricing
Once you select a program, there may be a waiting period, but it might be quicker than you expect. I called a few facilities and was told I could bring my son the following week. The Head Start directors will ask you a variety of questions, including your living situation and monthly income, to help give you the best monthly fee they can. In my opinion, it is extremely affordable compared to a daycare and worth looking into.

Are you already using the Head Start program? Tell me about your experiences in the comments below.

Want to learn more about early childhood? Our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books help parents from birth through high school graduation and beyond. Now available on Amazon

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Speak Up and Get Involved on Cesar Chavez Day

March 31, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Speak Up and Get Involved on Cesar Chavez Day | Speak Up! Get Involved! | On Cesar Chavez Day, we honor his life and spirit through community service. Today, we encourage you to channel that passion into advocating for your child's well-being and education.

Today is Cesar Chavez Day, when we not only celebrate the labor movement and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, but also honor his life and spirit through community service.

The mission of YOU Parent is to provide community support for child success. By empowering other parents to speak up and get involved in their children’s education, we all provide a better future for our children, the community, and society as a whole. Use this day as inspiration to make a difference in your community starting with your own child and then by inspiring other parents to do the same.

Get Involved
How can you get involved in your child’s education? It starts with understanding a child’s four needs for success: physical health, emotional well-being, social well-being, and academic achievement. When these needs are met, the child can become a better student, receive a better education, and therefore lead a fulfilling and successful life.

Success for every child involves a wheel of nurturing: academic achievement, physical health, social and emotional well-being

Get involved in these areas of your child’s life. If you cater to these needs, your child will be better able to pay attention in school and will arrive to class ready to learn.

  • Make sure he or she is eating well and getting enough exercise. 
  • Tell your child you love him or her and give lots of hugs. 
  • Watch your child play with his or her friends—does your child show others respect and enjoy the social time? 
  • Ask your child to go through homework with you and let him or her teach you the lesson to encourage academic success.

Speak Up
Of course, you can’t do it alone. If you’re taking care of your child’s needs at home, you still need to ensure he or she is getting a good education at school. Speak up and advocate for your child’s education—it will not only benefit your child, but the other students at the school as well.

  • Stay in regular contact with your child’s teacher and attend parent-teacher conferences.
  • Volunteer for the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) or another parent organization at your child’s school and influence school policies that will benefit the students. 
  • Ask the school principal for parent engagement programs, like the YOU Program, that teach parents how to meet their children’s needs and teach educators how to better work with parents to boost student achievement. 
  • Bring parent engagement programs and knowledge to local community organizations and help educate other parents on the need to be present and involved in their children’s lives. 
  • Ask other parents for help when you need it. Can’t pick up your child from school? Ask a classmate’s parent and reciprocate later. By seeking help from and giving it to other parents, you’re building a stronger parent community for the kids in your neighborhood.

Cesar Chavez spoke up for what he believed in and rallied for change for the betterment of individuals and society. We believe that every child should have access to a strong support network so that he or she can succeed in life and give back. You can provide that support and inspire others to do the same. Speak up and get involved today to make a difference tomorrow.

Learn more about how strong parent engagement can help your child succeed in school and in life in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books. 

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