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4 Family Activities to Celebrate Las Posadas

December 13, 2016

By Jessica Vician

4 Family Activities to Celebrate Las Posadas | A pointed star piñata waits to be hit by children on Las Posadas.

What is your family doing to celebrate Las Posadas this year? We have four ideas for family activities that range from educational and fun to delicious and filling.

Las Posadas Learning Activity
Teach your toddler or early elementary student about Las Posadas by sharing the symbolism of the poinsettia, the story of Las Posadas, and the traditional way of celebrating in Mexico.

This Las Posadas activity from Scholastic is designed for a classroom but would be fun at home or at a party.

DIY Nativity Scene Toys
A nativity scene can be found in many Christian households during the holidays, but often, the pieces that make up the nativity scene are fragile and not to be touched.

Encourage your child to learn Mary and Joseph's story on the night of Jesus' birth while letting him or her play with a kid-friendly nativity scene that you make together. Mommy Maestra has a great DIY tutorial on making your own nativity scene.

Gather the Kids for a Play
Tap into their inner performer and encourage your kids and their friends to put on a play that tells the Las Posadas story. Gather the adults for an audience and share your parent pride with applause!

Recipes for Las Posadas
Celebrate Las Posadas with traditional Mexican recipes that will warm your family's hearts and bellies. Latino Foodie has recipes for chile verde pork tamales, chipotle-glazed ham, Oaxacan pollo almendrado, and pan dulce. ¡Que rico!

Ask your children to help prepare the meal by giving them age-appropriate tasks. Young ones can stir or set the table, while teenagers can do prep work like cutting vegetables. Let everyone help to keep the family close and the holiday spirit alive.

How does your family celebrate Las Posadas? Share your traditions 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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Parent Engagement in the Early Years

November 15, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Parent Engagement in the Early Years | Several examples of how you can practice parent engagement throughout the early years—from day one through kindergarten. | A father reads with his young children.

When raising a child, it’s hard to know when parent engagement begins. With a baby, you’re doing your best to meet the baby’s needs and fit in sleep when you can. Once the baby becomes a toddler, you’re working on small things, like motor skills and reading. But when should you start actively being an engaged parent?

The answer is at the very beginning, but the shape of parent engagement changes as your child grows. Here are several examples of how you can practice parent engagement throughout the early years—from day one through kindergarten.

Infancy and Stress
Raising a healthy and secure child starts in infancy as you hold, soothe, and interact with your baby. That nurturing helps the child develop a healthy sense of self that will allow him or her to better cope with stress when he or she gets older.

In addition to that nurturing, you can further help your baby by keeping your stress away from him or her. When you are stressed, your body produces toxins that affect your major systems. Babies and children can sense your stress as well, so keep the stress away by taking deep breaths, practicing yoga and/or meditation, and seeking therapy if necessary.

Toddlers and Vocabulary
Help your child develop his or her vocabulary by experiencing new things together.

For example, if you live in the city, take a day trip to the country. Your child will see new things and ask about them. If you see a silo on a farm, explain that it is used to store grain. Once your child seems to understand, point to the silo and ask what it is. Help your toddler continue to learn these vocabulary words by taking pictures and looking through them at home, asking him or her to name the things seen during the trip.

Early Childhood and Preschool
When your child is around three years old, you might consider sending him or her to preschool to start the formal learning process and prepare your child for kindergarten. Attending preschool can provide your child with many benefits, such as:

  • Learning concepts and skills, like colors, shapes, numbers, and letters.
  • Learning to play, share, and cooperate with others.
  • Learning to talk and listen to others, along with new words and proper grammar.

Starting Kindergarten
When entering kindergarten, it’s important that your child starts making his or her own choices. You can encourage making smart choices by giving your child healthy options. For example, ask your child if he or she wants yogurt or an apple as a snack. Does he or she want to play t-ball or basketball today? These options allow your child to eat healthy and exercise regardless of the choice, while it also empowers your child to have control over something in his or her life.

It’s not difficult to practice parent engagement. It’s as easy as nurturing your child, encouraging him or her to learn new things and meet new people, and slowly helping him or her learn to be independent.

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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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