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

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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I have a love/hate relationship with the end of summer

August 12, 2018

I love sleeping in, not worrying about homework, and staying up too late with my kids (it doesn’t even get dark until 10 p.m.). At the same time, I hate the lack of education, the wasted mornings sleeping in (see, love/hate) and the purchasing of school supplies. No matter how I feel about it, the summer is ending and the new school year is about to begin… and I need to buy school supplies.

This year, instead of printing off the school supply lists and marching off to the the store, I decided to ask a few questions first. I called the high school, the middle school and the elementary school and asked them-

  1. Who creates the list of school supplies for each class?
  2. Are there any additional class fees (for electives, honors classes, etc.)?
  3. What should a parent do, if they can’t afford to buy supplies?

When I asked the school how the teachers determined what supplies their students needed for the school year, I was surprised to learn that the teachers do not write the classroom supply list. The list was created by the district. Sometimes an individual teacher will make a special request of his/her students, but the supply list is determined at a district level.

Who creates your child’s school supply list?

In response to my question about additional class fees, I was informed that due to a lawsuit filed against the West Ada School District, class fees are no longer charged (within the district).

Do your schools charge additional class fees?

I asked what the school does for students who can’t afford to purchase school supplies. The secretary told me it was not mandatory for a student to bring supplies, but requested. If a student didn’t bring supplies, the teacher would still need those supplies.

If a student needs assistance, they should talk to the school counselor. Many schools have supplies to give to those in need (thanks to the Assistance League of Boise and the Operation School Supplies). Some schools even have supplies to give to students throughout the year.

If your schools do not have supplies to give to students in need, you can request assistance from local churches, Fill the Bus (for students in Nampa),  Back 2 School Giveaway (for students in South East Idaho) and the Boise Salvation Army.

Does your town offer school supplies for students in need? Do you have other ideas to share? 

Enjoy the final days of summer and good luck shopping for school supplies. Maybe I’ll see you at the store (but not early in the morning, I’ll be sleeping in).

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This teacher violated a parent’s trust

August 7, 2018

When I send my children off to school I expect two things; they will have ample opportunity to learn and they will be safe.

I do my best to oversee these expectations are met. I pay my taxes, I vote in local elections, I meet with teachers, I help with homework, and I volunteer in the classroom. I can’t always be present to keep an eye on the safety and education of my children, so I entrust that responsibility to the teachers and administrators.

I trust that the teachers will focus on teaching and not be abusive or overstep their bounds. I trust that they won’t have sexual relations with my children, or any of their students.

This morning, I read an article about a the high school teacher in Twin Falls who abused that trust.  He admitted to having sex with one of his 17-year-old students. He was not charged with rape, because the actions were consensual.

This is not OK.

This teacher violated the trust that is implicit in his profession. It does not matter if the relationship was consensual. It is not OK for a teacher to have an intimate relationship with a student. It is not OK for a teacher to invite a student into his or her home. It is not OK for a teacher to violate the trust that every parent gives, when they send their children to school.

How do we, as parents, safeguard our children from abuse at school?

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Are your kids getting bored?

July 18, 2018

Summer started out busy for our family. We bought a new house and moved a few days before school got out (ya, not great timing, but what can you do?). We unpacked and took our kids on a family vacation the next week. When we returned, we spent time organizing the house and teaching the kids how to do the yard work. My older kids got jobs and started training for their fall sports.

As the summer has gotten hotter, we have taken the kids camping, to the splash pad at the public park, and to the Boise River. When we want to stay inside, we color, paint, read books and play board games. I take my kids grocery shopping and teach them how to make healthy snacks (like smoothies and granola balls) and wholesome dinners (to balance out all of the less-than-healthy summer foods we have been eating). In the evenings we watch movies, play Xbox, or just hang out outside.

It sounds busy, right?

Not for my 6-year-old daughter. Just the other day she got up and quickly did her chores, all before 10 a.m. (shocking). She was so proud of getting all her work done, but didn’t know what to do with the rest her day. She came up to me, with tears in her eyes and said, “I finished all of my jobs for today. What should I do now?” I looked down at her and said, “I don’t know. What do you want to do?” She burst into tears as she said, “I don’t know, I’m just so booooored!”

Welcome to summer boredom.

Are your kids getting bored? Are you counting down the days until school starts? How are you keeping your kids busy?

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Ideas for balancing fun and education this summer

July 6, 2018

I love the summer time. I love the lazy mornings and the relaxed evenings. I love not worrying about homework or practice. I love taking my kids on road trips and taking them to play in the water. I love playing family board games and going on hikes. It’s all my favorite.

My kids love summer just as much as I do. They love sleeping in, going camping and visiting with their cousins. They love staying up late watching movies, playing xBox and Fortnite. So. Much. Fortnite.

While I am sure that someone out there can make an argument that Fortnite is educational, I’m not sure their teachers this fall, will agree.

The big question is, “how do I balance summer fun and education?” How do I encourage my kids to read, while also allowing them downtime to better their fortnite skills? Unstructured free time and education are both important.

Here are a few of my favorite summer activities that encourage education:

  1. Take a weekly trip to the library. The U.S. Department of Education states that reading daily can help kids avoid the “summer slide.” Most local libraries have summer reading programs that offer incentives and prizes.
  2. Put the kids in charge of the dinner meals for a week. All of it. Have the kids make the grocery list, go to the store, make the meal and set the table. There is always a lot of groaning and complaining, but in the end, they are very proud of their meal.
  3. Read to your kids, even the older ones.
    1. Read them one of your favorite books. My husband spent one summer reading the kids “The Princess Bride.”
    2. If you travel or go on a road trip, read them information about your destination. It’s a great way to pass the time, and it will make the trip more meaningful.
    3. Watch a movie based on a true story — then research and read about the true story. Suggestions; Adrift, Patch Adams, Remember the Titans, A Beautiful Mind, or check out this list.   

What are you favorite summer activities? How do you balance fun and education during the summer?

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What were the best and worst moments of the school year?

June 25, 2018

The last few weeks of school were very busy. My younger children had a lot of class programs and parties, and my older children had finals and exams. It was exhausting for all of us, but we finished the school year.

Now that we made it to summer break, I decided to ask my kids to evaluate the year. I wanted to know what they thought of their teachers and school in general. I wanted to know if they were glad to be done, or if they were sad to say goodbye to their teachers.

I waited until my family was on a road trip to ask them these questions (no one can avoid the conversation when stuck in a car together). I started by asking them, “Who was your favorite teacher, and why?” My high school son was quick to respond. He told me that his favorite teacher was the one who offered him extra credit at the end of the year. My middle school daughter told me that her favorite teachers were the ones who clearly loved teaching. My elementary children both loved their teachers and thought that they were amazing.

Next, I asked them what they had learned this year. I asked them about their favorite subjects (history, communications and “all of them”) and the subjects that were challenging (biology, writing and math). We talked about how last year compared to this year. We talked about the teachers who made school fun and the teachers who didn’t. We talked about the highlights and the difficult moments. We finished the conversation by discussing next year. One of my children will be moving up to high school, so we talked about the changes that she is looking forward to/worried about.

The conversations were interesting and enlightening. I learned more about my children, their teachers, their schools, their struggles and their favorites.

Have you asked your children to evaluate their school year? What were their best and worst moments? Who were their favorite teachers and why? Are they looking forward to next year?

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Thank you, middle school ‘careers class’ teachers

June 15, 2018

The teacher for the middle school “careers class” teaches her students more than just how to research careers. She teaches her students how to write a resume and the importance of obtaining letters of recommendation. She teaches them about job interviews and firm hand shakes. She helps her students understand the value of higher education and how to research colleges.

One of the final class assignments was for her students to pass two job interviews. The parents of the students were asked if they would be willing to come to the school and help interview the students. I gladly volunteered.

When I showed up, I was given a packet of information with a folder for each student. If the student had done their assignment correctly, their folder contained a resume,  two letters of recommendation and an evaluation sheet. I was asked to interview three students and then determine if I wanted to hire them on the spot, schedule a second interview, or turn them down for the job. The interviews took less than five minutes.

Each student I interviewed was very nervous. It was challenging for them to make eye contact or to give a firm handshake. They had applied for jobs that they had chosen (zoo employee, basketball coach, etc.). I tried to be kind and ask the questions with a smile. Some of the students were definitely more prepared than others and I was glad to help these students with their first job interview.

I love that this class is offered at the middle school but I wish that it was a required class. All students need to learn this information.

Because my daughter took this class, she learned how to write a resume, ask for letters of recommendation and successfully interview for a job. This class helped her to understand the importance of higher education. It helped her to see the link between the cost of college and starting salaries. When her brother began applying to colleges, she told him about the importance of researching colleges. She wanted to make sure that the college he chose had the right programs for his future career.

It has been fun and interesting to watch her grasp a better understanding of the economy and her roll in it. Thank you, middle school careers teacher!

If your school doesn’t offer this class, you might consider teaching your children how to apply for a job. Recruit some friends to interview your kids. Maybe they’ll get a job to keep them busy this summer. 😁

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Should educators influence student elections?

June 13, 2018

How much influence should educators have in student elections? They need to be part of the process, but shouldn’t the students ultimately decide who wins?

My son ran for office last year, and successfully secured a position as his class vice president. Because of his position, he was able to be a part of student council, plan school activities, help fundraise, encourage positivity at the school, and volunteer around the community. He sacrificed time, after school and on the weekends, to be a part of student council. He learned leadership and responsibility. He enjoyed the experience and decided to run for office again.

He had to go through the same strict requirements as last year, to determine if he was eligible to run for student council:

  • Be in good standing with the school administration.
  • Have at least a 3.0 GPA, with no failing grades the semester before.
  • Be enrolled in 6 credits per semester.
  • Be able to take the Student Leadership Class the following year.
  • Understand and agree to devote a significant amount of time outside of the class (weekends, lunch time and over the summer).

Once he met all of the above requirements, he filled out the application packet (requiring 50 student signatures, along with teacher and administration recommendations), campaigned for the position (with approved posters and flyers), and then waited for the students to vote.

This year he lost. My son was upset, not because he lost, but because the teachers and administrators had the ability to influence the outcome. The high school counts the student votes, but it also talleys the recommendations from the administrators.The recommendations are worth up to a total of 250 points. If the student class has roughly 400 students voting, then 250 possible recommendation points can impact the elections.

I can’t understand why the teachers or administrators would need to have any sway in the outcome of the student elections. The educators thoroughly vet the applicants prior to the election. If a student is not fit for the position on student council, then the educators can eliminate that student prior to the election.

Just to make sure I understood this process correctly, I emailed the principal and the student council teacher.

She informed of the incredible responsibilities of the elected officials and their need for teacher and administrator recommendations. I asked her if the recommendation points ever affected the election. She told me that only “in rare occasions do the teacher recommendations have any influence on the results of the candidate process.” I couldn’t verify the vote count and the recommendation numbers, due to student privacy. She also said, “teacher recommendation scores have been part of the Student Council application process since its inception at Eagle High School.”

It’s good that the students have to go through this rigorous process before they can be elected to student council. It is a big responsibility and it requires dedicated students. I question the need for recommendation “scores” that are used as part of finalizing the outcome of the elections. I question the ‘this is how we have always done it’ argument. Maybe it’s time to change.

How does your school elect its student council members?

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What does graduation mean to you?

June 7, 2018

My family ended this school year with several graduations.

One kid graduated from kindergarten, one from middle school and one from high school. Each graduation meant something different to me, and to each of my graduating kids.

My little kindergartner’s graduation was an adorable ceremony to congratulate the kids on their first year of formal education. My daughter did not attend preschool, so this was her first school experience. This year she learned how to read and write, how to listen to directions and how to explain her feelings. She learned to wait her turn at the playground and to wait several weeks for the chicks in her classroom, to hatch. She learned to color, cut and paste. Her graduation was a celebration of a successful beginning. It was an invitation to continue learning, making friends and observing the world around her.

For my middle schooler, graduating eighth grade meant something different. It signified the ending of her elementary education and the beginning of her high school education. In middle school, my daughter learned how to work a combination lock and locker.  She learned how to use the internet to research topics, submit assignments and check her grades. She learned how to type effectively, how to create a resume and how to write a research paper. She learned what it meant to represent her school by competing in school sports. She learned to ask for help and to study on her own. While she didn’t get an elaborate graduation ceremony, she did get to celebrate with her fellow classmates on the last day of middle school.

The graduation ceremony for my high school senior was unlike the others. It was momentous. Completion of high school is a large milestone in a student’s education. Based on these numbers, the average student in Idaho goes to school for about 170 days a year. Counting a year of kindergarten, 12 years of schooling equals roughly 2,200 days. That is a lot of school. When any student receives their high school diploma, we should all celebrate. The end of high school (usually) means the end of free education, free laundry and free food. It is the end of living at home and sleeping in all summer. The end of high school signifies the beginning of adulthood. It is the beginning of true independence. It is the beginning of finding a career, finding a place to live and for some, finding additional education to pursue. For my son, it also means working full-time in the summer and moving away for school in the fall.

With each of these graduations I was both happy and emotional.

I have been happy watching my kids grow and learn. I have loved looking at their artwork and their amazing class projects. I have loved listening to them at school concerts and cheering for them at athletic events. I love celebrating their educational milestones.

I was emotional at the graduations because I knew how much effort went into each one of those 2,200 days of school. Some of those days carried over into late nights, finishing projects or assignments. Some of those days involved multiple trips back and forth to the school for doctor appointments, dentist appointments, orthodontic appoints. I spent multiple hours meeting with teachers, principals and counselors, all to ensure that my kids could get the best education possible. Graduation means a lot to me and to my kids.

Do you have a graduate in the family? What does graduation mean to you?

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