Tag Archive for: Education

As the CEO of a nonprofit organization, I often find myself in a room with a variety of community leaders and decision makers. As the mom of a preschooler, I often find myself surrounded by parents of young children. In both kinds of gatherings, education regularly becomes a loud, boisterous and sometimes hostile conversation. Opinions and ideas fly out of mouths like daggers.

“Homeschool is the only way to go.”

“The public education system isn’t all flawed, the teachers are under-resourced.” 

“Private school solves every problem.”

Do a quick Google search of “How to help children in their education.” You’ll find thousands of articles focused on helping elementary aged children read, use their creativity and build their focus. The common thread pulling these articles together? They’re written to parents who are looking to be more engaged with their child’s education at home, outside of a classroom’s four walls.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), when elementary age students have involved and engaged parents, they are more likely to: 

  • Earn higher grades and test scores
  • Graduate from high school and attend post-secondary education
  • Develop self-confidence and motivation 
  • Have better social skills and behavior

These children are also less likely to:

  • Suffer from low self-esteem
  • Require redirection
  • Develop behavioral issues
  • Make poor decisions

Digging deeper into the research, children achieve more when their parents are engaged regardless of whether they attend a public or private school or are homeschooled. 

With this in mind, please note, I’m not trying to start an education debate. Every child learns differently, every family has different ideals and access to resources, and every educational environment carries its own influential factors.

But, are we asking the right questions?

Whose responsibility is it to make sure children are learning well and receiving the education they need to thrive in society? Going back to the research, parental involvement bears great influence on a child’s educational outcomes. Knowing this, how is our community as a whole supporting students and their parents/caregivers in the educational process?

These questions go beyond the public system, the private schools and the homeschool groups. It involves every aspect of the community– from nonprofit organizations and churches to government agencies and every sector of business. 

Parents’ and caregivers’ responsibility doesn’t end when they choose a school or educational path for their child.

If we truly want to nurture the next generation and provide equal opportunities for all, compassion and support must be provided to parents and caregivers across the board. This investment means success for our entire community.

Let me be the first to say, I don’t have all the answers. Education in and of itself is complex and each situation is different. There are many opinions and experiences that color the educational debate. Regardless of where you stand, there’s no denying the need for parental engagement in the lives of children. 

Helen Keller wrote, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

Are we willing to work together toward holistic solutions for the good of the children in our community? Or will we inadvertently build walls of division and create obstacles for opportunity?

Lauren Hall is the President and CEO of First Things First and can be contacted at [email protected].

Note: If you’re a parent or caregiver in search of assistance in connecting with your child, First Things First has FREE one-on-one coaching resources to guide you on your journey. Go to FirstThings.org/Coaching or email us at [email protected] to learn more.

There is pretty much nothing more exciting and scary than thinking about crossing the threshold into your freshman year of college. Your parents won’t be telling you what time to get up or that you need to study. You can stay out as late as you like with whomever you like. Don’t feel like going to class? No problemo. The professor isn’t going to report you and your parents will never know. FREEDOM!

We asked some recent college grads what most surprised them about their freshman year, and here are some things they wished they had known:


95% of college freshmen have never shared a room with anybody, so you have to figure out how to communicate, handle conflict, respect each other’s differences and create clear boundaries. This is easier said than done, but worth the discussion for sure.


They may only be a phone call away, but they shouldn’t be coming onto campus to do your laundry, making sure you get to class, nagging you to study or setting up a party so you can get to know people. This is truly your chance to take advantage of what you’ve learned and put it into practice.


  • Know how to do your laundry.
  • Live on a budget.
  • Manage your time. Don’t let the freedom go to your head.
  • Go to class.
  • Get involved in a few organizations to help you meet people.
  • Avoid the temptation to go home every weekend. 


No matter where you go to school, you might be shocked at the drug and alcohol scene. You may choose to stay away from it, but your roommate might not. (And it can definitely impact your relationship…) If you do choose to participate, don’t underestimate the kinds of things that can happen when you are under the influence. Chances are great that you will participate in behavior you otherwise would not get involved in.

Use your head. If you go to a party, get your own drink. Before you go somewhere alone, tell someone where you are going or even better – take somebody with you.

You should familiarize yourself with your college’s sexual misconduct policy and definition of consent and know what a healthy relationship looks like. Think about your boundaries ahead of time. 

Maybe you want to do some things differently at college, or perhaps there are some friendships you know you need to leave behind.

Freshman year is an opportunity for a fresh start and greater independence. Take this time to become who you really want to be and surround yourself with people who will help you reach your goals. The next four years are laying a foundation for your future, and how you spend your college years really does matter.

Sometimes, truth be told, the whole thing is super overwhelming, but nobody wants to admit that’s the case. If you ever feel like you’re in over your head, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of free resources on campus to help you adjust to campus life.

Help! My child’s teacher has requested a parent-teacher conference!

I taught middle school and high school for over 20 years and I’ve raised five children. I’ve been on both sides of the teacher’s desk for conferences. I’ve been on both ends of difficult telephone calls. As a teacher, I’ve had to try to convince parents that their “little darling” needed to make some changes academically or behaviorally. On the flip side, as a parent, I’ve felt the burning desire to defend my child and desperately want to believe my kid’s side of the story.

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Dads don’t matter. Seriously, dads don’t make a difference – unless it matters that children are physically and emotionally healthy and achieve educational success. If those things matter for your children, then fathers DO make a difference.

Dr. Alma Golden, pediatrician and former member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on the Family, has a lot to say about marriage and children.

“As Baby Boomers we were told these things:

  • Marriage is old-fashioned and confining;
  • Open relationships are healthier and more conducive to personal development;
  • Fathers are nice but not necessary;
  • It is better to live with a divorced mother than two unhappy parents;
  • The kids will be OK, they are flexible; and
  • Financial disparities are the reason for the differences in health and educational achievement.

“What we believed changed our world and started driving personal decisions. People started getting married later. Women are having fewer children and having them later. Single mothers are giving birth to more children. Fewer children are living with their married biological parents,” says Golden.

So how do these changes affect children?

A study of 294,000 families released in 2010 by the Centers for Disease Control indicates family structure makes a huge difference for children. 

The CDC study indicates that when children grow up with their two married biological parents, they have a lower rate of delayed medical care. They’re also less likely to have ADHD regardless of income, education, poverty status, place of residence or region.

Additionally, an earlier study found that in sixth through 12th graders, the strongest predictor of getting a diploma and going to college is having a father who attends PTA meetings.

“When dads show a clear commitment to their children, encouraging them in their educational endeavors, children do better,” Golden says. “The research also indicated that a married daddy at home doubles the chances that a child learns self-management.

“Conversely, non-nuclear families seem to struggle with a lot of issues. For example, cohabiting fathers have less than half the income of married fathers. They tend to bring less commitment to the family as a general rule. The implications for the children are they have fewer resources available to them. Additionally, seven in 10 children of cohabiting couples will experience parental separation.”

Findings from the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force in 2003 showed that:

  • Married men and women are physically and emotionally healthier. They are less likely to participate in risky behavior such as alcohol and drug abuse.
  • Married men and women live longer. 
  • People behave differently when they are married. They live healthier lifestyles and monitor each other’s health. And, the increased social support also increases the family’s chances of success.

“If we look back at the baby boomer list, what we now know is that marriage is actually beneficial for men, women and children,” Golden says. “Cohabitation is often of low-trust, stressful and more prone to violence and dissolution. Fathers are a necessity. Good enough marriages produce better outcomes than divorce. The kids are NOT flexible and may not be OK and family structure and stability are more important predictors of outcomes than finances.”

Image from Unsplash.com

Over the years, there has been a shift in the sequence of marriage and parenthood. Remember the rhyme?

“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage…”

Not so – at least anymore. In fact, 57 percent of mothers between the age of 26 and 31 are unmarried when their child is born.

While you may think this is the “new normal,” it isn’t the norm for everyone.

A study by Andrew Cherlin at Johns Hopkins University shows that a college education has become more than a pathway to higher paying jobs. A college education is now a definitive factor in childbearing. Of mothers without a high school diploma, 63 percent of births occur outside of marriage. Among college-educated young women, 71 percent of births occur within marriage.

How does this trend affect children?

Research shows that this set of circumstances creates two distinct paths for children where marriage and education are the deciding factors. When children grow up in a home with their two married parents, they are more likely to experience a stable environment with access to an array of resources and educational opportunities.

In a non-married home, children are less likely to grow up with stability or opportunity to access the same type of resources.

Children from single-parent homes are five times more likely to experience poverty. But, children who grow up with their married parents in low-income homes are at far less risk of being poor.

Children need stability.

But in an interview with the news site, Vox, Cherlin shared his concern about the stability of family lives for children. Cohabiting unions typically break up at higher rates than marriages. About half of all cohabiting couples will either marry or break up within two years. Those who break up will likely create more cohabiting unions – and creating more instability.

If you believe that people with a high school diploma or less are not as likely to want marriage, think again. Katheryn Edin’s research (Promises I Can Keep) with 150 low-income women clearly indicates that these women want marriage, but they have to wait to find the right person to marry. However, getting pregnant is something they can do right away.

Most teens (74%) see marriage and children in their future – in that order. This is according to a June 2014 National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancies report.

Clearly, there is a disconnect concerning the significance of marriage and its impact on child well-being. Our society often emphasizes the importance of higher education for young people. It usually fails to address, however, the sequencing for success and the significance of marriage.

There are profoundly different outcomes for children when people attain higher education, work full time, marry and then start families.

Their chances of living in poverty drop from 12 percent to 2 percent. Also, the chances of joining the middle class move from 56 percent to 74 percent. Imagine how future generations would be impacted if more people realized the benefits of following this “success sequence.”

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Does marriage matter? People have been asking this question for decades. For Richer, For Poorer: How Family Structures Economic Success in America examined how family structure impacts the economic fortunes of American families. Dr. Brad Wilcox, senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and Robert Lerman, professor of economics at American University, conducted the research.

They concluded that marriage is key to productive adulthood, stable families and healthy communities.

Five significant findings emerged from this study about the relationships between family patterns and economic well-being in America:

  • The retreat from marriage is key to the changing economic fortunes of American family life. The median income of families with children would be approximately 44% higher if the United States enjoyed 1980-levels of married parenthood today.
  • Strong associations exist between growing up with both parents in an intact family and higher levels of education, work and income. Young men and women from intact families enjoy an annual “intact family premium.” The premium amounts to $6,500 and $4,700, respectively, over the incomes of their peers from single-parent families.
  • Men obtain a substantial “marriage premium” and women bear no marriage penalty to their individual incomes. Plus, both men and women enjoy substantially higher family incomes compared to peers with otherwise similar characteristics.
  • Growing up with both parents increases the odds of attaining higher education. Higher education leads to higher odds of marriage as an adult. Both the extra education and marriage result in higher income levels. Men and women from intact families who are currently married enjoy an annual “family premium” in their household income. The premium exceeds that of their single peers from in non-intact families by at least $42,000.
  • All populations benefit from growing up in an intact family and being married. It applies about as much to blacks, Hispanics and whites. The advantages also apply to less-educated men and women. Men with a high-school diploma or less enjoy a marriage premium of at least $17,000 compared to single peers.

Strong and stable families are economically vital.

Consequently, Wilcox and Lerman contend that business and civic leaders and policymakers should strengthen and stabilize marriage and family life in the U.S. And since the poor and working class feel the impact of the nation’s retreat from marriage most, Lerman and Wilcox believe the efforts should be focused on them.

The authors also recommend:

  • Public policy should “do no harm” when it comes to marriage. Policymakers should eliminate or reduce marriage penalties.
  • Civic institutions, private and public partners, businesses, state governments and public schools should launch a national “success sequence” campaign together. This would encourage young adults to sequence schooling, work, marriage and then parenthood. It would also stress the benefits of being born to married parents with a secure economic foundation.

Lerman and Wilcox contend that the nation’s retreat from marriage is worrisome. It not only affects family inequality, but men’s declining labor-force participation and the vitality of the American dream.

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

5 Basics for Childhood Learning

You can help children achieve their potential and live their best lives.

The Science of Childhood: Inside the Minds of Our Younger Selves is a Time magazine special edition. It examines everything from understanding child development and dealing with temper tantrums to the science of play and birth-order secrets. It’s part of an effort to help parents and other caregivers better understand how children learn – and what everyone can do to help children thrive.

Since 2015, the Early Childhood Coalition has been working to ensure that everyone in the greater Chattanooga area can access high-quality resources that support child development from birth to age 5. The plan is to engage and mobilize the community through advocacy, communication and education. The goal is for all children to achieve their potential and live their best lives.

For example, Chattanooga Basics is one of the Coalition’s initiatives. It’s built upon the reality that parents play the most critical role in providing a solid and healthy start for babies and young kids. Chattanooga Basics is closely aligned with Harvard’s Boston Basics.

The goals for the Basics are to help ensure that:

  • 80 percent of children show up to school ready to learn.
  • Every parent has access to information about how to help their child thrive.
  • Every parent knows about the Chattanooga Basics and creative ways to engage their child.
  • Parents have the necessary support to be what their child needs.

The Five Basics can help all children to thrive.

While parents are their child’s first teachers, the entire community can rally around them and support them as they parent.

The Five Basics are:

  • Maximize Love, Manage Stress – Babies thrive when the world feels loving, safe and predictable. Affectionate and responsive caregiving develops a sense of security and self-control.
  • Talk, Sing Point – Babies learn language from the moment they are born through loving interactions with their caregivers, not televisions or phones. Eye contact, pointing, and real words teach the most about communication.
  • Count, Group, and Compare – Children are wired to learn numbers, patterns, sizes, shapes and comparisons. What they learn about math in the first few years makes a difference when they get to school.
  • Explore Through Movement and Play – Children are born curious about the world. They’re like scientists. Pay attention to your infant’s or toddler’s interests. Help them learn through play and exploration.
  • Read and Discuss Stories – The more we read with young children, the more we prepare them to enjoy reading and do well in school. Even infants enjoy the shapes and colors in books! Let them hold the book and turn the pages. Point to the pictures and talk about what you see.

You can help prepare the children in our community for kindergarten.

You may be part of a faith-based community, a child-care provider, a human resources executive or a company CEO. Or perhaps you are the neighbor next door or a relative or friend. It doesn’t matter who you are! 

Everyone plays a role in intentionally engaging parents, assisting them in building strong, healthy families and helping children thrive and show up to school ready to learn.

To learn more about Chattanooga Basics, the Early Childhood Coalition partners and what you can do to help, visit chattanoogabasics.org.

Other blogs:

How to Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!