More to Know

Articles and expert advice to help you guide your child to educational success.
Have a topic you'd like covered in a blog post? Submit here.

How to Talk to Your College Student About Life on Campus

December 17, 2013

By Jessica Vician

How to talk to your college student about life on campus

Your college freshman is back home after completing his or her first term. You’re so happy to have your child home, but what do you do now? As you have probably learned, your job as a parent didn’t stop when your child went away to school. He or she might have been homesick and called crying, or maybe didn’t call at all because he or she was so busy and having fun. Regardless of how your child coped while at school, you should use this break as an opportunity to talk about this new life and find out how things are going. 

When children leave home and live on their own for the first time, even in a dormitory, they need to learn how to take care of responsibilities without the help of mom or dad. You should check in on how your child is handling several big changes. Too often, those students who are overwhelmed by college life, end up dropping out over the holidays. Be as supportive as possible to help motivate your child to keep going or even just to reaffirm that your love and support is still there and still unconditional.

  • School. How are your child’s grades? Has he or she found an effective studying routine? Ask about most and least favorite classes, and find out why. If you also went to college, you can bond with your child over similar likes and dislikes. It is also important to address any concerns you might have about your child’s grades or courses at this time. If he or she is performing poorly, offer tips on improving study habits and focusing on academics.
  • Career. When you are asking your child about courses he or she likes, watch your child’s facial expressions. If your child’s eyes light up when talking about a certain class, he or she is clearly passionate about the subject. If your child has not yet declared a major, suggest exploring career options related to the subjects that he or she is passionate about. Even if your child has declared a major and is happy with that choice, talk about a double major or a minor in the other subject for extra experience.
  • Health. Has your child gained or lost a significant amount of weight since being away? Has he or she been sick frequently? These are signs that your child might be having trouble managing stress or taking care of him or herself without parents there to help. Ask your child what types of food he or she is eating. Make sure it is a balanced diet with protein, vegetables, fruits, and enough water. While weight gain or loss can be a touchy subject, focus the conversation on nutrition and exercise, as getting the proper nutrition will help your child focus better when studying, perform better at school, get sick less frequently, and be happier and healthier. Exercise is a great stress reliever and boosts endorphins, which help put us in a better mood. This lesson will be important for the rest of your child’s life. 

It’s important to check in with your child regularly, even when he or she has moved out of your home. Your child is going through many changes and learning how to be an independent adult, which is more difficult than it sounds. Asking specific questions about how your child is doing not only helps you learn how to help him or her but also communicates that you still care.

COMMENTS (0)

5 Ways to Keep Skills Sharp Over Break

December 16, 2013

By Kevin Rutter

Keep Skills Sharp Over Break

The upcoming winter break offers a welcome respite from the daily routine of school and a chance to visit with family and friends. While even teachers appreciate time to relax, we know how important it is to take the time to pursue our own interests and refresh our own love of learning. This time off provides opportunities to learn, develop, and retain academic skills for teachers and students alike. Here are my top five tips for parents to keep their students on their academic toes during break:

  • Visit a museum. 
Local museums often have reduced or free admission to students who present a valid school ID. Take advantage of the extra time during winter break and visit one. It is a great chance for students to see new things and explore.
  • Read a book. 
This may seem to be a lame idea to teenagers, but research shows that the number one way to improve tests scores is by reading. I advise my students to read and read often. Set some time aside during break for your child to read about something they are interested in. The act of reading requires concentration and imagination, which are great skills to reinforce during break.
  • Work ahead
. Students can use the time over break to work ahead in their classes, especially the ones they are having trouble with. Teachers often have the next assignment posted on the school’s website and you can help your student get a jump start on what is coming next in the classroom after break. Even just a preview of what’s to come can be helpful.
  • Play board games. 
In my family we regularly play classic board games, especially during the holidays when we are all gathered together. These games can help improve a number of skills relevant to academic success: teamwork, problem-solving, spelling, thinking on your feet, etc. A couple of my favorites are Bananagrams, Scrabble, and Monopoly.
  • Watch current events. 
Watch a documentary or news program with your students. Sometimes classrooms can be disconnected from what is happening in current events. With the extra time available during winter break you can choose to watch something on television regarding current events. This can be a way to help you student connect the classroom to the outside world.
COMMENTS (0)

Gift Idea for Students: the Gift of Saving!

December 11, 2013

By Kevin Rutter

Gift Idea for Students: The Gift of Saving

As a teacher of personal finance I regularly tell my students the most important thing about building a healthy financial life is to save. Expert financial advisors say that 5 to 10 percent of your income is a good number to shoot for, but the more you save, the better. 

There are three basic principals in being successful at saving money:

  1. Pay Yourself First (PYF). This is a strategy to stay disciplined in regularly contributing to a saving plan by paying into it first. Every time a paycheck is earned, take 5 to 10 percent off the top and add it to the savings plan.
  2. Save for the long term. The true power of saving money can only be unleashed when money is saved over a long period of time in an interest-bearing account at a financial institution. Money deposited at a financial institution is also insured by the federal government through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to 250,000 dollars per account. So, the savings cannot be lost or stolen no matter what happens to the bank. 
  3. Start ASAP. The sooner you start to save, the sooner that money will grow. 

This holiday season provides a perfect opportunity to start educating your student on the importance of savings. Use part of any gift money to open up a savings account for your child and encourage relatives who wish to buy something to do the same. 

Additionally, state governments across the country are encouraging parents to save for their children’s college fund by creating special investment opportunities called 529 plans. There are significant tax breaks for those participating in these plans and other benefits depending on which state you live in. In Illinois, the 529 plan is known as Bright Start. For more information about opening this type of account and the benefits of having one, see Bright Start Savings.

COMMENTS (0)

A Time for Giving

December 11, 2013

By Amanda Gebhardt

Toy Donations

Yesterday was International Human Rights Day, a day that commemorates the monumental statement of what it means to be human adopted through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This holiday season it’s important to remember those around us who struggle for their basic rights to a standard of living that ensures their health and security. In the rush of the holidays, it’s easy to forget that giving doesn’t just mean gifts, but also giving of ourselves to those in need.

Earlier last month, my husband passed a giving tree in the lobby of a building here in Chicago. Each tag had the gender and age of a child and what he or she was asking for. Standing there in that lobby on the way in between workday appointments he read the card for a three-year-old little girl. The request was for sweaters.

This past November, our daughter, Abby, turned three years old. I can’t imagine the sheer amount of clothes, toys, and general things she will be gifted this holiday season, not just by us, but by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. Here in the same city, though, another little girl will be lucky if a stranger helps her keep warm. My husband saw that card and felt for that little girl, knowing how much we have to be thankful for and remembering his own childhood and the way his mother struggled to raise two boys on a cashier’s pay. 

The holidays are a time of celebration and togetherness, but mostly, they are a time of giving. We give love and kindness to those in our lives and community who need it. Our daughter is just getting old enough to understand what the holidays are and what she can expect. We want her to always be more willing to give of herself than to take for herself. Such a value can be developed at every age. The following are some of the ways I’ve been able to find to help begin teaching children the importance of giving. 

Preschoolers and Kindergarteners

  • Talk to your child about giving to others and why it is important.
  • Work together to choose unused toys and clothes to donate to those in need.
  • Create a special donation bank where children can put loose change and have them choose a charity to give it to.

Elementary Students

  • Have your child pick out a special toy at the store to donate to Toys for Tots or a similar organization. 
  • Send a package to an American soldier through one of these organizations.
  • Visit a nursing home or a hospital.

Middle and High School Students

  • Volunteer as a family at a local food bank or soup kitchen.
  • Help organize a food drive at school.
  • Sponsor an impoverished child or family.

With each new generation learning to give to each other, hopefully we will help create a world where no little girls ever go cold. For now, at least, our family was able to help one more stay warm this winter. Find out more about what you and your family can do at organizations like Chicago Cares, the United Way, and the American Red Cross

COMMENTS (0)

The Holiday Brady Bunch: Blending Families

December 9, 2013

By Sunny P. Chico

The Holiday Brady Bunch

Holidays are about spending time together as a family and celebrating. Families come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re always growing and changing. One of the things I love most about my own family is how it grew over the years to include some of the people I now hold most dear. When my husband and I married, I was blessed with what I call my three bonus daughters from my husband’s first marriage, while I brought with me my two children from my first marriage.

To be honest, I never had a big conflict. We may not always see eye-to-eye on different things, but as I can attest, the same is true for mothers and daughters everywhere. Even though my stepdaughters were raised Jewish and my children are Catholic, we celebrate holidays through our cultures and the uniqueness of our religions. 

So, during this time of the year when families get together, how do you avoid conflict between blended families?

  • Be patient. I remember our first Christmas together as a blended family. I made my traditional Christmas dinner: a Cuban meal. My husband’s girls, who at the time were 10 and 11 year-olds, wouldn’t have any of this. Now, about thirteen years later, this meal has become one of their favorite meals of the year!
  • Learn about other customs. Don’t make your new family members do anything they don’t want to do and instead try to make them feel welcome. Make sure that you are taking the time to learn about their customs and try, as much as you can, to be a part of them. Christmas is about celebrating each other’s uniqueness, cultures, and beliefs. But most of all, it is about celebrating each other and the gift of family.
  • Create new memories. This doesn’t mean you have to abandon old ones, though. You can come up with new traditions like a family sleepover on Christmas Eve, for example. In my family, everybody expects my famous breakfast quiche on the morning of the 25. It has become a true family tradition!

Remember why you are together. If there are major conflicts, remember that this isn’t just because you are a blended family. All kinds of families have issues. There’s a lot of stress during the holidays and at a certain point conflicts are normal. Remember to respect each other’s differences and remember what you love about each other.

Understanding and a true sense of family don’t happen overnight. I can’t stress enough that this takes time and you need to be patient and consistent. Family is forged through our shared joys and struggles. Be there for each other and you will grow stronger together. It can and will happen!  

COMMENTS (0)
 First ... Previous 74 75 76 77 78 Next ... Last