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Respect Your Child’s Teacher

January 6, 2014

By Jessica Vician

Respect your child's teacher

While your child’s educational success starts at home, as soon as your child starts school, his or her teachers will be sharing that responsibility with you. By giving your child’s teacher the proper respect and receiving respect in return, you will start to build the kind of partnership that will promote your child’s academic success. Sarah Cripe, a pre-kindergarten teacher in Kalamazoo, Michigan, offers these tips on how to work with your child’s teacher:

  • Get to know your child’s teacher. Introduce yourself at the beginning of the school year and tell the teacher that you want to know how your child is doing throughout the year. This gesture shows the teacher that you are an involved parent and they will try to help you.
  • Ask the teacher what you can do to help your child succeed. You are both working toward giving your child a bright future. Share your goal for your child so they can help him or her achieve it.
  • Don’t judge a teacher based on a bad previous experience. Unfortunately, sometimes your child will have a teacher who is not as invested or effective as you might want. However, don’t bring that negative experience into a new school year. Give the new teacher a chance to work with you and help your child succeed in the classroom.
  • Be involved. Make sure your child finishes his or her homework every night. Ask your child about his or her day at school. By being involved in your child’s education at home, you can monitor his or her success and address concerns as soon as they come up. If there is a concern, discuss it with your child’s teacher.
  • Speak directly with the teacher. Don’t express teacher concerns in front of your child. These actions could hurt his or her relationship with the teacher. Schedule a meeting to discuss the concern with your child’s teacher first, and if necessary the principal, rather than involving your child or saying something in the heat of the moment that you might regret later.

By establishing a relationship and keeping the lines of communication open with your child’s teacher, both of you can work toward the common goal of helping your child succeed in school. For more tips on helping your child succeed in school, see the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books.

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6 Ways to Celebrate Letter Writing Week with Your Family

January 2, 2014

By Amanda Gebhardt

Celebrate Letter Writing Week with your family

The second week of January marks Letter Writing Week, and now is the perfect time to maintain the sense of love and family that was fueled by the stacks of holiday cards sent through the mail last month. Below are six things you can do to bring Letter Writing Week to the whole family.

  1. Holiday Thank You Notes. What better way to say goodbye to the last year and start the new one off right than through a gesture of appreciation? Children of any age can work with you to send out thank you notes for all of the gifts they received over the holidays. Younger children can color, decorate, write their names, or otherwise add to a note according to their skill level.
  2. Pen Pals. So many of our friends and family are scattered across the country these days. Encourage your family to stay in touch with letters. If your child is learning another language, you might even look into international pen pal programs to keep those language skills sharp and broaden your child’s horizons.
  3. Letter to the Future. Each New Year brings a whole host of new resolutions, ideas, and plans. Encourage your family members to write a letter to themselves about their goals for the upcoming year and their plans for achieving them. Seal them up and set them aside until next year where each of you can open them and see where the year took you. It may just become one of your family’s favorite New Year’s traditions!
  4. Hide ‘n Seek Letters. Play a game where everyone writes each other letters and hides them around the house at random. It can be the traditional note in a lunchbox, or an elaborate “Ode to Mom’s Meatloaf” tucked between pots and pans in the cupboard. Consider setting up house rules, where the person who receives the letter has to write one in return or be stuck doing the other person’s chores for a few days.
  5. Snow Write. For those families in the northern climates, new fallen snow can be a fun and playful canvas for family letters. You can compose one together in an open area, writing large enough in the snow for planes overhead to see, or you can take turns writing out surprise messages for one another to find.
  6. Trace It. Young children may not be able to write out their names or even form individual letters on their own yet, but two- to three-year-olds may be able to trace letters that you write out for them. This process helps develop fine motor skills and letter-sound associations, both of which are important for school readiness.

I grew up loving letters. I wrote to my cousin, to my best friend, and even to my husband while we were just dating. What role have letters played in your life? Share your answer or the ways your family celebrates Letter Writing Week with us in the forum.

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5 Ways to Keep Skills Sharp Over Break

December 16, 2013

By Kevin Rutter

Keep Skills Sharp Over Break

The upcoming winter break offers a welcome respite from the daily routine of school and a chance to visit with family and friends. While even teachers appreciate time to relax, we know how important it is to take the time to pursue our own interests and refresh our own love of learning. This time off provides opportunities to learn, develop, and retain academic skills for teachers and students alike. Here are my top five tips for parents to keep their students on their academic toes during break:

  • Visit a museum. 
Local museums often have reduced or free admission to students who present a valid school ID. Take advantage of the extra time during winter break and visit one. It is a great chance for students to see new things and explore.
  • Read a book. 
This may seem to be a lame idea to teenagers, but research shows that the number one way to improve tests scores is by reading. I advise my students to read and read often. Set some time aside during break for your child to read about something they are interested in. The act of reading requires concentration and imagination, which are great skills to reinforce during break.
  • Work ahead
. Students can use the time over break to work ahead in their classes, especially the ones they are having trouble with. Teachers often have the next assignment posted on the school’s website and you can help your student get a jump start on what is coming next in the classroom after break. Even just a preview of what’s to come can be helpful.
  • Play board games. 
In my family we regularly play classic board games, especially during the holidays when we are all gathered together. These games can help improve a number of skills relevant to academic success: teamwork, problem-solving, spelling, thinking on your feet, etc. A couple of my favorites are Bananagrams, Scrabble, and Monopoly.
  • Watch current events. 
Watch a documentary or news program with your students. Sometimes classrooms can be disconnected from what is happening in current events. With the extra time available during winter break you can choose to watch something on television regarding current events. This can be a way to help you student connect the classroom to the outside world.
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A Time for Giving

December 11, 2013

By Amanda Gebhardt

Toy Donations

Yesterday was International Human Rights Day, a day that commemorates the monumental statement of what it means to be human adopted through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This holiday season it’s important to remember those around us who struggle for their basic rights to a standard of living that ensures their health and security. In the rush of the holidays, it’s easy to forget that giving doesn’t just mean gifts, but also giving of ourselves to those in need.

Earlier last month, my husband passed a giving tree in the lobby of a building here in Chicago. Each tag had the gender and age of a child and what he or she was asking for. Standing there in that lobby on the way in between workday appointments he read the card for a three-year-old little girl. The request was for sweaters.

This past November, our daughter, Abby, turned three years old. I can’t imagine the sheer amount of clothes, toys, and general things she will be gifted this holiday season, not just by us, but by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. Here in the same city, though, another little girl will be lucky if a stranger helps her keep warm. My husband saw that card and felt for that little girl, knowing how much we have to be thankful for and remembering his own childhood and the way his mother struggled to raise two boys on a cashier’s pay. 

The holidays are a time of celebration and togetherness, but mostly, they are a time of giving. We give love and kindness to those in our lives and community who need it. Our daughter is just getting old enough to understand what the holidays are and what she can expect. We want her to always be more willing to give of herself than to take for herself. Such a value can be developed at every age. The following are some of the ways I’ve been able to find to help begin teaching children the importance of giving. 

Preschoolers and Kindergarteners

  • Talk to your child about giving to others and why it is important.
  • Work together to choose unused toys and clothes to donate to those in need.
  • Create a special donation bank where children can put loose change and have them choose a charity to give it to.

Elementary Students

  • Have your child pick out a special toy at the store to donate to Toys for Tots or a similar organization. 
  • Send a package to an American soldier through one of these organizations.
  • Visit a nursing home or a hospital.

Middle and High School Students

  • Volunteer as a family at a local food bank or soup kitchen.
  • Help organize a food drive at school.
  • Sponsor an impoverished child or family.

With each new generation learning to give to each other, hopefully we will help create a world where no little girls ever go cold. For now, at least, our family was able to help one more stay warm this winter. Find out more about what you and your family can do at organizations like Chicago Cares, the United Way, and the American Red Cross

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