Working with Schools

Why am I doing all this education stuff? That's why I send my kids to school!

~Said nearly every parent on the planet

Like it or not, schools are a primary part of your life throughout your entire child rearing years.

I remember crying when I dropped my son off that first day at the kindergarten door. Not because my baby was growing up, and not because my house would now be quiet. It was because I was turning over my baby to the large insitution known as "the school system". I knew "the system" and I would become very close...for the next 15 years!

It does not matter how you choose to educate your child, making sure they are educated is one of your primary responsibilities. We all know that a child who does not graduate from high school starts adulthood about 10 miles behind the 8 ball.

Depending on your child, reaching this seemingly simple goal may absorb the bulk of your energy.

Whether you choose public, private, community, internet, or home must be involved in the education process. 

So what do you do?

Meet the teachers. Knowing you are paying attention and interested carries a great deal of weight. Check in from time to time. Email makes this easy.

Have questions? Ask. You can't assure the child is getting the best possible education if you don't understand what is going on.

Check homework. You need to know what your kids are studying, and you would not believe the number of times I have found papers that were graded incorrectly. Pay attention.

Make sure homework is getting done. Turn off the TV, create a routine that includes homework time. If the kids need help, stop what you are doing and help them. This means that you may not get to do what you want to do for the evening because you both are doing homework. It stinks, and it's not fair, but that's the way it is.

Have supplies at home. This will make it easier to complete those projects you find out about right after you put everyone in bed.

Supplies to have on hand:

It takes just one 10pm "Mom...I have a project due tomorrow, and I need to make a poster..." 

When you don't have sufficient supplies on hand, you may find yourself loading everyone into the car for a late night school supply run. You can prevent this. You have the power...

Below are the top 12 school supplies you need to have on hand, all the time:

  1. Everything you sent them to school with on the 1st day: crayons, pencils, markers, glue, notebook paper, etc.
  2. Posterboard
  3. Construction paper
  4. Ziplock bags of every size
  5. Permanent markers-fat tips, thin tips, black, and a color that shows up on black. (They are perfect for labeling those ziplock bags too!)
  6. Old magazines with great pictures
  7. Dictionary and Thesaurus
  8. Calculator
  9. Notecards
  10. Tape - scotch and masking
  11. Brown paper bags
  12. Stapler

When there is a problem:

The bell curve is the foundation of the education structure. If your child is in the middle of the curve, behaves well, does homework, and only speaks in class at the appropriate times, you and your child will have a fabulous educational experience.

If your child is not in the middle of that curve, for any reason, just like one of my children, then your experience might be a little less than a walk in the park. 

If this is you, let me offer a few tips:

Document all conversations. If you identify a problem, or make a request, document the date, time, with whom you spoke, and the conversation.

Put it in writing. Put your requests/concerns in writing as often as possible. This is the best practice for covering yourself if there are disputes later.

If your request is for the denial in writing and ask for a copy of the rule, policy, or law that supports the denial. (There's a good chance that there is no rule.)

Ask for your hearing rights. You have the right to appeal any decision the administration makes that is not in your favor. There is no guarantee that you will win the appeal, but it is your right to request one. It is always a good idea to make the request.

Squeak. If you feel you are being ignored or that you are getting the run around, go up the chain of command. Time is of the essence. Each day that passes is one more educational day that your child is not able to maximize.

Be reasonable. Focus on what your child needs, but be open to the manner in which that need is met. For example: I have seen many parents demand a personal aide to follow a child throughout the day. An aide isn't always the answer, and can cause other problems. If the school offers solutions you had not considered, be open to trying it their way.

Monitor progress. Work with the school to identify success and benchmarks. By establishing success criteria and checkpoints, it becomes easier to get the school to make changes as needed.

Find resources. Nearly every state department of education has information for parents on their websites. It is easier to find this on some sites than others. You may have to look around.

The US Department of Education's information was more nationally based, and a random search of other countries produced some good information for parents as well. If you can not find what you are seeking, do not hesitate to contact these agencies either by phone or email.

Always be sure to request a copy of the rule, policy, or law that addresses your topic. Having a copy of the rules you are referencing makes it much easier to make your point. 

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