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Celebrate Your Child's Teacher During Teacher Appreciation Week

May 9, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Celebrate Your Child's Teacher During Teacher Appreciation Week

Image courtesy of PTA.org

Teachers do so much for our kids—not only do they educate, they also look out for their social, emotional, and physical well-being while at school. They're building confidence and self-esteem while curbing bullying. They're teaching for academic success and inspiring a thirst for knowledge outside of the textbook.

With the PTA's Teacher Appreciation Week in full swing, how will you thank your child's teacher for all that they do?

The PTA put together a toolkit that will help you and your fellow parents say thanks. From thank you cards to appreciation certificates to flyers, head over to their site to download and print.

You can publicly thank the teachers on social media using the PTA graphics included in the kit and the #ThankATeacher hashtag.

Ask your child to name several things they like about their teacher. If your child is old enough to write, have them write a thank you card. If they can't write yet, write the thank you card for them.

For older kids, ask them to think about what they love about their favorite teachers and find things they admire about their least favorite teachers. Encourage them to write thank you cards to both. It's the least we can do for the people who do it all for our kids.

Tags :  teachersacademicsocial
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Earth Day: Air Quality in Schools

April 18, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Earth Day: Air Quality in Schools | Support your child's school's green school initiative this Earth Day.

Earth Day 2017 focuses on environmental and climate literacy. The theme calls attention to the importance of educating ourselves and our children on the needs of Earth’s environment and how humans can reduce the negative impact our species has contributed in the past and move forward with the knowledge of how fragile the environment is.

With that knowledge, we can make better choices every day that might seem small—like daily recycling—but lead to a big impact—reducing the size of our landfills. When we raise our kids to be mindful of their environment, they will grow up to be more environmentally conscious than the generation before them and can develop processes and plans to live smarter, more efficiently, and more Earth-friendly for future generations.

The Earth Day Network has organized many projects, from reforestation efforts (reversing the current trend of losing over 15 billion trees each year) to protecting endangered species. One of their projects that directly impacts your children is the Green Schools Campaign.

Why should you support this initiative? The Earth Day Network says,

“With children spending two-thirds of their waking hours inside schools, benefits like pure air quality, healthy lighting, safe outdoor spaces, and high quality cafeteria food aren’t fancy extras—they are essential.”

Think about air quality alone.

The air quality indoors can be up to 100 times worse than outdoors, and roughly 50 percent of classrooms have poor indoor air quality, according to Earth Day Network. Many school classrooms have low ventilation rates, where respiratory illnesses have increased between 50 to 370 percent, according to research provided by Lawrence Berkely Labs. American students miss about 14 millions school days each year due to asthma, according to the Green Education Foundation.

Those statistics are a rallying cry to use this Earth Day as an opportunity to change. You can start by further educating yourself on the Green Schools Campaign.

  • Learn why the initiative is important and how it will impact your child’s health.
  • Start talking to other parents about it.
  • Schedule a meeting with the school principal to start a conversation. Find out what your school is doing to improve air quality and make the school healthier and greener.
  • Introduce yourself to the person leading the initiative at the school and ask how you can help. That might include organizing meetings, fundraising for better building technology, or even educating others on the issue.

These are the first steps to enacting change. Educate yourself, talk to others, and learn what’s already being done. Then think of what else you can do to help current efforts or lead the charge yourself. Change for the future starts with one person. Change for your child’s future starts with you.

Tell us what you learned about your child’s school’s green initiatives in the comments below. Then keep us posted on your progress. Feel free to email us at info@youparent.com for a more direct conversation.

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4 Brain Breaks for High School Students

January 17, 2017

By Jessica Vician

4 Brain Breaks for High School Students |  When your teenager starts learning about complicated topics, brain breaks can help them focus and can even enhance the learning experience. | A teen girl takes a brain break with a cup of milk.

Once your teen enters high school, he or she will be learning important foundational knowledge that can be built upon in future years of study. For example, learning the basics about RNA and DNA in biology class could lead to studying genetics. Learning about the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand could lead to a desire to learn more about international politics.

When your teenager starts learning about complicated topics, it can be difficult to wrap his or her head around them and can lead to an exhausted brain. But brain breaks can help your teen focus and can even enhance the learning experience.

Dr. Judy Willis discusses the science behind brain breaks in this Edutopia article. Basically, if your teen takes a 5-minute break from studying every 30 minutes, and uses that time to relate the learning to his or her life or even just gets the blood flowing again through exercise, it will help him or her retain the knowledge.

As your teenager starts studying a new topic that may be challenging, try one (or all four) of these brain break ideas. 

  1. Research the topic your child is learning about and share an interesting fact about the topic or about one of the leading minds on the subject. For example, if your teenager is studying Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, take a brain break to talk about how Einstein said that he often thought in music. Your teen likely loves listening to music, and knowing that he or she has something in common with the person who developing this complicated concept might help alter the way he or she thinks about learning it.
  2. When taking a break from reading a novel, spend five minutes role-playing as a character from the story. Ask your teen questions and have them answer as they think the main character would.
  3. When learning about eyesight or perhaps learning about a person who is blind, blindfold your teen during the brain break and have him or her try simple, everyday tasks so he or she can appreciate the sense of sight more. It's slightly removed from learning about lenses and corneas and only gives a minor example of what it's like to live without sight, but it might spark more of an interest in the subject.
  4. Is your teen learning a foreign language? During a brain break, do jumping jacks together while counting in that language. For more advanced work, conjugate verbs in that language during the jumping jacks.

Do you have any favorite brain breaks that you use with your kids? Share with us in the comments below.

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Parent Engagement in High School

November 29, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Parent Engagement in High School | Parents can facilitate discussions about a healthy lifestyle, including character, self-esteem, and relationships to help them become a well-adjusted adult and a strong candidate for college. | Two teenagers walk to class with books in tow.

High school is a big test for parent engagement. While it can be a time for parents to relax as their teenagers become more independent and take on more responsibilities, it’s also important for parents to facilitate discussions about a healthy lifestyle, including character, self-esteem, and relationships. As your teenager becomes an adult, these important skills and traits will help them become a well-adjusted adult and a strong candidate for college.

Emphasize Character
Since your teenager was a baby, he or she has learned the values and morals that are important to your family, which have shaped his or her personality and character. Now, your teenager is exposed to new ways of thinking and behaving every day. While it’s important for your teen to think for him or herself, you can reinforce those strong values and emphasize the importance of having a strong character.

For example, if your teen wants to quit a sport or a club because it’s too hard, discuss the importance of overcoming challenges and working hard. If he or she is challenging curfew, talk about responsibility. As you apply the concepts of these values to your teenager’s life, he or she will learn how his or her character influences everyday decisions.

Promote Healthy Relationships
As your teen develops stronger friendships, he or she may also start dating more seriously in high school. While you don’t have as much control over who your child dates or spends time with, you still have the power to encourage healthy relationships.

Think about what a healthy relationship means to you. Model that behavior with your parenting partner or significant other. Talk to your teenager about what makes a healthy relationship: open communication, mutual respect, trust, etc. Also discuss what makes an unhealthy relationship: constant fighting, feeling small or unimportant, and violence.

Learn to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship and how to help your teen get out of it here.

Facilitate a Healthy Lifestyle
Teenagers are busy. Between school, sports, extracurriculars, and spending time with friends, it’s hard for parents to keep track of them. It’s also difficult to monitor their health, as they likely eat more meals and snacks on-the-go. Here are some tips to keeping them healthy during busy times.

  • Sit down for breakfast together every morning to ensure your teen starts the day with a nutritious meal.
  • Keep healthy grab-and-go snacks at home, like granola bars, apples, bananas, and oranges.
  • Ask your teen to sit down for a family dinner a few days a week if his or her schedule allows.
  • Take evening or weekend walks together to catch up while getting exercise.

Prepare for College
You have been and always will be an advocate for your child’s education. When it comes to preparing for college, ensure your child is taking the right steps and meeting with the right people from freshman year registration day.

  • Meet with the school counselor to determine what classes your child should take each year to qualify for college admission, including courses that count for college credit, like Advanced Placement (AP) courses.
  • Save your child’s best work for a portfolio, should he or she need it for college admission.
  • Encourage your child to get a well-rounded education by participating in extracurricular activities and clubs.
  • Stay on top of college testing deadlines, like the PSAT, SAT, and/or ACT.

You have spent your teenager’s life preparing him or her for adulthood. High school is a critical part of the race, as your child will take what he or she has learned and apply it as he or she moves toward independence. Use these best parent engagement practices to keep your teenager on track.

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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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