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Hanukkah Lessons for All Ages

December 2, 2013

By Stefanie Boron

Hanukkah Lessons for All Ages

As you may know, this year in a rare alignment of calendars, the first day of Hanukkah occurred on the same night as Thanksgiving.  Someone even coined the term Thanksgivukkah! Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of each November. The Jewish calendar determines Jewish holidays so the dates change from year to year. Some years Hanukkah coincides with Christmas and sometimes it is earlier in December, but overlapping with Thanksgiving is extremely rare.

This occurrence might have changed the way some families celebrated Hanukkah this year, but our family chose to keep the holidays separate and celebrate Hanukkah a few days later. We still lit the menorah on Thanksgiving but didn’t combine the dishes or traditions. There wasn’t any sweet potato kugel or pumpkin matzo ball soup at my Thanksgiving table!

Hanukkah is referred to as the Festival of Lights, as we light Hanukkah candles to remember the miracle of the oil. When the flame in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was out, only enough oil could be found to relight it for one day, but the oil lasted for eight days. Because of this miracle, Hanukkah is a celebration of faith and hope.

Children and adults alike enjoy Hanukkah. Take the time this holiday season to celebrate the miracles in our lives.

  • Make it special. So there isn’t a Christmas tree, but there are lights and presents! Decorate the house, bring out the Menorahs and dreidels and invite family and friends over to celebrate. It is our holiday season as well, so enjoy!
  • Cook traditional food. Traditional foods are potato pancakes with applesauce or sour cream and chocolate Hanukkah gelt, which are chocolate coins. Latkes are fried in the oil that we are celebrating and remembering on this holiday.
  • Spin the dreidel. The Hebrew letters on the dreidel stand for: A Great Miracle Happened There. Players usually play for pennies or Hanukkah gelt.
  • Celebrate all eight days. We celebrate for eight days because that was the duration of the miracle of the oil burning. Each night we light the menorah and say the prayers. We also exchange presents. Some families give presents every night, while some have one big Hanukkah celebration similar to Christmas morning.

After I get my shopping done I always look forward to Hanukkah! My house smells like potato latkes for days, but it is worth it!

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Modeling Good Behavior to Prevent Bullying

November 25, 2013

By Sunny P. Chico

Model Good Behavior For Your Child

Whenever I think about bullying, I can’t help but think about what kinds of things we may be unintentionally teaching our children. As an educator, parent, and grandparent (as well as an aunt, a sister, a daughter, and a friend), I’ve seen how closely children model their behavior after their parents. How we treat each other and those around us will be how our children treat the people around them at home, in school, and well into adulthood.

This is why, as parents, it’s so important to think about what values we model at home. First, we have to show how to communicate respectfully, whether it’s with our children, our partners, or with our own family and friends. There’s a respectful way to have a disagreement where nobody is wrong, where you agree to disagree. We all lose our cool, but it’s important that when that happens, you go back and explain to your child why you lost your cool and that this was not a good way to behave.

It is also important to remember that the behaviors we allow in the home are behaviors that our children will practice out in the world. Recently I’ve seen how my daughter models this with my grandson, David. He says to me, “Nana, I don’t like it when your voice is raised.” I tell him, “I’m not raising my voice, it’s a different tone, David.” But still, I see that my daughter has instilled in him a sense of how our words, actions, and even tones, affect each other, and that it’s always important to be aware of how we’re treating each other.

As parents and grandparents, this awareness can help us guide and shape our children in a way that can prevent bullying later in life, but we can’t always prevent it at first. All we can do is deal with it as best as we know how.

If you ever learn that your child is bullying or being bullied:

  • Talk to your child. Try to understand the situation.
  • Seek assistance from the teacher. Find out what the teacher has observed and what he or she recommends.
  • Review the school bullying policy. Many schools are legally obligated to follow their stated bullying policy exactly as written.
  • Work with the school to make an action plan. Determine what steps will be taken, what the ideal outcomes are, and when to assess progress.
  • Sometimes, it may be best to call the other child’s parents and say, “I need your help.” You should make this discussion as positive as possible, and not angry or negative. Let them know what is happening. Tell them, “My son told me about this today, and I was wondering if I could seek your help with it.” 

We all want the best for our children and want to protect them from any pain or heartbreak, but so often the best protection—and prevention—is to be a positive role model for them.

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Teaching Your Child Language and Culture

November 11, 2013

By Amelia Orozco

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As a parent, you have the power to control most of your child’s education. You can broaden the way your child interacts and learns in a primarily English-speaking school by exposing him or her to different languages and cultures at home.

To help your child understand another language, start by integrating words from the second language into English sentences. Work the new language into your child’s vocabulary by considering: 

  • Same and Different
    Point out similarities and differences in the words. 
  • Fun Sounds
    Sound out words that feel fun to say. Like singing, this helps your child learn the word’s meaning and the reason to use the word. 
  • Use the Senses
    Let your child touch, taste, smell, feel, and see things that relate to the word. It will help your child permanently remember the words better. 
  • Connect to Culture
    Connect the word’s cultural meaning by taking a field trip, leafing through a magazine, or listening to a song.

By naturally incorporating another culture’s practices—not just its language—into your child’s life, he or she develops not only a bilingual vocabulary, but also a comfort in the unfamiliar and a taste for adventure. To help your child learn more about different cultures: 

  • Eat
    Try new foods unique to a different culture. Explain which cultures eat that cuisine and show your child where the food comes from on a map.
  • Dance
    Learn a traditional dance routine with your child and talk about where the culture performs that type of dance. For example, your child can learn the different reasons that people dance by showing your child la plena, where the dance and song act as a live newspaper for the town. 
  • Listen
    Listen to traditional music connected to that language’s culture. Your child will learn different sounds. If you know the instruments that make those sounds, you can also teach them about music. 
  • Surf and Watch
    Many online sources feature videos that teach children other languages. Children’s television stations offer programming that teaches children vocabulary in other languages and exposes them to different cultural traditions, like Dora the Explorer. Start with stations like Nickelodeon, The Disney Channel, or PBS. 

Finding cultural meaning expands your child’s worldview. The varied environment you provide at home will establish a strong foundation for the learning experiences ahead.

 

Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.

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Parents as Involved Partners

November 11, 2013

By Dr. Bruce Marchiafava

Parents as Involved Partners

Parent involvement is an essential element in a contemporary, up-to-date school today. In all kinds of schools, from public to private and in between, principals, teachers and administrators devote much time and energy to involving parents in their children’s schools. Parents are recruited to help in classrooms, to lend a hand in the front office, to organize fundraisers, and to chaperone field trips and prom dances. Some parents serve on school committees and on the PTA.

These parents are clearly involved. The problem is that they are involved in helping the school but not their own children. A recent book by journalist Amanda Ripley, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, looks at the implications of this kind of parent involvement. She spent a year studying schooling in several countries and found that the results of a 2009 study in 13 countries were true: the children of parents who volunteered in their school performed worse in reading than children whose parents did not.

The explanation is fairly simple: most parents today have limited free time. The hours parents devote to helping the school operate could be better spent helping their children at home.

Dr. Herbert J. Walberg has calculated that from birth to age 19, the average child spends 8 percent of his or her time in school and 92 percent at home. Whether we choose to or not, our children will learn from us. This learning begins at birth and continues right up to kindergarten. During these years children acquire an amazing amount of knowledge. They learn to walk, run, and play games and sports. They acquire a language (sometimes two), they learn to read, and they develop social skills. They explore their world, starting with what they see in their cribs and continuing through their home and neighborhood. 

This is quite a curriculum. It can be very challenging for many parents. Unfortunately, most schools don’t become involved with these children until they are officially enrolled in school. So parents need to seek help in being the first teachers from social agencies, formal and informal groups of parents, family members and whatever help books and videos they can find.

Once the child enters school, the parent is largely relieved of the responsibility for formal education; the professional teachers take over. The parent’s role shifts to two major responsibilities: supporting the child in learning what is taught at school and advocating for the child with the school.

Supporting learning at home involves such activities as:

Readiness
Insuring good health, seeing that the child eats properly and sleeps enough, making sure the backpack has the required books, pencils, assignments due, etc.

An Environment for Learning
This environment can be a room or a desk in a corner or the kitchen table. It must be free from TV, music, phones, and other distractions. Multitasking rarely works for studying.

Homework
Parents should guide and supervise a child’s homework but not do it. Know the assignment and the due date and check to see what grade the teacher gives.

Communicate
Speak with the teacher on a regular basis, not just when there’s a problem. Advocating for one’s child may require intervening when grades are suffering or if a behavior problem has occurred. This doesn’t mean a confrontation with the teacher or the principal. Most issues can be resolved if the parent and the teacher or principal work together.

Parental involvement shouldn’t be about parents helping the school. Rather, the parents should be helping their children succeed in school as involved partners.

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Teach Your College Student to Embrace Diversity

November 11, 2013

By Jessica Vician 

Teach Your College Student to Embrace Diversity

Racial and ethnic diversity is a great strength of American colleges and universities, as young adults are exposed to people from many different backgrounds and learn about other cultures. They will take these lessons with them through school and careers all the way into retirement. However, for some teens, this instant exposure to people from different backgrounds can create a culture clash. 

I grew up in a moderate-sized Indiana town about an hour from Chicago. Despite its close proximity to a large city, my elementary and high schools did not have much diversity, nor did we have a lot of people move to our town from outside the Midwest. 

When I went to college at a large state school, I met a lot of students from another part of the country who happened to associate with a different religion from the one I was raised. I found that many of those students stuck out from the other Midwesterners because they were rude, loud, and unfriendly toward others. At the time, my friends and I associated that behavior with their religion and I failed to realize that my perception of their behavior was merely a culture clash between two very different geographic regions of the United States.

We blamed these students’ religion for their behavior, failing to realize that first, their religion did not make them behave negatively; and second, their behavior wasn’t necessarily rude—they just didn’t express themselves the same way we did. We inappropriately judged a group of people because they acted differently from us. 

I am sharing this story not because I am proud of it—instead I’m terribly ashamed—but so you can learn from my mistake and take the opportunity to teach your teen not only tolerance but to embrace other cultures. When your child returns from school for the Thanksgiving holiday, talk about how he or she is coping with culture clash.

Here are a few talking points:

  • Ask your teen about the different students he or she has met. Where are they from, and what differences have your teen noticed? If your teen seems to dislike certain groups, ask why and try to give him or her a greater perspective about that group or culture. For example, people raised in cities might behave differently than people raised in small towns.
  • If your teen has met someone from a different country, encourage him or her to ask questions about the country’s political system, culture, food, etc. It’s a great opportunity to learn!
  • Remind your teen that exposure to diversity prepares him or her for a future job. Today it’s more common to work for international companies that have their own work ethic and customs. 
  • Talk to your teen about his or her perspective on other cultures. Encouraging a greater perspective fosters self-knowledge, which will help your teen make informed decisions about professional and academic issues.
  • If your teen is part of a minority in college, he or she might feel like an outsider. Suggest that he or she use this cultural distinction as a chance to educate others and engage in discussions about diversity. Part of the college adventure is being exposed to different ideas and ways of life in classrooms, dorms, cafeterias, and in general campus life activities.

Encourage your teen to use the university experience not only to obtain academic knowledge, but also to hone social and cultural skills. Remind him or her that college offers a unique chance to connect with both people with similar mindsets and with those from different backgrounds.

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