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Getting the school year off to a healthy start

Read King’s blog entries on raising kids at blog.childrensdayton.org.

Summer is winding down, and the school year is quickly approaching.

That means parents must take necessary health precautions to ensure their children are ready to head back to the classroom, according to experts.

We asked Dr. Melissa King, pediatrician and “Dr. Mom” blogger at Dayton (Ohio) Children’s Medical Center, to bring you the facts about everything from physicals to vaccinations for your child.

Q: Back-to-school time is quickly approaching. What do parents need to think about in regards to their children and health before kids head back to the classroom?

A: Have your kids received all required immunizations? Have you discussed with your child’s physician the vaccines that may not be required but are recommended by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics)?

Have you filled out any forms that the school has sent home, such as emergency contact and health information forms? Remember to complete all of the parent portions of the form.

Do the school nurse and teachers know about any medical conditions your child may have, particularly food allergies, asthma, diabetes and any other conditions that may need to be managed during the school day? Have you made arrangements with the school nurse to administer any medications your child might need?

Do the teachers know about any conditions that may affect how your child learns? For example, kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) should be seated in the front of the room, and a child with vision problems should sit near the board.

 

Q: When should parents start preparing their children for the school year, in regards to health concerns?

A: Starting in July or early August, you should contact your child’s doctor office to set up an appointment. It may take up to six or eight weeks to schedule a physical. Your insurance provider will only pay for one physical every 12 months. However, if you have concerns, problems or chronic health issues, then it is advisable to set up a visit before your child returns to school to discuss any limitations or restrictions.

Q: How often should children get physicals?

A: Annually.

Q: Why are physicals important for children?

A: Physicals are important for children because it is often the only time the child might see a doctor all year. This is a time for the physician or designated health care provider to touch base with both the child and their parent regarding growth issues and any questions they might have. They are also important for students participating in sports, to possibly address any health concerns related to that specific activity. A yearly physical with the same doctor also allows a relationship to be formed, which makes the child feel more comfortable, and the doctor is able to identify medical concerns because they are familiar with the child’s medical history.”

Q: How do vaccinations work?

A: “Vaccinations work by administering a dead or weakened version of the virus to the child. The body is then able to produce antibodies to fight this weakened virus. If you are ever exposed to the real disease, then your body will use the antibodies. … This is called immunity.

Q: Why should children get vaccinations?

A: To protect children from potentially serious or deadly illnesses. We have been pretty successful in the U.S., drastically reducing the incidence of certain illnesses such as mumps, rubella, polio and diphtheria with vaccination campaigns. Unfortunately, there is still more work to be done, and even with the vaccine successes, the absence of an illness in the U.S. does not mean that it is no longer an issue. Even if the virus is no longer present in the U.S., it is still important to get vaccinated to prevent the illness because of travel. There are numerous other countries that still have a high number of cases of vaccine preventable illnesses, and if your child comes into contact with one other person carrying the illness, without a vaccine they could be quickly be affected. There are also children that your child may go to school with who are unable to receive vaccines because of an underlying illness. These children become very vulnerable to an outbreak of an illness. We provide those children with more protection if we are able to vaccinate as many children around them as possible.

Q: What are the potential side effects of vaccinations?

A: Possible side effects include pain, fever, swelling at the injection site, rashes, hives, difficulty breathing and extreme irritability. Some side effects such as encephalopathy (a disease, damage or malfunction of the brain) or Guillain-Barre [syndrome] (a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system) are more serious but luckily more rare as well. I realize that if your child has a severe reaction to a vaccine, then in your world, complications from vaccines are not rare. However, if your child is infected with a vaccine preventable illness and becomes extremely ill or has complications from that illness, then in your world, the risk of infection from an illness that could have been prevented is not rare either. Parents should contact their child’s pediatrician if their child experiences any of these after a vaccine.

Q: What are the common myths about vaccinations? Why are these myths wrong?

A: Myth 1: “Vaccines don’t work.” — This is false. Most occurrences of diseases like polio, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps and now chicken pox have dramatically decreased since the introduction of the vaccines preventing each disease. The numbers of deaths related to influenza and whooping cough have declined as well; however, we still have too many of these cases as well.

Myth 2: “Vaccines aren’t necessary.” — Diseases that are prevented by vaccines still occur in the United States. If a child is not vaccinated against that disease, they are more likely to contract it. High immunization levels explain the dramatic decrease in outbreaks. If children are not properly vaccinated, the immunization level will decline, and outbreaks of the disease will increase. We have seen this occur with various illnesses worldwide when there is some trigger to vaccine avoidance.

Myth 3: “Vaccines aren’t safe.” — While some parents may worry about the side effects of vaccines, it’s important to note that pharmaceutical companies are under the strict supervision of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Vaccines are tested for years before they are approved, and all recommended vaccines are considered safe. Observation of vaccines and their safety in children also continues after the vaccine is in use. Anyone can report adverse events related to vaccines at the website vaers.hhs.gov.

Myth 4: “Infants are too young to be vaccinated.” — Many vaccine-preventable diseases strike children under the age of 2, so they are one of the most important groups to vaccinate.

Myth 5: “Vaccines weaken the immune system.” — Natural infections of certain viruses like chicken pox and measles without a doubt weaken the immune system; however, the viruses in vaccines are different from the ‘wild’ virus of the natural infection. Viruses in vaccines have been altered to the point where they will not weaken the immune system.

Myth 6: “Vaccines cause autism.” — This claim has recently been retracted, and there is no longer a link between the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and autism. Studies found that the only connection between these events is age. The MMR vaccine is usually given to children around 15 months old, and the early signs of autism generally begin to show at about 2 years of age.

 

Q: What else should parents know about preparing their children for school health wise?

A: Prepare your children for adequate sleep each night. Discourage TV, computer or telephone use after a specific time in the evening so that children are not distracted by these electronic devices when they should be sleeping. If your child has become a night owl, then you will need to make them wake up a couple of hours earlier each day until they are mimicking their school schedule. Discourage naps.

Encourage your children to eat three meals a day and include milk, fruits and vegetables into their daily intake. Discourage skipping meals at any point in time. Ask your children about their eating habits when they are not with you. Encourage them to drink water.”

Encourage regular, daily exercise for at least one hour every day for your children.

How to help your kids love school

(This post originally appeared on Parenting.com)

 (This post originally appeared on Parenting.com)

This is the longest two weeks of my entire life!" my daughter, Elisabeth, groaned last December while flopping onto the sofa. At age 4, she was experiencing her first winter break from school  -- and she wasn't happy about it. She missed her teacher, her friends, her school routine. But the more she sighed, the more I celebrated. What better evidence that her first school experience was going well?

And now it's September. How can I ensure that Elisabeth's love of school stays with her as she adjusts to kindergarten, with a new classroom, teacher, and expectations? The key, say educators and parents who've been there, will be for me to stay involved in her school life, but not to focus on academics  -- yet.

"There's a wide range of readiness among young children for reading, writing, and adding. These skills will come in time. Meanwhile, your job is to help your kids view school as a happy place to be," says Carissa Olivi, a former preschool teacher who's now on the board of education in Orange, NJ.

For some children, a positive attitude about school may require coaxing, since school presents a lot of new challenges  -- being away from Mom, making new friends, taking turns. Here's how to help your child meet those challenges  -- whether he's starting kindergarten, preschool, or a two-mornings-a-week nursery program.

1.  BE PUNCTUAL

It's not always easy to get anywhere on time with little kids, but it's worth making an extra effort to be prompt on school days. "A child may feel like an outsider if the others are already there, engaged in activities," says Marilyn Gootman, author of The Loving Parent's Guide to Discipline.

Diane Max, a mother of three in New York City, finds it can be hard for her son, Jonah, now in kindergarten, to cross the threshold if the classroom is already bustling. "It's much easier for him if we get there a bit early," she says  -- especially on "high-risk" shyness days, such as the beginning of the school year and the first days back after vacation or illness.

Being on time at the end of the day is just as important. Standing alone while the other kids are happily reuniting with loved ones can cause a young child to worry that by going to school, she risks losing you  -- or getting lost.  

Read More

2.  KNOW WHEN IT'S TIME TO GO

A main part of the "curriculum" for children starting school is learning to feel secure in the classroom even though they're away from Mom, Dad, or babysitter. You can help by trying to keep your own anxiety in check, as a child's fear is often fueled by his parents'. If you seem worried, he may decide school isn't a safe or nice place to be.

Read More

3.  TEAM UP WITH THE TEACHER

If school doesn't go smoothly for a child, it's human nature to blame the teacher. But accusations are sure to backfire, even if the teacher really is part of the problem. If you accuse him, you put him on the defensive, which is counterproductive. "Instead, say in a nonthreatening way that you're concerned for your child, and ask how you can work together to solve the problem," says Gootman. "Teachers feel positive when they see that a parent cares and is interested and concerned but not breathing down their necks or telling them how to teach." They also find it helpful if parents alert them to any information they have about how children are feeling at school. For instance, some kids may be stoic if someone hits or teases them, but cry about it when they get home. It helps to keep the teacher in the loop.

Read More

4.  RAISE YOUR HAND

To the degree that your schedule permits, help out in the classroom, participate in fund-raising, join the PTA, read the school newsletter. Your involvement lets your child know that his school is a part of your world, too. More than that, volunteering helps you watch out for your child's interests.

Read More

 

5.  QUIZ YOUR KID

To build strong connections between home and school, you need to have a sense of what's going on in your child's classroom. Natalie Cull, a mother of three in Wildwood, MS, always sits her two oldest daughters, ages 10 and 7, down at the kitchen table in the afternoon and gives them 15 minutes of her undivided attention.

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6.   REINFORCE LESSONS

Whether your child's class studies butterflies, your hometown, baby animals, or holiday traditions, the topic is a way to train kids to think, remember, make connections, and theorize, all of which are foundations for future learning. You can help by stoking your child's curiosity and enthusiasm about whatever subject is being covered at school.

For example, Schwartz is planning a trip to the local science museum now that her 6-year-old son, Jeff, is studying rain forests in kindergarten. The night after an animal handler came to his class, he excitedly recounted to her how the lizard used its tail to defend itself. "His world had suddenly expanded. He was fascinated," says Schwartz.

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7.   CLEAR THE CALENDAR

Children don't really need a slew of extracurricular activities; even a half day of school can be stimulation enough. Exhausted, stressed-out kids have a harder time adjusting to school. So don't sign up your child for anything unless she's wildly enthusiastic and begging to go. And if she changes her mind, let her quit.

Schwartz says she made a mistake when she paid for an entire year's worth of dance lessons for her son when he was 5. "He really wanted to do it, but when it was time to go to class, he'd be playing with his brothers and I'd practically have to rip him away," she explains. "If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't pay for the whole year in advance."

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Decorations make school locker 'a symbol of me'

Kids, especially girls, have always hung photos, mirrors or handmade decorations in their school lockers. Now, retailers are giving them the option of buying coordinated locker trimmings that would make interior designers jealous.Options include carpeting, chandeliers, wallpaper and a variety of accessories in bold, bright colors. Everything adheres magnetically so the products don't damage the lockers.The trend gives kids a chance to express themselves in a venue that's more public than their bedroom."The locker becomes an extension of them and their personal space," said Christy Clapper, a school counselor at Quaker Valley Middle School in Sewickley, Pa. "It gives them an opportunity to say who they are and gives them an outlet for expression."Plus, it makes the space more attractive, added Kira Harvey, a soon-to-be eighth-grader in Albuquerque, N.M."The lockers are a disgusting color," she said. The wallpaper "makes it really pretty."She and her friends at Albuquerque Academy enjoy choosing decorations that suit their personalities. Choices range from lime-green polka dots to aqua zebra stripes to pink cheetah prints."It's really fun," said Kira, 13. "We all have our own wallpaper."She also uses some of the organizational accessories to hold her cell phone and pencils.Product creators Christi Sterling and JoAnn Brewer started their company, LockerLookz, in 2010 after creating some handmade pieces to decorate their daughters' lockers. Once other students saw the decorations, their parents started calling the women asking where they could buy them.The friends decided to test-market a few products and were overwhelmed by the response."We found that locker decorating is a rite of passage. It's a really big deal to them," said Sterling of Plano, Texas. "They need to show others who they are."Retailers also loved it, added Brewer, also of Plano.  "It's a time-sensitive product that helped to drive sales," she said.Paul Buckel got the idea to create magnetic wallpaper when his daughter's friend got in trouble for covering her locker with contact paper. Buckel, who runs a company, Magna Card, in DuBois, Pa., that makes magnetic business cards and other promotional products, saw locker decorations as an exciting new merchandise line.Dee Tipps, owner of a boutique called a.k.a. Girl Stuff in Birmingham, Ala., says she "started jumping up and down" when locker decorations caught her eye. The LockerLookz decorations flew off shelves last summer, she said, thanks mostly to middle-school girls."It's like somebody has opened a safe full of diamonds," she said.Caroline McCormick, 12, remembers walking into Tipps' boutique. "The first thing I thought was, 'How can I get this for my locker?'" she said. "I wanted to make my locker be a symbol of me. I didn't want my locker to look like everyone else's."She also was happy that she could cover the locker's dreary gray metal interior.After decorating the space with a white chandelier, blue carpet and black-and-white wallpaper, Caroline considered her locker "a room that's away from my house."Buckel said schools have gotten behind the products, especially because they don't damage the lockers. Some schools in his area have hosted decorating contests, he said.The organizational products are great for kids, said Clapper, the school counselor, who tries to teach students that an organized locker can contribute to academic success."We actually spend a lot of time teaching them appropriate ways to organize their lives and their space," she said. "Some kids coordinate everything. Others you can only imagine what their bedrooms look like."

Ditching the dorm room: off-campus decorating 101

For many college kids, the dorms are home for all four years, and they're happy campers. But for many others, the opportunity to move off-campus, into an apartment or house, is a welcome lifestyle change.

Along with more autonomy and privacy, living off-campus means setting up and taking care of a kitchen, bathroom, common space and more. So once the keys are in hand, here are some tips on decorating the off-campus nest.

 

PLANNING YOUR SPACE

Typically, kids choose a group of friends to live with to share costs. Once the home's been secured, have a group discussion about what the common spaces will look like, advises Sabrina Soto, Target's home style expert. Come prepared with a list of things that matter to you, but "be willing to compromise," she says.

There are sure to be taste differences among housemates, so it might be best to keep common spaces neutral. Janice Simonson, an IKEA design spokesperson, points out an added bonus to doing so: "A monochromatic or limited color scheme can go a long way towards visually calming a small, crowded space."

Paint is a good way to bring color and life to a room, if the landlord permits. If not, look for wall decals and posters. Instead of tacking up art with pushpins or tape, use inexpensive frames for a more grown-up look.

Double check on existing window treatments before heading for the curtain aisle. If you've got to buy, get twin packaged drapes, interesting fabric shower curtains in pairs, or easy stick up blinds like Redi-Shades.

 

COLLECTING STUFF

First, see what you can scrounge from families and friends or get secondhand. Find out if your space's current renters — often graduating students — are willing to leave large items. Fill in the holes with inexpensive pieces that can take some hard living.

Two students at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Aimee Ciancarelli and Rachel Michaud, got creative when they moved into a Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment together last January.

"At Goodwill, we found a vintage phone, a shelf and some cute bottles. We got a free couch and chair from Craigslist. And we decorated the walls with our own artwork," Ciancarelli says.

Bob Koch, a senior at Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y., says his R2D2 trashcan gave his place some character, but the best purchase was "this huge beanbag chair — it was everyone's favorite thing in the apartment."

Simonson advises "multi-tasking."

"Invest in pieces like a sofa bed with slipcover that can convert to an extra bed and features storage underneath," she says.

Side tables like IKEA's Lack series can be grouped, and also used as seating. Shelving units do double duty as space dividers and clutter busters. Inexpensive mirrors can work as art, space expanders and convenient primping stations in a houseful of kids when everyone's getting ready at the same time.

Some retailers offer a shopping checklist: Target has one you can customize, sharing it on social media sites with roomies, and then printing it out at in-store kiosks or sending it to your smart phone.

If your sleeping space is now larger, consider getting a full-size bed.

"But invest in new bedding," Soto advises. "It's where you can really have fun with color, and define your personality."

A reversible comforter with a solid hue on one side and a pattern on the other gives you style options.

For an all-guy house, consider the Discos bed and bath collection from the online artwear collective Threadless; available at Bed, Bath and Beyond, it features an LP graphic. IKEA's got some bold, patterned bedding like Vannerna and Dvala.

Bath accessories with punch will make 8 a.m. classes easier to face. Kids' departments have whimsical items such as woodland-creature soap dispensers and girly textiles. Urban Outfitters has city map and batik-printed shower curtains that would suit a unisex bath.

Transition spaces like entryways need decor, too; get a console or bench to drop keys and mail, with a small accent lamp for late-night homecomings. Add some art and a washable rug.

"Floating shelves are one of my favorite shared-home solutions," Soto notes. "Without sacrificing floor area, they give you extra space and let you get creative."

Think about what you'll actually use and don't overbuy in the appliance department, or in electronics. And leave any treasures in a box or at home with your parents.

 

THE KITCHEN

A full-size kitchen will be new for most college renters. It can either be a super-size, cereal-soda-and-ramen depot or a place where fun, healthy meals come from. Buy items that are durable, microwavable and dishwasher-safe.

Walmart offers a good selection of stoneware dinner sets for under $30; Target has inexpensive, practical, white dinnerware and the Room Essentials' colorful utensils collection.

Is someone a budding chef or baker? Off-price stores such as Homegoods have several high quality brands for more serious cooks.  

Room parent checklist for back to school

Originally published on Live Simply by Cozi

 

Room parents (a.k.a., room moms, classroom aides, volunteer coordinators) are the magic ingredient of every elementary school year. Without these critical volunteers helping our teachers, planning celebrations and communicating with parents in the classroom, school would be a much duller and less organized place.

And if that room mom is about to be you (and it looks like it is since you're reading this article!)–congrats for stepping up! Use our handy checklist to get organized and make it a memorable year for all, especially the kids.

Capture all the details

Schedule a teacher meeting at the start of the year to learn about his/her needs, preferences and expectations:

  • Ongoing volunteer support needs: table-time helpers, weekly readers, science lab & materials prep, and recess supervisors
  • Classroom activity dates and support needs: field trips, career day, open-house, assemblies
  • Contact information: How does the teacher prefer to be contacted by you & by the other class parents? What are school policies for gathering and releasing parent contact information?   
  • Teacher’s “favorites”: Find out what (s)he likes as a gift guide for parents and thinking ahead toTeacher Appreciation Week: favorite meal, beverage, restaurant, store, treat, charity, sports team, hobbies, etc.
  • Classroom party dates and plans:
    • How many? Who plans (teacher or parents)? 
    • Food requirements (healthy or sweets)?
    • Food allergy considerations
    • Timing and activities/games/crafts?
Build an annual calendar of all events and volunteer needs

Publish it on multiple channels so all parents see it (the class website, a paper handout, via email, on online volunteer calendars). Tip: Online signup sheets from VolunteerSpot.com make it easy for parents to choose when and how to help–with a click from their smartphones or computer. Automated reminders keep parents on track and personal assignments can be downloaded to a parent’s Cozi calendar.

Reach out and start organizing
  • Welcome Letter: Send parents a welcome letter including your contact information, important dates, and instructions about how to sign up to help. (Here is a sample letter to help you get started.) This is also a great opportunity to ask parents if they have special interests or talents they would like to share with the class (e.g. gardening, music, photography, cultural experiences). 
  • Get Support Early: Ask parents to sign up to help at the beginning of the school year for activities throughout the year. Offer options so working parents or those with young children can pitch in from home (e.g. sending snacks or treats, preparing and purchasing supplies).
  • Budget: If there is a teacher holiday gift, birthday gift, or party funds needed, create a budget and alert parents at the beginning of the year. Be clear what is optional (teacher gift money) and what is mandatory (party supply and field trip fees).
  • Delegate: Don’t fall into the trap of trying to do it all yourself. Be specific about what jobs need doing and when, and invite other parents to participate in organizing parties and activities. Do identify your most active volunteers and call on them when you are short – and show your appreciation! They’ll keep coming!
  • Be professional and cautious to NEVER release contact information without permission or share sensitive information you may be privy to as a room parent.
  • Be Proud. You’re a great role model for all the children!

For more helpful tips on being a room mom, please see VolunteerSpot’s Room Mom Survival Guide and Class Party Planner.

Room Parent Checklist - Condensed for Download
  • CAPTURE DETAILS WITH THE TEACHER
  • Define ongoing volunteer needs
  • Record classroom activity dates and support needs
  • Discuss contact preferences for teacher and parents
  • Find out teacher favorites
  • Decide on classroom party dates and plans
  • BUILD A CALENDAR OF EVENTS AND VOLUNTEER NEEDS
  • Publish on multiple channels
  • START ORGANIZING
  • Send parents a welcome letter
  • Ask parents to sign up early in the school year
  • Create and communicate the budget, if applicable
  • Invite parents to participate throughout the year
  • Be professional and cautious with sensitive information
  • Be PROUD!

 

Karen Bantuveris is the founder & CEO of VolunteerSpot, a time and sanity-saving online coordination tool that empowers busy parents, teachers and grassroots community leaders by making it easier get involved. Karen lives in Austin, Texas with her daughter and husband. @VolunteerSpot @VSpotMom

3 great tech tools for busy moms at back-to-school

Reprinted with permission from

 

What’s a busy mom to do? Tech to the rescue! Guest blogger Carissa Rogers is here to share time saving tips just in time for that back-to-school rush!

by Carissa

August supplies meteor showers, hot afternoons and the crazy of back to school time! Shopping for school clothes, school supplies and plenty of worrying about class schedules or the perfect-fit teacher are enough stress for any mom to handle. What a mom doesn’t need is more stress about her OWN schedule.

Food On The Table

Throughout the summer, it’s easy to fly by the seat of your pants when it comes to meal time. A hot dog at the pool or nachos at the ballpark work May through July, but once the school year sets in, you need a plan to sit down and enjoy meal time together. Food on the Table is a mobile app that helps you plan meals around the sales at your local grocery stores with quick, kid-friendly recipes and an organized grocery list.

VolunteerSpot

The last things you need on the first day of school are multiple clipboards of sign up for this, list your email for that. Imagine a free online sign up sheetwhere long reply-all email chains are a thing of the past! With VolunteerSpot, a room mom or teacher quickly sets the schedule of needs and parents sign up to help with a tap on a smartphone or click of a mouse – it will even remind them before the event. Magic!

VolunteerSpot is terrific for organizing classroom readers and parties, your library and carnival volunteers, soccer snack schedules and tournaments, or just about any other parent supported activity. Be sure to tell your child’s room mom to check out VolunteerSpot.com! And best of all, because it’s so easy to sign up to help, MORE parents get involved and that makes less stress for all of us!

*You can even jump over to VolunteerSpot’s facebook page for a chance to WIN $500 in School Supplies for your favorite school!

Cozi

When the kids head back to school, they also head back to sports schedules, music lessons, school projects, you name it. Which means parents head back to the mad scramble involved in making sure everyone gets dropped off and picked up (with the right gear in hand), not to mention volunteer stints, PTA events, birthday parties, teacher appreciation duties and so much more. If you try to remember and take care of all this yourself, your head might explode.

Cozi gives you a place to park your whole family calendar in one place, so everyone can see it – whether from a computer, a smartphone, or a tablet like the iPad. No need to sync; since all your family’s schedule (and lists) are shared in one account, everyone sees the same thing. Add an appointment, input the school calendar, even include all the times and locations of the soccer schedule – including notes like “bring the potluck dessert” or “meet at the front gate”.

Back to school can be a calm and fun experience for everyone. Jump in with these techy tools to get your mom-world organized and take out the stress!

……………..

Do you have any back to school tips to share? We’d love to hear how you stay organized!

About the author: Carissa Rogers is a busy mom of 3 and blogs atGoodNCrazy.com and VolunteerSpot. When she’s not playing photographer, dancing up a storm, leading the PTO, or chasing kids to and fro she’s connecting, consulting, freelancing and lots of other ings …a mom of all trades.

Back to school night tips

Reprinted with permission from

 

Originally published on Live Simply by Cozi

 

With school kicking off, Back to School night is one of the most important nights of the year. You get to meet the teacher for the first time, see the classroom, and fuel your child’s enthusiasm for school‒setting the tone for a positive year ahead!

Back to School night is QUICK, typically only 30-45 minutes, so use these tips to get the most out of this important (and fun) evening.

Back to School Night Tips
  • Get a sitter. If your school doesn’t provide child care, arrange for a babysitter. Back to School Night is usually for parents, not kids.
  • Arrive early to get a parking spot and make it to the room on time.
  • Ask questions that are pertinent to the entire class such as homework expectations, parental support needed during the year, or questions related to upcoming class projects or units of study. Questions about your child’s circumstances or special needs should be addressed privately with the teacher. 
  • Think about what kind of volunteer job you would like to have this year. If you’re extra busy, opt to be a classroom reader or help with a weekend activity like the school garden or a fundraiser. Do you have a more flexible schedule? Consider a weekly volunteer spot helping with math stations or art projects. Those who like to plan parties and coordinate people will make a perfect Room Mom. Have a special skill to share like computers, music or science? Tell the teacher that you’re willing to pitch-in for an enriching year!
  • Bring an open mind. The same qualities that make the teacher great with kids don’t necessarily make her great with adults. Your teacher may be nervous with an entire room full of parents. Be patient and understanding as she shares the year’s game plan.
  • Find your child's desk and leave a note. Your child will squeal with delight when they find a friendly note from Mom or Dad the next morning. Think something simple like, “It was fun meeting your teacher. I know you’ll have a great year!”
  • Exit swiftly. Tomorrow is a school day and as much as she loved meeting you, your child’s teacher would appreciate getting home and getting ready for the next day.
Back to School Night strategies for parents with multiple kids in the  same school
  • Divide and conquer. Split up the classroom visits.
  • If an older sibling had the same teacher, consider visiting another time to check in.
  • Watch the clock. Divide time evenly between classrooms.  
  • If you’re going to miss a teacher or can only visit briefly, send the teacher a quick email explaining why and ask for copies of handouts shared with parents.

Time-Saving Tip: Tell your teacher or room mom to skip the clipboards this year.VolunteerSpot’s free online signup sheets make it easy for parents to sign up to help (24/7, with a click from their smartphone or computer)–so more parents participate! Automated reminders keep parents on track and personal assignments can be downloaded to a parent’s Cozi calendar.

Your excitement about the school year will translate to your kids in more ways than you know. Make sure to share your Back to School Night experience with your kids when you get home, relaying fun details you liked about the classroom and the special qualities you saw in the teacher which you know will make for a great school year!

12 easy ways to help your child's teacher

Reprinted with permission from

 

It’s time to jump back into the chaos of the school year. While the transition can be tough for parents and kids, imagine what a big change it is for teachers.

Now imagine how we as parents can help smooth out the start of the year—and make sure it continues down that path–by helping our child’s teacher and making her feel appreciated from day one.

Start Off the Year With a Bang

1.  Give the teacher a welcome basket with coupons, school supplies, and little goodies like granola bars, flavored tea, stickers, mints, and chocolate.

2.  Volunteer to help with classroom set-up (getting bulletin boards decorated and desks in place).

3. Take pictures of the teacher with each child on the first day of school. The kids will love it, and it makes for a wonderful memory at the end of the year.

4.  Set up a parent schedule to supervise at recess or lunch time to give the teacher a break (VolunteerSpot’s free calendar signup sheets makes it easy for parents to help out when it fits their schedule).

5.  Start a meal circle where parents take turns bringing lunch or a special morning treat to the teacher once a week; if you band together, you’re turn will come up about two times per year.

6.  Share your strengths. If you’re artistic, offer to make cool signs to jazz up the classroom; if you’re musical, lead songs at the class party; scientific or techy, help with experiments or share computer skills with the class.

Keep on Showing Your Support

7.  Save coupons and gift cards for office supplies throughout the year.

8.  Share a skill or a family tradition (heritage, interesting job, hobby, etc.) with the class.

9.  If you can’t help out at school during the day, offer to take prep work home for the teacher. “Office work” is always needed in getting materials and supplies prepared, especially in the lower grades.

10.  Attend your parent-teacher conference with an open mind and questions ready. Together you'll establish a supportive team for your child.

11. Keep an eye out for discounts or free passes for things the teacher can do with her own children, like movie tickets, restaurants, and local performances.

12. One of the best things you can do is simply send your kids to school well-rested, well-fed, and with assignments complete so they are ready to learn.

Remember the more involved as a parent, the easier it is for the teacher to concentrate on her oh-so-important job of educating your children. Get excited, get involved, and get your school year off to a fabulous start!

 

About the Author 

Karen Bantuveris is the founder and CEO of VolunteerSpot -- free online signup sheets save time and make it easy to organize parents for just about anything: classroom helpers, snack schedules, carnivals, library volunteers, parent-teacher conferences and more. Karen lives in Austin, TX with her husband and daughter.

Avoiding family fundraiser fatigue

Reprinted with permission from

 

Fall feels like a never-ending cycle of fundraising catalogs and calls for help with the various activities our kids are involved in -- schools, Scouts, and sports leagues all rely on this time of year for their major fundraisers. To complicate matters, parents are the ones called on to organize the events – school carnivals, book-fairs, wrapping paper and candy sales.

These fundraisers are important – our schools and groups are cash-strapped and need parent support to give our kids the best possible experiences. While most parents genuinely want to help, fundraisers can stress family budgets and quickly become overwhelming. Here are some simple strategies for avoiding family fundraising fatigue, supporting your groups, and having more fun with your family in the process!

5 Tips to Avoid Family Fundraising Fatigue

Pick and Choose

Call a family meeting and make a list of all your upcoming fundraisers and volunteering demands. Set a budget for your family (or per child) then pick and choose the activities you want to support.  For groups like schools that have several fundraisers coming up, think more in terms of your family’s overall giving goals than participating in every single activity. Let your kids know ahead of time that you’re sitting out the cookie dough sale this time, but will be participating in the school carnival and walk-a-thon.

Gifts beyond Money

If supporting your school or group with a check isn’t in the cards this year, consider sharing your time, talents and connections. Can you staff a booth at the school carnival, work an extra shift at the concession stand, design flyers for the talent show, or whip up treats for the bake sale? Involving your kids makes it even more fun and meaningful.

Carnival, sporting events and auction planning teams are always looking for creative donations.  Do any of your friends or family have extra sports and event tickets that can be auctioned or raffled off?  Do you have connections at local restaurants, spas or merchants who may be able to offer in-kind donations? 

Go Big on FUNdraisers

Participate generously in your school and team community-building activities like carnivals, walk-a-thons, and BINGO and movie nights. The more the merrier! Invite your neighbors and friends to join you and consider buying extra tickets for families who may not be able to afford it.  Not only will your whole family have a ton-of-fun, you’ll be helping raise money for a worthy cause!

Be Bold – Organize!

Offer to coordinate the event volunteers and use VolunteerSpot as your secret weapon to save time and sanity in the process. (http://www.VolunteerSpot.com) VolunteerSpot is a free and easy online coordination tool that makes it a snap to schedule, sign up and remind volunteers. It can be used for almost anything -- school carnivals, walk-a-thons, concession stands, book fairs, holiday boutiques – and no one has to know how easy it was for you to set it up!

Share and Share a Like

As fall passes, fundraising obligations may slow down, but they won’t go away; as long as budgets stay tight there will be more needs in the spring and next year as well. Talk to parents at other schools and other communities about their most successful fundraisers and share ideas with your groups.

***

Whether you choose to buy three tubes of wrapping paper, attend the school carnival with your family, or organize the book fair, have fun this year and know your efforts are appreciated and make a difference to your school and community!  

 

About the Author 

Karen Bantuveris is the founder and CEO of VolunteerSpot -- free online signup sheets save time and make it easy to organize parents to help for just about anything: classroom helpers, snack schedules, carnivals, library volunteers, parent-teacher conferences and more. Karen lives in Austin, TX with her husband and daughter.

10 smart tips for parent classroom volunteers

Reprinted with permission from

 

When you're asked to volunteer in your child's classroom this year, seize the opportunity! Not only does your child's teacher really need your help, volunteering in the classroom shows your children that you value their education. According to recent research cited by the Parent Teacher Association, parental engagement in a child’s education increases student achievement, improves attendance and reduces the dropout rate.

How do you make the most out of your classroom experience? Seasoned teachers androom moms share these suggestions to make classroom volunteering fun and truly helpful for everyone -- the teacher, the kids, and you!

10 Smart Tips for Parent Classroom Volunteers

1.  Volunteer for something you already find fun or interesting. If you can’t stand messes, stay away from art day; maybe instead you'll enjoy organizing student cubbies or weekly folders. If you like the quiet zen of reading, offer to be a reading buddy, notthe recess helper.

2.  If you can't make it, call, text, or email.  Alert the teacher right away if you can’t make it, and try to find a substitute yourself.

3.  Don’t be late. Show up in the classroom when scheduled, your teacher is counting on you. Be sure to leave plenty of time for parking and to pick up a visitor’s pass.

4.  Leave your cell phone in the car. Volunteer time isn’t social time. There’s nothing worse than a parent’s cell phone dinging every 5 seconds when they are supposed to be reading Cat in the Hat.

5.  Honor the lesson plan. Your child’s teacher spends a lot of time organizing the day’s activities. It’s her gig, her way – ask for direction and then follow through.

6.  Help ALL kids. Remember to be inclusive and support all kids in the classroom, not just your own son or daughter or the kids you know.

7.  BURP: Be Understanding, Responsible & Positive. A bright smile and a heaping dose of praise goes a long way in a classroom full of 7 year olds!  Refer discipline issues to the teacher and reinforce classroom behavior expectations.

8.  Respect student privacy. Special needs, grades and performance are private and must be confidential. You wouldn’t want another parent talking about your child, so please keep your thoughts (and judgments) to yourself.

9.  Follow school guidelines.  Background checks are required in some districts and others have rules prohibiting younger siblings in the classroom. Take the time to ask your teacher what’s required before you volunteer.

10.  Have fun! Enjoy this special time with your children.  Soon enough your kids won’t want you helping in their class at all!

 

About the Author 

Karen Bantuveris is the founder and CEO of VolunteerSpot -- free online signup sheets save time and make it easy to organize parents to help for just about anything: classroom helpers, snack schedules, carnivals, library volunteers, parent-teacher conferences and more. Karen lives in Austin, TX with her husband and daughter.

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