Archive for Monday, August 13, 2007

Gold-star parenting

Students more likely to excel when education treated as family affair

August 13, 2007

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Getting your kids to talk about school

Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller, authors of "The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose," offer these tips for getting your children to fill you in on their school day:

  1. Don't play 20 questions. Ask a few questions each day and rotate them.
  2. Ask questions that require more than a one-word response, such as "Tell me about the most interesting thing that happened to you today" or "What surprised you about school today?"
  3. Use the "Say some more" technique to encourage your child to expand on a brief answer.
  4. Don't seem desperate. It encourages the child to cling on to whatever it is she has that seems so valuable to you.
  5. Use your parenting network to glean school information. Rely on the other parents in your child's classroom to provide information - and share what you have learned, too.
  6. Encourage your child to invite friends over; your child will talk more freely in the presence of peers. Be still and listen.
  7. Don't ask questions to which you already know the answer. Instead, tell him what you know and ask for further clarification from his point of view.
  8. If your child starts talking about school, stop talking and listen intently and non-judgmentally.
  9. Don't expect your child to tell you everything that goes on at school. Be active and involved. Find out what is going on by being present.
  10. Create family times where conversation predominates.

Rob and Jamie Hulse have a system.

Every day when their sons get home from school, the couple sit down with the boys and go through their backpacks.

"We ask open-ended questions about the things they brought home," Jamie Hulse says. "It's relaxed and low-key. If they have homework, we discuss how much time is needed and help them plan the rest of the day to get it done around what our family has going on, if anything."

The ritual is just one of many ways the Hulses stay engaged in their children's education - a move, research shows, that helps students perform better academically, graduate from high school and go on to college more often, and have a positive attitude about the whole experience.

In Lawrence - where public school classes start this week - there's no citywide initiative for parental involvement, says Julie Boyle, communications director for the district. But principals encourage it.

At Sunflower School, where the Hulse boys - Trey, 6, and Nate, 10 - will be first- and fifth-graders, respectively, teachers send home a folder each week with papers for parents to sign, as well as a newsletter and updates from teachers, the PTO and other staff members. Some instructors also send home daily folders marked with "Things to keep at home" and "Things to return to school," Jamie Hulse says.

She believes it's important to get to know your child's teachers so that, if a problem arises, you've already established the connections required to help solve it.

Sending a message

That means showing your face once in a while at school, says Bob Gent, especially at the elementary level. Gent is father of seventh-grader Ian and 10th-grader Helen, both of whom attended Cordley School and will be entering Central Junior High and Lawrence High this year.

"Don't drop your kid off and drive away," Gent says. "Walk your kid into the school and walk in the hallway and say hi to the people you see. It really makes a difference if you can walk in and say hi to the teacher and tell them what you can do to help in the classroom."

Gent used to read to third-graders at Cordley two afternoons a week.

"I liked it because it let me get to know a lot of the kids that my kids went to school with," he says. "And you keep your finger on the pulse. That way the teacher knows you're really accessible."

Of course, making regular appearances at school can be difficult for working parents with traditional schedules. Those limitations might require other approaches, such as developing an e-mail relationship with a teacher, volunteering to help with evening activities or donating treats for testing days.

It also becomes all that more important to attend parent-teacher conferences, says Chuck Smith, a child development specialist with K-State Research and Extension, who notes such visits can become more taxing as a student advances to middle and high school and has several instructors.

Making an effort to see one or more of your children's teachers sends them a positive message, he says. He recommends talking to your children about their teachers and asking them which teachers they would most like you to speak with.

Hover mode

Some parents might worry that they're getting TOO involved and, occasionally, that may be true.

"There's a term in education these days called helicopter parents," says Trish Bransky, principal at Southwest Junior High School. "When parents are extremely involved, we try to help them understand that their child needs to gain independence and learn to make decisions.

"As parents, as much as we would like to clear the path and make sure absolutely everything goes well for our child every minute, it's not feasible and it's not (always) developmentally appropriate."

She notes, however, that each child has different needs, and some require more guidance than others.

Although students tend to share less with their parents as they enter adolescence, it's still a good idea to keep the lines of communication open, Bransky says.

"Kids should know that parents are supportive and that if they run into problems, they have somebody they can count on to help them out," she says.

Short of doing their homework or telling their teacher how to teach, Jamie Hulse isn't sure it's possible to get overinvolved.

"Success in education is the best way to ensure a child's success in the world after school," she says. "We're here to support them to be their best."

Comments

Bill Chapman 7 years, 10 months ago

I think by the time I reached high school (possibly even middle school), if my parents were going through my backpack every day, I would have gotten a little upset. Of course, I was the only child of two working parents up to my high school years, and a "latch-key" child at that. By the time my parents came home from work, I usually had my homework done and was watching MAS*H on T.V. (I developed a early hatred for children's shows). This not to say my parents were not involved in my school, they were - my mom was a PTA member(I seem to remember her being the treasurer for some field trips), and my father was involved in the building of our school's playground equipment(long since torn down as being too unsafe). They were also very involved in correcting a speech problem I had in elementary school.

mom_of_three 7 years, 10 months ago

Yes, you must be an advocate for your child, especially when it comes to learning disabilities and handicaps. But you can't tell them what to teach. But you can direct them on the ways you see your child learns best, as teachers change each year.
There is a big difference between an advocate and a helicopter parent. I have two with IEP's, so I have become an advocate. I have one which doesn't need an advocate, so I need to learn not to become a helicopter. But I am always there if they need me.

costello 7 years, 10 months ago

I agree with much of what you say, Machiavelli. It reflects my experiences with the local schools too. Public schools aren't interested in working with parents, unless the parents agree with everything the school says. Since I didn't agree with the school and I wasn't prepared to just go away and let the school do whatever it wanted, I wasn't popular last year.

About of a quarter of this article consisted of a school administrator lecturing parents on parenting. The problem is it isn't the school's job to parent. Teachers teach; parents parent. Too many school employees think they know best how children should be raised.

costello 7 years, 10 months ago

I'm familiar with the term "helicopter parent" from parenting literature - particularly Love & Logic. In that context, it refers to parents who "rescue" their children, thereby denying them the opportunity to learn from the consequences of their actions. http://www.loveandlogic.com/pages/threetypes.html

A quick google search on the term reveals that educators use it to refer to parents who are overly involved in their children's lives - at school, I assume. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helicopter_parent

It would be interesting to know if it originated in the educational context and was adopted by the parenting experts - or vice versa.

lawrencechick 7 years, 10 months ago

Unfortunetly, today's teachers do have to parent in the classroom because no one is parenting at home. I find that the kids who are the best behaved are the one's who have low key parents who trust the teachers to do their jobs and let their kids make and correct their own mistakes, and hold them accountable for their mistakes. Kids today feel so entitled at home and in the classroom. There has been TOO MUCH emphasis on the individual the past twenty years in public education and we're seeing the results now in college students who have to have their parents call their college professers and argue a grade.

an_involved_daddy 7 years, 10 months ago

"The problem is it isn't the school's job to parent. Teachers teach; parents parent. Too many school employees think they know best how children should be raised."

Where do you draw the line between teaching and parenting? From all of my observation, it seems completely obvious that teachers "parent" all day long, especially in the younger years. They create rules, enforce them, encourage certain behaviours, discourage others. Doesn't that constitute parenting in some measure already?

Confrontation 7 years, 10 months ago

There aren't enough parents who actually do "parenting" at home. Their problem children are the ones who interrupt the rest of the class and keep other children from learning more. Most parents who have a problem with teachers are also those parents who created a screwed up child. I am absolutely not referring to children with legitimate disabilities. Many parents believe that their children are perfect angels, yet everyone else sees something completely different.

Christine Pennewell Davis 7 years, 10 months ago

on kid # 5 so it i easy to stand back and let the teacher teach but I did have one we had to just be on top of the teachers with, but alot depends on the kid and the teacher is very important. Not having to deal with a teacher that had an older sibling helps but that only works in a one kid home or new school district I think with having 5 kids the youngest is just going to have to hope the teachers forget about the older brothers and sisters.

Bud Stagg 7 years, 10 months ago

Let's look at this a moment...

A 50 year old teacher has been teaching around 27 years. They average 20 kids per class per year. So that means they have had experience with raising 540 kids in their career. They have spent the petter part of over 200 days each year with kids of a particular age. They've definitley seen good kids and their families and bad kids and their families. They establish a pretty close relationship with the grade school age kids. They would be a pretty good source of expertise in my book. Not all of them are good, but if they have been in the job more than 10 years, most would consider them experts. Most people would consider themselves pretty good if they had been doing the same job for 10 years.

The average "know it all" parent of their first kid who reads the "expert" books but has no "experience" has maybe 10 years of experience with their 10 year old and has 1 year experience with a kid of the 10 year old age group. They think their child is "special" and has special needs and should be taught a special way.

When these know it all parents get to their 40's or 50's and their kids are grown up, they will realize that the schools and the people in them do a damn good job. My hat is off to the educators of Lawrence.

justthefacts 7 years, 10 months ago

This article only provides basic ideas - not a road map to perfection. It basically says - do not expect a school to teach your child everything they will need to know to succeed in life; a parent must still play a role in teaching their children. No duh. Parents who want the school system to provide more then the basics may want to become more involved (and pay increased taxes) to help keep the system from collapsing.

There are many reasons why a specific administrator, teacher, school, child or program may not be living up to someone else's expectations (or demands). Those parents who are extremely disturbed with the job being done by a particular school system may want to (a) run for school board and/or (b) home school their children (if the parents have the personality/ability for it and can afford to not work - as much - but devote more time to teaching their child) and/or (c) put them in a private or special school (some provide such educations on a "sliding scale" fee basis; meaning you pay what you can afford).

There are options. You have to be persistent and patient, finding out what alternatives exist, and then following up.

Keep in mind, being involved and caring about your child's education does not mean becoming a chronic complainer. Most government workers will tell you that after hearing from the same complainer(s) over and over again, they start taking what that type of person says with a grain of salt. Plus, blaming "the world" or "the system" or "those people" for all of a child's issues (or an adult's) is rarely accurate or fair. Or helpful.

Here's a hint; if you or child cannot get along with ANYONE ANYWHERE the problem may not be with everyone else..... You do not do your child a favor if you teach them that everyone else is responsible for what happens to them in life. Teaching a child to survive and be happy in life includes teaching them how to successfully navigate in difficult social situations. That can (unfortunately) include having a few bad teachers, class-mates, or experiences in life!

monkeywrench1969 7 years, 10 months ago

I have been disappointed in administration and teachers in the past, but sometimes you just have to weather the storm and teach your child you have all types of people to deal with. I have to agree the classroom is the teacher's domain and they have the right to make the rules to control it to make sure the children have a safe secure atmosphere to learn.

One of the problems today is the cookie cutter approach to teaching. Not all children are not going to learn in the same manner, but you have to do what works with the majority...then later work with those who have a more difficult time in a creative manner while the others are working on the lessons... that is only fair.

Teaching a child to question authority and rules means they need to go to a school where you get more one on one and don't have a lot of rules to break like say...home schooling. Then you can create the rules, teach them what you want from AK Press or some other self publishing firm (much like most of the professional protestors downtown).

Then they can really be equipped for real life conflict and rules when they are older and arguing with the rest of society about life not being fair or why am I getting a ticket for speeding when there are people being robbed or more important bad stuff going on. Guess what they are probably going to get the ticket anyway AND a rise in blood pressure rather than going...I screwed up and it is my fault.

tvc 7 years, 10 months ago

My foster son was failing one of his classes. I had him go in every morning until he had a C. I asked the teacher to notify me if his grade dropped again. At the end of semester during parent teacher conferences I found out he had failed. I guess he was too busy coaching to do his side job teaching.

justthefacts 7 years, 10 months ago

Just what law or state regulation or even teaching concept says it is a teacher's job to notify a parent (foster or natural) of the daily scores a child is getting? Let me help you, there is no such rule. If you think there should be such a rule, you may want to contact the State Board of Education about adopting one, or your state law makers about enacting such a standard. Then be prepared to pay more in taxes, because we'll need more teachers if they have a legal duty to hold daily conferences with or make phone calls to the parents of all children who are not doing well in their class.

While it might be nice (and may have happened in the past) not every teacher has the time (or nerves) to hold a daily talk with every parent whose child is not doing well.

I know some home schooled children who, at age 16, started KU as juniors, and I can attest that they know the rules of society (including speeding laws) better then the average 30+ year old who went to public schools! It depends upon the parent just as it depends upon the teacher. Not every home-schooled child lead a sheltered life devoid of all social context!

Generalizations are rarely all that accurate, including this one!

monkeywrench1969 7 years, 10 months ago

I may know the 16 year old who you are talking about and they may be the exception to the rule. The point you miss is the questioning of authority is taught by a parent rather than the educational institution (until you get to college of course). Many of the 30+ year olds you point to are probably people who have been taught to question authority rather than learning rules can be helpful.

My contacts with home schooled children have been more negative GENERALLY, the poor spelling, the inability to put together a simple sentence, lack of understanding of basic rules and guidelines or to fill out a simple form. An example that comes to mind is the simple spelling of was as "wuz". How can a person get a decent job when this system of teaching is telling them follow your own rules and it will be okay. Many of the people I talk to and observe their "educational skills" who are home schooled tend to be the norm rather than the exception. They went to home schooling because this was the only option they had before dropping out totally. The reasons for home school range from getting picked on, they were trouble makers, the parents felt they could do a better job of teaching and then just handed then the basic weekly reader work book and said "do this" or they had other aspirations to be in the creative field as an artist, song writer or model and did not have time for the schedule of school. Many did not realize they will not look at your portfolio without some form of formal education ie. degree and diploma.

Emily Hadley 7 years, 10 months ago

I thought this was a great article...

But I only have nieces, not kids, so I don't see it through the local/micro perspective, just as the good general rule of being engaged with your child's education, however it works for your family. How could you not want to be, as a parent?

You always participate in your child's education, development, and decision-making, even if it is by showing indifference to their education.

I recall the friends who had to do chores or who-knows-what after school with no parental regard for needing study time, and I remember how many times I wasn't prepared because the night before, my mom settled for a quick, vague assurance that all my school work was done. We all would have done much better if our parents had been involved. Money makes it tougher, but a daily routine can combat being short on time.

monkeywrench1969 7 years, 10 months ago

One thing I remember growing up was a set schedule and the homework had to be done. I knew it would be checked if mom or dad was not around to check and see me studying at the time. I knew they would do it and if they did not I was surprised. As I got older the checking came less frequently,but I knew a spot check could happen at anytime. If I lied about it I was in bigger trouble for lying first and then for not doing the home work. They were reinforcing the rules which paved the way for following the rules at school and else where. Do I follow all rules ridgedly now, not always...You can always be creative and learn new more efficient ways of getting things done so it does not restrict your thought process to follow the suggestion of authority, the creative side is always cultivated by good teachers with innovative methods of teaching and creative excercises.

monkeywrench1969 7 years, 10 months ago

By the way , my spelling errors are more about being lazy rather than an illustration of how the instituion of formal learning failed me.

Kookamooka 7 years, 10 months ago

One of the most profound things the principal at my kids' school said at Kindergarten roundup was..."Hat's off to the parents. You know your child better than anyone and I respect that." So...yes, teachers have lots of experience teaching large groups of the same aged children who all fit into a nice little box, but each child is an individual. Children who fall outside of the "norm" (whatever that is) can and do get left behind. Parents need to advocate when that happens. Therein lies the rub.

There is too much blaming going on in the community. "It's the teachers fault." "Parents don't parent properly." There isn't one right way to parent. Parent's do the best they can under the circumstances they find themselves in. We all want what's best for our kids. So...if my family survives the compuslory education system in this country, it will be a triumph.

costello 7 years, 10 months ago

Thank you, Kookamooka!

"One of the most profound things the principal at my kids' school said at Kindergarten roundup was:'Hat's off to the parents. You know your child better than anyone and I respect that.'"

Yes! This is an attitude which is sorely lacking amongst the teachers and administrators I've come in contact with.

"So:yes, teachers have lots of experience teaching large groups of the same aged children who all fit into a nice little box, but each child is an individual. Children who fall outside of the 'norm' (whatever that is) can and do get left behind."

My son does indeed fall outside that norm. He came to me at almost 13 with a very negative history in his birth home, 4 chaotic years in foster care, and several serious diagnoses. The Catholic school I had him in in 7th grade could control his behaviors but his grades were poor. At least they treated me with some respect.

Then he spent two years in a local junior high. What a nightmare! I have never been treated with such disrespect in my entire life. The administration of that school spent more time trying to get rid of my son than educating him - including calling his GAL and asking her to move him to a different school (which she couldn't do) and calling SRS and the adoption agency alleging that I wasn't meeting my son's needs and telling them to remove him from me. It got so bad that SRS and KVC had to hold a meeting at the school and explain that I didn't cause my son's issues; he had them long before he met me.

So, in answer to the question above - where do I draw the line between teaching and parenting - somewhere before the school is actively trying to disrupt an excellent adoptive placement for a difficult child who probably will not find another family. This school decided that my parenting style and decisions about therapy didn't meet with their approval - never mind that a child with my son's issues needs a different parenting style from a "normal" child - and tried to tear my family apart.

"Parents need to advocate when that happens. Therein lies the rub."

Apparently what the parent calls advocating may be seen by the school as "helicopter parenting."

"There is too much blaming going on in the community. 'It's the teachers fault.' 'Parents don't parent properly.' There isn't one right way to parent. Parent's do the best they can under the circumstances they find themselves in. We all want what's best for our kids. So:if my family survives the compuslory education system in this country, it will be a triumph."

Well said, Kookamooka.

costello 7 years, 10 months ago

"Just what law or state regulation or even teaching concept says it is a teacher's job to notify a parent (foster or natural) of the daily scores a child is getting?"

Then the teacher shouldn't leave the parent with the impression that he will do this. This attitude - I'll only do what I'm required to do by law and/or regulation and no more - irritates me. It leaves us all - parents and teachers - scouring the rule books for justification for our own point of view. Believe me, I've scoured those rule books. It ain't fun, it takes a lot of energy, and it makes adversaries out of people who should be partners.

When my son was in 7th grade (not in Lawrence public schools), the teacher and I agreed that he wouldn't be on the soccer team if his grades went below a C average. His teacher was also his soccer coach. He attended all practices and games, so I assumed his grades were satisfactory.

Right before the final game of the season (I guess it was an important game, I'm sorry I'm not a sports fan so I don't understand the whole thing) we had parent-teacher conferences and I was given his grade report for the quarter. He had failed almost every class! And the ones he didn't have an F in, he had a D in.

When I said he wouldn't be playing in the last game, one of the teachers said, "But he's the best player on the team."

My point is if you're not going to do something, don't say you will. Don't blindside me.

lawrencechick 7 years, 10 months ago

"I am teaching my child to question authority and that is what I want to see in my child. I want him to have so much practice at it that it mellows when he ages into an age of responsiblity"

If you're determined to raise a protester go ahead, it's your kid. But my child is in school to learn, not to practice questioning authority, so please teach your child when to speak up and when to shut up.

costello 7 years, 10 months ago

"A 50 year old teacher has been teaching around 27 years. They average 20 kids per class per year. So that means they have had experience with raising 540 kids in their career."

I beg to differ. They haven't "raised" anyone but their own children. Having a child in your class isn't "raising" them.

"Not all of them are good, but if they have been in the job more than 10 years, most would consider them experts. Most people would consider themselves pretty good if they had been doing the same job for 10 years."

They know what average looks like. When a kid falls outside of average - especially below average, they immediately blame the family. They make a whole lot of assumptions about the family, then treat their assumptions as facts.

"The average 'know it all' parent of their first kid who reads the 'expert' books but has no 'experience' has maybe 10 years of experience with their 10 year old and has 1 year experience with a kid of the 10 year old age group. They think their child is 'special' and has special needs and should be taught a special way."

Yep, that's me - the average "know it all" parent. Do you hear the scorn and disrespect in your words?

For your information, I raised one son to adulthood before adopting a challenging child from foster care. I knew before I adopted that there would be challenges, but I had no idea at all how hard parenting my son would be and how completely and utterly my life would be altered. And, honestly, unless you've been there, you have no idea either. Neither do the teachers. It's easy to sit back and say, "I could parent that child better. It can't be that hard." Well, the series of foster homes he burned through before he came to me would disagree.

So, yes, my son is special and different from the average kid. And, yes, I've picked up books by experts to help me learn how to parent him. Most kids like my son fly through foster homes and schools so fast the teachers never get to work with them for longer than a few months. They never get the chance to learn how to handle them and help them flourish and grow.

For the first time in his life, and against all odds, my son has stability and an extremely motivated parent. I'll use every ounce of energy in my body to keep the school from writing him off.

monkeywrench1969 7 years, 10 months ago

Mach,

" I am teaching my child to question authority and that is what I want to see in my child. I want him to have so much practice at it that it mellows when he ages into an age of responsiblity."

This also breeds a lack of respect for others and their opinions which does not bode well when it comes even to academic debate at the adult level. Instead of well meaning debate many believe shouting down the opposing theory or in public desplays all too often seen in Lawrence chanting slogans and pounding on pickle barrels to drown out the opposing opinions becomes the norm for that person.

At school the child needs to respect the authority of the teacher if not out of respect for the teacher then for the other students who typically are in the majority who are there to learn.

Also be careful what you wish for you may be your authority when they become a teen that is questioned then you will be screaming for help from all the agencies out there for help in finding that "sweet little child they used to be." Or even better yet that may become a conservative.

costello 7 years, 10 months ago

"I am not all that interested in having a well-behaved child, one who behaves as an atomaton."

A child can be well-behaved and not be an automaton. A well-behaved child is a joy to have around. A badly-behaved one tends to be unpopular. They also tend to be unhappy. Kids want limits.

"That is what I rale against. I am not into controlling people, my child or otherwise."

Kids - particularly young kids - need to know that they have strong adults caring for them. It makes them feel safe. I'm raising a child who was given almost no supervision, rules, or limits for the first 8 1/2 years of his life. The results aren't good.

"I am teaching my child to question authority and that is what I want to see in my child. I want him to have so much practice at it that it mellows when he ages into an age of responsiblity."

I suppose there's nothing wrong with questioning authority - if it's done in a respectful manner. I'm not sure about the mellowing thing. Personally, I think you're approaching this backward. Limit kids when their young and give them more freedom as they age and get smarter.

Just curious: How does this "question authority" thing play out in school? Does your child disrupt class to question his teacher? Does he do this questioning over important matters or just because it's fun to bring the lesson to a grinding halt? I'm not a teacher, but I'm a pretty firm adult. If I had to manage and teach a group of 20+ kids all day, every weekday for 9 months, I doubt if I'd appreciate a lot of debates about minor issues. If the teacher stops to discuss everything your son is "questioning," isn't there a risk that her authority in the classroom would be compromised? What if every kid in the class decided to question authority?

I hope this works out for you and your child. I have to say I have my doubts.

anonymous10 7 years, 10 months ago

First and foremost, I would like to state for the record that there are 3 Hulse boys, not just 2. Drew (Andrew) is the oldest and is currently a Freshman in college. Secondly, I completely disagree with Jamie Hulse's point of view in this article. It IS completely possible to be too involved in your children's education!!! Honestly, I believe that good structure and checking on your kids homework situation is completely within your right as a parent. However, you also should not smother them or scream at them for not doing exactly as their told. There should be a certain point in a parent's life where they SHOULD be able to TRUST their children and give them a little freedom. Am I right Jamie?? Probably not in your eyes. There has to be an element of trust in a relationship between a parent and a child. Hounding kids to do their homework 24/7 and screaming at them all the time when they don't get it done is completely inappropriate. There is a way to be the parent and make sure things get done without being a shrew.

The point of my ramble was that parents SHOULD be involved in their children's schooling! It is so important that parents are involved and studies show that when parents are involved, children do better. However, parents, please remember that your children are just that. Giving them a fair amount of time to do other things besides homework and giving them a chance to complete the homework on their own is also something else that really goes a long way in the education and relationship departments.

Sincerely, A Fellow Teacher

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