I hate doing my kid's homework, a mom's blog

How do you talk to your kids about vehicle safety?

December 6, 2018

My husband and I regularly talk to our kids about safe driving. We discuss driver responsibility, different road conditions, and influential teenage passengers. Most of the time my kids find this discussion unnecessary and annoying, but last week they realized why it is such an important topic.

Two separate car accidents in the high school parking lot sent students to the hospital.  Both accidents involved teenage drivers. Both were very traumatic. Not only did the accidents cause physical pain, but the young drivers were also affected by the trauma of the accidents.

Accidents can happen anywhere. I called Mountain View High School, the largest high school in the state, to ask about their accident rate and preventive measures. I spoke with an administrator who told me there was only one accident (with injuries) last year. He said schools do their best to design parking lots to allow traffic flow while also minimizing the ability to speed.

Maybe we have to accept that accidents are inherent when hundreds of teenage drivers are flowing in and out of a school parking lot daily. Hopefully kids and parents alike, can learn from accidents like these. We spent time talking with our kids about responsible driving and safety. We also spoke to them about being aware of their surroundings and being a good passenger.

How do you talk to your kids about vehicle safety?

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Teachers everywhere, thank you

November 26, 2018

Thanksgiving was a busy week. I had all my kids at home, including two from college. We spent a lot of time cooking, cleaning and playing games (which caused a few fights). Now that everyone is back at school and the house is quiet, I want to share my thanks.

I am grateful for the many educators and administrators who devote their life to teaching. From kindergarten through 12th grade, each one of my children will have been taught by over 50 different teachers. It will take more than 350 different teachers just to teach my family!

From parents everywhere, I want to say thank you to the teachers. Thank you for choosing to become a teacher. Thank you for recognizing the value of education. Thank you for understanding the importance of one student. Thank you for having patience with grouchy teenagers, loud middle schoolers and distracted elementary kids. Thank you for shaping young minds and helping children succeed in life.

Here are some of the wonderful things you have taught my kids;

  1. The importance of filling each other’s bucket. Acts of kindness are like drops in a bucket. Filling other people’s bucket brings happiness.
  2. How to jump ‘double dutch’ and how to play clapping games at recess. We all need recess, exercise and fun games with friends.
  3. Idaho history; I didn’t grow up here, but thanks to all of the fifth-grade teachers, my kids and I know a lot about the Mountain Bluebird and the Hagerman Horse.
  4. How to play the French horn. I never would have taught my son that!
  5. How to write a persuasive paragraph (it almost convinced me to bring home a puppy).
  6. Life skills, like how to write a resume and interview for a job.
  7. Making Military History class fun, by letting the students make their own cardboard armor.
  8. How to learn and grow from failure, even if it’s a fourth-grade spelling test.

Teachers everywhere, thank you.

What are some of the important/fun things your kids have learned from their teachers?

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Do you think security systems deter school shootings?

November 15, 2018

I called the high school to have my daughter excused for a dentist appointment. She was supposed to meet me in front of the school after lunch, but unfortunately, I was running late. By the time I got to the school, lunch had ended, and she had gone back to class.

I knew my daughter was not allowed to check her phone in class, so texting her wouldn’t help. I had to park and go into the office, so I could call her out of class.

Walking to the building, I remembered the school had recently installed a security system. All exterior school doors were locked and could only be opened with a school identification card (worn by all students and staff, on a lanyard around their necks).

I, of course, didn’t have a student ID card, so I couldn’t open the door. I waved my hands around, hoping someone inside would see me and open the door. Someone eventually did, and I was able to get into the office and get my daughter.

I’m glad the school has increased security. But what about the parents? How are we supposed to get into the building? I called the school to ask, and they informed me of the buzzer outside, I had missed. Parents, or anyone without a school ID, can use the buzzer to request entry.

School security is very important. I wanted to understand what the district was doing to increase security, so I called and spoke with Geoff Stands, a West Ada School District regional director. He told me the district began installing security systems last spring, due to the rise of national school shootings. They planned to install security systems in all of the elementary schools first, because they were less expensive (fewer exterior doors) and had minimal security. They decided to change their focus to the high schools after noting the multiple incidences of non-students walking into high schools. The security systems cost nearly $100,000 per high school and are paid for from the building maintenance funds. West Ada hopes to have security measures installed in every school in the district by the end of 2020.

With all the time and money spent on security systems, I have to ask; do these security measures protect our kids, or are they a large cost with little gain? If a majority of school shooters were students at the school (Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Columbine, Red Lake and Santa Fe High School, to name a few), locked doors wouldn’t prevent a shooting. You can read the list of school shootings in the United States here.

The Washington Post published this article about school shootings and increased security measures. After questioning 34 schools who had experienced shootings, most of them said there was nothing that could have been done to prevent the shootings.

Does your school have a security system? Do you think security systems deter school shootings? What security measures would you like to see at your school?

Tell me what you think: [email protected]

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Scammers — a lesson I forgot to teach my kids

November 8, 2018

There are a lot of things we need to teach our children before they grow up and leave home. With two young adults in college, I thought I had been doing a pretty good job.

When my son called me last week, I realized one lesson I forgot to teach my kids — how to spot scammers.

Scammers have been around forever. They tell you a creative story and then offer something that seems too good to be true.

When I was younger, it was a Nigerian Prince who contacted me. He wanted to flee the country and needed someone to help him move his excessive royal funds into the United States. In exchange for helping him, he offered to pay a large sum of money. Fortunately, I didn’t believe his story or give him any money.

My son was not contacted by a Nigerian Prince. He was contacted by a potential employer.

My son had been looking for jobs, and filling out applications online. When he received an email offering him a job as a personal assistant, he was intrigued.

He agreed to take the job, and this is what he was told:

FIRST TASK

First on the list is the orphanage home donation which I usually do every month, I do make donations to 3 orphanage home every month, You ought to help me purchase some toys and other items which will be donated to the orphanage home. I contacted the orphanage home for the list of toys needed. The toys are so many and it will cost much money and stress to get them shipped. Therefore, We have reached an accord, they will be getting the items themselves.”

The “employer” went on to describe how she would be sending my son a check to cover the donation costs. His job was to wire the money to the “orphanages.” He deposited the check ($1,600) and waited until the next day to wire the money (only $1,400 because he was being “paid” $200 for his work).

I’m sure you know how this played out.

A few days later, the bank contacted him to say that the check had bounced. The money he had wired, had all come from his personal savings. He contacted the police, the wire transfer company and the bank, all with no success. He had just been scammed, and lost over $1,400. Ouch.

I wish I could make his savings reappear, but I can’t. All I can do is help other kids (mine and yours), avoid losing their money to scammers. Here are a few signs to looks for;

  1. Bad spelling and grammar (the above paragraph is full of them).
  2. A quick and easy way to make money (he was offered $200 to make two wire transfers).
  3. Lottery winnings, prize money, shipping fees, or overdue balances from companies you do not use.
  4. Anytime someone asks you to send or wire money.

Have you talked to your kids about scammers? Help them avoid the pain and loss that scammers can cause.  

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Wear your sticker with pride

November 2, 2018

If you have kids in school, especially in high school, this election should be very important to you. Here’s why:

Our vote this Tuesday will determine the next governor and state superintendent. These two elected officials will lead our kids’ schools for the next four years.

The governor we vote for, will be someone new. He or she will have the potential to affect great change throughout the state. The governor will recommend how the state spends its $1.8 billion dollar education budget. Take some time to research the candidates. Who do you want to lead our state as governor?

The position of state superintendent is also up for election. If you do not like how education is run in Idaho, this is your chance to make a change. If you like the direction education is headed, you can vote to support the incumbent.

In 2014, the superintendent’s race was so close, that it was determined by less than 2 percent of the vote, or less than 5,600 votes. This election has the potential to be just as close. This is your opportunity to do a little research and make an informed decision.

Our kids deserve parents who take the time to be informed voters. Our kids deserve leaders who will make the best decisions for their education.

Let’s make this vote count … for our kids.

Vote this Tuesday, and wear your sticker with pride.

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Do your kids get enough sleep?

October 30, 2018

I’m considering moving to Blackfoot. Not for work, or because the weather is better, but because my whole family could sleep in 30 minutes, every school day.

Trustees in the Blackfoot School District are considering moving school start times ahead by 30 minutes, potentially giving students (and parents!) an extra half hour to sleep.

I don’t know who came up with this brilliant idea (besides every teenager, ever), but I am thrilled to see a school district willing to make the change. Blackfoot is not the only district trying to get their students more sleep. Oakland County Michigan school district moved it’s start times ahead by 40 minutes to increase student achievement. California has also been trying help it’s students by working to pass a bill that would require all high schools to wait until 8:30 am to start.

More sleep is good.

The CDC recommends that kids, ages 13-18, should be getting 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night That’s one to three hours more than adults. When kids regularly fail to get sufficient sleep they have a “higher risk of obesity, diabetes, injuries, poor mental health, and problems with attention and behavior.” The CDC estimates that over 70 percent of teenagers do not get enough sleep.

My teenagers are part of that 70 percent. They do not get enough sleep. They wake up before 7 a.m. and don’t get home until after 6 p.m. (due to school sports). It is after 10:30 p.m. by the time they eat dinner, shower and do their homework. Sometimes they are up even later, if they have a sporting event or exam to study for.

I am exhausted for them.

Do your kids get enough sleep? Maybe we should all move to Blackfoot.

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What do you expect from parent/teacher conferences?

October 30, 2018

Last week I attended parent/teacher conferences. I find these conferences valuable, but I’m not sure the teachers understand what parents want to hear.

When I arrived for the middle school parent/teacher conferences, I went into the cafeteria to meet with my son’s teachers. Some teachers had short lines with only one or two parents waiting, while others had a line running to the center of the cafeteria.

I don’t like waiting in long lines, so I began with the teachers with the shortest lines. It was easy to see why their meetings with parents went quickly.

These teachers were able to:

  • Quickly access the student’s grades.
  • Identify their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Share one or two things their class had already learned.
  • Share an upcoming project or subject matter.
  • Suggest ways for my student to improve.
  • Ask me (the parent) if I had questions.

After waiting in a really long line, I was finally able to met with the fourth period teacher. I understood right away, why the lines had been so long.

Things I didn’t need to hear at parent/teacher conference:

  • How the teacher decided to grade each assignment.
  • The details and rubrics of each project.
  • The course syllabus.

I’m sure this kind of information is useful to some parents, but most of this information was handed out at the beginning of the school year. I can check my kids’ grades online. I can see the rubrics and grading scale for assignments that are sent home. I am not meeting with the teacher to understand how the class is run and how he/she formats the grade book.

When I attend a parent/teacher conference, I want to learn:

  • How my child is performing in class.
  • If my child is attentive, engaged, involved and learning.
  • If my child is doing well, or struggling.
  • Suggestions how I can support my child’s education at home.

What do you expect from parent/teacher conferences?

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Idaho asks for parent feedback

October 21, 2018

It’s not everyday that we are given the opportunity to survey a survey.

That’s right. The State Department of Education has created a survey for parents and educators and now they are giving us a chance to review the survey and share our opinion, before the survey questions are finalized (October 26).

The survey questions were created by a committee of administrators, parents, teachers and board members in an effort to better understand how parents and school staff members feel about their local schools. The parent questions focus on school leadership, school resources and support, and the school’s learning environment. The survey for staff members asks questions about the school’s mission and leadership, how the school is governed and operated, school resources and support, teacher expectations, and how the school supports the staff.

These surveys have the opportunity to be informative and helpful, if the right questions are asked. I wanted to see the questions and voice my opinion, so I surveyed the survey.

If you are interested in voicing your opinion about the upcoming parent survey, you can find survey questions here, along with an opportunity to provide feedback and suggestions.

If you are interested in the survey created for educators and staff members, you can find those survey questions and give feedback, here.

Happy surveying!  Let me know what you think: [email protected]

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Do you enjoy parenting?

October 18, 2018

I recently had the opportunity to listen to a speech given by the principal of Columbine High School, Frank DeAngelis. As he recounted his experience of the massacre that occurred at his school in 1999, the audience sat in somber silence.

On April 20, Columbine High School was attacked by two seniors who attended the school. They had planned to kill students, staff, and emergency workers using bombs and guns. Their bombs failed to detonate, so the pair used multiple guns and ammunition. They murdered 12 students, one teacher and injured 21 others, before committing suicide.

After explaining the details of the massacre, Frank shared facts about the gunmen and common misconceptions of school shooters. He said the two seniors were outstanding students, with good grades and an active social life. They were in AP classes, accepted to college and even went to prom the weekend before the shooting. They were not prone to violence or behavioral problems at school and they were well liked.

Frank DeAngelis explained, although the parents were not at fault, they both never entered their sons’ bedrooms. The parents told police, their sons would not allow them to enter their rooms. The parents were even hesitant to go into their bedrooms after the shooting.

*Note to parents: be present in your children’s lives. Go into their rooms. Talk with them in their space. Ask them questions about their passions, hopes, dreams and fears.

Next, Frank spoke about dealing with trauma. He said, life does not go back to “normal” after a traumatic event. One of the most important ways to heal from trauma, Frank explained, is to find a support system. After the shooting, he (and the entire staff) continued to work at the school, to provide stability to the students and community. As principal, he spent countless hours encouraging staff, students and families to seek counseling. Counseling for emotional trauma, Frank explained, was like going to the dentist for a cavity. There are times when we need help from a professional.

*Note to parents: Don’t be afraid to seek support. Parenting is hard. Being a kid can be hard. I have been to counseling. I have taken my children to counseling. There is not shame in needing and seeking help.

Frank DeAngelis ended his speech, by talking about the immense positive impact educators can have on their students. He encouraged teachers to “choose a job you love and are passionate about, because students can tell if their teacher doesn’t enjoy their job.”

*Note to parents: Do you enjoy parenting? How do you show your kids that you love your “job”?

Today, I plan to show my children how much I love them by jumping on the trampoline together.

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Let’s talk to our kids about voting

October 15, 2018

On Tuesday, Nov.6, we have the opportunity to share our voice and be involved in politics.

I will be voting with an absentee ballot. Not because I will be out of town, but because I want to take my time. I want to know the candidates. I want to understand the propositions (there are two on the ballot). I want my kids to see the ballot and understand the importance of voting.

I love having the right to vote. I love teaching my kids about the importance of voting. l want them to understand voting is my opportunity to share the responsibility of how our local and national government is run.

Do you have kids who are 18 or older? Have you showed them how to register to vote? Have you explained the importance of voting?

If you have trouble getting your adult kids interested in voting, show them this post by Taylor Swift. She spoke of the importance of voting and encouraged young voters (18 year-olds) to register to vote. Likely because of her post, over 100,000 new voters registered to vote in Tennessee.

If they don’t like Taylor Swift, you can show them this YouTube song, called “A Scary Time”, or this Time article that lists 30 celebrities who encourage people to get out and vote. Voting is important. Voting is cool.

Do you talk to your kids about voting? What ideas do you have to encourage more people to vote?

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Our kids will take a new reading test this year

October 10, 2018

I recently learned that my first grader will be taking a new reading test — the IRI (Idaho Reading Indicator) — this fall. I contacted the elementary principal to learn more. She helped me better understand the old and new IRI tests.

Since the early 1990’s, children in grades K-3 were given an IRI test twice a year (fall and spring). It was a simple one-minute-timed test of fluency skills. It was not very comprehensive or adaptive (especially for students with special needs). The test results provided parents, teachers and administrators with information about a student’s basic ability to read.

This new test (called Istation) has several differences:

  • It is taken on a computer instead of being given by a proctor.
  • It is computer adaptive.
  • It can accommodate students with special needs.
  • It can be taken on a regular basis (the state will collect the data twice a year).
  • The teachers and administrators are sent the results as soon as the test is finished.
  • Istation provides tailored suggestions for the teachers, based on their students needs.

I wanted to get a copy of the old test and compare it to the new test, but the tests are not available (to avoid cheating?).

I look forward to talking to my daughter and her teacher about the new test. I hope the regular testing will provide a more accurate measurement of my child’s reading growth. I also hope that teachers will be able use the Istation resources to improve their student’s ability to learn.

If you are curious about your local school’s past IRI scores, or any elementary school, you can look up the data on Idaho Ed Trends.

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How do you teach your children to deal with conflict?

October 2, 2018

Over the weekend, I decided to take my kids to the nearby elementary school to play on the playground. While we were looking around, I noticed this conflict-resolution chart painted on the ground. It had nine segments that said:

  1. Ignore it
  2. Wait and cool off
  3. Talk it out
  4. Go to another game
  5. Share and take turns
  6. Make a deal
  7. Apologize
  8. Tell them to stop
  9. Walk away

I applaud this school for using the playground as a place to teach kids multiple ways to resolve a conflict.

As parents, we should have this list painted somewhere on our “playground.” We also need to be reminded that sometimes the right answer to conflict with our children (or other adults) is to apologize, talk it out, or even walk away, as the chart says. Just because we have more life experience and knowledge than our kids, does not mean these suggestions do not apply to us.

Sometimes when I am frustrated with my children, I find the best solution is to “make a deal” … “If you get ready for bed before 8, then we can play a game.” Or to “talk it out” … “If you feel like your curfew is unreasonable, please explain why you feel that way, and let’s discuss what time you think would be more appropriate.”

Conflict as an adult isn’t much different than conflict on the playground. Our kids deserve parents who listen with respect and try to resolve the conflict with compassion and understanding.

How do you deal with conflict?

How do you teach your children to deal with conflict?

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How engaged are students at your school?

September 27, 2018

Last spring, Idaho students in elementary and middle school were asked to take a survey. They were asked questions about school safety, student-teacher relationships, and about the social and learning atmosphere at the school.

I was surprised to learn that only 65 percent percent of students felt engaged in the classroom. That means nearly one third of students are not engaged in learning.

I was really stunned to learn that my children’s middle school was on the low end of the spectrum, with only 55 percent of students indicating they felt engaged. I wanted to know if the principal was aware of this data, and if he had a plan to increase student engagement, so I sent him an email.

He responded right away and informed me that he was aware of the data, and constantly looking for ways to help students be more involved. He said, “Our focus this year is on strengthening our Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s). This is an area, that when done well, can have the greatest impact on student achievement.  We are also entering a process to become a High Reliability School, you can read “A handbook for High Reliability Schools: The Next Step in School Reform” if you’d like to dig in to what this might look like.”

I was really pleased that he knew about the data and had a plan of action to help the teachers and students improve.

To see the data for yourself, go to the Idaho State Department of Education’s website and look for the section listed “2018 Accountability Data” (halfway down the page). Click on “Student Engagement” and you can see the data from all of the schools around Idaho.

How engaged are the students at your school?

Does your principal have a plan to improve the learning atmosphere?

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Q&A with superintendent candidate Cindy Wilson

September 17, 2018

In my efforts to become a more informed voter, I chose to study the two candidates running for State Superintendent of Education; Sherri Ybarra and Cindy Wilson. After reading about them online, I became curious about a few things and wrote down several questions I wanted to ask them both. I am not one to waste time, so I contacted the two candidates.

I have not had any success in speaking with the Republican incumbent Sherri Ybarra (I have left messages with two secretaries, left voicemails and sent emails). If she gets a chance to respond to me, I will blog about it.

I was able to speak with Democratic challenger Cindy Wilson (I booked an appointment via her website). She met with me and answered all of my questions. Here are my questions with the simplified version of her responses.

  • Why are you the best choice for parents?

Because I listen

  • How do you plan to improve education for ALL kids in Idaho?

Offer full-day kindergarten for all students in Idaho

Create a (non-mandatory) community partnership to offer pre-K services

  • How do you propose to improve Idaho’s reading score?

Preschool

  • What do you do to include a parent’s perspective in your decision making?

Regularly meet and talk with parents

  • How do you plan to inform parents about the success and failures in their schools?

Create a monthly newsletter accessible to all parents

Overall, the meeting was very informative. I felt like Cindy listened to me and to my questions. She took the time to explain her ideas and excitement for the future of Idaho. She told me about her 20+ years of experience in education, along with many meaningful connections she made with her students. She is passionate about improving education, and has several ideas of how to make education better throughout the state.

If you met with the two candidates, what questions would you ask?

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Do you ever do your kid’s homework?

September 12, 2018

Recently, I received an email from a very concerned high school teacher. She noticed the tagline of my blog, and asked me, “Do you really do your kids homework?”

No.

I try to encourage my kids to do as much of their homework on their own, as possible. If they get stuck or confused, I readily offer support. When they need help studying for a big test, I will ask them questions from their study guide. If they need to write a paper, I will edit their drafts. I help, I assist and I correct, but I do not do my kids’ homework.

As soon as she realized that I didn’t make a habit of completing my children’s assignments for them, she told me a very funny story.

I have had the experience of hearing parents brag in public about doing their kid’s homework, right in front of me, even though they know I am a teacher. In fact, I was attending a gathering at a business with about 50 people in attendance and the business owner related to the group how her son had been very upset about a low grade in English so she did his paper for him.  Then, referring to the teacher after the paper was returned, she said that the “b…… gave me a B on the paper!”

Be honest, do you ever do your kid’s homework? How much should parents help their kids with their homework?

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How can the state best help parents?

September 9, 2018

Sometimes I get caught up in the day to day parenting, and forget to look at the bigger picture.

On school days, I get up early to make breakfast, encourage my kids to eat, pack a healthy lunch and send them out the door (hopefully) on time. When they get home from school, we go over their homework, talk about their day, run to and from sports practices, eat dinner and try to get everyone to bed at a reasonable time. It’s busy, and sometimes, overwhelming.

Planning for my children’s future is not something we discuss on a daily basis. Not because it is not important, but because we’re busy and we don’t have the answers. I don’t know what my kids want to do after high school, where they want to go or what options they will have. There is a daunting amount of decisions that need to be made and factors to consider before my kids can make a smooth transition into higher education.

  • How do we pick the right school?
  • How  do we finance a post-secondary education?
  • Does everyone need more education after high school?
  • Do dual credit classes/concurrent credit classes really make a difference?
  • How and when do we apply for college?
  • How do we teach our kids the importance of education right now?

State education leaders recognize parents and students need help solving these questions. In 2012, Gov. Butch Otter commissioned an Educational Task Force to study and collaborate ways to improve education in Idaho. Now that the data has been collected and studied, the Educational Task Force is looking to implement a program called Guided Pathways.

The Guided Pathways program has multiple goals, with one aimed towards educating parents. The president of the State Board of Education Dr. Linda Clark wrote an article explaining a 12-week “college for parents” program in Arizona. This program would help parents plan for their child’s current- and long-term educational goals.

Debbie Critchfield, the vice president of the State Board of Education, summarized the priorities of Idaho’s program;

  1. Parent Academy
  2. Communication/Outreach to parents and students, increased parent and student engagement
  3. Transition Coordinators or Near Peers statewide (in all high schools), consistent first year postsecondary experience
  4. Parental Portal – resource for college and career advising and career exploration
  5. Common Transcripts (HS/Dual Credit)
  6. School counselor roles/duties defined (eliminate non-school counselor duties from current tasks)
  7. Simplify Advanced Opportunities administration
  8. BEST, AVID, etc. (Student Type) programs funded/provided statewide
  9. Create a uniform K-12 career exploration class
  10. Liaison/better customer service/reduce confusion (between K-12 and postsecondary)
  11. Uniform technology (including postsecondary titles for advisors, single identified point of contact, consistent use of defined transition coordinator model)
  12. Senior Projects (expand to include more career exploration/internships) – require to be more meaningful
  13. New standards of Life Skills added to existing content standards
  14. College and Career Advising Centers around the state with trained staff in college and career advising
  15. 8th grade advising overhaul (start earlier)
  16. System-like approach to school district and charter school college and career advising plans (develop best practices)

It all sounds fantastic.

But will it really happen? What will it cost? Will it be helpful to parents and children? How will they make parents aware of these taxpayer-funded programs? 

What do you think of these ideas? Which ones stand out as important or unimportant to you?

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Which school is best for your child?

September 4, 2018

What do you do when you feel like your child is not getting the education she needs?

My friend posed this question to me last week. She wasn’t asking me because she thought I had the answer. She was asking me, because she didn’t know how to find the answer.

I couldn’t tell her which school would be the best fit for her child, just like I couldn’t tell you which school would be best for your child, neither can the principal, the neighbor or Superintendent Sherri Ybarra. Your child is unique and the education your child needs is unique.

As a parent, I am the one who understands the intricacies of my child’s emotions, frustrations, hopes, dreams and preferences. I see her future potential and opportunities for growth. I do not fear that I am not involved enough in my child’s education. My fear is that I might be limiting my child’s educational growth and experiences by the school I choose to send her.

Until last year, I did not know how to compare schools around me. I didn’t know that I could pick a school based on my daughter’s educational strengths or goals. I assumed that my address was the sole determining factor in what kind of education my child would receive. I didn’t know that I could choose a school based on ISAT scores, teacher-to-student ratios, or college go-on rates. But I can, you can, and anyone can. Public schools, charter schools, alternative schools, schools of choice, online schools and even un-schooling, are all educational options here in Idaho. Find the one that works for your family.

If you want to know where to find information, I can help. You can compare the strengths and weaknesses of any schools in Idaho by looking on Idaho Ed Trends. You can see the amount of money spent per student, overall ISAT and SAT scores, and graduation rates, among other statistics. Maybe you will discover that your local school is one of the top performing schools in Idaho, or maybe you’ll learn that it is one of the 29 lowest performing schools.

You have a choice in what kind of education your child receives.

What school is best for your child?

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Breakfast is the most important meal for our kids

September 3, 2018

As parents, we hear this all of the time. There are numerous articles and studies that tell us the benefits of feeding our children breakfast before school. Some positive side effects include:

  • better listening and comprehension skills,
  • less fatigue and more energy,
  • better overall health and weight,
  • reduced behavioral problems,
  • and higher school attendance.

Feeding our children breakfast before school is very important.

Fortunately for me, I have always loved breakfast. I wake up hungry in the morning and look forward to making a beautiful breakfast (eggs benedict, biscuits and gravy, whole wheat pancakes with berries). My husband, on the other hand, does not wake up hungry. He wakes up slightly “nauseous” and doesn’t eat anything until mid morning. Our kids are pretty evenly split between us. Some wake up ravenously hungry, while others are disgusted at the sight of food before 10 a.m.

During the summertime when there’s no school, I don’t mind the different preferences. Those who are hungry, wake up and eat, while the kids who aren’t, don’t. It makes for a confusing lunch time, but summer schedules tend to be wacky anyway.

Now summer is over and my kids have to get up and leave between 7:15 and 9 a.m. They no longer have the luxury of eating whenever they get hungry in the morning. If they skip breakfast, I worry that they’ll be distracted by their hunger before lunch time and struggle to pay attention in class.

I have tried to solve this problem, but it’s still a challenge. I regularly vary what I make (eggs, pancakes, bacon, crepes, toast). I ask them the night before what they want for breakfast, I offer meals-to-go for the older kids (eggs, ham and English muffin sandwich) and I look for new recipes. I try to have cheese sticks and granola balls available if they want to take some food to go. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not.

What do you make for your kids for breakfast?

  • Here are a few healthy tips from a nutritionist.
  • Feel free to message or email me if you want any recipes: [email protected]

 

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What questions do you ask your kids?

August 26, 2018

One of the reasons I enjoy the summer, is the amount of quality time I get to spend with my kids. We run errands together, we cook together, we clean together, we travel and we talk. We spend a lot of time together. In fact, by the end of summer, we are all ready for school to start.

They went back to school this week. I am happy they are back, and so are they (well, mostly).

When they get home, I am eager to hear about their day. After spending all summer together, being apart for 8-10 hours, seems really long. When they stroll through the door I ask, “how was your day?”

My older kids play school sports, so they are usually too worn out to talk. My younger kids are also exhausted from the day (and the heat), so they aren’t very interested in talking either.

I don’t mind their need for quiet and space after a long day, but I genuinely do want to talk. I ask my kids to tell me their highs and lows at dinner, but recently I found a better list of questions to ask (see below).

If you struggle getting your kids to talk about their day, maybe some of these questions will open the door. I showed my middle schooler this list last night, and he was happy to answer several questions.

  1. What made you smile today?
  2. Can you tell me an example of kindness you saw/showed?
  3. Was there an example of unkindness? How did you respond?
  4. Does everyone have a friend at recess?
  5. What was the book about that your teacher read?
  6. What’s the word of the week?
  7. Did anyone do anything silly to make you laugh?
  8. Did anyone cry?
  9. What did you do that was creative?
  10. What is the most popular game at recess?
  11. What was the best thing that happened today?
  12. Did you help anyone today?
  13. Did you tell anyone “thank you?”
  14. Who did you sit with at lunch?
  15. What made you laugh?
  16. Did you learn something you didn’t understand?
  17. Who inspired you today?
  18. What was the peak and the pit?
  19. What was your least favorite part of the day?
  20. Was anyone in your class gone today?
  21. Did you ever feel unsafe?
  22. What is something you heard that surprised you?
  23. What is something you saw that made you think?
  24. Who did you play with today?
  25. Tell me something you know today that you didn’t know yesterday.
  26. What is something that challenged you?
  27. How did someone fill your bucket today? Whose bucket did you fill?
  28. Did you like your lunch?
  29. Rate your day on a scale from 1-10.
  30. Did anyone get in trouble today?
  31. How were you brave today?
  32. What questions did you ask at school today?
  33. Tell us your top two things from the day (before you can be excused from the dinner table!).
  34. What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
  35. What are you reading?
  36. What was the hardest rule to follow today?
  37. Teach me something I don’t know.
  38. If you could change one thing about your day, what would it be?
  39. (For older kids):  Do you feel prepared for your history test?” or, “Is there anything on your mind that you’d like to talk about?” (In my opinion, the key is not only the way a question is phrased, but responding in a supportive way.)
  40. Who did you share your snacks with at lunch?
  41. What made your teacher smile? What made her frown?
  42. What kind of person were you today?
  43. What made you feel happy?
  44. What made you feel proud?
  45. What made you feel loved?
  46. Did you learn any new words today?
  47. What do you hope to do before school is out for the year?
  48. If you could switch seats with anyone in class, who would it be? And why?
  49. What is your least favorite part of the school building? And favorite?
  50. If you switched places with your teacher tomorrow, what would you teach the class?

What questions do you ask your kids?

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What is a college education worth?

August 20, 2018

Last week was bittersweet for me. I helped my son move into his dorm at Washington State University. He wanted to go, and I was ready for him to go, but it was still hard.

Washington State was not the college he had dreamed of attending, nor was it the price that he hoped to pay. For years, he dreamed of going out-of-state to college. He wanted to experience education and life outside of Idaho, and he wanted to experience it at the University of Oregon. He knew that it was difficult to get in, so he worked hard to get good grades and took the SAT several times. During the summers, he worked full time, all in the hopes of moving to Oregon and becoming a Duck.

In the fall of his senior year, he eagerly filled out his application to Oregon. He knew he needed backup options, so he applied to a few other schools that offered reduced tuition to out-of-state residents, through the Western Undergraduate Exchange Program. When his email of acceptance at Oregon finally came, he was elated…until he calculated the cost of tuition and housing.

Oregon is not one of the schools in the Western Undergraduate Exchange Program. They offer need based scholarships, and academic scholarships, but he didn’t qualify for either. The cost of attending college out-of-state would have meant incurring nearly $100,000 of debt, just to get an undergraduate degree. The price tag of becoming a Duck was too high, so he began calculating the costs of other colleges.

He was accepted into several other schools, but immediately ruled out the most expensive ones that didn’t offer scholarships or reduced tuition. We helped him make a detailed list of the pros and cons and costs of all the colleges, and Washington became the best choice for him.

Now that he has visited the campus several times and spent his summer working long hours, he is happy to be attending WSU and paying less than he would have at Oregon. Even with the WUE scholarship, college is still expensive. He will have to use all of his savings to cover the cost of his first year. Then, he will still have to work part time during school and full time during the summer, if he hopes to avoid getting a loan.

My son is not the only high school graduate grappling with the high cost of college education. Even students who chose to go to college in Idaho, have to pay increasingly higher costs.

Education is important, but would you encourage your kids to go to college, if it meant they’d have to incur debt?

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