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Parent Engagement in College: Academic Success

September 10, 2014

By Judy Razo

Parent Engagement in College: Academic Success | A college student raises his hand and the teacher calls on him in a lecture hall.

The time has come for your child to head off to college. You’ve done a great job staying involved at his or her school, providing a loving home, offering help and support for academic success, and you even checked grades to make sure he or she stayed on track to graduate. Now your teenager is off to college and you hope to continue supporting him or her in the same way.

However, the circumstances will be different. You can’t volunteer at the school, he or she won’t be living at home, you can’t keep track of study habits, and the academic advisor is not allowed to give you, or anybody else, any of your student’s academic information.

That’s right. The only person allowed by law to receive your child’s grades and GPA is your child. Now that he or she is in college, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) classifies your child as a responsible adult and therefore protects his or her right to privacy. It is your child’s choice to share his or her grades and GPA with you.

So how can you check grades when your son or daughter doesn’t have to show them to you? I have some tested approaches that will help you out.

Start by acknowledging that your child is now considered an adult, and therefore, you should respect and trust him or her as one. This will only strengthen your relationship and keep the lines of communication open between you, which in turn will make your child feel comfortable enough to show you his or her grades, no matter what they look like.

Next, create a protocol in case he or she has trouble with a class or grades begin to slip. Try to establish this protocol before he or she starts college and present it as a “just in case” plan that both of you hope you won’t have to use. As a parent you have high expectations for your child. As a son or daughter, your child doesn’t want to hear that you think he or she is going to fail, so be tactful in your delivery. Acknowledge that going to college is very different than going to high school and this plan will provide wiggle room as your child adjusts.

Before your student leaves for college, make an agreement for when he or she will share grades. This will set expectations and help keep your child on track as he or she keeps in mind the agreement to share grades after midterms and at the end of the semester.

The agreement will vary depending on the relationship between you and your child. If you are able to, you could offer to pay tuition in exchange for a strong GPA. You could also incentivize your student by offering to increase the monthly stipend or upgrade his or her living or lifestyle arrangements each semester contingent on academic progress.

Lastly, you can take your parent engagement level a step beyond just grades by having your student walk you through his or her degree plan and sit down at the end of each semester to check off the completed classes. Stay open-minded to your child’s choices and always be supportive if he or she chooses to change his or her major or area of study.

Remember to be confident that you raised a well-rounded and prepared child. This is the opportunity to allow all of the things you taught him or her to kick in; you just have to be patient, open-minded, and give it some time. Your child will apply what you have taught him or her and learn new techniques that will hopefully pay off.


DIY: Study Rooms for Kids

September 8, 2014

By Nikki Cecala

DIY: Study Rooms for Kids | A photo of the YOU Parent Pinterest board called DIY: Study Rooms for Kids

Your child has returned to school and you’re noticing the homework and studying is getting heavy. School books are scattered on the kitchen table, notebooks are opened on the coffee table in the living room, and pens and highlighters appear magically throughout the house. Why not make a study room for your son or daughter?

Your first thought may be that you do not have the funds for such a wonderful idea. But making a study room does not have to be expensive. You probably already have everything you need without realizing it. You really only need three things for the foundation of a great study room: location, furniture, and accessories. We even created a Pinterest board to inspire you.

First, you and your child need to agree on a location. Maybe you have a junk closet that you can clean out. Maybe you have a mudroom or a window recess that can be put to great use. Maybe you have an inside back porch that nobody uses. Maybe you don’t have an extra room but have a corner of a room you can section off with a simple hanging curtain. Find somewhere private, quiet, and peaceful. Does the space have access to a view or window? Imagine what would help you focus and get work done and ask your child what would help him or her.

You won’t need to go out and buy all new furniture, but you will need a table and chair. Depending on the space, you can add shelving. I recommend wall shelving because it is space-friendly and inexpensive. A cabinet would be another good piece of furniture to use in this room, as it could store supplies like notebooks, pencils, rulers, calculators, and any other study materials that could clutter up the area.

This is the fun part! Let your son or daughter get creative. Allow him or her to hang pictures, add a clock, a corkboard, a calendar, etc. I recommend a motivational board to help inspire and keep your child focused.

If you need ideas on how to utilize a closet or make cute accessories, visit our DIY: Study Rooms for Kids board on Pinterest. We will be adding to it regularly, so follow the board for the latest updates.

Where have you created space for your child’s studying? Tell me in the comments below.


Help Your Child Get a Summer Internship

May 14, 2014

By Nikki Cecala

A professional shows older teens several graphs and charts on a tablet in an office.

Internships are a wonderful opportunity for high school and college students alike. College students can learn more about their desired industry, while high school students can decide if they want to major in a related field when they go to college. Summer is the perfect time for an internship, as your student is likely not in class and can focus on the job without sacrificing his or her schoolwork.

Learning why internships are important, how to find them, and how to get them are important things to consider. Below are some common questions and answers for parents and students regarding internships.

Benefits of Internships

Internships provide free networking and give students the experience of working with a company in their desired field. Many offer college credit hours, too. If your child is a high school senior, contact the college he or she is attending in the fall to see if they will give your child college credit for the internship.

There are some internships that will also pay the student in addition to offering college credit. If your child finds one that offers both, it’s a keeper!

Internships allow students to view what the working world is like. They teach important skills such as time management, computer skills, and how to engage with clients. Even if the internship has a minor role such as answering phones, ordering supplies, or prepping conferences, it is a perfect setting for networking and observing how the company functions and manages clients.

Some internships can lead to full- or part-time jobs, or may offer to extend the student’s stay for another semester.

How to Find an Internship

It’s as simple as browsing a business’ website and finding the careers section. Some companies have specific time windows for hiring interns. Others are open year-round but may have specific requests.

College students can ask their career services department or advisor about available internships. They should start their search a few months before the desired start date.

High school students can ask their high school counselor and teachers for help, or check with their coaches and club advisors. Ask family and friends if they know someone who works in a field that interests your student. If there is a specific company or organization your student would like to work for, don't be afraid to have him or her contact someone there for information.

The websites below are helpful internship placements based on the student’s career, location, and needs.

Interview Process

Internships are potential jobs. If your student applies for an internship that requires an interview, ensure that he or she dresses professionally. For example, no jeans or gym shoes.

Your student should print a few copies of his or her updated résumé and provide work samples if possible. Companies like to see what the student has accomplished thus far before hiring him or her.

Remind your student that an internship is a learning experience and an opportunity to create connections that can help him or her in a future job search. Even the smallest tasks can provide learning opportunities and something to add to his or her résumé that demonstrates an active engagement in the real world.


Where to Find Classes for Your Gifted Child

April 9, 2014

By Kevin Rutter

A girl proudly shows her teacher and classmates the art project she created.

You have noticed that your child has a talent, skill, or particular like of a subject area. Follow up on that observation by checking in with your child’s school for specific programs that can develop that special skill your student does so well.

Some of the things that you can check out include:

  • Advanced courses at school. Every school has an honors or AP (advance placement) level for core courses (math, science, English). Encourage your student to take on the challenge of an honors course so that he or she can test the limits of his or her gift.
  • Complementary courses. Outside of core courses, there are also a wide variety of programming options at school for a gifted child that might include music, arts, foreign language, Career and Technical Education (CTE), and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Typically, programs in these areas cover a span of multiple years, starting at the novice level and progressing toward mastery. Check with your local school/district for details on the programs available at your school. If you can, visit the school and talk to the teachers and students in the program to get their perspective to see if it will be the right fit for your student.
  • After school extracurricular options. Outside of the regular school day there are a wide range of options for students to explore and grow their talents. Most schools have before and after school extracurricular options covering music, arts, athletics, and more. You can also check local non-profit community groups (YMCA, Junior Achievement), the local park district, post-secondary institutions, and religious organizations. Programming might cover an hour or two a week or be a weeklong camp, so consider the level of commitment that is best for your child.

My mother used to give me the park district flyer, asking me to choose at least one activity a season to participate in. It was a win-win situation, as I was allowed to choose something I was good at or liked and she got me out of the house to meet new people, learn new skills, and develop my talents.

You can use this method while choosing any of these types of courses or programs to make sure your child picks something he or she enjoys that will help him or her develop skills that can later on turn into a career.


How can I help my child receive a bilingual education?

March 28, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

A girl reads a book and says, "I love you." "Te amo." "Thank you." "Gracias." "Please." "Por favor."

Question: My 5-year-old daughter speaks Spanish and English, as my husband and I are bilingual and speak both languages to her. When she starts school in the fall, we want her to learn both in Spanish and English. How can we help her receive a bilingual education?

Answer: It’s wonderful that you want your daughter to continue growing up bilingual. In a world of increased globalization, knowing multiple languages is not only a valuable business skill, but also one that reduces limitations for your daughter and gives her the opportunity for greater cultural experiences.

The best option for ensuring your daughter receives a bilingual education is to enroll her in a dual language bilingual education school. These schools teach both English and another language through all grades and subjects, which will solidify her fluency in both languages.

Another option is to choose a school that offers Spanish classes at the elementary level. Since she already speaks the language a bit, she may be able to test out of the introductory course and begin at a more advanced level.

If these programs are not available in your area, you may need to supplement her bilingual education outside of traditional school time. Here are some simple ways to do that:

  • Practice “Spanish-only” time at dinner or another designated time with your child. Talk about regular things in Spanish. If your daughter has trouble remembering a vocabulary word, ask her to use the Spanish words she knows to describe it.
  • Enroll your daughter in Spanish classes at her skill level. You can find these classes at local Spanish-language schools, tutoring businesses, or even at private schools.
  • Read Spanish children’s books to your daughter. Once she can read, ask her to read these books to you. Reading in another language is one of the best ways to learn grammar rules and common phrases.

From formal education to reading exercises, there are many ways to give your daughter a bilingual education. Soon she will be ready for a third language!

For more information on dual language bilingual education, or to learn about transitional bilingual education, please refer to Through Elementary and Middle School, the second book in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series.

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