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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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Say "Thank You" on World Teachers' Day

October 4, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Say "Thank You" on World Teachers' Day

“Strangely one of the most central, vital professionals to society does not receive the respect it deserves in some parts of the world.”

That observation comes directly from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in regards to teaching.

So how can we, as individuals in society, change that observation and give teachers the respect they deserve?

We can start by honoring World Teachers’ Day on October 5th and saying “thank you” to our children’s teachers.

Many teachers work long hours, arriving well before the bell rings to start school and staying well past the last bell ring. They take assignments home to grade after dinner. They prepare lesson plans before the first day of school. In many school systems, they’re not paid nearly enough for being tasked with inspiring a thirst for knowledge and a quality education to our children who will become tomorrow’s leaders. And many of them have to spend their own salary to buy supplies for their classrooms due to a lack of funding. Just look at the thousands of Go Fund Me pages started by teachers to stock their classrooms.

We don’t say, “Thank you” nearly enough. Think about what you can thank your child’s teacher for: cleaning her up after she got sick at school, spending extra time with him until he figured out fractions, listening to her as she cried about being bullied, pushing him to score a goal or achieve an athletic accomplishment despite being a little clumsy. Teachers are your extensions while your kids are in school, nurturing your children’s physical, academic, emotional, and social needs.

This World Teachers’ Day, think about what your child’s teacher has done for your daughter or son. Even though it’s early in the school year, you can probably think of something the teacher has done to go out of his or her way for your child. Write them a meaningful thank you card. And if you remember something a past teacher did for your child, send them a card as well. They’ll be touched you still remember.

Above all, remember how hard their jobs are and keep that in mind during each communication you have with them throughout the year. Give them your respect and they will continue to respect your child.

And as your child’s first teacher, thank you for the late nights, early mornings, long days, bad days, poopy diapers, temper tantrums, readings before bed, kisses in the morning, and so much more.

To teachers!

Tags :  teachersacademicparenting
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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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