Category Archives: Extracurricular

When Your Child Starts to Fall Behind {a guideline for parents}

happy boy doing homeworkby Ria Clarke 

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As much as we, as parents, like to believe that we are on top of things, there are times when we let things slide. After all, life is stressful and filled with distractions and constant interruptions. Falling behind happens to the best of us.

But what happens when you begin to notice your student making low grades, or you get a note from the teacher that there’s an issue? What’s a parent to do? Here are some practical steps to get your child back on track.

1. Identify the problem if possible. Make a mental checklist and ask yourself important questions: Have you created a dedicated learning space at home that is free from noise and distraction? Is your child getting enough sleep? Is your child over-scheduled? Have they had a recent eye or hearing test? Are they too engrossed in gadgets or television? Rule out overlooked easy-to-resolve issues, first. 

2. Communicate with the teacher. Don’t wait for the problem to mushroom. My son’s second grade teacher has after-school tutoring for children that are falling behind. During these sessions, she gives them the personalized attention that may be impossible during the regular class period. Regular communication with your child’s teacher will help nip problems in the bud before they get out of control.

Asian Mom Daughter3. Make the necessary adjustments. If you have identified that your child is over-scheduled or is not getting enough sleep, take the necessary steps to ensure that your child cuts back on extra-curricular activities or nighttime television so that he or she is well rested. Make sure your child has all the supplies and essentials handy in their homework center and make sure that distractions are kept to a minimum. And, keep yourself in the loop on their progress by checking over your child’s homework so you catch any errors or missed problems before assignments are handed in and graded.

4. Review the material. Not all teachers offer after-school tutoring, but you can help your child by spending the time to go over concepts at home. Visit your local teacher store and purchase homework helpers and various learning aids to reinforce what your child has been doing at school. Make the review sessions short but meaningful so your child doesn’t get resentful or frustrated.

5. Consider professional help. Ask your child’s teacher for references, or check your local library or go online to search for homework help or private tutors. Investigate established places like LearningRx, Omega Learning Centers, Appleton Learning, Huntington Learning Center, or Kumon for extra help.

SonKissingMom High ResIt is also important to recognize that each child is different and learns differently. Work with your child’s teacher to help your child unlock the potential that may be locked inside. It may be frustrating at first but stick with it. Remember that practice makes perfect.

Ria Clarke is the proud parent of a second grader and a toddler. She’s also a SAHM and freelance writer of various lifestyle and educational issues. When she’s not actively involved in projects and homework or chasing down a toddler, she can be found in the kitchen baking or curled up with a good book.

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Filed under Assessments, Behavior Management, brain training, Extracurricular, Organization, Parenting, Uncategorized

Learning to Give: A Hands-On Way to Teach Generosity

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed. 

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Don’t you just love this time of year? Cider brewing on the stove’s back burner, pies bubbling in the oven, stores festooned with twinkle lights, the Salvation Army volunteer merrily ringing at the store’s front door…it’s all just so cheery. And it’s also the perfect time of year–as we all know–to teach children about the blessing of giving to others. Here is a hands-on way to do just that, as gleaned from Primrose Schools, whose award-winning character education curriculum is all about encouraging little ones to help others.

Beyond the Canned Food Drive

Stashing some cans in the bin at the gym is all well and good. It meets a need. It fills a soup kitchen. It’s a good thing to do. But–what if you took a different approach and got your children (and yourself) more directly involved in giving?

To really drive home the impact of giving to others, Primrose Schools nationwide encourage their private pre-k and kindergarten students to earn money through doing chores at home throughout the month of November, during their Caring and Giving event. The money is brought in to school each day, counted, charted and saved for a class-wide field trip to a local grocery store. There, the children use their own hard-earned stash of cash to select nonperishables off the shelves themselves, which are then loaded into the schools’ buses and taken to local community food banks.

What an ingenious way to make giving relevant to children! And, how easy to adapt with children at home, as well. Here’s how:

Set it up. 

First, designate a special spot in your home to save the money that’s just for giving. A mason jar labeled “Giving” and decorated with a cute ribbon (or decorated by your child) will do nicely. Put the jar in an important place, like on the kitchen counter or your child’s bedside table. Here’s a cute pre-made jar set from Lil Light O’ Mine, pictured right, that could be used year-round: www.lillightomine.com/shop.

Earn it.

Then, brainstorm ideas with your child on how he or she could earn money to fill their jar. Explain that the money won’t be for them this time; it will be used to help families and children who don’t have as much food or as many nice toys as your child has.

Ideas might include unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming, picking up toys, clearing the table after dinner, setting the table for dinner, helping cook, raking leaves, taking out the trash, dusting their room, feeding the pets, making your bed or a sibling’s bed as a good deed…and whatever other helpful ideas your child mentions. List the ideas, and then post the list so your child can refer to it if they get “stuck” and need a prod or two.

Set parameters. 

Designate an amount of time (like two weeks), and an amount of money a chore will earn (like $0.25 or $1). You may also want to point out to your child that they won’t get paid for doing the things they’re already expected to do, like brushing their teeth or being nice to their siblings. Together, set parameters for earning that make sense for your family.

Then, sit down together and count the money your child has earned regularly. Not only will this reinforce math skills, but it will also build excitement and a positive sense of pride in your child at the good they’re going to do.

Spend It.

At the end of the set time period, take your child to the store and help them select nonperishable food items with their money. Talk about what they’d like to eat at Christmas or Thanksgiving, and help them make their choices. But, don’t control their choices. As an adult, you may want specific items to be purchased, but let your child do a little leading, as well. Teach them the joy of giving by making the process fun! When I did this with my 4-year-old son, for example, he insisted on adding in a couple cans of Sponge Bob chicken noodle soup. More power to him!

Donate It.

Then, either have your child put the goods in a collection box at the front of the store (if there is one), or find a shelter or food bank in your community and donate the goods there, with your child in tow. If you’re not sure where one is, do a quick Internet search. Key words to try: “food bank + (your city)” or “canned food drive + (your city).”

Some nonprofit resources for the Atlanta area: 

Hope for Christmas: collects new gifts, toys and nonperishable food. Volunteers also needed.

Atlanta Community Food Bank

MUST Ministries

It’s important for children to see the whole process– from earning, to saving, to spending, to giving. Thanks for the inspiration, Primrose Schools! We agree that thankfulness is best learned through giving, and giving is most enjoyed when experienced hands-on, from the heart. 

Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed. has a bachelors in education from The University of Georgia and a masters in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. In addition to being the editor of A Learning Experience, she publishes Little Black Dress | Little Red Wagon Magazine. She resides in Atlanta with her husband, two young children, and a frisky Westie named Munson.

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Filed under Activities, Classroom Community, Extracurricular, Field Trips, Holidays, Service Learning

Dancing With the Stars (a school dance…with a twist)

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Dance the Night Away…with a Little Twist!

by Rachel Stepp

If your school has a school-wide danced planned in the spring, then you might want to suggest a way to add a ‘twist’ to the dance! It’s hard to please everyone’s groove style with one theme, such as a “Sock-Hop,” but you can easily dance through ALL of the decades with the help of teachers throughout your school.

Here’s How to Get Your Groove On:

Plan a night for the school dance where the main dancing action will take place in a large area like a gym or cafeteria. In this area, have a DJ, cool decorations, and lots of room to move around! This room can be a place for participant games and group dances, too. In a nearby room, have refreshments so that people can revive themselves after hours of fun.

But, Here’s the Twist:

Get all of the grade levels and classes involved leading up to the dance by allowing different grades/classrooms to represent different decades throughout history. For example, one grade level can represent the 80’s. In these classrooms during the weeks or month before the dance, teachers might dress in their neon and acid-washed jeans with wavy-teased hair every Friday.

Then, on the night of the dance, these classrooms can become smaller dance areas with music from their selected decade. Push the desks against the wall, bring in lights and lamps, and pump up the jam! The more that the teachers get involved in their decade, the more authentic the experience will be. And, to add to the festivities, each classroom can host decade-related contests, like “best twist,” “coolest tie-dye” and “biggest hair.”

Another twist? Classrooms/grade levels could be themed by musical genre: country western, hip-hop, Motown, Big Band, Glee…the possibilities for music and accompanying decor are endless!

Here’s How to Get Parents Involved:

Since this is a family function at school, be sure to include something around the school that parents might enjoy. You can host a silent auction in one classroom. Ask for donations of prizes from your school partners and local vendors. Set up a silent auction room where parents can visit and bid throughout the night. Announce winners at the end of the night, and allow the parents that leave early to pick up prizes from the front office the following days. Since the prizes will be donations, this activity will help to pay for the whole dance event…and then some!

And as always, make sure you have a camera handy so that pictures can be published in the yearbook or school newsletter. Kodak moments are sure to abound!

Looking for the perfect music to get you inspired? Check out these two rockin’ CDs that include instructions for simple choreographed dances to accompany classics like Proud Mary, Please Mr. Postman, and ABC (on the Motown CD) and Who Let the Dogs Out, Mambo Number 5, and Wipeout (on the Dance Party Fun CD) from The School Box. Groovy, dude.

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia…and a bountiful resource of creative ideas!

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Filed under Activities, Classroom Community, Classroom Decor, Extracurricular