Category Archives: Gifted and Talented

Unschooling: Month #2 The Unravelling

It’s been about a month and a half since I withdrew my eight year old daughter (now nine) from public school and it’s been a roller-coaster of emotions and expectations for both of us. I am so grateful to the homeschooling community for being supportive of my decision and directing me to informative blogs and sites such as Ask Pauline and Educated Adventures blog; Unschooling . The valuable resources and insight I gained helped our transition from her former school to home the best possible experience for both of us. Due to the anxiety and aggression my daughter now associated with learning, I came to the realization that she would need a period of time to unravel from the unrealistic expectations, anxiety and regimented schedule that we were both accustomed to while she attended public school. On her last day of traditional school, she brought home a backpack full of textbooks, folders, pamphlets, notebooks and binders which were almost a foot high. We both looked at them and sighed. She immediately felt that she should keep everything and that we had to finish the work she started until the folders, workbooks and notebooks were filled. When I reached to take the math book (the source of most of her anxiety) suggesting we burn it, she responded with a look of shock and a resounding “No Mommy, we can’t burn it!”. I laughed but she was serious. It was then that I realized the conditioning and fear that influenced her learning on a daily basis. After I pried the textbook from her hand, I sat her down and explained to her the things I learned from reading the blogs and speaking face to face with other homeschooled families; that the beauty of homeschooling was that we didn’t have to follow any one else’s methods of learning and could create our own. I told her it was okay if she didn’t like any of the workbooks and wanted to rip them apart because we were free from their curriculum and that she could now determine how she learned and documented what she knew. She started to loosen her grip and walked over to a folder and said ” I despise this C.E. folder, can I rip up the pages inside?” I smiled and said “absolutely!”. I watched as she ripped the worksheets into tiny pieces repeating how much she hated having to do them and that she was now free. My heart warmed and I knew at that moment I made the right decision and would do everything I could to keep from having to send her back into an environment that caused her to attach any level of resentment and detestation to learning.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not adverse to public school if it’s working for your child. Both of my children as did I attended public school from kindergarten. My son was awarded a scholarship for private high school and is currently in his first year and I volunteered in the schools every week in addition to fundraising. This is all new to me and I’m learning that there is no right or wrong, only what’s best for your child. I’m far from a pro but I’ve leaned on my resources so that I could answer my daughter’s questions about the unschooling/homeschooling process. It’s new to both of us, and I’ve listed some of the questions I had that may help someone else making the decision:

Has it had its emotional heart wrenching moments? Yes. I have had my “what am I doing -I have to work and I don’t have time for this-what was I thinking!” moments where I doubted my ability to carry one more thing on my ‘to-do’ list. It would be at that precise moment that my daughter would walk up to me, hug me tightly and say “thank you Mom, I am free”.

Have we both been frustrated with the transition? Yes. I have been late to some appointments or have had to stop what I was working on intensely to help her find the website she needed to play math games, or to make her lunch. There were at least two weeks of adjusting, setting boundaries, readjusting and setting new boundaries. I realized well into my second week that for me this was not just a Mom homeschooling her daughter, but it had to be a partnership between parent and child. It was especially necessary for me as an entrepreneur and one parenting independently, that she understand there are times when I cannot be interrupted (unless her laptop or hair is on fire) and times when she has to be ready and prepared to leave at a certain time so that I am not late getting to a client. It helps that this is something that she wanted also, and not just my decision. I made it clear to her that homeschooling can not work if Mommy is unable to do her work. In return we agreed that Friday is our field trip day. Aside from a few phone calls and returned emails in the morning, she gets undivided Mom time on Fridays. Some days we end up just going into the city for lunch and walking around and some days it’s a museum or a meet up with the Homeschooling Group in Philadelphia. It’s quality time where we unplug and enjoy whatever journey we decided to take, and it’s my favorite time of the week!

Is it as easy as it appears? Heck no! But it’s much more manageable than I thought it would be. I would highly suggest you reach out to others and connect to a “tribe” of supportive parents, families and educators to help you stay afloat. I responded to a flyer about an African-American Homeschool group meet up in Philadelphia initiated by Maleka Diggs founder of the Eclectic Learning Network. The group meets every other week and even though it’s a 25 minute drive, it is well worth the trip for me to be in a room full of people who not only support your decision but provide resources and wisdom to help make the transition easier for you. I’ve found especially in the suburbs that un/homeschoolers are judged because the school districts are more privileged than those in urban areas and people assume that the only rational reason to remove your child from such a great school would be that your student has some type of disability, or you’re weird or snobby. Neither was the case. I’ve found that those assumptions have more to do with the mindset of the person making the judgement than the person making the best choice for their child.

 

How can learning happen if there’s no curriculum? I have to admit this was a huge adjustment for me as a new “unschooler”. I thought similar to my daughter that to just continue where her school left off with the curriculum would be the easiest method for me since spending money and time researching the right curriculum for her seemed insurmountable! I would hear myself saying “ok you need to stop that and get some reading in” or “we didn’t do any math this week, log into Kahn Academy” and she would look at me as if I had two heads and I would let it go. Yet still I felt like I was failing at being her educator until I attended the Homeschool Meet up group at the Joseph E. Coleman Free Library. I was able to express my feelings of inadequacy in a non judgmental space and left with the assurance that it would happen naturally because children are natural learners. I had heard those words before, but still thought I had to make it happen. As we left the library my avid reader noticed some books she wanted to buy from the library sale. It instantly occurred to me that this could be a teachable moment. We talked about the price of the books, and asked her to tell me how much she needed to buy all five books. We had the time to sit and break down the numbers into monetary value for her to get a solid understanding of the relationship between money and math. With a tiny bit of help, she figured it out. I then noticed one of the 5 books in her hand was not a part of the series and asked her to figure out how much we needed if we didn’t purchase that book. We walked out with not only the four books but with a lesson in money, addition and subtraction all without coercion, forethought or strain. It was at that moment I understood my role in this process; let go and just wait for the teachable moments to be presented. Two days later we attended a  Fresh Baked Theatre Company play at Widener University. When we left the performance she noticed there were eight flags in the courtyard. Janai turned to me and said “Mom, there are 50 stars on each flag, I bet I can figure out how many stars in total!” She was starting to see that learning can happen outside of a classroom and that math was everywhere. I smiled and watched as she counted the stars (see picture below).

Does she wish she was back at school? I have to say that for the first day she was sad about not seeing her friends every day and wondered if she would be just as happy at home, but that’s how long it lasted. One day. We are fortunate that for now we live across the street from her former school and she enjoys greeting her friends and getting hugs as they head to their bus or walk home from school. She is very sociable and her friends are special to her so we have lots of play-dates and have even hosted her Girl Scout troop at our home. The great thing about Pennsylvania is that although it’s tightly regulated, you are allowed to continue participation in any and all after school activities including sports and girl scout meetings when you homeschool. My daughter gets quality time with her friends now instead of just the 20 minutes they were allowed to chat and play freely at school.

Do I regret the decision to pull her out of school? Not in a million years. When you’re an independent parent and self-employed it takes a lot more planning and juggling, but it’s possible. The only thing I regret is not pulling her out much earlier in the year!

I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments below or feel free to contact me via email at africanamericanparenting@gmail.com. EnJOY the journey and make it a great day!

 

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Widener University, Chester PA

The Need for Child Advocates in Our Schools

I’m almost exhausted from reading the numerous articles, surveys and studies written about the inequities in the school system when it comes to identifying and supporting both gifted and talented students of color. I am sharing the article below because it has a lot of valid and important information and insight. I have one extremely gifted child and one extremely talented child. They are both gifted, one intellectually and one creatively. My son was reading chapter books and starting multiplication tables at the age of six. My daughter, a Harry Potter fanatic started piano lessons at the age of 3, could read sheet music by the age of 4 and has started working on both original songs and book ideas. You would assume from the brief introduction that my son would have easily been identified as gifted and would have had no problem with access. If so, your assumptions are wrong. His pediatrician warned me at the age of 2, that knowing all of his colors and shapes and counting to 20 was not normal for a two year old and suggested Montessori school. The Montessori school told me he had a problem focusing, not realizing he was bored. One of the teacher’s assistants suggested I get him tested after I tried countless times to get the schools’ Director to accelerate him to no avail. I did my research and found out the only way to have him tested without paying was to register him with the district as if I were preparing to enroll him into public school for Kindergarten. I took her advice and he scored off the charts on his IQ test. I sent a copy of the report to the Director and not only did she not acknowledge his accomplishment but still refused to provide any specialized curriculum for him. As you can imagine I was frustrated and furious because I was paying full private school tuition and my child was not being supported. He graduated from their Pre-K program and we never looked back. I read the book A Nation Deceived, which changed my mindset about acceleration and realized then that he needed to skip first grade. My next step was to set up an appointment with the Principal, Psychologist and Gifted Instruction Director of the public school he would attend. Advocacy.

I was fortunate to attend a seminar on Educating Black Boys in Suburban School Districts, and met Dr. Juan Baughn, a former assistant to the Secretary of Education in PA. I shared my story about my son and mention the upcoming meeting and he offered to attend the meeting to assist me in my appeal to have my son skipped. Advocacy. Dr. Baughn did not request a fee and I never saw him again, but his presence at the meeting assured success and an appropriate individualized program for my son. The district was hesitant to admit it but at the time, out of all four elementary schools in the entire district, my son was the only African American male in the gifted program. I would bet money that at the time he graduated from middle school, the statistic was the same.

Bottom line is it takes time, money and resources to advocate for our the best interest of our students, especially students of color who are in suburban school districts where there are hardly any administrators or teachers of color able to look out for their best interest. I was fortunate as an entrepreneur to have the time to do the research and attend numerous meetings and phone conversations during the work day. Most working parents don’t. We need to have third parties inside the schools who are there to identify and support the parents as advocates for our children to be sure they are supported intellectually, creatively and emotionally.

I am always happy to share my experience and resources with any parents facing concerns and needing support for their gifted or talented child. This article I believe has great information and insight, yet I hope one day there is no need for these words to be written. Let me know your thoughts…

A direct quote from the article written by Staff Writer Madhu Krishnamurthy : “Nationally, among the reasons for the under-representation of minority and low-income students in gifted programs are the use of subjective teacher referrals in the identification process and lack of parent advocacy, experts say.”

‘”When given an enriching academic environment and emotional support, gifted students despite their background, go on to achieve incredible things,” said Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, director of Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development and professor of education and social policy. “It’s our responsibility to close the gap for these kids.”‘

http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20160330/news/160339961/

Walking Away: My Unschooling Journey

Today would be the last day I walked my eight year old daughter to her school and walked away. I live directly across the street from her elementary school, the same school my son, now thirteen, attended when he was just six years old. As I walked away today, it occurred to me that not only have my children been a constant fixture at the school, but so have I. For the past eight years I have volunteered almost every school week in either of their classrooms. In addition I dedicated several weeks each year as chairperson of their MLK Day of Service, Co-facilitator of parenting workshops and for several years held positions on their PTG (Parent Teacher Group) Board. I am a staunch supporter of the public school system and I adore the children that I have had the fortune to cross paths over the years, yet it is time for me to walk away and take my daughter with me. I am walking away from the beautiful, dedicated

++teachers, parents and administrators I’ve met over the years as well as the snobby suburban self-righteous and often underlying racist ones. I am walking away from seven hours of free child care each day of the week as well as the teachers who sometimes send my child home in tears because they just “don’t have time to ” help her understand a concept in the way that she needs to learn it. I’m walking away from the convenience of sending her walking to school as well as the anxiety-driven nausea and headaches she is sent home with like stale lunch in her backpack. No one cares about the quiet trauma that is brewing in the psyche of these young children when they are pressured with more homework and testing than I’ve seen in eight years.

I never thought I could do this. As a single parent with no parents or grandparents to lean on, I didn’t think I had an option. I didn’t see any way I could have her learn at home when I had to work at least part time outside of the home and maybe even more if I was to afford the child care and/or alternative school that she would now need. I felt selfish because I didn’t want to give up my free time during the day when I had no clients and could pamper myself. I couldn’t afford to send her to an alternative school because they were expensive and seemingly out of reach for someone self-employed and a full time mom. And then the day came that my daughter came home and asked me the question “Mom, do you think I’m stupid?”. And I knew that it didn’t matter what I thought I could or couldn’t do, I had to. To be continued….

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New FB page listing FREE programs for families in Philly

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We Love the idea of having a central place to access cultural and educational programs in Philadelphia for children and families that are FREE! Please visit https://m.facebook.com/freeinphilly ,  “like” the page and select notifications to stay updated on new content. You can also follow them on Twitter @Free_In_Philly. The website is coming soon! Thank you Barbara Lanell for creating and updating this wonderful resource for parents!

Check out @AfrAmParenting’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/AfrAmParenting/status/701035052331888641?s=09

900AM WURD MOJO SHOW 2.12.16 – Homeschooling Feature

Listen in to this important roundtable discussion held this past Friday on homeschooling and how different families are meeting their children’s educational needs.

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https://m.soundcloud.com/900amwurd/mojo-21216-homeschooling-feature-pt-2

The Psychology Behind Your Mess: Why Creative Geniuses Often Flourish in Clutter

It’s funny I had just posted yesterday about not wanting someone to film me in my day to day life because of the clutter in my home and  this article by Anna Bashedly pops into my Facebook news feed. I grew up in a home where children were seen and not heard and we each had chores that had to do with keeping the house clean. As the only girl I spent more hours that I’d like to remember doing dishes for a house of six people, dusting as well as keeping my room clean as my assigned chores. Today I despise doing dishes (unless I’m at someone else’s house) to the extent that I would rather go to the store to purchase dish washer detergent before I’d tackle a sink full of dishes by hand. Yes, I am not ashamed to admit that ten years as the household dishwasher has brought me to this point! The ironic thing about being the “duster” of the family is that twenty years ago I found out that dust and mold are my major allergens and being around a large quantity of either can give me a full blown allergic reaction. I have to wear a contractor’s dust mask to clean my house. I say this all to say that I am not a neat freak, I usually hire someone to clean my home and I was afraid I had passed my disdain for cleaning to my children. I felt guilty until I learned about the connection between gifted and talented minds and what others see as clutter.

I once attended a conference sponsored by S.E.N.G. Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted to get insight into my son who at the age of four figured out how to count to 400 in Mandarin. One of the speakers spoke to us parents about not shaming our children because their rooms appeared to be “messy” all of the time. He told us that creative minds cannot start with a blank canvas and that what seems like clutter to us is inspiration and organization to them. I specifically remember him saying “unless there’s an old moldy slice of pizza under the bed, shut the door and leave his room alone!”. It’s a struggle but I do exactly that. Every few weeks I survey his room when he’s not there for moldy food and so far so good. I don’t invade his room, I ask him to collect his dirty clothes and bring them down to be washed, and I ask that he leave a path to the closet so I can use it for storage. I remember trying to “tidy up” his room and he would get so frustrated because although it looked like piles to me, he had his own method of organization and if I asked him to get something out of his room, he knew exactly where to go to put his fingers on it. I used to worry that I was creating a nightmare for his future wife but now I realize that allowing creative space for him to discover the cure for cancer is a better use of my concerns for his future.

Source: The Psychology Behind Your Mess: Why Creative Geniuses Often Flourish in Clutter

Food Issues:Supporting My Pescatarian Child

wp-1452777408745.jpgSo, my eight year old daughter decided she didn’t want to eat meat. She came into my bedroom one morning and announced it unexpectedly, and I listened and placed it into that small area in my brain to review later. It was by the way, the day before Thanksgiving and I just knew that she would reserve her stance for after the day of gluttony. Or so I thought.

My daughter is such a sensitive and loving child and has a very nurturing and innate connection to all of life’s creatures. She once brought what she thought was a caterpillar into the house to help it’s transformation, and we soon found out that it was a silkworm, not a caterpillar! Nevertheless she wanted to care for it I and found myself going to the local Arboretum to purchase a bug house for the tiny thing. I remember as a toddler the look on my daughter’s face when she realized I was cooking a small chicken in the oven that was once alive. “Mommy, are you cooking a baby chicken?” she asked me. I knew from then we would one day have this conversation. I had to laugh at first at the irony because I had nausea every single day she was in my womb and the only food that I could keep down was red meat, which I had stopped eating years prior to my pregnancy for other reasons.

Nevertheless the day progressed and we traveled to my Aunt Daisy’s home for Thanksgiving dinner. My aunt is a fabulous cook and laid a spread of food that spanned two rooms with every meat and side dish that you could imagine. I watched partly surprised yet proud that with all of the choices in front of her, my daughter packed her plate with salad, macaroni and cheese and sweet potatoes. When I saw her plate, forgetting about her proclamation a few days ago, I asked her if she wanted turkey. She was not tempted, and with a smile said “no Mommy” and walked to the table to sit down. I was speechless. I was surprised. I was proud. I was honestly a bit worried about how she could support her growing body without meat. It was then that she told me that she would eat seafood, but no other meat and I told her that I would completely support her. She gave me a big hug, said “you are the best Mommy ever” which she says often unless she’s not getting her way, and went to play with the other children.

I had no clue what to do from there. My son loves any kind of meat, and he’s a growing thirteen year old playing sports so I respect his choices. I eat fish and chicken but both baked and she eats only fish. All I could think about was how challenging it will be to stock the refrigerator and cook meals when both kids eat different things. It has been a learning experience for me and other than one bite of a turkey meatball, she has kept to her pledge since November 25th and I applaud her. I pack salads topped with strawberries, whole grain or protein bars, yogurt, hummus and chips, macaroni and cheese, tuna sandwiches and spinach quiche for lunch. She loves vegetables, hummus, fruit and yogurt so my only concern is getting enough protein in her diet. She loves cheese and scrambled eggs so she’s not willing to omit that at this time but it’s her journey and her choices to make today and change in the future as she would like. I’m thankful for friends who are vegetarians for sending me great ideas and recipes and I love that there are options for Tofurkey and other “meatless” chicken fingers and meatballs with great flavoring that even fool my son! I am learning about more healthy options for dinner and lunch and even snacks for her and she is feeling supported and learning about making good choices as well.

Isn’t it something how we think we are supporting and teaching and one day we realize that our children are truly the teachers?

What are some of your kid’s favorite meatless dishes?

Memories of a War Veteran..I have not forgotten

Re-posting in memory of my Uncle Bay and all of the soldiers who lost their lives as a result of war. Hoping you all make love and not war your priority this Memorial Day. #loveistheanswer

Memories of a War Veteran..I have not forgotten.

via Memories of a War Veteran..I have not forgotten.

Teachable Moments: Why I took my seven year old daughter to see Selma

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As a child born right in the middle of the Civil Rights movement, exactly six months after the assassination of Malcolm X, I have only my parent’s memories of those horrific and powerful moments in American history. When I started seeing the trailers for the Selma Movie I immediately felt the energy of the movement pour into me from the visual presence of powerful African-Americans moving forward in spite of the immense opposition. The pictures are always so powerful, and tell the stories that are starting to fade with the passing of each legendary activist and committed ancestor. As a woman I was both surprised and proud to see that this major motion picture was directed by Ava DuVernay who was also of African descent and extremely accomplished. I was excited and couldn’t wait to take the kids to see this film! I assumed that it, like the few MLK movies made for TV, would be rated PG and I set off immediately to secure tickets for us to see it after we volunteered on Martin Luther King Day. I was proud of myself for being so proactive until I saw that it was rated PG13. My heart dropped. My son was twelve and soon to be thirteen in a few months, but my daughter was seven and a half at most. Did I really have to deny her the opportunity to experience this African-American female director’s opportunity to tell the story of the March to Selma? Did she have to sit and listen to stories like I did as a young child never seeing the beauty and ugliness of those who both fought for and stood ignorantly in the way of universal love and freedom? I was torn between my own strong emotions about the project and being a responsible parent. My daughter, a very sensitive and loving soul was also practically begging me (no, literally) to take her to see the movie. I decided to poll my friends in social media who are teachers, parents, directors, storytellers and activists for their opinions in order for me make the best decision. Surprisingly I didn’t receive a resounding “YES, you should definitely take her” from the majority of those polled, but I took all of the suggestions and comments to heart and eventually decided to take her to see Selma. These are the reasons why I chose to ignore the film rating and take her anyway:

  1. She is the granddaughter and daughter of storytellers: My father wrote great short essays about his experiences growing up a young black boy in the fifties as well as experiences in the Air Force and the emotions and struggles that followed him into his adult life. Unfortunately he never published any of them. I started writing poetry in third grade and am just starting to tell stories that have been waiting to come out. My daughter is watching and may one day be a great writer too and I think it’s important for her to see stories unfold in front of her eyes. It’s her legacy, her reality and too important of a story to exclude from her growing library.
  2. She begged me: It was a different plea than the one I get a the toy store. My daughter has learned about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and other great men and women in American history and she wanted to know more. I thought about one friend’s comment about how she is “my child” and how she has been listening to and enchanted by storytellers since she was an infant. Some things you just do by instinct, but she was right. I even had a storyteller at my son’s 5th birthday while my daughter watched from her baby carrier. After enduring too many “please Mommy”, how could I argue?
  3. I prepared her ahead of time: A few of my friends warned me that there were a few graphic moments in the film, especially in the beginning that could be too harsh for someone her age but felt that with the right preparation and conversation beforehand she could handle it. My daughter promised me that she wouldn’t be scared and she wasn’t going to have nightmares and that she wanted to see anything that involved “her people and their struggle and Martin Luther King”. So I Googled “Bloody Selma” and sat next to her while she viewed the actual footage from the march across the Edmund Pettus bridge and she didn’t flinch. As I watched I realized that children such as my father and mother birthed in the midst of segregation didn’t have the option of being sheltered from the brutality of their oppressors.
  4. She would walk out more proud of her ancestors’ strength and perseverance: I did get a few strange looks when I walked into the theater with her in tow and I just knew every parent secretly shamed me. I even started to doubt my decision after the opening scene (which was both powerful, shocking and necessary) but when the movie ended and she turned to me with a big smile on her face and said “that was awesome!” I knew that I had made the best decision for her. Not only did she get to see images of courageous women of color in both strong and supporting roles, she saw them fight for their men, children and communities in a way that is not depicted in history books and definitely not on the Disney channel. The Civil Rights struggle was told from a different angle and with a different voice all guided by the vision of a female director and producer of African descent. Definitely a teachable moment!

Of course you have to take all of these factors into consideration before choosing to take your younger child to see this  PG13 movie. I have to admit even with her excitement over seeing Selma I was worried that she would have nightmares, but none came. There was also one moment where my Mom instinct kicked in and I covered her eyes, but she abruptly moved my hand! The sad truth is, our kids are so exposed to brutality, injustice and violence today, that ‘Bloody Selma’ is not as jarring as we would expect. We cannot expect our children to reflect the qualities that we do not mirror back to them. Sometimes we are the mirror, sometimes it appears in the form of a book, a writer or motion picture but I believe it has to be done by any means necessary.

Who are you trusting with their brain?

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My children started school today, and all around the country there are parents buying school supplies, new clothes, bookbags and countless electronic devices in order to prepare their children for the new school year. We spend so much time and money getting the “things” we need, but what is just as important for me is knowing the teachers, administrators and other support staff who influence the intellect and emotional health of my children for the majority of their day. As fortunate as we are to have access to a noteworthy school district and staff, I am still very aware that my children will be surrounded by children who will not look like them, teachers who will not look like them and more than likely the only people of color they will see are in the cafeteria or cleaning up after them throughout the day. It’s unfortunate that most of those in the schools they attend have never had the experience of being a “minority” or having a close relationship with someone of another ethnicity or religion. These truths concern me more than whether they have the correct number of sharpened pencils. Each year as August comes to a close, I being to make my presence known to those who will hold my children’s hearts and brains captive for six or seven hours each day. I have had enough experiences throughout the years with school systems (both public and private) and have learned the hard way that everyone hired as a teacher/administrator does not necessarily have my child’s best interest at heart. I will share a few tidbits of wisdom I’ve learned that have helped me get the school year off to a great start:

  1. Take advantage of your access to teachers the week before school starts : Most of your child’s teachers are at school the week prior to the first day of school, preparing their classroom for the kids as well as any open house events happening in the school. Take advantage of this time that they will be able to read email without interruption and send a quick “Hello, I’m XYZ’s parent, nice to meet you” email. This is a great time to quickly mention any emotions your child has about the new year as well as any emotional, intellectual or health issues that may challenge the teacher, good or not so good. The email I send for my middle schooler is much shorter than the one for my second grader, and if it is a new teacher,  I also will attach my “This is My Kid” note to the email which I’ll explain below.
  2. Type up a one or two paragraph note about your child that you can update from year to year: I started it in Preschool because it was requested by one of the teachers, and I’ve kept it up each year. Some people may think it’s too much but I believe that someone who has my child’s time and attention for the majority of their waking hours should know more about them than their name and address. I include a little about their favorite things and subjects, but more importantly, what helps them transition, how they handle change, any allergies or health issues, any extraordinary emotional issues that may distract them as well as what motivates them to learn. I have found that their teachers have really found the information to be extremely helpful. 
  3. Make every open house and/or back to school night: I know, who wants to work all day, fight traffic to get home to get dinner and then go back out at night to the school. Ugh! Not my favorite thing to do, but a great way to show not only the teachers, but your child that you have a vested interest in their happiness and success in school. You’re showing them that you care about where they sit, who they interact with, how long it takes to get from class to class and what books they use. You get to put a face to the teacher’s names, see how their teacher interacts with their students and feel their energy (yes, I said it…but energy transfers to your kid). It’s also a subtle message to those who interact with your student that you care about what’s going on at school and that you are ready and willing to work together as a team to make sure it’s a good experience for your child. I can’t stress how important this is. Your presence is a powerful statement.
  4. Keep a folder for each child: The beginning of the year causes an influx of paperwork and procedures that make my head spin! When I purchase their school supplies, I also purchase a two-pocket folder for the year that I use to keep track of all of the correspondence from their school. One side has paperwork etc that I need to act on and return to school, and the other side has information I need to keep such as school procedures, daily schedules, calendars, teacher contact information, report cards and any other teacher correspondence that I need to refer to throughout the year. Whew! I get exhausted just thinking about it, so the folder helps, believe me!
  5. Don’t assume everyone has your child’s best interest at heart: I can’t stress this one enough. I was paying for my son to attend a Montessori school that refused to customize his educational goals even after he achieved a 99 percentile on the IQ test administered by the State. The director wouldn’t even discuss his score with me and that was the last year he attended that school. Don’t assume that your child’s teacher is not biased just because he/she is a teacher; don’t assume your child’s teacher has ever had diversity training, don’t assume the social studies class will teach the truth about American History, don’t assume that your child will be treated fairly or even better because he/she is gifted or “bright”. Don’t assume that your child is being treated fairly. Talk to your children about their day, let them know how they should be treated and teach them to have the same expectations of their teachers. Hold their teachers accountable and make them aware of your expectations, just as they make their expectations clear to the students at the beginning of the year. Stay abreast of your child’s progress and don’t be afraid to make a phone call or send an email if you feel they are not receiving the help/support or enhancement that they need to succeed. Check out the school website, and take the time to get information about any awards, special programs or scholarships for which your son/daughter may be eligible. I have had several situations where their teacher did not nominated them. I must say that I have been fortunate to have had wonderful experiences in our school district, but there have been a few who have been a challenge. 
  6. Help your child look forward to their first day: Both of my children were nervous about their first day, but I try to set up some fun activities the week before school starts as an attempt to lessen the anxiety. If there is an Open House at their school, I attend it with them. If their teacher sends a welcome letter, I share it with them and ask them how it makes them feel. We go to the store and they each get to pick out a “have a great school year” gift or other small token; it serves as a constant reminder of my support of and belief in them. Of course there’s the back to school day outfit that they get to pick out and on the morning of their first day of school, I add something special to their breakfast. The evening of their first day, we go out to a celebratory dinner, whether it be pizza or someplace a more classy, they get to pick and even dress up if they’d like. It gives us a chance to talk about their day and serves as my way of showing them how important their education is to me and that I share their excitement. 

After you do all of the above, go to your nearest coffee shop or masseuse (or both!) and celebrate yourself for the amazing job you’ve done to get them and their brains in good hands! I hope these tidbits have helped. Please feel free to comment and add any methods that help your child/ren get off to a positive start.  Wishing you a successful school year!