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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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4 Tips for Backpack Safety

September 20, 2016

By Jessica Vician

4 Tips for Backpack Safety | AOTA's National School Backpack Awareness Day: Pack it light, wear it right! The AOTA dinosaur wears his backpack right.

Did you know that your child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10 percent of his or her body weight? Think about that for a moment: 

  • A 50-pound child’s backpack should only be five pounds.
  • An 80-pound child’s backpack should only be eight pounds.
  • A 120-pound teen’s backpack should only be 12 pounds.

How heavy is your child’s backpack with all of those books, notebooks, and supplies?

September 21st is the American Occupational Therapy Association’s (AOTA) National School Backpack Awareness Day and a great opportunity for teachers and parents to ensure students are carrying the lightest loads possible and in the most efficient manner.

Here are four tips to packing and wearing a backpack to evenly distribute weight and prevent injuries:

  1. Pack the heaviest items to the back and center of the pack.
  2. Keep sharp tools away from your child’s back.
  3. Use both shoulder straps to evenly distribute the weight on your child’s back.
  4. Keep the straps tight so the backpack is even with your child’s shoulders on top and doesn’t droop below the hipbones on bottom.

Read through AOTA’s infographic for more backpack fitting tips.

If you notice your child has back pain, see his or her pediatrician or doctor. Bring the backpack to the appointment so the doctor can see how your child wears it and how heavy it is. If the backpack is more than 10 percent of your child’s body weight, talk to his or her teacher about bringing home fewer books each night.

How heavy is your child’s backpack? Weigh it on the scale and tell us in the comments below.

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How can you practice parent engagement this school year?

August 30, 2016

By Jessica Vician

How can you practice parent engagement this school year? | Parents and teachers chat happily in a classroom.

You’ve prepared your child to start school by getting him or her into the back-to-school routine, buying school supplies, and sharing how to make a good impression on his or her new teacher(s). But have you thought about your role in the process once school starts?

Parents need to be just as prepared as students for back to school, making an effort to have a positive and open relationship with teachers and administration and practicing effective parent engagement at school and at home.

Parent Engagement at School

  1. Introduce yourself to teachers and administration.
    At the beginning of the school year, attend any parent-teacher meeting opportunities to introduce yourself to your child’s teacher(s). If there aren’t any formal opportunities, arrive at school early in the first week to introduce yourself to the teacher and administration.
  2. Share contact information and ask how the teacher prefers to communicate.
    Taking this initiative demonstrates to the teacher that you are proactively open to communicate about your child’s successes and/or concerns.
  3. 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 can demonstrate to the school that you are an engaged parent while also demonstrating to your child that you are invested in his or her education.
  4. 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 your principal about offering these workshops in your school, as they can boost student achievement by enlisting parent support.

Parent Engagement at Home
In addition to practicing parent engagement at school, you must also practice it at home by attending to your child’s needs while building the foundation for academic success.

A child requires all four of his or her core needs to be met in order to live a successful life, so parents must nurture a child’s social well-being, emotional well-being, physical health, and academic development.

You can do that by practicing these eight parent engagement activities and asking yourself:

  1. Are you paying attention to your child’s social and emotional well-being? 
  2. Are you making sure he or she is living a healthy life? 
  3. Are you coordinating with your child’s teacher to foster academic success outside of the classroom? 
  4. Are you modeling the behavior you want to see in your son or daughter outside the home?

By asking these questions and making a good impression at your child’s school, you’re already on the path to parent engagement success. Get involved and support your child’s needs to make this school year a great one.

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How to Emotionally Prepare Your Teen for High School

July 26, 2016

By Jessica Vician

How to Emotionally Prepare Your Teen for High School | How your teen handles this new adventure will have a big impact on his or her academic success, so use these five points to guide your support. | A group of teens preparing for high school pose in front of their lockers.

When it comes to preparing for high school, academics seem like the easy part. After all, starting high school means multiple middle schools merging, old friends meeting new friends, teenage emotions and hormones clashing, navigating the delicate dance of high school dating, and finding out what makes everyone tick.

While you will want to establish academic expectations, study habits, and routines with your teenager before high school starts, you will also want to help him or her prepare emotionally and socially. How your teen handles this new adventure will have a big impact on his or her academic success, so use these five points to guide your support.

Encourage them to find themselves.
Your teen can get a sense of the school before he or she starts by attending plays, concerts, and sports games at the high school. He or she can evaluate which of these activities, if any, interests him or her and can plan to audition, try out, or join clubs or groups associated with the activities.

In addition to finding his or her interests, your teenager should prioritize finding friends who promote happiness and even some who challenge your teen to be a better person. Encourage your teen to make friends who make him or her happy instead of being popular. While popularity is usually important to teenagers, his or her happiness is more important.

Use orientation to reduce first-day jitters.
Your teenager should attend orientation to get a better understanding of his or her new school in preparation for a smooth first day.

To make it more fun, encourage your teen to attend with a good friend from middle school. Let them figure out their locker combinations, find the fastest route from class to class, and learn where their friends’ lockers are.

Be friendly and avoid gossip.
PBS Kids has a great explanation of rumors and gossip and how both can be used to hurt others. Familiarize yourself with these scenarios so you can discourage your teen from gossiping.

At the same time, you can encourage your child to look at high school as a fresh start. While he or she will keep some or many friends from middle school, eliminating previous animosities toward other classmates and giving everyone a clean slate will help your teen make new friends and stay on good terms with as many people as possible.

Give them more independence.
As teens form stronger friendships, start dating, and move into adulthood, they will distance themselves from their parents and families. That’s okay in moderation. Just as you let your child start feeding him or herself as a toddler, you can let your teenager work out problems and manage his or her life with little guidance.

Ensure your teen knows you are always available to talk, and make sure he or she spends enough time on homework, eats healthy when at home, etc., but give your teen time to spend with friends, join clubs and sports teams, and more. Part of high school is preparing to live independently in college, so teens need to earn gradual independence from their families at this time.

Pay attention to their friends.
Just because you encourage your teenager to spend time with his or her friends doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep an eye on those friends. Invite them over for pizza and offer to drive them to the movies or the mall. By spending even a little bit of time with your teen’s friends, you will learn more about them and identify potential bad influences. You will also be relieved if your teen’s friends are great kids who make your teen happy.

Starting high school can be stressful for teenagers and their parents, but by practicing these support tips, you both will be better prepared.

Has your teenager already entered high school? How did you help him or her prepare? Share in the comments below.

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