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Parenting Tips/Research and Discoveries

Parenting Tips for Nightly Reading

Feb-22, 2019

Nightly Book Reading

Photo Credit: Widad Sirkhotte from Flickr

If you have a child in grades Kindergarten through fourth, you most likely are very familiar with the 20 minutes of nightly reading she is assigned. The teacher probably sends home a sheet of some sort each week, or daily, to report on this reading. For some students, this assignment is a breeze. Yet, for others, and their parents, it is a dreaded requirement. So, what can you do as a parent to help your child through this assignment and even more so to improve their reading skills? Here are a few basic tips we have found success with.

Sit Next to Your Child

It's always a good idea to sit side by side with your child and silently read as they read. This gives them some accountability and discourages distractions. Teachers find that when children are left alone to read while parents catch up on laundry or dishes, they are more likely to not pay attention to the book. some students will even start to make up their own story as they read if they feel they can get away with it.

Choose the Right Time

The time of night you decide to complete this assignment is completely up to you and your child. You want to find a time that makes it easy for your child to cooperate and when you are not pushing them to simply finish. This suggests that right after they return from school nor right before bed is typically opportune as your child may be in need of either play time or sleep, and neither is conducive for reading.

Do not Skip Reading Time

While 10-20 minutes may not seem like a lot of time, research shows that this time is crucial to your child’s reading development. Clumping all the required time together during one or two days doesn’t achieve the same results. This makes it necessary to find the time for your child to complete this assignment every night.

Keep Reading Aloud to Your Child

Mother reading her children

Photo Credit: Neeta Lind from Flickr

It is common for parents to think that once a child can read on their own, the adult is no longer needed. However, children in grades four and higher can still greatly benefit from being read to aloud. As an adult, you can read texts and stories of a much wider variety than your child. You reading these to them exposes them to a larger vocabulary and helps them to learn that reading can be interesting and fun.

Do not “Tell” Words as the Child Reads

As a teacher, it is easy to tell if a child is often told what words are during reading. These students, when they come across an unfamiliar word, will simply stop during class reading, expecting the teacher or someone to help them out instead of trying to figure it out on their own. Instead of telling them the word, try to show them simple word solving strategies to teach themselves.

Try out these tips in your home to not only improve your child’s reading abilities but to also make the process for enjoyable for you and them.

Making Recycling Fun

Feb-12, 2019


One of the most fun and productive activities you can do with your children at home is to start an at-home recycling program. Chances are, even if you have never talked about it at home, your children have already encountered the idea of recycling at school or at day care. By bringing this practice into the home, you give your children an important and fun practice that they can use to be responsible citizens for the rest of their lives.

The first step in starting an at-home recycling program is to find out if there are recycling facilities in your area. Maybe your neighborhood has a recycling program and provides bins and materials for free. If not, there are private recycling companies that will collect and process your recyclables for a fee. Whichever option you choose, you want to ensure that the arrangement is convenient and realistic for your family.

And think broadly. Even if there is not a facility to process everything you want to recycle, you can find easy opportunities to recycle some of the products your family uses every day. For instance, TerraCycle provides cardboard boxes so that you can pack up and ship your plastic snack wrappers. For a fee, they recycle these small pieces of plastic that we all use every day, and can’t recycle through our normal neighborhood recycling programs. Companies like this make it possible to be creative about how you will structure your family recycling program. Perhaps you will only recycle glass. Or maybe your children can learn to recycle their cereal boxes when they are empty. Start small, teaching your children the importance of doing one good thing for the environment. As time goes on, you’ll find that most children are excited about participating and finding new things to recycle.

Another way to make recycling fun is to allow young children to sort recyclable goods themselves. If your town only recycles type 1 and type 2 plastics, you can allow your 4 year-old to check the plastic bottles in the recycle bin to sort them accordingly. By making this her job, you assign her an important task that tells her that you trust her to be responsible. You also allow her some freedom to use her growing number skills and to be responsible for something that feels like a “grown-up job.” Children love this.

However you decide to do it, starting and maintaining an at-home recycling program is an easy way to help raise engaged, aware children who make a positive contribution to the world.

Dealing with Health Issues at School

Jan-31, 2019

Girl Sleeping

We all love to see healthy and active children enjoying their time in school. But sometimes, a health challenge arises that makes it difficult for a student to fully participate in day-to-day school activities. By working together, parents and teachers can make sure that children get the help they need while making the most of their time in and out of the classroom.

One of the most difficult parts of dealing with a child’s illness is that it can sometimes be a challenge to accurately diagnose a problem. Whether a child is suffering physical or mental discomfort, being observant and forthcoming is an important step in making a diagnosis. For teachers, this means noticing when a normally energetic child is less engaged for some period time. A simple solution is to ask the student if they are feeling well or if anything is wrong. Perhaps they’ll tell you what’s going on. But even if they don’t, it’s important when you notice a change in a student’s behavior to communicate with parents about the student’s well-being. Teachers and parents are important partners in a child’s education.

Once an illness is diagnosed, it’s essential to be realistic about what a child will need in terms of treatment and time away from school. This is where parents have to take the lead. By talking honestly to doctors and specialists, parents can get a sense of what is best for their child’s health, and how much time it may take for them to recover or receive adequate treatment. In some cases, this will mean time away from school. In other cases, students can remain in school while they undergo treatment. In either case, this should be a decision that parents make with their child’s health care professionals, rather than their teachers.

Finally, when the family has an understanding of the kind of time and accommodations a student might need, they can have a conversation with the schools’ administrators to come up with a plan for completing schoolwork. In some cases, it may be necessary to homeschool an ill child so that they don’t fall too far behind their classmates. In other cases, parents can make plans for a child to miss a certain amount of school and make up that time in summer school, so that they’re able to progress in their education as expected. Still in other cases a child may not have to miss significant amounts of school. It may be enough to inform a teacher that a young student will be out for a week and will make up the work when she returns. The important thing is that parents and teachers communicate clearly with one another about what is needed, both for the well-being of the child and for the educational mission.

None of us wants to think about a child getting sick. But by having a plan and being open with teachers, it is possible to keep a child’s education on track while making sure that they get the help that they need. This creates a clear and welcoming school environment for the student to return to when they are feeling better.

When Home is a Distraction

Jan-14, 2019

Distracted Child

Photo Credit: Janko Ferlic

We all want to create healthy and supportive home environments for our children. However, sometimes circumstances beyond our control can impact children’s learning and make it difficult for them to focus on school. When a family member gets sick, or financial trouble disrupts home life, it can be a challenge for young people to stay focused on their studies. Here are some ways you can help promote your children’s health and focus when they’re dealing with distractions.

The first thing to do is identify the disruption. What is it that’s causing the difficulty? Has there been a death in the family? Did you recently move and your child switched schools? Before we can address the effects of a disruption, we have to know what it is. Sometimes it will be obvious. Other times you will have to ask questions to find out what your son or daughter is thinking. Maybe they’re worried about a friend of theirs. Or maybe they’re having issues with someone else in the family. Accurately identifying the problem is the first step to addressing it.

Once you know what the issue is, have an honest conversation with your child about how it’s affecting them. Are they having a hard time paying attention in class? Do they not remember the material as well? Maybe they’re no longer enjoying hanging out with friends or participating in activities. Whatever the problems, you want to reassure them that it’s normal to become distracted when we’re dealing with difficult things in life. By giving your child permission to feel upset, you can help them relax and eventually work through whatever they’re dealing with.

Once you and your child understand what’s happening and how it’s affecting them, you can begin to look for routines, resources, and support to help them. For children who are having a hard time focusing at home, this could mean letting them go to the local library for a few hours after school. If your child’s school has a good counseling program, you can set up sessions with the school counselor so that your child has an ally at school they can talk to. It’s also a good idea to be in touch with your child’s teachers. You can share as much or as little as you’d like about what your child and your family are dealing with. The key is simply to communicate to the teacher that you’re aware of your child’s trouble focusing and that you intend to address it actively and in a way that’s healthy and productive for their education.

We never want to imagine our children in difficult situations. However, circumstances sometimes arise that challenge the normal, healthy routines we’ve established. At these times, it’s important to be proactive. By actively sympathizing with your children and communicating with their teachers, you can create a collaborative environment where your child feels supported and is able to overcome whatever is hampering their success.

Helping Kids Make Friends

Jan-18, 2019

Sharing out Easter Eggs

Photo Credit: Sophie Elvis on Unsplash

For children who make friends easily, school can be a source of not only information, but of tremendous fun. For children who struggle to connect with others, there can be isolation and anxiety about fitting in. That’s okay. School is filled with opportunities to form healthy bonds that can help support your children’s social development. Here are some steps you can take to help your children develop a healthy social circle at school.

The first thing to do is to talk to your children about who they spend time with at school. Ask them about their friends in class. Who do they sit with or eat lunch with? You may already know all of your children’s friends. But you might be surprised to know that there’s a certain person they like to do projects with or that one of their classmates has been helping them with their algebra homework for a few months. These are small connections that can grow into broader friendships. You can encourage your child to be attentive to these relationships and to express gratitude for the time they spend with their peers.

If you have a child who seems not to be making healthy connections at school, you should also have a talk with their teachers or counselors. There are lots of social dynamics at play in a school environment. Teachers see patterns that may not be obvious to parents and other adults. Your child’s teachers may be able to alert you to situations where your child seems quiet or uncomfortable speaking up. They can also tell you if there are certain groups or situations where your child seems more at ease. You and the teacher can work together to foster a comfortable learning environment where your child is comfortable opening up and connecting with classmates.

For children who want to make more friends, you can also encourage them to get involved in activities at school. Most of the school day is spent working on lessons, so children aren’t necessarily socializing. After-school activities provide a time for kids to interact with each other informally, and to exercise more of their personalities. Students who don’t speak up in class might be more comfortable asserting themselves on a soccer field. Extracurricular activities provide students with additional opportunities to express themselves and connect with others.

No matter the age, one of the best parts of being in school is making friends. Of course we’re there to learn. But having people we enjoy being around makes every project a little easier. Knowing that your children have smart, supportive friends at school can help alleviate some of your anxiety and provide a sense of comfort about their health and happiness when they’re away. By taking some simple steps to encourage them, you can support your children’s healthy social development in ways that may pay off in years of friendship.

Why a Gap Year Might Be Good for Your Student…

Dec-19, 2018

Students in a class Room

Photo Credit : COD Newsroom on Flickr

Here in America, it’s not a very popular notion to take a year off between high school and the start of your college career. For many, it is a sign of not being motivated or not being ready to handle it. However, recent studies are showing some pretty tremendous and beneficial effects of taking that extra year off. And both students and parents are reaping the rewards.

Life Lessons

The simple fact is that many high school seniors are just not ready for college yet, whether academically or in regards to their maturity. And that’s ok. Much like many parents decide their five-year-old needs another year before kindergarten, some high students could use an extra year as well. That first year of college life can be overwhelming to those who are unprepared and has led to staggering dropout rates in recent years.

During this year, many students decide to travel, volunteer, or get some real-world work experience. This becomes a way for students to learn more about themselves, what they want out of life, and to learn more about life outside of their parent’s home and the adult responsibilities required.

For students who experienced helicopter parents who hovered and coddled, this is a time to grow up some. They learn to complete many tasks such as laundry, cooking, dishes, and cleaning for themselves. They can learn to take care of themselves without the extra stress of school.

Academic Benefits

Student with Graduation Cap

Photo Credit : David Lounsbury on Flickr

Once it is time to return to their studies, they are ready to handle those new challenges. And counselors find that these students usually finish college in a shorter amount of time. It has also been noticed that students who decide to wait a year tend to come back with more focus, more maturity, and more self-awareness. They typically know what they want from their education and are less likely to change majors and/or schools several times, saving themselves and their parents a lot of time and money. They also have more realistic career goals and are more motivated to reach those.

When it comes to the actual classroom, professors and parents alike notice better grades and an overall higher GPA than expected, especially in comparison to those who didn’t take a gap year. Students who took this time off also tend to stand out as classroom and extracurricular activity leaders. And they are able to juggle the responsibilities of their classes, sports, work, social life, etc. much easier.

This year is an opportunity for young adults to learn about life on their own, making their own decisions, and not leaning on the support of their parents. It’s a time for them to grow in maturity and learn some valuable life lessons without risking $50,000 in college tuition and fees. When it’s time for that money to actually be spent, it will be much more worth it both to the student and their parents.