Monday, August 9, 2010

A Parents' Back to School Supply List

A facebook friend asked last week would she be considered an unfit mother if she didn't get all the things on her child's supply list this year. One item in particular was a school box whose dimensions were spelled out in length, width and height. I mean don't those things come standard? And, aren't school boxes so 20 years ago replaced with the stylish and portable pencil pouch?

I told her unless she was building an arc, I didn't understand the specificity. As a mom and teacher getting ready to start my 17th year, I tell parents to wait until the first day of school to buy any specialty items besides your standard paper, binder, spiral notebook, crayons and writing utensils. It's a good idea to get duplicates of the items above for your kids' portable homework box ( see below).

Most of the lists are compiled by over worked teachers forced to make the beginning of next year decsions at the end of the school year. Some of the teacher that compile the list won't even be teaching much less there at the same school the next year to use the items requested. I for one taught seventh grade, but will be returning to sixth this year. I ask for one thing of my Language Arts students, a 5 subject spiral notebook/ wide rule and something to write with (preferably not a mechanical pencil or gel pen.)

Most school supply list are on steroids these days. It's a sign of the times. What our tax payer dollars don't pay for will come out of each hardworking parent's pockets in wipes, sanitizer, copy paper and tissue boxes. After you have bought half the supercenter you still can't be assured school success.

What I have learned in my roles as Mom and Teacher is that a student's organization and study routine greatly effects his/her success. There are some basic supplies that help foster an attitude for learning in your k-12 student.As a parent I think these should be at the top of your list.

1. The Question Book. It's nothing more than a mini memo pad. Remember the school store and the adorable little book you alternated writing telephone numbers and homework assignments in? Slip this memo pad in your kids pencil pouch to keep track of the questions they ask their teacher(S). Scientists will tell you learning is not just about answers but the questions generated from learning. Is your child inquisitive? Does your child come home and not remember what they learned during the day? Is your child having trouble in a particular subject but are reluctant to ask for help? The question book can help with all of these dilemmas if you review and reward your child's participation attempts. Let your child know you can easily confirm the entries with their teacher to encourage honesty.You may want to make good on this to ensure your child is not asking unnecessary questions to fill a perceived quota. Discussion of these questions are critical. Kids who participate get noticed and kids who ask questions give the teacher an indication of their educational needs.
2. Homework box and Study Routine As a teacher I hate when parents tell me, "I thought my kid did his homework," or "He told me he didn't have any." Everyday your child should have study time whether the teacher assigns work or not. School is a 23 week THINK camp. If your child was in basketball camp, he or she would play ball or study plays and complete drills pertaining to that sport all day. Likewise they should understand that basic skills should constantly be practiced. You can create a box with the basic supplies (above) so that your child can complete any homework assignment. It's portable so if homework has to be completed at grandma's or a table at McDonalds. Ideally homework or study time is completed at the same time and in the same space so your child develops a routine. With older children in middle school or high school you can talk about how they best concentrate or perform (meta cognition) and write down helpful homework helpers such as websites if they get stuck. Which leads to my next find.

3. Yes, headphones. Noise reducing headphones. I am a writer and sometimes it's hard to isolate myself from the family, phone, vacuum, washer and other bells and whistles in my home. For my birthday I was given noise reducing headphones. With noise reducing headphones, you can still hear, but all noise that would be a distraction is cast into the background. All you hear is space which lends itself to your thoughts. This makes a great gift for a college student in a noisy dorm. Even my eight year old can understand what I mean by concentrate when she has these on to finish an assignment

The Business Card No, I'm not tripping. Your child should carry business cards. There is networking to be done and our kids, particularly our middle schoolers and high schoolers should take it upon themselves to create opportunities. It's called taking initiative.I'm sure you are always telling your kids that they are college bound. Why not create an educational opportunity card that says as much. For example, Bernard Shaw, Class of 2020. College bound student. I'd appreciate any advice or help toward these endeavors. On the back should list hobbies or opportunities your student is looking for whether it be mentoring, team sports,an after school position, volunteer activities or extra credit. Just like a budding star with an agent,it's a good idea to have your contact information as a parent listed on the card. High school juniors and seniors may graduate with maturity to a card with their own information. Have your child do their own introductions on the first day and to give each of his teachers a card.( You can check up on this at back to School night). Your child should keep some on hand for coaches, community leaders or future bosses. Cards can be printed affordably on online graphic and printing retailers or photo copy centers. What better way then to show you are serious about your education?

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Day On

Don't be like me. In my haste to get a jump on the New Year and make appointments for my kids annual check-ups, I mindlessly made dentist appoinntments for my kids on my first day off in the New Year. This happened to be the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. I don't think going to the dentist is what they were thinking about when they called the holiday, 'a day on.'
As a busy parent, every day is a day on.I tried to capitalize on the flexibility of my schedule on that day. Proponents of the holiday want us to capitalize on the ministry and message of the man for which the holiday is named, hopefully creating a climate of volunterism. Giving back to our community and society as whole, now that is a novel idea.It can be an extension of the spirit of giving felt during the Christmas season or a way to exunge the guilt of gluttony. Share the wealth. Pull up our shirt sleeves and help. The MLK holiday is a way to teach our children charity and compassion for others, much more than sitting in the dentist chair with a drill pointing at your molars.
Every year I tell myself I am going to get involved with some organization and bring at least my seven year old, Ms. Gimme gimme herself, along to engage in a service project that serves a heaping helping appreciation for someone other than herself.
Despite telling my relatives that the children had very few needs,the tree was teetering with gifts for my little lady. The more she received, the more she needed and wanted. "Can I get another game for my DS?" "Can I get a case for my cell phone?" You heard right, cell phone. This was a gift from a relative. I was told to stay out of it since I am not paying the bill. The sheer volume of stuff in her room and excess makes me sick at times. It doesn't leaveher more occupied or fufilled. Late holiday cards are still coming in with a ten or twenty tucked in it, 'for the kids to get themselves something.' She can be classified among the privelaged even though her parents are not. Surely, she should be building houses somewhere and helping to furnish it with her stuff. Seriously, there must be a donation center that I can back the house up to in order to a unload her gently worn wealth.
Parting with older toys and donating them is actually a great way to begin to teach young ones to be charitable.For real, this year I'm all in (right after the early morning appointment), and you should be also. It should be eay to find volunteer opportunities right? I found a few resorces and opportunities that I list below. Get your kids involved so that they understand societal needs go beyond this one day and most of these organizations dedicated to helping others need people to give of their time, service and wealth.

Disney World has a program called Give a Day, Get a Day where the family can volunteer aone of their recognized organizations around the country and receive a voucher for a day free at any of the Disney parks. Even if you don't plan to use the one day pass, I strongly suggest you enter your zip code and scan the clearinghouse of organizations needng assistance in your area.Find info at helps you specify how you'd like to create the good. Pick Animals, Education, Hunger, seniors or even MLK Day events. They have mini videos called Howcast you can show your kids to explain how they can be of service before actually doing it.
The Volunteer family is a website of opportunities for the whole family.
Does your kids have duplicate gifts or you new toys they never used or are not interested in? Children's hospital has a toy closet of toys to give to long term patients and those seen in the clinics. They even provide toys to keep kids occupied in waiting rooms. Your kid can start a Spring or summer drive when donations are low and plan to ship or bring them to the volunteer center of the hospital. Find more info at
Mentoring is big this year. Many celebrity personalites are starting or need help funding for projects to service youth with a Mentor. You may be thinking I have my own kids with schedules to keep up wth, how can I mentor? These programs have events where kids interact with other kids. Parents can also get involved with a push of the donate button. What a powerful message sent to our kids when we give. As a family (with kids that understand the concept of money)you can decide,"Mommy wants to give to this organization. How much shoud we give? Now this may mean we don't go out to eat after church or we sacrifice that ice cream every wednesday night." You get the point. Susan Taylor left Essence magazine with a goal to mentor kids. Read her platform at supports mentoring that links men with boys, but also takes these kids to explore careers at Disney and life skills at Steve's Ranch. Michael Baisden has set up a website in the noble pursuit of getting a million mentors in ths decade. Check that out at
Whatever you do on the King Holiday don't just tell them about the characteristic of Dr. King, but honor him by showing our kids they poessess those same qualities too.