Thursday, March 31, 2011

Shopping for that special day

This guest post is from Lu Beck.

I'm a mom with two kid. Holiday shopping, especially for Easter or Valentine's Day, involves buying candy and maybe a small toy for them. I try to remember my husband and find something that he'll really enjoy, but money is tight and often we choose to do something together for the holiday. Instead of surprising each other with flowers or chocolates, we often go out to dinner together.

It's nice to have a date night with just the two of us; doing this allows us to reconnect. Parenthood doesn't often allow for alone couple time, so for Valentine's Day we really try to have a night out together. I usually surprise my kids earlier in the day with their gift. My kids are great and are appreciative of presents that they receive. This Easter I may surprise my husband with a small, affordable present. I was thinking maybe a CD or a movie. I usually shop at Target or Wal-Mart for these types of gifts. I may look for a romantic movie or CD to celebrate the spirit of the holiday.

I'm glad I added my home security alarm to my home a year ago. I always set the alarm from before we leave the house to go to dinner and I can feel confident that our home is in safe hands.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Involved parents = student success

All parents want their children to succeed in school. Research reveals that children whose parents are involved in their kids' education are more likely to succeed. But for many parents, it is hard to know how or when to start.

Today's parents work long hours, extra jobs and must handle a host of other responsibilities. Resources such as Parent Information Resource Centers (PIRCs) offer assistance in many states. Many community centers also provide help. By all means, do not overlook your child's school, which can provide a wealth of information.

Education starts at home. Kids spend most of their waking hours outside of school. Rose Jackson-Beavers, an author and director of parent services for the Parent Engagement and Empowerment Center in St. Louis, believes that even busy parents can take an active role in their child's education. According to Jackson-Beavers, the benefits of ongoing parent involvement are substantial.

"A parent's opportunity to get involved in their child's education doesn't end the moment that child walks into the classroom," said Jackson-Beavers. "Studies show that children with involved parents have more positive learning experiences. This translates into better academic performance, higher grades and test scores. I know our parents can make this happen with a little help."

Here are tips on how busy parents can work smart:

- Send your child to school well-fed and rested.
- Stay on top of homework.

- Attend open house or back-to-school night at your child's school. It's the perfect time to meet your child's teacher. If you have to work, schedule a meeting with the teacher at another time.
- Go to parent-teacher conferences.
- Each day, ask your children what they are learning at school. Discuss it with them or have them explain it.

- Set high expectations for your children. Encourage them to do their best.
- Get involved in your school's parent-teacher organization, and find out other ways you can support your child's school.

Missouri parents offer their own advice on best practices. Kim Brand is the mother of a middle school student. She also taught elementary school for 22 years in a suburban school district. Family friends notice that Brandon and her daughter, Maggie, always work together as a team. They even tackle homework at the hair salon!

"I learned right away to be the best teacher you could be for your child at home," said Brand. "Don't ever stop working with your child. Anytime my daughter has homework, I am involved in it." Brand emphasizes that the effort comes with rewards. Maggie now carries a 4.0 grade point average.

Another mom, Leslie Smith, encourages parents to establish ongoing communication with their children. Kids will talk to me before they will talk to their mom or dad," Smith stated. "They are afraid to talk to their parents." Smith says it is important that parents listen to their kids.

Dee Crump has the experience of being a mother, a grandmother, and a foster mom. She says that when she was raising her own children, her job made it difficult for her to be active in school.

Nevertheless, Crump emphasizes, "You definitely need to develop a relationship with the teacher. Let the teacher know that you really care about your child's education."
Crump, who is proud of her adult kids, now raises two foster children.

Bottom line: When parents are involved in their children's education, kids do better in school.

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