Listen in to this important roundtable discussion held this past Friday on homeschooling and how different families are meeting their children’s educational needs.
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.
This is the second post in a series based on the pamphlet “150 Ways to Show Kids You Care” (see previous post for link). I choose one of the items and share how I apply it with my children. Today as my son walked out the door to catch his bus my eyes fell on #104; Visit their school. This seems like a simple, no-brainer, but in this economy where many parents are working long days and sometimes two or three jobs, it’s very difficult to take the time off to visit their child’s school. I fortunately am self-employed and can schedule my clients around important meetings and/or events at my childrens’ school. I can’t stress enough the importance of showing up occasionally at your child’s school. Both administrators and teachers (not just your child’s teacher but the teachers who may have your child in their class in the future) are paying attention and notice the parents that walk the halls occasionally, volunteer at school events and reach out to the teacher if there is an issue at school. The idiom “the squeaky wheel gets the oil” is actually true. When you have a presence at your child’s school the teachers see you as a partner and supporter of not just your child but of the teacher and the school as a whole. Your presence also allows the school to become familiar with you as a positive contribution to the school and not just a parent who complains or shows up only when there is an issue with your child.
It doesn’t mean you have to volunteer to be the President of the PTG or the Classroom mom, but let the teacher know that you can make yourself available to help out with advanced notice a few times a year. Show up to a few PTG meetings in the evening, send email or notes to your child’s teacher once a month just to check in and give a compliment or suggestion. Buy an extra family-sized pack of snacks or a box of pencils at the beginning of the school year (or mid-year) and send them in with your student. Volunteer to chair or co-chair one of the school’s fundraisers, or at least sign up to support the event. If you are unable to visit your child’s school ask a sibling, parent or even grandparent to stand in your place. Maintain a presence in some manner and believe me when there is an issue at school, everyone involved will be more supportive, more inclined to hear you when they see you as an involved parent. They will also keep your child in mind when other educational and/or extra-curricular opportunities are available because they know that you will support them in their endeavors. The most important reason to show up is because your child is watching. They may not say it but it makes them feel loved and protected and more motivated when they know you care enough to take the time to support them at school.
Believe me, it works! Let me know how it works for you.
One of the best tools that I took away from my training as a Parenting Partners Workshop Facilitator was the pamphlet “150 Ways To Show Kids You Care” (c) distributed by The Search Institute. The brochure lists 150 ways to interact with your children or other children in the community that would cause them to believe that you genuinely care about their well-being. I have it posted right next to my door as a reminder for me, amidst the daily rush in and out of the house, to make a conscious effort to connect with my kids. Again this list also applies to family members, your children’s friends, mentees or other children you nurture or spend time with. Sometimes I ask my children to pick one, sometimes I ask them to choose a number in between one and one hundred fifty and sometimes I close my eyes and choose whatever number my finger lands on. I will try each day to post the item that was chosen and write a little about how I applied it.
Today it landed on #62 “Encourage Win-Win Situations“.
Sometimes I’m not sure about how I will apply the item of the day but by the end of the day, the opportunity presents itself (or I get creative 🙂 . My thirteen year old son loves football. If he’s not playing himself, he’s playing it on Madden, watching College Football on television or videos about the science of football on You Tube. I’m not saying he’s the next Heisman Trophy winner but he is aggressive on defense, easily teachable and the coaches love him. I say all that not to brag but it helps you to understand the dilemma. His Quaker high school does not have a football team so I registered him with the local area football league. Several weeks into practice his coach reveals to me that the league was unable to recruit enough kids for the Senior 130 pound varsity team. This meant there was a strong possibility that my would not be able to play on the 120 varsity team at his current age and weight combination but he assured me the coaches were working on “trying to get him in”. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant but he somehow made weight for the first three home games and I didn’t think more about it. Last week was an away game and he didn’t make weight. The officials said he was 13 pounds over and would have to lose at least 6 or 7 to continue playing. I looked at my slim, still growing thirteen year old son (he’s about 5’3, 120 pounds) and knew that he did not have six pounds to lose! I knew he would be heartbroken, so I thought about item #62 and tried to figure out how to break it to him that may have to give up playing football with it being too late in the season to join another league. How could this situation end up as a win-win? I talked to my brothers, his father and a college friend who trains college athletes and they all concurred that he should be gaining weight, specifically via muscle rather than losing. I realized that his coaches didn’t have my son’s best interest in mind and were more concerned about winning games. It was slightly flattering, but I knew that I needed to talk to him and support him in making the right choice for him. I decided to approach him at his favorite place, on the trampoline in our yard, and we had the conversation. We talked first about his feelings on the matter and I shared mine. Though he would rather play, he understood the importance of gaining muscle especially in such an intense sport and agreed that if he was unable to play out the rest of the season he was okay with taking a weight training class at the local YMCA. He also knows that his parents have is best interest in mind and care about his happiness. I gave him choices and feedback and he learned how to look at his options and make the best choice for him. He’s content and I’m a happy parent. Win. Win.
Please feel free to share how you’ve applied this successfully. Thank you for reading and keep coming back!
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!