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

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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How do you stay focused through the end of the year?

May 23, 2018

The school year is almost over and the last few weeks always seem to be like a crazy whirlwind. Everyday I feel like I have a concert, or awards assembly, or class party to attend.

My kids are feeling the squeeze, also. They are either stressed about finals, or restless for school to be done (except for my kindergartner, who loves school).

I want to help my kids stay focused through the end of the school year. I want to make sure they get enough sleep and eat healthy meals. But I’ll be honest, I am about done, too. I want to stay up late with my kids. I want to sleep in and make breakfast as a family. I want to spend more time outside, enjoying the great weather.

What are your secrets to staying focused through the end of the year?

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Do you talk with your kids about suicide and depression?

May 22, 2018

My husband and I were talking about the school shooting in Texas when one of my high school kids came into the room. We continued to discuss the tragedy and the public response, while my son just sat and listened. He didn’t say anything, he just waited. We didn’t really know what he was waiting for, so my husband asked him if he had something he needed to talk about.

“One of my friends committed suicide tonight.”

A sudden jolt of pain and sadness rushed through my body. I didn’t have a ready response. I didn’t know the right thing to say or do, so I just asked my son how he felt. We talked with him about their friendship. We asked if he was OK and we sat for awhile, in quiet sorrow. He told us about their friendship and all of the time they had spent together. We asked him a few more questions and then thanked him for telling us. We thanked him for coming to talk to us. We told him that we loved him and gave him a hug as he headed off to bed.

Depression and suicide are really difficult issues to discuss. I know that I am not qualified to give advice, but unfortunately, I do have some experience. When my oldest was 17, he became severely depressed. His depression lead to an eating disorder and body dysmorphia. I could tell that he was struggling and in pain, but I didn’t know how to help. I constantly told him of my love for him, but that didn’t change anything. My son finally sunk so low, that he began to consider suicide. Thankfully, he reached out for help. Thankfully, we were able to talk with some counselors. Slowly, my son began having very open and honest conversations. He told me about his deepest fears and pain and I began to understand the helplessness of  depression. I began to see how suicide can seem like the only option.

Because of this experience, I learned how to have more meaningful conversations with my kids. I learned that I needed to talk with more love and less judgment. I learned to tell my kids that their value and worth is not tied to how they look, what grades they get, or how well they perform in sports. I learned to tell my kids that I love them because they are my children, not because of any good, or bad, that they do. I learned to tell them that no failure, is too big to overcome… and there will always be failure.

Do you talk with your kids about suicide and depression?

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Explore and compare data on Idaho schools

May 17, 2018

I love the spring. I love to see the trees leafing out, the grass turning green and the flowers in full color. I also love to see “for sale” signs. My family has been looking for a new house for over a year, so we are excited at the prospect of finding the right house this spring.

As we explored different homes and different neighborhoods, we also considered moving our kids to different schools. Our family moved last year, and all of our kids changed schools. This time around, we do not want our older kids to have to start over at a new school.

Our elementary kids have also enjoyed their new school this year. The teachers and administrators have done an outstanding job. Because we are moving again, I have decided to look at another elementary school, that might be closer to our new home. I am not looking into other schools because my kids are struggling, or because I am disappointed with their education.

Currently, my elementary children attend a school that focuses on the arts, with an emphasis on music and performance. The school I am considering, would be more convenient because of proximity. That is all I know.

Fortunately, I know about a special feature of Idaho Education News, called Ed Trends.  It is a online tool, specifically devoted to exploring and comparing schools. I typed in the names of the two schools that I am considering, and was easily able to see the differences. I learned that one school has 444 students and a 21-to-1, student-to-teacher ratio, while the other school has 408 students with a 16-to-1, student-to-teacher ratio. Both schools have the same per-pupil expenditure and the same amount of funding.

Another important factor that helped me differentiate the schools was test scores — Idaho Reading Indicator and ISAT. The scores from the last three years were listed side by side. By looking at the past three years of scores, I could determine if the schools were getting progressively better, or worse. If I wanted to compare high schools or middle schools, Ed Trends also has the SAT scores and go-on rates.

Now that I have this information, I can make an informed decision about what school I want my children to attend. If I want them to have more individual interaction with their teachers, then the teacher-to-student ratio would be most important. If I want my child to excel in math or English, then I will chose the school with the higher scores. The best part is, I can see the data and choose for myself. I don’t need to canvas the neighborhood asking strangers if they like the nearby school. I don’t need to spend countless hours meeting with teachers and administrators to know how their students perform.

The only difficult decision I have left is deciding how many moving boxes I’m going to need.

Is your family moving? Do you know the data for your local schools? Check it out on Idaho Education News’ Ed Trends.

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Susan B. Anthony would be proud

May 15, 2018

Last night, I asked my girls if they’d ever heard of Susan B. Anthony.

My 13-year-old wasn’t sure, but my 9-year-old jumped up and down and said, “I just learned about her in school! She helped women get the right to vote!”

I was really proud of my daughter for listening and learning at school, and for the teacher who understood the importance of teaching her class about women’s right to vote.

If you didn’t get the chance to learn about Susan B. Anthony in my daughter’s fourth-grade class, let me give you a brief synopsis of her life (thanks to Wikipedia).

Susan B. Anthony was born in 1820. She was an advocate for equality, women’s rights and an end to slavery. When she was just 17, she collected anti-slavery petitions. By the age of 32, she and a fellow female activist founded several groups forwarding the cause of equality. When she was 52, she was arrested for illegally voting in the presidential election, and fined $100 (of which she never paid). At the time of her death, age 86, she had help women achieve the right to vote in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Idaho. Because of her actions and work with congress, in 1920 the government agreed to amend the Constitution (19th Amendment), to allow all United States citizens, regardless of their sex, the right to vote.   

Do the women of this nation realize how much power and authority Susan B. Anthony gave us, by allowing women the right to vote?

We shall someday be heeded, and when we shall have our amendment to the Constitution of the United States, everybody will think it was always so, just exactly as many young people think that all the privileges, all the freedom, all the enjoyments which woman now possesses always were hers. They have no idea of how every single inch of ground that she stands upon today has been gained by the hard work of some little handful of women of the past.

Susan B. Anthony, 1894

It has been nearly 100 years since Susan B. Anthony gave women the right to vote. I wanted my daughter to know that voting was important to me. I wanted her to see the process and appreciate the power that each individual has to determine the leaders of our community, state and country.

It was also incredibly convenient that my voting place happened to be at her middle school — so I called her out of class to help me vote. I explained the process to her, the purpose of the primary elections and even had her fill in some of the bubbles for me. She entered my vote into the computer, and walked back to her class with an “I voted” sticker.

I think Susan B. Anthony would be proud.

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What is your school’s dress code?

May 7, 2018

Last spring, my daughter broke her arm (attempting a cartwheel on a trampoline). She had to wear a full-arm cast for nearly two hot and sweaty months.

With her elbow bent at a 90-degree angle, she struggled to put on regular T-shirts. Of course,  it was much easier for her to put on a sleeveless shirt. So, like a good mother, I immediately went out and bought her a few sleeveless shirts. I didn’t even consider checking the school dress code.

I realized my mistake the following day, when my daughter came home from school upset and embarrassed. Halfway through the day, one of her (male) teachers told her she was violating the school dress code, and sent her to the office. She was given a warning and told to make sure that her clothing would be appropriate in the future.

I felt bad for my daughter, and went out and got her a few larger, stretchy, T-shirts. I had to help her put on her shirts by weaving her cast through the stretched out sleeve. We were both relieved when the weekend came and she could wear her sleeveless shirts.

Now that winter is finally over, and hot summer days are right around the corner, we have to deal with the dress code again. Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about customizing a wardrobe to fit a cast. We do have to worry about staying cool, without violating the dress code.

My elementary girls never worry about violating dress code. If there is a dress code, no one enforces it. The middle and high schools are not as lax. If a girl wants to wear sleeveless shirt, with shorts or a skirt (that doesn’t come halfway down her leg), she runs the risk of being sent to the office and asked to change.

I decided to check the dress codes of a few other schools, to see if they had similar dress codes. I discovered that if my daughter was attending Homedale or Boise schools, she could wear sleeveless shirts. Here is a brief summary of what I found:

West Ada schools

  • No Clothing that is sheer or does not cover the stomach, back, chest/cleavage, or undergarments.
  • No Tank tops, spaghetti straps, tube tops, off-the-shoulder shirts – shoulders must be covered.
  • No Chains connecting the wallet to a belt loop or worn anywhere on the person.
  • No Spiked clothing, belts or jewelry.
  • No attire shorter than mid-thigh length – any attire with holes/tears/frays above mid-thigh.

Homedale schools

  • No blouses, sweaters or shirts that do not cover the stomach, back and/or undergarments.
  • No loose-fitting tank-type shirts, or tops with straps that do not measure at least a dollar width, and other apparel deemed inappropriate or immodest by the staff and administration.
  • No cut-offs, shorts, and dresses must be finger-tip in length which is modest and appropriate for school time as deemed by the staff and administration. This also includes cuts, rips, or holes in any clothing that could be deemed immodest.
  • No clothing with questionable language or graphics portrayed pajamas and items of clothing portraying alcohol, tobacco and/or illegal substances.

Boise schools

  • No clothing, accessories, cosmetics, tattoos and jewelry that are immodest, disruptive, gang-related or displaying illegal or banned substances.
  • Students may not wear head coverings in school buildings during school hours, except as authorized by the principal.
  • Shoes are required at all times unless a school official indicates otherwise.

Kimberly schools

  • We expect clothes to be modest. Outer clothes to cover underwear completely.
  • Spaghetti string blouses/dresses, bare midriffs, tank tops, tube tops, off the shoulder tops, half tops, halter tops, muscle shirts, self-altered tops, or tops with plunging necklines (no cleavage) are not acceptable.
  • While standing, skirts and shorts must be not more than 3” above the top of the knees.
  • Transparent or “see through” clothes are not acceptable.
  • “Sagging” pants, pajamas, slippers, other sleepwear, hats, head coverings (including sunglasses), and excessive makeup are not acceptable.
  • Visible body piercing, nose piercing, lip piercing, or other facial piercings, magnetic jewelry/glued jewelry on the face, eyes, arms, hands, tongue or feet is also prohibited and must be removed.

Payette schools

  • All shorts, skirts, and dresses must be no shorter than the width of a dollar bill  (2 1/2 inches) above the kneecap.
  • Pants must fit properly, be worn at the waist, and have no holes above the knee.
  • Leggings are allowed ONLY under a long shirt or sweater that is no shorter than 6 inches above the kneecap.
  • All tops must have sleeves.
  • No necklines lower than a straight line from the top of the underarm to the other underarm.
  • No midriff, shoulders, cleavage or back exposed at any time.
  • No loungewear, pajamas, athletic shorts or pants, or sweatpants.

What is your school’s dress code? Do you (or your kids) agree with the limitations?

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Field trips are important to education

April 30, 2018

Learning can be fun and exciting, but it doesn’t always happen in the classroom. Kids can learn a lot from field trips.

Idaho lawmakers recognized the importance of learning outside the classroom. Last year, they passed a $2.5 million dollar bill to restore transportation funding for school field trips. The funding went into effect in July 2017.

This means that all of our kids were able to go on a field trip this school year. Right? I wish. My high school kids, middle school kids and my fourth grader have not been on a field trip all year.

Fortunately, my youngest is enrolled in (tuition) kindergarten. A portion of the tuition fees goes toward kindergarten field trips. These field trips have provided my daughter with numerous hands-on learning experiences, such as:

  • Exploring a local farm to learn how plants grow and how a farm is run.
  • The importance of staying active in the winter, by going to a trampoline park with classmates.
  • Creating healthy eating habits and understanding how a grocery store operates, by going on a walking field trip to the local Albertsons.
  • The importance of protecting the habitat of native Idaho wildlife by taking a guided tour through the Idaho Nature Center.

I know that my daughter could have learned all of these concepts in the classroom, but it would not have had the same impact.

Field trips are an important aspect in our children’s education. The government has allocated money for our public schools to take our kids on field trips. How is your school using the additional funding? Have your kids been on a field trip this year?

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What’s the best lunch option?

April 25, 2018

I used to make lunches for my kids. I would get up early to cook a healthy breakfast and then I would pack lunches. I always packed the same basic ingredients (just like my father had done for me); a sandwich, a snack, a fruit and treat. If I was really on the ball, I would even write them a cute note on a napkin that said something like; “have a great day,” or “you are my favorite third grader,” or “good luck on your test today.” I felt like a great mom, because I was making them breakfast and sending them off to school with a healthy lunch.

Every now and then, my kids would complain that they never ate “hot lunch” like the other kids. I decided to print out the lunch menu, and let them pick the school lunches they wanted. I didn’t feel like the school lunches were as healthy as my homemade lunches (corn dogs vs. homemade wheat bread sandwiches), so I limited their school lunches to once a week. I felt like it was a healthy compromise. If the lunch was really good, sometimes I even went and ate lunch with them.

Everything seemed to be going well, until I noticed that my kids sometimes came home starving. I checked their lunch boxes and noticed that they didn’t eat all of their food. They told me that they didn’t always like the things that I put in their lunches, so they didn’t eat it.

I had to come up with a new plan. I already felt overwhelmed in the mornings, so I decided to put my kids in charge of making their own lunches. It didn’t seem fair for my younger children to have so much responsibility, so I put the older children in charge of making lunches for the younger ones. It turned out to be a brilliant idea. Not only did it free up a portion of my morning duties, but I inadvertently taught my children work, sacrifice and customer service. The child in charge of making lunches had to listen to the opinions of his siblings, and had to work to find a solution (“I hate tuna, I want peanut butter and jelly” or “I want apples, not oranges”). My kids learned to work together to create a balanced meal.

Now that my kids are older, most of them make their own lunches. They even discovered that if they make their lunches at night, then they can sleep a few extra minutes in the morning.

What do your kids do for lunch? Do they eat at the school or take lunches from home?

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Online schools didn’t work for us

April 20, 2018

When my family came to Idaho 15 years ago, we had three little kids. We moved to a lovely rural town with a small public school. Each grade had only one class, with an average size of 22 students. Six of my seven children were able to start their education in that small school. I felt like it was good fit for my family because my kids were getting a good education and they enjoyed their teachers.

As my family grew and my kids advanced to middle school, I began to wonder if the small public school was still the right decision for my family. I loved the elementary school and it’s teachers, but the middle school and high school did not provide the kind of education I wanted for my older children. We debated moving, but instead decided to enroll our three oldest children in a rigorous online middle school and high school program. Our four youngest continued going to the public school.

Idaho does not regulate homeschool education, so I was able to choose the program and classes that I wanted. Online school seemed like a great solution for our family. We set our own daily schedule and I regularly monitored my children’s grades and progress. I was very involved and constantly helped them understand their assignments and work on projects. It was demanding and exhausting, but I felt like I was giving my kids the kind of education they needed.

The first year of online school was more challenging then we were expecting. The second year we made several adjustments. But by the third year, we decided that online school was not what we wanted either. It didn’t work for us. We moved our family and my kids were able to transfer to a different public school to continue their education.

When I read the article about Idaho’s virtual schools failing, I was not surprised. From my experience, it takes a unique student and a lot of support, for a student to be successful in online, or virtual school.

Online school can be difficult for many reasons:

  1. The students do not get to know or personally interact with their teachers (and vice versa).
  2. They do not have opportunities to learn in group settings with other students.
  3. Subjects like math and science are more difficult to understand in a virtual classroom.
  4. Students have to spend the majority of their school day in front of a computer.
  5. Hands-on elective courses are not available online.
  6. They do not get to interact with other students in social settings.
  7. Unless the student is extremely motivated and organized, they may fall behind.
  8. Online learning can make a student feel isolated and depressed.

What do you think about virtual schools and online schools? Can a student get a good education at a virtual school?

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Should student-athletes be required to find their own rides to events?

April 19, 2018

My high school student enjoys playing school sports. He was on the football team and is currently on the track team. Everyday, he stays after school, for several hours, to practice. He usually comes home after 5 p.m. tired, stinky and hungry. He works hard to keep up on his school work and often ends up doing his homework late at night.

I applaud my son’s desire to participate in school sports. I competed in high school sports, and I felt like it taught me discipline, teamwork, dedication and time management. It is expensive and time consuming, but I am supportive of all of it. All of it, except the transportation.

The rural high school where my kids previously attended bused all of their student-athletes to every sporting event. Our current school has a booster program that provides transportation to the student-athletes who participate in football. The kids on the track and field team do not. If they want to compete, they have to get a ride from a parent, drive themselves (if they have a license and a car) or get a ride with another track student.

I would like to be the parent that drives my son to and from all of his meets, but I can’t. The track and field meets last five or six hours long, and often conflict with my schedule (my middle school kids have track meets at the same time). My son is understanding, and often catches a ride with other students. I am not very comfortable having him ride with other teenage drivers, but most of the time, it is the only choice I have.

Is your student-athlete required to find transportation to participate in high school sports? Does it seem unsafe for high schools to expect students to ride with other teenagers to attend their sporting events?

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I am glad Idaho requires a senior project

April 17, 2018

The state of Idaho has pretty simple graduation requirements:

  • Take three years of math (one during the senior year).
  • Take three years of science.
  • Take the ACT or SAT exam (before the senior year).
  • Complete a senior project.

You can access a more detailed list of the requirements here.

Each high school can individualize graduation requirements, in addition to the ones the state has set. My senior transferred to his current high school as a junior, so when he began school last fall, we set up a meeting with his counselor. We wanted to make sure he had all of the classes he needed to meet the graduation requirements.

Once his schedule was reviewed, I asked the counselor several questions about senior projects. I didn’t know anything about how the projects were completed. All I knew was they required a lot of work and a passing grade to graduate.The counselor assured us that the project would be discussed, worked on and reviewed, in his senior English and government classes. She said he would have assistance every step of the way.

Beginning in January, my son spent countless hours researching the positive impact the NASA program has had on society. He analyzed and wrote his project, and then created a presentation. He needed to practice, so I was able to hear and view his final senior project. It was impressive. He went to the school and presented his senior project (and passed!).

I am glad Idaho requires a senior project. It teaches kids skills they can use in their future careers. It gives them confidence that they can do massive projects, and it gives them the opportunity to give a polished written and oral presentation.

Did your senior complete a senior project? Did you think it was a worthwhile use of their time? What’s your opinion?

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Studying local politics is an eye-opening experience

April 13, 2018

Getting involved in politics and voting has been very interesting and eye opening. I’m not sure I would have taken the time to research candidates or study the ballot, if it weren’t for this job (blogging for Idaho Education News). Because all of my kids are in school, I have moments of free time during the day when I can sit at my computer (in peace) and learn. I am sorry that I didn’t educate myself sooner. Understanding voting and researching candidates is not nearly as difficult or boring as I thought it would be. I hope that my blog will encourage and inspire others, like me, to learn more and vote with confidence.

This week I furthered my education in politics, by going to a social hour and listening to a debate.

Social Hour: On Tuesday I attended a social hour for Go Lead, a non-profit organization that encourages women to become leaders. I attended the event because I support the mission and because the guest speaker, Betsy Russell, was speaking about the importance of becoming an informed voter. She shared some very interesting statistics about voters and voting. She said that less than a quarter of registered voters, actually get out and vote. Less than a quarter, wow. That means that the people who are in local office are chosen by a very small percentage of the population. Betsy encouraged the audience to get informed and seek information about the candidates from several sources (The Idaho Statesman, KTVB and Idaho Education News). She encouraged voters to go out and ask the candidates questions. Questions like, “why are you running for office,” and “what do you hope to accomplish?” I left the event with an even greater desire to learn all that I can about those running for office.   

Debate: I was not able to attend the superintendents debate at Boise State University, because it was at the same time as the social hour. I knew that it would be recorded and posted on Idaho Education News’ Facebook page, so I watched the video of the debate.  It was long (over an hour), but very informative.

Before I watched the video, I did not know very much about the candidates: Sherri Ybarra (R), Jeff Dillon (R), Cindy Wilson (D) or Allen Humble (D). I wasn’t even sure who I wanted to vote for. Watching the debate helped me better understand the goals and passions of those running for office. Ybarra was not able to attend the event, so I still need to make an effort to learn more about her.

The debate was super interesting. The candidates were each given opportunities to discuss their platform and vision for the job of superintendent. They were asked several questions — questions about school safety, the CTE program in rural schools, the 60 percent graduation goal, and bullying, just to mention a few.

If you feel passionate about education, or any of these topics, listen to the debate, research online, and ask questions. It will help you to decide who you want to vote for. It has for me.  

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Join me on my search for voter information

April 9, 2018

After taking my kids to school this morning, I noticed campaign signs, again. I came home determined to find more voter information. In my last blog, I figured out the date of the Primary Elections (May 15) and where to vote. I also discovered my precinct, congressional and legislative districts.

Today I want to figure out:

  1. How to register to vote and how to register with a specific party
  2. A list of who will be on the ballot

Hopefully it won’t take me too long (I need to clean the house).

In my search, I stumbled across this voter information packet. This packet covers the importance of voting, how to vote, and generally, when voting occurs. It also has an extensive list of contact information for county and state officials (if you need that).

Finding out if I was registered to vote, and my party affiliation, was easy. I used this Idaho Votes link, and input my county and name. If I want to be affiliated with a specific party, I could fill out this Party Affiliation Declaration Form and send it to my county clerk (all of the county clerk’s addresses are listed here). If I want to vote in the Republican Primaries, I must be a registered Republican. If I want to affiliate with another party, I do not need to be registered with that party to vote in their primary (only Republicans and Democrats vote in the primary elections).

Now that I checked my voter registration, I want to find a list of all the candidates running for office.

Twenty minutes later … here’s what I found, but it’s a bit confusing. This Idaho Statesman article has a list of the candidates running for each available office. This Idaho Secretary of State webpage has a link to the Candidate Information Directory. Interestingly enough, the two lists of candidates do not entirely match up.

Next time I blog, I want to research information about the specific candidates. Do they have a website, what are their goals for education, and keeping our kids safe?

Now I better get back to my mom jobs.

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I vow to be an informed voter

April 4, 2018

I have a confession. I vote, but sometimes when I go to the polls, I don’t know all of the candidates on the ballot. I try to be informed, but it’s a lot of work, and I have a lot of mom stuff to do.

I am sure that I am not the only mom (or dad, or voter) who has this problem. When I see the “vote for me” signs all over town, I think to myself, “I need to figure out who I want to vote for.” And then I get home and get caught up in the kids, dinner, homework, sports practices, and even a little Netflix (I’m being honest). I forget all about doing the research, until the next day when I drive past the campaign signs again. I make the same mental commitment to go home and research, but I end up struggling with the same distractions. It’s a vicious cycle.

But, since I made a New Year’s resolution to learn more about politics, this time it’s going to be different. I am going to learn all I can about the candidates and go to the polls with confidence. I will share what I learn, so hopefully I can help you become an educated voter, too. It is a big process, so I will start with the easy (but important) questions.

Step One:

  • What day do I vote?

Since Google knows nearly everything, I began with a search of “upcoming elections in Idaho.” IdahoVotes.gov was the second result (after Wikipedia). I clicked on it and began with the tab “important dates for voters.” November 7 came up. The problem with this date, is that Idaho is a predominantly Republican state. While the November 7 general election is important, a large majority of the candidate selections can happen in the primary elections.

So, I decided to search for a better site that would tell me more about the primary elections. My second search led me to the Idaho Secretary of State website. This website is very informative and gave a thorough explanation of the reason and purpose of primary elections. Because I was still in search of the basic information (when do I vote?), I followed a link at the bottom of the page entitled elections page. After scrolling through the entire calendar, I was able to find the primary elections date (Yea!)… May 15 (now we can all put it on our calendars).

Step Two:

  • Where do I vote?

I went back to ask google (the Secretary of State website didn’t have a tab for that), and found the right page on the first try! This Idaho votes page lets you input your address and then tells you your polling location (Yea again!).

Ok, I feel like I have accomplished something. Now my kids need me to read them a book (and maybe I need myself some Netflix). In my next post, I will sleuth more information and blog about it.

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What we learned from a college campus visit

April 2, 2018

My senior (and I) spent several hours in the fall applying for colleges. He wrote essays and applied for scholarships. When he received his acceptance letters, he was elated. Applying for college was a long process, and now he is trying to determine what school will be the best for him. His top choice invited accepted students to a preview weekend, so we decided to visit the campus.

As we drove, we came up with several questions. Here are the questions we asked (or learned that we needed to ask):

  1. Costs — What do tuition and books cost?
  2. Housing — What are the housing options available, what do they cost and (most importantly) what do current students think of the different dorms?
  3. Meals — What meal plans are available, what do they cost, where do students eat and is the food any good?
  4. Transportation — Do freshmen need a car, what does it cost to get a parking permit, what other transportation is available?
  5. Weather — It is very cold or hot? How much does it snow and/or rain?
  6. Clothing — What clothing is essential (snow boots, rain coat, business attire)?
  7. Registration — How and when do incoming freshmen register for classes?
  8. Transfer credits — Does the school accept high school dual credits/ concurrent credits/ AP credits?
  9. Placement tests — What placement tests do incoming freshmen need to take?
  10. Payment — How do students make tuition and housing payments?
  11. Immunizations — Does the college require current immunization records?
  12. Entertainment — What do students do for fun on and off campus? Do they have intramural sports?
  13. Greek chapters (sororities and fraternities) — What are the pros and cons of joining a chapter? What does it cost?
  14. Safety — How safe is the campus? Do they talk to incoming freshmen about safe/consensual sex, drug and alcohol abuse?

I am glad that we went to visit the campus. It was a bit overwhelming for my senior, but it was very helpful. We learned that the first choice my son had for housing was on the wrong side of campus. We also learned that he needs to move to campus a few days early, in order to join a fraternity. We found out about a mandatory three-day campus visit, where the students choose classes, make a four-year plan and register.

We have a long list of things to do before classes begin in the fall, but now we know where he wants to go and what he needs to do to be ready.

Has your senior decided where he/she wants to go after high school? How are you helping prepare them for college? What questions do you have?

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