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2 Types of Private Schools for Your Child

May 21, 2014

By Sunny P. Chico

A group of middle school students line up in front of orange lockers, smiling at the camera.

Last month I told you about public school options for your child. However some parents prefer to send their child to a private school. There are two common types of private schools: parochial or college-preparatory. Both options tend to have high graduation rates.

  1. Parochial Schools. These schools are operated by a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple and are usually part of a religious mission. While they may admit students outside of the school’s faith, they will likely expect the child to participate in religious education and faith-based activities.

    The tuition costs for these schools vary, as the funding comes from tuition payments and possible diocese, private, and/or federal funding. They may also require admission tests. Application deadlines vary, so contact the school if you are considering your child’s registration.

  2. College-Preparatory Schools. Unlike parochial schools, these schools are usually operated as a secular, nonprofit business. Many have long traditions of academic excellence but may not be available nearby. The programs may be well-funded and offer a wide variety of challenging courses and extracurricular activities. These schools often have strong relationships with college and universities, which can be a benefit if your child plans to apply to a selective degree program after high school.

    Tuition costs at these schools are often substantial. Funding usually comes from tuition payments, endowments, alumni donations, and possible federal funding. Admission may be highly selective and exclusive. Since the application deadlines vary, contact the school as soon as you are considering registration. It is also important to note that both public and private schools may feature a college-preparatory curricula, as the focus is not unique to private schools. 

Depending on the individual school, private schools can be an excellent option if you are seeking something that public schools cannot provide for your child. While both of these options require tuition, there are often need-based scholarships available to families who would not otherwise be able to send their children to these schools.

For more detailed information on private schools, please refer to the second book of the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher 3-book set, Through Elementary and Middle School.


Help Your Teen Through Struggles

May 20, 2014

By Amelia Orozco

A teen girl with her bangs dyed blue looks at the camera.

The teenage years are tough. Hormones cause mood swings, peers can be mean and judgmental, and don’t even get me started on dating. As your teen goes through high school, there will be times when he or she has to deal with difficult situations. While learning to deal with issues on his or her own is important, you can still be there for support. Here are three ways to help your teen through tough times.

  1. Look at the big picture. This is something your teen may be unable to do at the time. For adolescents, a remark from a peer may be taken out of context and even something meant as a compliment can be misconstrued as an insult to a young person who is still developing a sense of self. As the parent, you can take a global perspective of the situation and help your teen understand that sometimes we misunderstand situations and sometimes people are mean, but it’s not always personal.
  2. Relate to your teen. Tell a story about a similar situation from your teen years. It’s an excellent opportunity for you to relate some of your personal experiences with your son or daughter. Let your guard down and show that you survived what he or she is just beginning to experience.
  3. Make it “no big deal.” Recently, when my teen was going through a rough patch at school with friends, I asked her if she wanted to get some blue highlights. She ecstatically agreed and the experience turned into a bonding moment for us. Getting blue hair was really “no big deal” when taking into perspective the low self-esteem she was feeling at the time, which could have carried over for weeks if I had left it to take care of itself.

As an adult, you have the perspective and distance from the teenage years to see that some of the challenges your teen is encountering are just normal things we deal with as we grow up. While your teen might not be able to understand that just yet, using these techniques will show him or her that you’re there for support and on his or her side.

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.


Couple Chat: Waiting to Have Children

May 19, 2014

By Ana and Mario Vela

Mario and Ana Vela smile from the back of a car.

Photograph by Isaac Joel Torres

In the Couple Chat series, we pose one or two topical questions to a couple and ask each person to answer privately. Each person then reads the other’s response and the couple discusses their thoughts on the topic. They share their discussion together in the reflection.

For today’s Couple Chat, we asked Ana and Mario Vela, expectant parents, about their decision to wait 10 years after being married to have a child. Here’s what they said.

How long did you wait to have children after you were married? Why did you wait that long?

Ana: Mario and I married young, at 21 years old. We have been married for 10 years, and now decided to finally have children.

Where we grew up, it was very common to have children at a young age. There were lots of teen pregnancies. There were also many young couples that ended up unexpectedly pregnant, and decided to marry afterwards because of that child.

I saw the struggles parents went through, and the regret that they didn't get their education, pursue a career, and enjoy some of the things life had to offer. Unfortunately, a large percentage of these couples ended up separating or divorcing because they got together for the wrong reasons.

Ever since I was in high school, I knew I wanted to enjoy my life before having children. I didn't want to feel like I settled and end up resenting my child, which I saw many people do.

Growing up, my family lived in poverty and struggled financially. Although that shaped who I am, I didn't want my child to experience that, so it was essential for me to get an education and establish a career.

Mario: Ana and I made the decision that we would try to be as successful as possible in our educational attainment and careers before having children. We decided that we would be the first in our families to earn a bachelor’s degree, and then I eventually earned a master’s degree.

We also decided to travel, move to Chicago from San Antonio, and focus on and have fun with our marriage. We thought we would start trying earlier, after about five years, but the move to Chicago made us reevaluate our timing. After recently buying a townhome, we both felt comfortable in our career and financial stability to provide our child the life we wanted.

Did other people question your decision to wait?

Ana: When Mario asked for my hand in marriage, my father gave us permission with the condition that we both graduate from college. After that happened, my parents did question when the grandchildren were arriving. But after working so hard to get our degrees, why would we dive into another time-consuming phase of our life? We wanted to enjoy ourselves, so Mario and I made a list of things we wanted to accomplish before having children. On that list were things like travel, get promotions, make a certain salary, and move to a big city.

Throughout the years, we were constantly hounded by people to have children. My parents stopped though. Actually, I think they were starting to think we were never going to start! It wasn't until this last year that they finally put the pressure again that they wanted grandchildren. Except this time, we were on the same page.

Although marriage is a commitment, having children was an even bigger one to Mario and I. We wanted to be sure we were going to be able to stay together through it. We needed to go through ups and downs, work hard, struggle, fight, and experience successes in order to be fulfilled and ready to bring a life into this world.

Mario: Yes, but nowhere near what Ana experienced. When we would be together, family and friends would be antagonistic and confrontational to Ana on why she would wait that long.

I also noticed higher levels of confrontation with lower levels of socioeconomic status and educational level. Since in our families we’ve far surpassed educational attainment, the questions were frequent. However, with friends of ours who have higher levels of education, questions didn't start until Ana started approaching 30. I believe that in both of our families, no one has waited until they were over 30 to have children.

Ana: Since we have talked about this for 10 years, we weren't surprised that we had similar answers to these questions.

During this exercise we started to think about our family. We don't believe anyone had children after the age of 25. Mario's mother was even 17 when she had him. So deciding to have children at age 31 was very out of the norm, even though biologically it's a very healthy age to do so.

It was funny to me that Mario said I experienced more pressure than he did. I didn't realize that had happened, but it's true. It's based on gender roles. People would ask me when we were having children in front of Mario to add pressure. And it was very awkward. I had completely forgotten about that!

Trying to explain to some people that we valued education, our careers, and our marriage over children was such a challenging concept. Sometimes I felt like people reacted negatively towards our decision to wait.

This is what we felt worked best for our lives. We respect any couple's decision regarding their own family.


4 Tips on Assigning Age-Appropriate Chores

May 15, 2014

By Beth Wilson

An older toddler washes the countertops in the kitchen.

“You were right!” my friend shared.

Seeing the clueless look on my face, she went on to explain that her four kids could do more housework than she originally thought. She had recently started working outside the home and needed help with daily chores, and I had told her that her kids were now old enough to help out.

Whatever your reason is-- to teach life skills, responsibility, time management, living in community, or you and your partner can no longer do everything-- assigning household responsibilities to your children is beneficial for everyone!

Be creative when assigning age-appropriate chores to your children, but keep these four things in mind.

Safety. Making their own lunch is a great chore; however, when your child is younger it should not include operating a stove or using sharp utensils. Similarly, mowing the lawn may be a great chore for a teen but inappropriate and dangerous for a younger child.

Mental and Physical Maturity. Is your child tall enough to put dishes on the kitchen counter? Is he or she strong enough to use the vacuum cleaner on the stairway? Are the directions simple to understand? If the answer is "no," then you should wait until your child is strong enough and old enough before assigning those chores.

Supervision. Have your child help you with a specific chore until he or she gets the hang of it. Once that happens, your child can do it alone. Plan to inspect the work. If things are not right, you have several options: ask your child to do it over, work alongside your child to complete the chore, assign the task to an older child, do it yourself, or consider lowering your expectations.

Valuables. Dusting furniture is a perfect chore for younger children. But having them dust the cabinet containing irreplaceable items might not be such a wonderful idea. Dust that cabinet yourself, while allowing younger children to dust something else, like a bare tabletop.

My kids are now grown and living on their own, but when they were younger, they were responsible for making their beds and straightening their rooms daily. Once a week they dusted and vacuumed their rooms and did their own laundry. We divided up dusting and vacuuming the common rooms and cleaning the bathroom on a weekly basis.

Other responsibilities included feeding and cleaning up after family pets, emptying the garbage, and seasonal jobs like weed pulling, snow shoveling, carrying in wood for the wood stove, and when they were older, lawn mowing.

And every evening after dinner, each child was responsible for carrying his or her plate to the kitchen counter. One child would put food away, wipe off the table, and sweep the floor with a broom. Another would clean off the kitchen counters and stove and load the dishwasher. These are just some examples of the opportunities for your kids to help out around the house while learning what it takes to care for a home.

Read my follow-up article on assigning a reward system and paying allowance for these chores.


Help Your Child Get a Summer Internship

May 14, 2014

By Nikki Cecala

A professional shows older teens several graphs and charts on a tablet in an office.

Internships are a wonderful opportunity for high school and college students alike. College students can learn more about their desired industry, while high school students can decide if they want to major in a related field when they go to college. Summer is the perfect time for an internship, as your student is likely not in class and can focus on the job without sacrificing his or her schoolwork.

Learning why internships are important, how to find them, and how to get them are important things to consider. Below are some common questions and answers for parents and students regarding internships.

Benefits of Internships

Internships provide free networking and give students the experience of working with a company in their desired field. Many offer college credit hours, too. If your child is a high school senior, contact the college he or she is attending in the fall to see if they will give your child college credit for the internship.

There are some internships that will also pay the student in addition to offering college credit. If your child finds one that offers both, it’s a keeper!

Internships allow students to view what the working world is like. They teach important skills such as time management, computer skills, and how to engage with clients. Even if the internship has a minor role such as answering phones, ordering supplies, or prepping conferences, it is a perfect setting for networking and observing how the company functions and manages clients.

Some internships can lead to full- or part-time jobs, or may offer to extend the student’s stay for another semester.

How to Find an Internship

It’s as simple as browsing a business’ website and finding the careers section. Some companies have specific time windows for hiring interns. Others are open year-round but may have specific requests.

College students can ask their career services department or advisor about available internships. They should start their search a few months before the desired start date.

High school students can ask their high school counselor and teachers for help, or check with their coaches and club advisors. Ask family and friends if they know someone who works in a field that interests your student. If there is a specific company or organization your student would like to work for, don't be afraid to have him or her contact someone there for information.

The websites below are helpful internship placements based on the student’s career, location, and needs.

Interview Process

Internships are potential jobs. If your student applies for an internship that requires an interview, ensure that he or she dresses professionally. For example, no jeans or gym shoes.

Your student should print a few copies of his or her updated résumé and provide work samples if possible. Companies like to see what the student has accomplished thus far before hiring him or her.

Remind your student that an internship is a learning experience and an opportunity to create connections that can help him or her in a future job search. Even the smallest tasks can provide learning opportunities and something to add to his or her résumé that demonstrates an active engagement in the real world.

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