How can I help?
Some tips for getting involved in your children's education, according to the U.S. Department of Education:¢ Read together.¢ Be careful about too much television time.¢ Establish a family routine with scheduled homework time.¢ Take time to talk to your children about school.¢ Set high expectations for children by having them enroll in challenging courses.¢ Keep in touch with your children's school, including teachers.
The transition to junior high school can be uncertain and awkward - for kids and their parents.
The schools are bigger, with more students, staff members and classrooms. But there still are ways for parents to stay involved with their child's school and education, especially when it comes to after-school or extracurricular activities.
Central Junior High School parents group co-leader Nora Murphy knows the challenges. Parents often are ready to take a break from volunteering after devoting their time and effort during the elementary years, and some of them are re-entering the work force or pursuing a degree they've put off while their kids are younger.
Plus, "there is a powerful disincentive for parents to be involved because their children, in the teen years, resist having parents visibly active in their lives," Murphy says.
At CJHS, the parent group jumps in early and uses frequent and open communication to spread the word.
"We start the seventh-grade parents off in a positive direction, encouraging them to get involved in something right away to establish a connection with the school and with other parents," Murphy says.
Each student's household is expected to contribute two hours of service work to the school a semester, Murphy says. The group offers a variety of volunteer options, from big events like the school's annual Fun Run to smaller activities that parents can do on their own.
"The schools run without any fat in the budget," Murphy says. "Many nonessential but wonderful aspects of junior high will not happen without their input."
At Southwest Junior High School, Carol Reynolds coordinates the parent volunteers.
Recently SWJHS parents helped with the school's book fair, parent-teacher conferences and annual Dogtoberfest event, which includes an all-school dance and carnival-type activities. Once a month, several parents prepare "a whole spread" for teachers to show appreciation for their efforts, she says.
Reynolds thinks her volunteer service at the school and with other organizations through the years helps set a good example for her four children, including daughter Katie, a SWJHS freshman.
"My kids have learned from watching me. That is what you're supposed to do - you're supposed to help other people," she says. "When a parent is involved in their child's life at school and otherwise, the kids have the opportunity to be successful in life."
Sue Willoughby, president of South Junior High School's Cougar Parent Organization (CPO), says the group's main activities involve providing food for staff members during parent-teacher conference days and treats during Teacher Appreciation Week in May.
She and her husband, Mark, do several things to stay up to date on their sons' activities. They have two boys at South: Troy, a ninth-grader, and Shane, an eighth-grader.
"I check the school Web site daily and e-mail teachers, coaches, counselors," Sue Willoughby says. "We helped the boys decide which classes to take, and we help them with homework and studying."
Parents want to keep the lines of communication open with their teens, she says, and school activities are a natural way to do that.
"It's critical to ask lots of questions and know where they are and who they are with," Willoughby says. "Rules regarding cell phones and computers have to be in place, too."