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SchoolFamily Voices

Join our bloggers as they share their experiences on the challenges and joys of helping children succeed in school.

After-School Help for the After-School Homework Helpers (Parents)

This story half-intrigued me and half cracked me up. We've all heard about kids staying after school to get extra help, right? Well, here's a twist -- this Ohio district is giving parents the extra help, so that parents won't be so flummoxed by the kids homework!

I must admit, I can see the need. My oldest is just in 4th grade, and I had to do some serious thinking last night about compound subjects and predicates while helping with homework. I'm already a bit worried about those word problems with the trains heading in opposite directions.

Do you need this kind of help? Are your teachers providing it? Is it a trend?
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Back to School, Back to Fundraising

It's a fair question (and one of my pet peeves) asked by this Detroit Free Press blogger: why do the first two weeks of school have to be fundraising ground zero?

I know the two biggest reasons: 1) Schools need the money more than ever; and 2) there's almost a race to beat the other fundraisers that will be dipping into parents' pockets, but I still think a bit of patience is warranted. Wow me. Get me (and the kids) to love school. Impress us with your commitment to education and our families and kids. Make me love you. And then ask me for my $10! Not vice versa.

If you're a features writer for a local paper, here's my response to the column you're about to write trashing all fundraisers. (It happens every year.) I wrote it for our ptotoday.com site (for PTO and PTA leaders), but it works over here, too.

What's your take on the influx of fundraising?
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School Lunch Revisited _ Simple and Healthy?

Before school started, how many of us had resolutions to make school lunches work better for our kids this year? We certainly had/have great intentions this year, but -- wouldn't you know it? -- school's only a week old, and already reality has snuck in. Five days. Three kids. Fifteen peanut-butter-and-jellies. (Full disclosure -- I think there may even have been a peanut-butter-fluff thrown in there. Ouch.)

For those still fighting the good fight, this article from the San Francisco Chronicle is one of the best we've seen this year. Solid content. Variety. And multiple good recipes and options for healthy school lunches.

Several of the commenters on that article cite the same concern I have -- how do you balance no time and morning/night craziness with these kind of healthy options? Fact is that the biggest reason for our P, B & J binge is the convenience of it. Bus is coming, trying to get the kids dressed and fed in the morning -- just no time for mixing up a salad and mixed berries and a wrap sandwich. Never mind the time to shop for all those ingredients well ahead of time.

So my big question: how do you balance the time crunch with healthy lunches? I, for one, still need to know.
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Parent Involvement Q & A

Not exactly light reading, but if you're looking for a good read on the hows and whys of getting involved with your child's school, this parent involvement Q&A with a Connecticut district's parent involvement coordinator captures all the angles. Good stuff.
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School Lunches -- healthy, safe and fun

So our 3 boys trekked back-to-school today, and—among other things—I forgot about the joys of packing lunches for 3 growing boys with different tastes at 6:45 AM. Lovely. The only saving graces were that: 1) they were too concerned about larger issues to grumble about their P, B & Js today; and 2) I remembered that we have a ton of good stuff here on the site to make school lunches easier.

A bit of schoolfamily.com searching, and I'm already better prepared for tomorrow morning:

1. I do need to do a better job of keeping the kids food safe. This article on food safety for school lunches made me think.

2. I ran across this MomCooks site (even though DadCooks, too) and thought these were some excellent ideas for brown bag lunches your kids will eat. We have a similar article on lunch ideas for kids here.

3. Also think I'll download a couple of these fun lunchbag labels to use, maybe on Fridays.

Three lunches per day for 180 days.... hmmmmm... only 537 lunchboxes left to fill this year. Egads!

Do you have any favorite school lunch tips of your own? I'm all ears.

Editor's note: Please take a look at our new School Family Recipe Share for more ideas about school lunches, as well as quick and easy dinners, recipes that kids can make by themselves, and much more! Send us your favorite recipes, and we'll include them in our Recipe Share. 

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Parent Involvement -- The Data

If you're not a data wonk, feel free to skip right over this blog post, but this information certainly at least deserves a highlight here. The federal government is out with a comprehensive study of parent involvement habits of K-12 parents nationwide.

Complete parent involvement study is here.

Highlights:

  • About 54 percent of students in grades K through 12 had parents who reported receiving notes or email from the school specifically about their child; 91 percent had parents who reported receiving newsletters, memos, or notices addressed to all parents; and 49 percent had parents who reported that the school had contacted them by telephone.

  • A higher percentage of students in nonreligious private schools (66 percent) had parents who reported that their children's school communicated with them via notes or e-mails compared to students in other types of schools (assigned public: 53 percent; chosen public: 56 percent).

  • Ninety-two percent of students in grades K through 12 had parents who reported receiving any information from the school on the student's performance; 83 percent had parents who received any information about how to help with homework; 75 percent had parents who received any information about why the student was placed in particular groups or classes; and 86 percent had parents who received any information about the parents' expected role at the student's school.

  • Eighty-nine percent of students in grades K through 12 had parents who reported that an adult member of the household had attended a general school or a parent-teacher organization or association (PTO/PTA) meeting since the beginning of the school year (table 3). Seventy-eight percent had parents who attended a regularly scheduled parent-teacher conference; 74 percent had parents who attended a school or class event; 46 percent had parents who volunteered or served on a school committee; and 65 percent had parents who participated in school fundraising.

  • A lower percentage of students in grades 9 through 12 had parents who reported attending a regularly scheduled parent-teacher conference (61 percent) than students in grades K through 2 (90 percent), 3 through 5 (92 percent), and 6 through 8 (76 percent).

  • Fifty-nine percent of students in grades K through 12 had parents who were "very satisfied" with their child's school; 64 percent had parents who were very satisfied with their child's teachers that year; 63 percent had parents who were very satisfied with the school's academic standards; 62 percent had parents who were very satisfied with the school's order and discipline; and 55 percent had parents who were very satisfied with the school's parent-staff interactions (table 4). In addition, 75 percent had parents who reported that the amount of homework assigned was "about right."

Will be good to benchmark this and see how these trends move. Of course, this objective data needs to be colored with the trickier subjective measures of the quality and effectiveness of that involvement. One thing to attend a parent-teacher conference (which is certainly good); another to really get into an effective partnership with your child's teacher.
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Rave Reviews for SchoolFamily.com

How cool is this? Was randomly surfing the web, when we ran across this back-to-school story from Connecticut. Was about to move on when I ran across this quote:

"As I surfed the Internet to find some of the most practical advice, I found a wealth of information and some excellent Web sites with advice on almost every area of concern, with tips covering the years from beginning pre-school to college.
Some advice came from education experts, administrators and teachers, and some articles were written by parents who have been there. Some Web sites even feature question and answer and blog sections, where parents can communicate and ask for specific advice.
I found SchoolFamily.com to be most comprehensive and helpful."



 


Nice. We agree. If she loves it now --wait 'til she sees what we have in store for later this year and beyond. Be sure to bookmark this site (and maybe share with a friend or your whole school community?), because we have tons more resources coming up. Idea is to make SchoolFamily.com the most comprehensive solutions/info/tools site for school moms and dads on the entire Web. And according to Ms. Manciero -- we're getting there pretty quick!

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"Don't Whine, Get Involved"

Short and sweet -- and right on the money! CNN's Roland Martin makes an impassioned plea here for parent involvement. Love it. As he says:
"Show up on the first day and do not make it your last. There is no greater gift you can provide your children."

Couldn't have said it better myself. Great message for back-to-school.
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Boo Hoo Breakfast

OK, this PTA creatively calls it the "Kindergarten Cry" but I still love the name "Boo Hoo Breakfast" for an event to welcome/support the new parents at your school, who are letting go of their babies for the first time. Fun way to make that first connection and make a great first impression.

Reminds me -- there a whole bunch of good "Boo Hoo Breakfast" docs in our File Exchange. Have you seen the File Exchange yet? It's my favorite new PTO tool of 2008 (though I am a bit biased).
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Mommy Business Cards

Here's an interesting twist -- do you have a business card for your mom career? I can see both sides to this one. On the one hand - especially as the new school year approaches -- there's a convenience to simply handing over the contact info all those times you're signing up for the PTO or PTA event or the band parents or the birthday party list or you name it. On th other, has it really come to this? Have we so businessed-out the family life around town that we all need DayTimers and business cards for the carpool line? Not sure... interested in your thoughts.
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Back to school time again - Tips for getting your family ready

Starting to think about the kids heading back to school? Tim Sullivan was on Fox TV today talking about how to get your family ready to make the transition from summer fun to school schedules. Good tips about schedules, communicating with the teacher, and how to get involved at school in a way that works for you and your family.
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Talkin' Involvement on Boston TV

Late notice, but I'll be talking about back-to-school habits for parents tomorrow morning on Fox 25 in Boston. Believe we're set to go live at about 8:20 AM. Will try and get the clip on here later this week, provided it's not in HD (face made for radio -- or at least lo-def!).
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Stretching Back-to-School Supplies

Marketing-wise, back-to-school is the new Christmas. Have you noticedthecirculars in that papers these days? Every store and every brand is trying to get in on the B2S craze. (Of course, some of our very most favorite brands help sponsor our back-toschool efforts here at schoolfamily.com, but that's another story entirely. :-))

Gary Brown, a columnist from upstate New York, does a nice job of pointing out the absurdity of some of the press releases that come around this season. Now, I'm all for marketing during the back-to-school season, but it's not necessary to make these outlandish claims as to why your product is a back-to-school must-have.

Love it, for example, when Gary points out the "computer cable organizer" trying to position themselves asa B2S must-have. C'mon guys! Backpack? Yes. New school shoes?Check. But computer cable organizers? Pretty sure I need those (or not) equally in February and May asI do in August.

Between squeezing in some late beach runs and getting the supplies we do actually need, I think my computer wires may remain a helpless tangle for at least a few more weeks.

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Cell Phone Rules Tightening at Schools

This Mississippi district isn't alone in trying to clamp down on cell phone use at school. Sounds like these guys are taking a common-sense approach to appropriate controls over outright ban. Thinking abouta cell for your dear son or daughter? Here are some kids' cell phone shopping tips from our staff.
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Involvement can be Simple

This article on Conversations to Have with Your Kids in the Car hits just the right note. I think sometimes -- and we can be guilty of this on schoolfamily.com, as well -- there's a tendency to make involvement seem so arduous, and it doesn't have to be.

We've got a great article on the site on "Parents as Teachers" that really hits home, as well.

This general concept covers two distinct battles on the involvement front. One is having actual meaningful conversations with your child, and it's obviously important. But the second is simply making sure your child knows you're interested and interacting. Every conversation doesn't have to be deep and real, but it's important to keep asking the questions and opening the lines. I like to say: even if the answer to "how was your day?" is "fine" 121 days in a row, please be sure to ask it again on the 122nd day.

Love to hear your thoughts on the art of the sometimes-inane conversation...
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Hannah Montana B2S Wake-Up Calls

I'm usually a bit more cynical, but this one cracked me up -- yes, you too can have Hannah Montana wake up your son or daughter on the first day of school. That should get them jumping, eh?

Thankfully, my dear daughter is a bit young to have the Hannah bug, but I do have 9 nieces and have seen the power first-hand. I'm thinking perhaps we should skip the wake-up calls and go right to Hannah "do your homework" and Hannah "brush your teeth and clean your room" calls. Now *those* I'd pay big bucks for.
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Making the Most of Back-to-School Night

Good advice from Missouri on how tomake the most from the annual back-to-school night at school. Especially like the advice to ask specifically how a teacher prefers to be communicated with. Some teachers love email; others only check email sporadically. Some prefer a note from mom or dad; others prefer a message left in the office. Figuring that out early can help avoid delays and frustration later in the school year.
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The... ahem... joys of back-to-school shopping

Good column from Atlanta from a dad who doesn't miss the annual scramble now that his youngest is off to college. It *is* amazing how none of the supply goodies you can get for free (pens from the hotel or conference, backpack from the camp give-away, etc.) are ever actually the right supplies for school. Must be a conspiracy.... Where do all those mechanical pencils disappear to anyway? Must be in that same secret compartment with all the single socks that go missing.
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What the Cool Kindergartener is Wearing

I'm not usually one for giving fashion advice, but i just ran across this site.. and kind of love these shirts for the little ones. (Love them especially after my kids came home from the mall last night with lots and lots of questions about the lets-just-say interesting photos at Abercrombie & Fitch -- ouch). They've got lots of the younger grades covered and a neat, simple feel.Hope you like.
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A Mile of Involvement

Love the thinking in Denver -- getting parents energized about staying connected with their kids' education. Heck -- it's what this site is all about!

For the Denver Public Schools (and the -- love this name! -- Parent Empowerment Council), it's a new program -- the Mile High Parent Campaign -- aimed at getting parents to commit 5,280 minutes per year (get it? one mile for the Mile High city) or about a half hour per day to connecting with their children's education. Education (how to connect), inspiration (why to connect) and even prizes.

I'm sure some will say that parents should do this without incentives or a half hour is not enough -- but we love the spirit and creativity of this approach. So many districts give lip-service only to the importance of involvement.

What do you think?
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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

Yes - 31.6%
Sometimes - 25.4%
No - 37.4%

Total votes: 4919
The voting for this poll has ended on: June 25, 2016