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Jump In – the Water’s Warm!

Parenting

I’ve just returned from the 2011 Mom Congress in Washington, DC, and I find myself swimming in ideas, drowning in a pool of excitement and riding the advocacy wave of passion. Ends up making small changes not only results in large gains for our schools and children, but is also incredibly easy! Here are two ideas.

Kindergarten and beyond: Getting kids ready for the school year

I have a feeling I’m not the only parent out there who wondered what my child needed to know to hit the ground running in kindergarten. Ends up we just couldn’t afford preschool, and we didn’t qualify for Head Start, so I set out on my own to find materials to help get her ready. There’s a wealth of information on the Internet (try www.education.com or https://www.preschoolerstoday.com/resources/readykinder.htm). But what of parents who lack the resources to seek out this information? What can we do to try our best to get every child on the same page on the first day of classes? Well, what if each spring schools gave all families of incoming kindergartners a list of skills they should have mastered by the fall, along with a list of books they should read with their children, with age-appropriate assignments for these books, some worksheets children can complete with their caregivers, and even a book to get families started? What if we did this for all grade levels? What if we translated materials into the native languages of each family?  I envision the start of a beautiful family-school relationship.

Reach out and touch someone: Teaching parents how to be involved in their children’s education

Before heading to the Mom Congress I polled all the teachers at my daughter’s school, St. Rose Elementary in Chelsea, MA, and asked them what single most important change they deemed necessary to improve education. The overwhelming answer was to increase parental involvement. Given all the research indicating that this single factor can vastly improve student performance I could not agree more. Many parents at our school feel they are under qualified to help their children, participate in classroom activities, or even communicate with teachers and administrators. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, a child has no better advocate than her caregivers. Schools would do well to actively reach out to parents and, not only invite them to be a part of the system, but give them the knowledge and confidence to successfully navigate it. Family literacy nights, classroom celebrations, school-wide meet-and-greet opportunities and differing times of the day, and volunteer opportunities are great ways to get parents through the doors. Once we have them we have to make explicit the ways in which they can engage in their children’s education. Parents themselves make great teachers for other parents and can more easily establish relational trust with all of the families in a school’s community. What an amazing, low to no-cost way to help our children!

So dig out your swimming gear (if you’re in my part of the country, that’s a lot of digging) and jump on into bettering your child’s future. It’s always a good day to start!

This post was originally written for the White House Champions of Change series.

Susana Carella, the 2011 Mom Congress delegate from Massachusetts, has a lifelong passion to provide children with top-notch educations. As a graduate student she focused on topics like the benefits of Head Start or the effects of income inequality on our educational system. She then went to work with a group of educators as a researcher and grant writer developing evidence-based educational interventions addressing maternal and child health issues. Her most rewarding career, however, has been that of mother.

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