Posts

When Mary Lou Youngberg’s boys were growing up, she often volunteered at their school. She did everything – from working as a classroom mother to a PTA officer and Scout leader.

“When my children were older and we were facing the ‘empty nest,’ my husband encouraged me to return to school to get my teaching degree,” said Youngberg. “Now that I am teaching full-time, I want to go back to every teacher my sons ever had and tell them how much I admire and appreciate their decision to enter this challenging profession.”

Youngberg describes her teacher training as amazing.

“I learned that it is my job to inform parents that children go through developmental stages and that every child is unique and special. Every child has a learning style, and parents do too,” Youngberg said. “I have learned that it is very difficult to convey what it is that makes the teaching profession so challenging, yet so rewarding and worthwhile. It seems to me that we teachers share a joy and passion for working with children that others do not comprehend or appreciate.”

Here are some tips that teachers wish all parents could know to help make for a great school year:

Be informed. 

Attend open houses and PTA meetings – no matter how old your child is. Read information sent home by your child’s teacher. It’s amazing how often parents ask teachers questions about information that was addressed in newsletters or other correspondence. Become familiar with school curriculum, policies and procedures. If your school has a website, check it out.

Be responsible.

Respond to signature requests promptly. Send lunch money, field trip money, PTA dues, etc. in a timely fashion. Teachers spend precious time sending home reminders about this and more. Make it a habit to check your child’s folder or backpack daily for notes and information from school. Be on time for conferences. Also, label all your child’s belongings, including jackets and backpacks.

Be a good role model.

Demonstrate the importance of following school rules and procedures. Make sure your child gets to school AND is picked up on time. If your child is supposed to sit and read quietly in the cafeteria before school, make sure she has a book in her backpack. Look for opportunities to meet and greet all the adults your child will encounter at school.

Be supportive.

Join PTA and attend meetings. Offer to volunteer. Even if you are unable to go on field trips or volunteer during the school day, you may be able to help in other ways. Perhaps you could prepare classroom materials at home in the evening.

Be reasonable. 

If you need to meet with the teacher, request a meeting. It is hard for teachers to have quick unscheduled conferences when they are trying to keep up with their class. If your child is sick, keep him home from school.

Encourage good homework habits.

Help your child understand the importance of completing homework assignments on time. You can help and encourage your child, but make sure the final product reflects her effort, not yours. When parents provide structure and guidance – then allow their children to learn from their mistakes as well as their successes – it shows they care. If your child is struggling with a particular topic, talk with the teacher about ways you can help. Look over your child’s work to reinforce the concepts the school is teaching.

Keep the teacher informed.

Send a note or talk to your child’s teacher about issues that may affect your child’s performance at school. If your child is dealing with grief, divorce, sibling rivalry, nervousness about an upcoming event or excitement about a visit from out-of-town grandparents, it is good to share this information. Make sure the teacher knows about health issues such as asthma or allergies. Provide information on what procedures to follow in the event of an allergic reaction.

Encourage healthy habits. 

Whether your child buys or brings a lunch, emphasize good nutrition. Avoid sending sugary snacks to school and have healthy snacks on hand at home. Encourage your child to spend time being physically active through play or sports. Make sure your child gets enough sleep.

Read together.

Children benefit enormously when parents read with them. Make reading together a daily habit. Have discussions about reading and talk about books as you take turns reading out loud. When possible, help your child acquire age-appropriate books about topics that interest him.

Express Appreciation.

Teachers strive to inspire students to be lifelong learners. They often make their work look effortless, but it requires a lot of expertise and countless planning hours to do what they do.

“It is important to remember that teachers teach because of the things they believe in,” Youngberg said. “They want each child’s special interests and talents to be nurtured. Teachers know that once you give children the tools and experiences to make learning relevant, they truly will be lifelong learners.”

Image from Unsplash.com

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

“I remember going home from college for Christmas my freshman year,” says Akeyla Madison. “I had been on my own for five months and felt good about how I was doing. When I arrived home, I was surprised to found out I would be sharing a room with my sister who is six years younger than me because my room had been turned into a storage room. I’m pretty sure my mom didn’t think that would be a big deal.

“My mom also wanted to know where I was, who I was with and what I was doing. I felt smothered and honestly couldn’t wait to get back to college and my freedom.”

While parents and family members are excited to see their college kids come home for the holidays, the transition can be complicated for everybody, especially if expectations are not clear on the front end.

“I didn’t know ahead of time I would be sharing a room with my little sister,” Madison remembers. “Because there was such an age difference, it made me uncomfortable. My mom didn’t want me staying out late because she was afraid I would wake up my sister when I came home. We survived each other, but it wasn’t pretty.”

Her sophomore year, Madison decided to try something different. She called her grandmother who lived close by and asked to stay with her over the winter break. 

“That worked out a lot better on so many levels,” Madison says. “My mom and I got along better. There was no tension between my sister and me, and I think we all enjoyed the holidays more.”

Madison is now preparing to graduate. When asked how she would advise parents and students preparing for their first trip home from college, she shared the following:

Communication is critical.

Everybody needs to talk about expectations for being together before the break begins. Talk about the family plans and ask your young adult about their plans for the holidays. If you expect them to be at certain events, be clear about that. Discuss expectations for helping out around the house, their friends coming over to visit, food in the refrigerator, coming and going, meals, etc. These things can create unnecessary drama due to unspoken expectations on both sides.

Flexibility is a good thing.

Being away at school has allowed your young adult to use many of the skills you taught them at home, but coming back home is an adjustment for everybody. If the parents and college student are willing to adjust, things will probably go a lot better. It’s important to remember that the family has created their own new normal without the college student and the student has probably grown in their independence – which is the ultimate goal, right? Just because they return home does not mean things will or even should revert back to the way they were before they left. Some students choose to earn extra spending money for the next semester. This can throw a monkey wrench into holiday plans as well. 

Mutual respect goes a long way.

When learning to dance a new dance, it’s easy for everyone involved to get frustrated or say and do things they will ultimately regret. Respecting each other while trying to work things out goes a long way. For the college student, it means realizing you aren’t company. Expecting people to wait on you hand and foot and make adjustments based on everything you want to do isn’t realistic or respectful. For everybody, you still have to respect what you don’t understand.  

“Looking back, I realize I felt more like an adult, but my mom saw me as just 18 and had the life experience to know all that could potentially go wrong,” Madison recalls. “That created tension between the two of us. At this point I think I have a better understanding of why my mom was concerned and I can clearly see that she wanted the best for me. I think if we had actually done the things listed above, the transition would have been smoother for both of us.

“Believe it or not, most of the time we really are paying attention to the things you say and are teaching us. We may do some stupid things along the way, but for the most part we want you to see that we are capable.” 

Helping teens get organized can be quite a task. When the school requested a conference with the Goldbergs regarding one of their sons, all kinds of things ran through their mind. Late homework was probably the last thing they expected to discuss.

“After the school conference we tested him and went through all kinds of processes to make sure we had him in the right school and in the right environment to do his best work,” said Donna Goldberg, author of The Organized Student: Teaching Students Skills for Success for School and Beyond.

“We determined he was in the right place. Our son kept telling us that we didn’t need to do the testing, but we assured him we did. The following year, on his own, he made a goal to turn in all homework on time and not ask for extensions on anything. At the end of the year, he told us what his goal had been and he was very proud of himself for accomplishing it.”

Goldberg’s experience with her son led her to write the book and help students master organizational skills.

“We teach children to tell time, but we don’t teach them how to manage it,” Goldberg said. “When I started this, schools did not require work planners. Now they require planners, but few students know how to use the tool to help them accomplish their goals for the year.”

Encouraging your teen to start school with goals can help them succeed in the classroom and generally, in life. Whether they want to make the football team, turn in homework on time or be on time for school, learning how to organize is foundational to their success.

“Just because parents are organized does not mean their children will be,” Goldberg said. “In many instances, I see parents who expect their children to learn organizational skills just by watching. Just modeling a particular behavior does not ensure that teens are learning it. We have to break it down for them step by step. In that process, parents need to remember that although a certain way of doing things works for them, that same system may not work for their teen.”

Goldberg believes these six steps can help teens develop organizational skills:

  • Work to establish trust with your teen. Your don’t allow your teen to rummage through your purse or briefcase without your permission. Instead of just going through their backpack, ask them to go through it with you.
  • Recognize success, no matter how small. Just because you want your teen to get organized does not mean he’ll remember everything. Have a system in place, allow it to fall apart, and start again from where you left off.
  • Don’t bite off more than your teen can chew. Some teens can work on an entire organizational system quickly. Others need to take it slowly.
  • Remove the academic component from the equation. If the goal is to complete work on time but your teen made a terrible test grade, celebrate their progress for turning in homework on time. Discuss the grade another time. Deal with them as two separate issues.
  • Make sure everybody knows: this is a process. Organizational skills don’t just happen, and it takes practice. There will be missteps along the way. But, as you consistently work the process, teens begin to internalize the system.
  • Keep everything in perspective and be positive. Stay focused on organization and remember that great achievements don’t always show up on the report card.

“I think many parents do not understand how difficult it is to be a student today,” Goldberg said. “Teens are inundated with information from the time they get up until they go to bed. It is very difficult to be organized when you are constantly transitioning. A child who does homework while messaging and texting can’t focus because he is going from one thing to another.”

Remember that teens rarely plan to be inefficient. When a child struggles with organization, try different ways to help your child problem-solve the situation.

When push comes to shove, most teens can come up with some excellent ideas. It requires time and energy, but you are teaching valuable, lifelong skills.

Dealing with Homework Pressures

Decrease the angst with these tips.

At the beginning of the school year, a second-grade teacher in Texas sent this letter home to her classroom parents:

After much research this summer, I am trying something new. Homework will only consist of work that your student did not finish during the school day. There will be no formally assigned homework this year.

Research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance. Rather, I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early.

Thanks, Mrs. Brandy Young

A parent posted the letter on Facebook with a hearty thank you to the teacher. It went viral as parents nationwide expressed frustration at the amount of homework their children had, along with the stress it created in their homes.

Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman is a clinical director at the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology who contributed to a study published in the American Journal of Family Therapy regarding homework.

She has serious concerns about how much homework children have and its impact on them.

“One study found kindergartners were given 25 minutes or more of homework,” says Donaldson-Pressman. “Homework for kindergartners is supposed to be nonexistent. Children at this age need to be playing outside, experiencing the early stages of socialization, learning how to play, and how to share so they are finessing their motor skills. Family activities and play are more important than homework at this age.”

Donaldson-Pressman believes parents have a lot more control than they realize. Parents can set limits for how long their child does homework.

The National Education Association recommends only 10 minutes per grade level per night.

The same study that found kindergartners spend too much time on homework also found that first graders spent 25 to 30 minutes. By third grade, kids spent more than a half-hour per night. Donaldson-Pressman noted that in her practice, some third graders spent two to four hours on homework – and their parents can’t help them.

According to Donaldson-Pressman, the data shows that homework over the recommended time is not beneficial to children’s grades or GPA. Evidence actually suggests that it’s detrimental to their attitude about school, grades, self-confidence, social skills and quality of life.

If homework creates pressure or stress in your home, Donaldson-Pressman says you can help decrease the angst if you:

  • Create a quiet place to do homework.
  • Try to do homework at the same time every day.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes for a first-grader, and then have them stop. Fourth graders need to move on to something else after 40 minutes.

As a parent, you probably already know how important it is for children of all ages to get enough rest. Plus, you want them to have time to play, develop friendships outside of school hours and engage in family activities.

In addition to managing the homework situation, assessing your child’s activities and how much pressure kids feel to perform can help. Hopefully, these ideas can allow your family to enjoy more quality time together after a long day at work and school.