Monday, August 31, 2015

Happy Homework!

Homework happiness - is it possible?   Over years parents have asked me many questions about their children's homework.  They want to know if they should help with homework and if so, how much.  They want to know what to do when their child won't or can't do the homework. Sometimes, parents want to know what to do when they don't know how to help their children.  All parents want to support their children to develop good homework habits and become independent with their homework.  

Remember, the purpose of homework is to provide your child with additional learning and practice opportunities.  For this to happen, it must be the child who does the thinking and the work. When children to do the thinking and the work, they benefit from their effort which builds confidence, perseverance and independence.  Here are a few ideas to keep in mind with assisting your children with homework:                                   

  1. Hold your child accountable for knowing what the homework is and bringing it home. If your children "forget" a homework assignment, don't rescue them from the consequences at school.  Instead, say, "Hmm...I sorry that happened.  I bet it will be difficult trying to explain this to your teacher tomorrow.  Don't worry though.  I'm sure your teacher will figure out a way for you to get the work done."  Then leave your child to ponder the situation.  In the long run, this will help your child grow in responsibility and independence.
  2. Make sure you have allowed your child to have dinner or a snack prior to homework time.
  3. Some students need to engage in active play before settling down to their homework, and some want to get it done first to have the rest of the evening free.  
  4. Set up an appropriate time and space for homework completion.  Make the area comfortable and remove distractions like TV noise, electronic devices and other toys.  
  5. Help your child get organized and ready to work by assisting them with a plan for getting started.  Ask your child to determine the order in which the homework tasks will be done.  Keep this short and positive.  Drop a final reminder about what they can do after the homework is completed correctly.  
  6. 6.  Refuse to get over involved when your children say they don't understand the work or don't know what to do.  Gently suggest that they use their books for help or recall what the teacher said in class.  If you have a slow starter, if might be helpful to do one problem or question with your child, but resist the temptation to do more than that. Remember the homework is only helpful if your child does it by thinking, recalling and working through the challenge.  
  7. If homework becomes a daily battle that is negative in tone and causes lots of conflict, contact your child's teacher to create a plan that will help your child become more independent and responsible with homework.  Plans that work best are plans where the teacher, parent and student are working together to overcome unsuccessful homework behaviors. 
  8. Don't forget to smile and praise your child's effort and work when it is done.  

Take a look at this website for more ideas about helping with homework.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Does Your Child have Soft Skills?

In recent years, business employers have been reporting that young, new employees need better "soft skills".  Soft skills??   What are soft skills?  Do you remember taking courses in soft skills when you were in high school or college?  Probably not.  

The employers are saying that young people are coming into the work force with solid career knowledge and abilities.  For example, young engineers seem to know about engineering.  However, in soft skills, like communication, teamwork, initiative and resilience, they are lacking.  This is causing them to be less successful in their jobs and less productive for their employers.  Ultimately, some young adults are experiencing failure and loss of employment early in their careers because they lack soft skills.

Soft skills can be thought of as personal characteristics.  They are about how people manage themselves as they work with others.  Soft skills relate to how a person responds to those who are in superior, collaborative and  subordinate roles to them.  It also refers to how an individual responds to criticism, failure and ambiguity.  Stated simply, soft skills are how a person gets along with others and demonstrates the ability to solve problems in the workplace .                                                

Today's employers are looking for workers who understand social skills and can work productively with others, as well as, independently. They want workers who are collaborative and who can overcome adversity and difficulty.  
Parent power to the rescue!  As parents, you can help your children develop soft skills!  Do you allow your chldren to work through their own problems?  Have you taught them to consider the needs of others before their own?  Do they know and practice common courtesies like good manners, respect and kindness?  Have they ever experienced the feeling of working hard to accomplish a task or skills?  Do you hold them to their commitments when they join a team or take up a hobby?  Are they allowed to be a productive part of your family by taking full responsibility for assigned chores? Doing all of these things will provide your child with life experiences that prepare them for success in the work place and will help them grow into workers that are valuable employees for the companies that hire them.     
Please click and read the following article from about soft skills that are highly valued in today's work place.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Let's Ride the Bus!

Should you drive your child to school or let them ride the bus?  Regardless of your child's age, this decision can have a significant impact on your child's school day.  Consider some thoughts about this question:

1.   Traveling by bus is safer.  Students who ride the bus are about 20 times more likely to arrive at school safely than when driven by parents.  Students who ride the bus are about 50 times more likely to arrive at school safely than when they drive themselves or ride with friends.  

2.  Catching the bus provides structure and timing for morning routines.  Students are more likely to get up, get dressed and eat breakfast if they know they must catch the bus. Buses are predictable and consistent but, if the bus is late, your child will not be counted late at school.

3.  Students who ride the bus have better school attendance and are tardy less often.

4.  Riding the bus makes separation easier for young students. Getting on the bus creates a quick and less emotional goodbye.

5.  Parents can set expectations for safe behavior while on the bus.  As a principal, I always told the students to remember; "Seat to seat, back to back and feet to the floor". When students are sitting down with their back resting on the seat back and their feet pointed toward the floor, they are in the safest position for riding.  This posture also helps the driver scan quickly to make sure all is well.  

6.  The purpose of the bus ride is more about getting to school safely, and on time, than it is about socializing.  Offer your children suggestions for how to use the bus time productively, such as, reading, checking their homework or studying for a test.  Older students can use their cellular devices to make the traveling time more productive and entertaining.

7.  Be sure to let the bus driver know that you support all rules and procedures for student behavior. The driver can do her job best when the students comply with safety rules.  Can you even imagine what it would be like to drive a vehicle with 50 or 60 children on board?  

I really hope you will click on the link below.  It had great statistics and information about current bus safety features.  Please feel free to post a question or comment, if you wish.

Monday, August 24, 2015

School Talk!

As a parent, I always wanted to hear about my children's school day.  However, they didn't always share my enthusiasm in discussing the details of their school lives. This post is written in response to my own experiences as a parent and a great many parents who have mentioned this to me over the years.

Q.  Why won't my child share details of his school day with me?

A.  Children of all ages benefit from having conversations with their parents. When parents and children can talk easily with each other, kids develop strong trusting relationships with their parents.  However, not all kids are willing to talk about their school lives.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when inviting your child to talk about school.  

Some children need time to relax and take a break from school before being ready to talk about the day.  Respect this need.  Try different times of the day to see when your child is most responsive.  The tone for discussions about school should be non-confrontational and light-hearted.  

As a parent and adult role model, you may need to engage in some self-examination before talking with your children about school.  You should set a positive goal for the discussions.  Your purpose should involve supporting, encouraging and uplifting your child.  Try to keep the focus on your child rather than other children in the class.  

Once you have determined the purpose for the discussions, be sure to ask specific questions that require more than a yes or no response such as, "Tell me about what you are learning in math class."  If you get a short response, prompt with, "Is this something new you are learning or do you remember it from last year?  Continue on with this manner of questions until you feel that your child is no longer interested in the discussion.  At first, your conversations may be very brief.  Using this patient questioning technique, over time, will help you develop a positive conversational relationship with your child about school.  

Additional positive topics are; art class, music class, PE class, and special classroom projects. Eventually, you will be able to prompt deeper conversations such as, "What do you still need to learn about long division?" and, "Why is _____ your best friend at school?"

It is very important to avoid asking questions with a negative tone like, "Was anyone bad at school today?", and "Did you get in trouble today?"  Asking negative questions will put your child in the difficult position of talking and thinking about themselves, classmates and staff members in negative ways. Children want to please their parents, so they will relate negative information if you ask negative questions.  Remember to use your conversations to build up your child and others in the school.  Doing so will help your child develop positive attitudes and enjoy school more which will lead to increased school success.  

I am including this link with more ideas about talking with your kids about school.

Six Steps to a Great Start at School

Every child wants to have a great start to their school year.  Parents want their children to learn well and be happy at school.  When I reflect back over many school years, as a mother and an educator, there are a variety of things I have learned about helping children have a great start to a school year. Here are my top six (not in order of importance):

1.  Think of "failures" as great learning opportunities for children! Failures can be the springboard to personal reflection and positive change for children and adults alike! Mistakes are not the end of the world!  Let them know that you don't expect perfection, but you do expect them to learn from their mistakes.

2.  Set healthy boundaries and routines.  This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is really important in helping students do well in school!  Children feel safer and less anxious when they have predictable patterns and routines in their lives.  Well established routines at home for personal hygiene, bed time, play time, and chores will help them adapt to school routines and expectations with ease.  
3. Speak highly of your child's school and its teachers.  Let your children know that you trust the teachers to help them grow in academics and in character.  Children respect and emulate their parents' opinions.  When children trust and respect their teachers, they enjoy school more.  

4.  Teach your children that being kind is important.  Being kind to others will help them be successful at school by making friends easily.  When children are kind to others, they are well accepted and respected by their peers.  Kindness can be displayed in many small ways, like allowing someone else to be first in line and helping others pick up dropped items.  When kindness is a valued characteristic at home, it will be easier for children to be kind at school. 

5. Avoid trying to "fix" your child's mistakes and problems.  Adults can help their children gain confidence by allowing them to cope with their own mistakes.  Try saying this, "Hmm... I'm sorry to see you struggling with this mistake.  I know you will find a way to work this out and solve this problem". Then walk away and give your child time to think.  Expressing empathy and communicating that you believe they can solve the problem builds independence and confidence. It also helps them learn that they have control over their own lives.  When children feel confident in dealing with and resolving their own problems, they will be happier and more confident at school.

6.  Last, but most important of all  - keep their home life happy and supportive. Providing your children with a happy home, where they are always loved and cared for, is possibly the most important thing you can do to ensure their success and happiness at school.

Here is a link to another article with more ideas on this topic.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Separation Anxiety

This post relates to another question that parents have asked related to helping their children start school successfully.

Q.  How can I help my child with separation anxiety?

A.  Many children feel uneasy when separating from their parents in a new or unknown place.  Several things can help your child with the important transition into a classroom for the first time.  
Parents, be sure to conquer your own separation stress before you begin to help your child.  If you are anxious, your child will learn from your example and share your anxiety.  You want to be the healthy, strong example that can model having a positive outlook on changes that lead to growth and success!  Being able to adapt to change is a huge factor in living a successful life.

Be sure to talk about the transition in positive ways.  For example, instead of saying, "Are you nervous about the first day of school?", say this, "Are you excited about the first day of school?"  Your words are the first impression that your child has about school. Be sure to make that first impression seem exciting and fun.  Using positive words will teach your child that you expect the separation to be easy and happy for her. In addition, be sure to take your child with you to any beginning of year events at the school such as, Open House or Meet the Teacher Night. This can be a powerful way to reduce fear of the unknown.  

Most importantly, keep your goodbyes brief, happy and unemotional.  Long, drawn out, tearful goodbyes will always make the separation more difficult. Allow your child to ride the school bus, if possible.  Once they are on the bus, the excitement will naturally take over and reduce fears. If you take your child to school in your car, drop her off at curbside with a quick hug and kiss.  Don't make the mistake of hovering in the classroom doorway.  Tell your student you can't wait to hear about her great day when she gets home.  Don't allow tears or pleading to delay your departure.  I can't tell you how many times I have seen a child go from tears to smiles as soon as the car is out of sight!

I am including a link for further reading.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Starting the School Year Successfully!

I love the start of school!  It is like a bright and shiny new penny!  It comes with hopes and expectations for our children to grow academically, socially and in wisdom.  There are a few things that parents can do to help their children have a successful start to the school year.  This is the first in a series of posts related to questions that parents have asked me over the course of my 24 years as a public educator.  I hope you find them helpful to resolve some of the early concerns that can present themselves.

Q.  What should I do if my child says he doesn't like his teacher?

A.  First, ask your child to tell you more about this without using leading questions.  Simply ask why he doesn't like the teacher and then listen carefully. It is helpful to express sincere empathy, but best to resist the temptation to jump to conclusions or try to resolve the concern for your child.  Instead, communicate that you have great confidence in his ability to learn how to adjust to the classroom.  Children deserve to be able to learn from situations like this that will prepare them for adulthood.  This could be an important learning opportunity. The reason a child might express this concern could arise from something minor that will easily resolve itself within a few days. In this case, your child will learn to give other people a second chance and know that a "bad" start doesn't always mean a "bad" ending!  It helps them develop persistence, resilience and perseverance.  

If your child persists with this concern, you may want to reach out to the teacher (not the principal) for assistance. I recommend that you make this contact without telling your child beforehand. When calling the teacher, approach her with an open mind ready to hear a more complete picture of what is causing your child's distress.  Perhaps the teacher is unaware that your child is having difficulty adjusting to her classroom.  Ask the teacher if she has suggestions you could use to help your child to be happier at school.  The best possible situation is one where the parent, student and teacher are working together collaboratively to solve the problem.  I don't recommend requesting that your child be moved to another classroom. It is much healthier for you child to be allowed to work through this challenge and make a successful adjustment to his new learning environment.