How was your day?

 

Children_about_to_board_the_school_bus_(Thibodaux,_Louisiana)

The front door closes and the kids start to go about their afternoon rituals. Snacks, talking to friends, homework and maybe an evening activity.

But have you taken the time to see how their day was? Not just “How was your day?”

There are many different ways to find out more about school and learn more about your child at the same time.

Ask questions that are open ended. Anytime you ask a yes or no question you have to be prepared to get only one word back.

Try one of these questions afterschool today:

  1. What is the new song that you are learning in choir/band right now? Which part is your favorite of the song?
  2. What was the best thing that happened at school today?
  3. Tell me something you learned about a friend today.
  4. What would you pick for school lunch if you could have anything you wanted?
  5. Are there any changes that you would want to make at your school?
  6. Who is your favorite teacher and what do you like about them?
  7. If you could be Principal for the day what is the first thing that you would do?
  8. Which rule was hardest to follow today?
  9. If one of your classmates could be the teacher for the day who would you choose? Why?
  10. On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your day? Why?

 

 

Staying Involved

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One of our jobs as parents is to raise independent, productive members of society.

When they are small they are totally dependent on you. As they get older, slowly, that dependency decreases. Does that mean our job is over?

No Way!

Another part of parenting is making sure our children have an appropriate education and attending Parent-Teacher conferences is a great way to make sure that is happening.

Parent-Teacher conferences can be such a joy to attend when kids are young.

You walk in to the welcoming classroom adorned by bright and creative artwork. You are approached by the teacher who comes with a smile on their face and an outstretched hand. They show you a folder of your child’s accomplishments and you leave with a feeling of pride. Even if they say your child moves around too much or talks too much, they can still find positive things to say.

Fast forward to the secondary years. You move from teacher to teacher in a crowded gymnasium (or hallway) to see how your child is doing. Are they missing assignments, can they handle the course load? You leave feeling overwhelmed but optimistic that things will improve now that you have been given the tools needed for your child to succeed.

Many parents decide that conferences are not as important once kids reach the secondary years. However, what that student needs to see is that they have a support system. They need to see that they have parents and teachers who care about their education.

As they get older they may not want to attend conferences with you. So why should you bring the sullen grumpy teen that would rather be with their friends or watching Netflix?

  • It’s so valuable to see how your child speaks to an adult on their own behalf.
  • A teacher gains a different perspective by watching the parent / student dynamic.

But most of all…

You are empowering them by standing by their side and letting them lead the conversation. You are creating an advocate in your child by letting them make decisions in their education.

Thank you for being an involved parent and making the extra time to attend conferences with you child. They may not thank you today but it will leave a lasting impact on them.

Just Average

Just Average

When I was in high school I remember a lot of kids who were “A” honor roll students. I also remember many who got B’s. But a large majority of the kids were pretty average and got a lot of C’s.

These kids weren’t in danger of failing out.

They were the majority of the kids in the school.

They were your average high school student – “C” students.

Fast forward to now. When a student is getting C’s people start to worry about them.

“Surely they can do better.”

But maybe not.

When I was a senior in high school in 1991 I took Algebra 2. Now, there are 8th graders taking these classes. The 8th graders in 1991 were content working on their pre-algebra. Pre-algebra has now shifted to elementary schools. Those same 8th graders are now taking Pre-ACT tests. That was not even on my radar at that age.

So what has changed?

I’d like to think that kids now are much smarter than I was. However, I don’t think that’s the case.

Should a “C” student feel shamed when they are doing their best work. Students are like babies. Some are more advanced and do things earlier while others make their way along slower.

Will we go back to how it was? I doubt it. I just hope that as kids are encouraged to succeed at a younger and younger age that there are people out there who remember that not everyone can be that “A” student and even “C” students can end up doing fabulous things and being successful people.

As parents it our jobs to advocate for our kids when they can’t and teach them to advocate for themselves. Regardless of their achievement level they all need someone in their corner.

 

Letting go or Holding on

Please welcome our guest blogger Linda Rodgers. Linda is the Coordinator of the Parent Involvement Program of the Anoka-Hennepin School District located in Anoka, MN.

Today I went to the Anoka-Ramsey bookstore and picked up books for a class I’m taking.  It’s fun to see other students across a wide variety of backgrounds and ages.    I had ordered the books online so just had to pick them up.  Many other students were going through the fall ritual of scanning dozens of little signs indicating the placement of books for each class.  That process is pretty much the same as it was years ago, so I got a kick out of it.  I did notice something different, and that was a number students were accompanied by parents.  One student was explaining to a clerk how his mother had ordered an extra book and he wasn’t sure why.  “Why is his mother ordering his books?”  I wondered.

I thought about how over the last five years my husband has seen an enormous difference in the preparation of college students he supervises for summer jobs.  Some of these students have parents who work in the company and they located the job for the student, interact with them during the day and run interference for them when the student is late or misses work.  These students are adept at texting but unable to perform basic work expectations, nor do they seem to understand that there are basic work expectations.  Ten and twenty years ago he did not see this behavior.  Students generally had to compete for the job, were glad for the job and understood they needed to apply themselves as best they could.

I thought of the excitement I had going off to college by myself and negotiating new territory and processes.  I thought of a number of jobs I held and important life lessons they taught me.  I confess that I was fired from one position and that taught me lessons I never could have learned otherwise.  My future employers all benefited, too.

Life is flooded with messages about what kids should be and have, and what parents should be and do.  But these messages often confuse instead of clarify.  Many of the messages are grounded in trying to sell something.  If you dig a little you will discover what is being sold– many are hype designed to grab people’s attention to sell a product, magazine or paper or hold attention to a screen.  We seem to be short on messages that are grounded in wisdom, experience or research, and unless we’re in crisis we don’t gravitate toward those kinds of messages.  They’re not as compelling as those that promise silver bullets or an easy way, or promote a life that resembles a celebrity life.

Here is an example of a message for parents of college students that was crafted with all this in mind, a message that seeks to promote growth of college students and enlists parents’ help in a straightforward way.  Emily Lammers, 2013 U of M graduate, writes, “Before you become involved with your student’s issue, however, remember that growth and maturity comes from dealing with decisions, and a big part of college is making choices—even wrong ones—as well as from taking responsibility for both the good and the bad consequences of their decisions.”

http://www1.umn.edu/parent/news-events/articles/fall-2012/parental-involvement-vs-parental-interference/index.html

Mama Bear and the Cub

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We all think that our kids are fabulous. We know them better than anyone else. I, like many other mama bears, will go to great lengths to defend my cub.

Until I walked into high school conferences.

It’s time for the cub to defend himself. However, the vocabulary of the sullen teenage cub is not very developed. When the teacher let the cub know how he was doing (which he already knew was not good) and what he needed to do to remedy the situation he had few words.

At home the cub is rarely quiet. Telling me sometimes more than I want to know.

At school, face to face with teacher and parent, it’s not quite so simple.

So we sit and wait for the cub to answer the questions. The Mama Bear in me is fighting to get out. She wants to push him to answer the questions and make the Cub study and turn in his work. She wants him to know that it’s not about the work being turned in, it’s about not giving up on himself.  For high school is not just about academics but about life and we all want the cub to succeed in life.

But the sullen cub remains.

And the Mama Bear will remain by his side trying to teach him the skills to advocate for himself.

Because the Cub is indeed fabulous. He will not always be the sullen cub he is now.

Snow & Cold

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I am usually not one to complain about the cold because I have chosen to stay in Minnesota. I love that, unlike many other areas of the US, we have all four seasons of the year.

However, this winter has not been fun. Most days its too cold to be outside. We also have more snow than I can remember having since I was a little kid.

The schools have closed 5 times since New Years. The first couple of days meant the kids a little extra time to enjoy Christmas gifts.  I am still finding those Rainbow Loom bands everywhere!

The next three days off I was tired. The kids actually wanted to get back to school because they had teachers emailing assignments home and would rather get their assignments at school.

I saw many Facebook posts from friends who had their kids at the movies, bowling, trampoline parks, etc. That’s just not in our budget.

My kids spent their days playing Minecraft…. I’m pretty sure I would be able to make some sort of educational connection if I tried but I’ve decided that I’m human and I admit that, at times, my kids get more screen time than the experts recommend. When they are not on the screens they ask inquisitive questions and we have great conversations. Our family dinners are never dull as you never know where the conversation is going to go.

So guilt. Nope. Don’t have any.

The experts will keep making their recommendations but I have to go with what is realistic with my kids and our family. Yes – I may tuck those recommendations somewhere in my brain-  but when it comes down to it I’m going to go with my gut.

So, it’s a balance I guess.

Really Mom? Do I have to wear a coat?

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As the temperatures drop we drag out the hats, mittens and winter jackets. If the kids are younger snow pants and boots too.

But how about when it’s not “cool” to look warm?

 

I live in MN where it gets REALLY cold. It’s not abnormal to see Minnesotans out in shorts until its below 32 degrees.

 

But that’s adults.

 

My kids coats have been left by the front door many times.  When they were in late Elementary School I would chase them down at the bus stop and make them put it on.  After moving to Middle School and High School,  I tried to go the natural consequence route. If you are cold you will wear Winter gear the next time.

When I was in 7th grade I was much too cool to wear a hat. So cool that I got frostbite on tip of my ear.  I still have the little lump on the tip of my ear.

Whenever I remind my kids to wear a hat they usually chime in with “Yeh Mom… we remember your ear.”

So will my kids get frostbite too because they think they are too cool or will they wear their Winter gear. Each year we wait and find out.

No Frostbite yet.

I guess that’s what we are all trying to do… make choices that teach our kids to make their own decisions.