Category Archives: Family Environment: Includes Parenting and Work at Home Tips

Back to School: The Parent To Do List

The Parent To-Do LIST

It’s August, and that means many families are gearing up for back to school. Here is a list of items every parent can do to make the transition back to school easier for students of all ages. Remember, Great Preparation = Success!

1. Calendars

Each family should have two types of calendars — a digital one and a paper/wall calendar. The digital calendar, google or iCal, is detailed with exact times/dates/locations. The wall calendar provides a visual for your family, which anchors them to time and dates.  It will include general events such as the start of school, a wedding, a sporting event, routined extra-curricular classes.

A recommended wall calendar
From Papersource $29.95

Here’s your list for this section:

  • Set up your google calendar or iCal for each member of your family. Go to your child’s school calendar and input dates for the year into your calendar. See if there is a way to share calendars or update calendars so that you do not have to input each date manually. Get your older children involved in sharing their calendars with you — teach them the basics of digital calendaring including how to input an event, a repeating event and how to put in locations and invite others to events.
  • Buy the wall calendar and post in a central location. The kitchen is a pretty popular spot for many families. Have your children help you put in the key dates for the first few months of school. This will provide them security for the transition back to school as well. If you have more than one child, choose a color for each one.

2. Organize Your Stuff

Before school is a great time to get things organized. I have a few key rules for organization. You can use this as your to-list for this section.

  • No one should own more things than they can take care of.
  • Everyone should learn how to organize their things by sifting  and placing (dump everything from one category into a pile and keep what you love and what serves a purpose – give away/throw away all else; and then place back what you will keep into ONE place).
  • Maintenance of organization is the hardest work and needs time and a personalized strategy to be successful. For children, it is important to build time into their schedule to enter dates into calendar, place new items into spaces, or tidy up messy areas.

3. Order/Shop

After you’ve gone through what you have, you should spend time gathering what is needed for the start of school. Most schools have supply lists. You can also read our blog on suggested school supplies.

Involve your child in the process of buying clothes, back packs, and school supplies because it allows them to transition well back to school.

4. Complete Paperwork

Ah, the fun part of the back to school time for all parents is here!

  • Go grab a file box and start to pile up the forms you need to fill out. Teach your children to place forms from school into these trays.

    Poppin File Tray $24
  • Create a folder on your desktop to  house digital forms such as medical records and other pdf documents.
  • Invest in a quality scanner to help you digitize forms you want to keep. This will also help your children to scan homework assignments and other documents.
Scan Snap Scanner — an investment, but well worth it! amazon.com $429.95

5. Get Into Routines Again

About 2 weeks before school begins, it is important to get students back into school routines. They will need to have this time to get into the rhythms of sleeping, eating, and working.

  • Establish bedtime routines and morning routines. If you want tips on how to do this, read a blog I wrote about how to establish morning and afternoon routines for some additional ideas.
  • Many students need to use the two weeks before school begins to work on summer work and to boost areas of reading and math. If you need support in these areas, consider contacting us at info@evolveded.com or 917-388-3862 to book a tutor via Skype or in person during this crucial time.

 

Enjoy the last days of summer where ever you are! Here’s a short- hand list of the to-dos included in this blog for your reference:

  1. Calendar (digital and wall)
  2. Organize your Things (sift, place and maintain)
  3. Order and Shop
  4. Complete Paperwork
  5. Get into Routines Again

 

 

What Happens When Summer Comes and Students Take the Road Less Traveled?

What Happens When Summer Comes and Students Take the Road Less Traveled?

By: Gina Rotundo

To do summer work or not to do summer work, that is the question

In just a few weeks, I will begin a familiar battle with my kids. Should they be doing academics during the summer? For one daughter, homework is assigned, but usually not collected nor graded. For the other, no summer work is assigned. Both scenarios make my job even more difficult. How can I MAKE them do summer work? As I was plotting out our summer plans, it occurred to me there are more plans this year with camps, traveling, family time…I realized, the battle this year would be bigger than ever.

Why DO I CARE SO MUCH?! Why do I so desperately want them to do work over the summer? Why can’t I be more relaxed about it? The answer to these questions lies in my experience. My kids are entering 5th and 10th grades. Over the years, I have tried everything, including not making them do anything at all.

If they take the road most traveled and do nothing all summer long, I KNOW what will happen for the first three months of the next school year and it’s worse than the summer battle. Not to mention, it is unfair to their teachers that they have to spend so much time on material from the previous year. So, this year I decided to hire a tutor who is flexible and can meet both in person and via FaceTime when we are away.

Here is why I insist my kids take the road less traveled, but the one that WILL make all the difference, just as it did for Robert Frost.

Continuity Insurer: If your students don’t spend time over the summer maintaining knowledge and skills, they will ride the infamous Summer Slide. And, just like real slides, going down is fast and easy. Climbing to the top, especially when you’re doing it over and over again is exhausting.

Stress Releaser:  September – December at EEC is MAYHEM and it gets really bad after the first report card, especially for those in new schools. Transition is hard, especially for kids. Give your child the benefit of a smooth transition. In our house, school ends, but tutoring continues. Yes, our tutor will visit or Facetime with my kids each week, just as she does all year long.

Confidence Booster:  Summer study is the only time your children can study and not be measured by an arbitrary and sometimes unfair system of grades. Summer assignments or summer camps that incorporate learning do it for the Love of Learning and that is something we all need more of!

Learning Style Facilitator: During the off months, educators and kids can freely explore how one learns best. Without the pressure of due dates, strict schedules and bedtimes, kids can explore the many different ways to learn and determine what works best for their individual learning styles.

Social-Emotional-Physical Enhancer: During the summer, academics and skills can be reinforced and learned outside, poolside, in the park, at the museum and through new mediums – one-to-one in person, Facetime, small groups, etc. Learning in new and relaxed environments allows one to thrive and will ultimately contribute to one’s intellectual growth.  

Contact us for a free phone consultation on how to get your kids studying this summer! 917-388-3862 or info@evolveded.com

 

To Watch or Not To Watch; That is the Question: 13 Reasons Why You Might Not be Able to Control What Your Kids Watch, But You Can Control How They Process It

To Watch or Not To Watch; That is the Question: 13 Reasons Why You Might Not be Able to Control What Your Kids Watch, But You Can Control How They Process It

By: Mary Miele and Gina Rotundo, The Evolved Education Company

If you have not already heard about it, 13 Reasons Why is a series on Netflix that many young people are watching. In the series, a teenager commits suicide and she blames 13 people in her life. The mystery of how she came to her decision is revealed in a series of tapes she leaves behind. The series has been banned in places like New Zealand because adults feel it is too graphic and too upsetting to young people. The series is based on the New York Times bestselling novel by Jay Asher. It has been translated into 35 languages and is also an International Best Seller. It has been on my bookshelf for a couple of years. I knew it was a mystery about a girl’s death, but never knew it was about a suicide. It’s no wonder my daughter never read it.

In NYC, schools are sending messages to parents warning them to not allow their children to watch the series. For many families, though, this warning is too late. They have already watched it, and the story is becoming part of their thoughts and most intimate conversations among friends. Its message connects with many of our young people. Teenagers in the movie engage in social ostracising, bullying, undeage sex and drinking and rape. The story could be unfolding in any high school, in any part of the world. It could be any of our kids.

Suicide is final. Controversy around whether she had a choice or made the right choice is what all the kids are talking about. Were there signs? Are the 13 people really responsible?  And now there is an off-spin trend – kids are now making their own lists of 13. “If you were to do it, who would your 13 be?” Apparently, everyone has a list. My daughter asked me if I had made MY list. Apparently, if you have seen the series, you ought to have a list.

At the end of the last episode the directors and cast are interviewed. Watch it. They all agreed the film needed to be made and that important conversations would happen as a result. Selena Gomez is the director. All the kids know she is open about her struggles with anxiety and depression. She is the face of our kids’ generation – they are self-aware; these issues matter to them; and, they want to talk about them all the time.

We are not here to tell you whether you should or should not let your kids watch this show. That boat has sailed. The truth is, they are already watching it. If you have banned it, they are most likely watching with friends, on their phones, or when you are asleep. I remember Judy Blume books were banned from my elementary school because she talked about menstruation in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. What book did every single 6th grader have hidden under her bed? Yep.

Here are 13 reasons why you can’t really control what your kids watch, but you can control how they process what they consume:

1) Understand, where there is a will, there is a way.

Students will be talking about this series in school, and everyone will be curious. Where there is a will, there is a way. No matter how closely you watch your child, there is a way for them to view this material. Peers are often the window into these kinds of experiences. You want them coming to you with these difficult conversations first.

2) Know what happens when mom and dad say no.

Teenagers are in a position to test limits and to question authority. It is actually an important part of their development. They will likely not respond well to “no” or “don’t do this,” without explanation. It might even encourage them further. Offer to watch it together.

3) Recognize that social ostracization is the worst for a teenager.

Everyone is talking about it, and when a teenager can’t be a part of the conversation, this can be very painful. It’s important to give your child a WAY to be included, even if they are experiencing the scenario in a different way…which leads me to #4.

4) Empower you kid.

Talk with them about 13 Reasons Why. Ask them if they’ve seen it. If they haven’t, ask them if their peers are talking about it. Open the lines of communication.

5) Make it a teachable moment.

Watch the show and teach your child HOW to handle different issues that come up. Talk about “what if…” and discuss coping techniques for how to handle the situations which came up in the show. You might be surprised. My daughter and her friends were ANGRY at Hannah’s choice to commit suicide and blame it on her classmates. They talked about all the things she could have done differently. They were also disappointed in Hannah’s guidance counselor’s inability to see the signs. A wake-up call for adults that work with kids!

6) Be proactive, not reactive.

If you feel your child is NOT worried about these situations, remember that your child is spending 6-7 hours away from you each day. Your child is speaking with friends who may not have involved parents. The topic may come up. It is better to be proactive instead of reactive. Speak about the issues before they become an issue for your child. As a wise person once said, “You might be too early, but you don’t want to be too late.”

7) Give your teenager a WAY to be included.

If your child’s peers start talking about 13, what do you want your child to do? Leave the conversation? Engage in conversation? Show concern for their friends? Think about this and then give your child a game plan. This is what the show is about, these are the characters, this is what happens. It’s sad. It’s dark. It’s difficult. If you haven’t seen it, you can still engage in the conversation by asking your friends questions about how they are feeling.

8) Role play important conversations.

Even elementary school kids are talking about it, especially if they have older siblings. My 10-year old knows my 15-year old has anxiety and although I didn’t let her see the series, she knows what it’s about and has begged her older sister not to kill herself. As a parent, that is SO HARD to hear; but, it is impossible to ignore. I watched the entire series in one day. Yes, I binged it and I am certain some of your kids are binging too.

9) Don’t assume your child knows everything presented in the movie to the sophistication that you do.

The issues that are presented in a series such as 13 are complex and sophisticated. It is easy for a teenager to miss nuances and hidden layers within a story. You should watch the show and make a list of all of the points of view and underlying meanings you notice. Be ready to have open conversations about these tough issues and answer questions honestly.

10) Understand they will know someone who suffers what Hannah and the others suffer.

The truth is that these are real issues our kids are contending with or know of someone who is – depression, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, social ostracization, sexual assault and suicide, just to name a few.

11) Know the signs.

We pay a lot of lip service to this, but do we really know the signs of depression in teens? How is it different from their everyday mood swings? Do your research. Ask a therapist. Watch the series.

12) Create your village! Surround your child with trusting adults,  reach out to them and learn from them.

Spouses, partners, siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, babysitters, friends, therapists, tutors, guidance counselors, coaches, advisors, teachers – you would be surprised at what your child will share with others that he or she will not share with you.

13) Be curious, not furious.

If you have banned 13 Reasons Why and your child has watched/read it anyway, be curious – ask questions and listen.
Have questions or need support? Call us at 917.388.3862 or info@evolveded.com

 

How to Talk to Your Children about Trump’s Election

Dear Families,

Since we partner with families to support the development of the whole child, I felt it important to reach out to our families this morning to give some advice on how to talk to our children about Trump’s presidential election.

No matter which side you find yourself on — I think we can all agree on a few key facts. Our country is experiencing something extraordinary: we are divisive, conflicted and uncertain. We must open lines of communication with our children at home, help them to navigate their understanding of the world around them and provide them with the security they need to share their concerns and cope with their worries.

Here are three ways you might help your child starting this morning:

1) Deliver the news of the election to your child even if you feel they already know from the news or from school. Ask your child if they have any questions or concerns. Now is not the time to share your opinions, rather, listen to learn how your child is feeling. Practice active listening — listen and then repeat back what your child says. Really digest what your chid’s concerns may be. Maybe your child is not worried. You will want to know this.

2) Encourage your child to share his or her concerns with you over time — open dialogue today, but keep it going tonight and next week.

3) Try to keep your personal concerns and worries in check. So much will be discussed and hypothesized in the news and some of it is opinion, some is fact. Your child may need to be sensored from the news right now.
Your child will look to you for stability and in their own daily lives they might not need to be affected by the bigger picture of what our country is facing. No matter which side you find yourself on, our country is clearly going through a divisive, difficult time.

No matter what is important that your child knows that in their own school and home they are safe, protected and able to thrive within the experiences of their own childhood.

Best,
Mary Miele

Four ways to help your child learn now

Four Ways to Ensure Your Child or Student Learns Now

by: Mary Miele
While working with a group of educators this week, I found myself helping them to refine their lessons in a way that made them individualized to each student’s needs.  Some were strictly academic while others needed support in the realms of the social emotional and/or physical.  I maintain there four are recurring themes parents and/or educators ought to always keep in mind when thinking about planning for a child student.
1) What is your child’s or student’s learning style? Use it to help him or her learn best.
2) What school experience has your child or student had thus far? Is s/he using it to his or her advantage by learning well in each class and meeting with teachers for support or clarification?
3) How much time does your child have to move from instructional, to guided to independent learning ? Are you aware of the stage in which your child or student finds himself? How would you judge the quality of time spent during each stage?
4) What challenges does your child face within the learning process? Is your child facing  a learning issue or obstacle? Is your child socially, emotionally and physically fit?
Current Success Stories
*all names have been changed to protect the privacy of our students
Johnny
Johnny is in the 7th grade at a prestigious private school in NYC. He is tasked with learning six major subjects: English, Latin, French, history, math and science. He has four tests this week and as one might imagine, he is feeling overwhelmed with all he has to learn. Johnny is a visual learner, so he and his parents and his tutor have created a visual calendar of his study plans.  They also created a one page map of the information Johnny has to learn and he spends time each day picturing what he will learn with each study plan.
Dennis
Dennis is an 11th grade student at a public school in NYC. He is working on preparing for his ACT test, keeping up his grades at school and also looking into colleges. Dennis has ADHD and must employ executive functioning strategies in order to manage all of his responsibilities. His team, comprised of his parents, his teachers, his advisor and his tutor, has decided to help him focus on getting help with initiation, planning and organization, and flexibility of thinking. In addition, he has been taught to practice mindfulness techniques that will help him focus within each area of work he endeavors.
Carol
Carol is a 4th grade student at a rigorous public school in NYC. She is working to learn the math content for the Lower Level ISEE test which will be given in the fall of her 5th grade year. For this exam, she has to learn fractions, decimals and percents, material she has not yet studied in her current school. Her parents realize they must give her time to be instructed on these concepts, so they enroll her in a math tutoring program three days a week as well as a daily exercise program seven days a week. As Carol learns the material in a traditional lecture-style approach from a teacher, she must also practice each weekend for an additional two hours. The five hours a week she is investing in this process along with her seven hours of exercise will ensure Carol learns the material well all while balancing her physical well-being with her rigorous academics, acknowledging the reciprocal benefits of each.
Samantha
Samantha is a 10th grade student attending an Independent school in NYC. She is a Type-A, overachieving student who enjoys perfecting her papers and study guides for all of her subjects. She plays tennis, attends parties, and is involved in community service. Samantha is doing well in all aspects of her life from a results point of view, but at home she shows her struggles as she frequently melts down, cries and fights with her parents and siblings; and, she has difficulty sleeping. Her social, emotional and physical well-being is suffering. A whole-child education specialist came to meet with Samantha and her family to help her to learn how to become more equipped to manage her responsibilities and maintain her overall health and wellness.

Five Ways to Celebrate Your Whole Child During Parent Teacher Conferences

Five Ways to Celebrate Your Whole Child During Parent Teacher Conferences

by: Mary Miele
Parent Teacher Conferences are our favorite times of the school year! These meetings provide important opportunities for parents and educators to form partnerships which benefit the social, emotional, physical and academic development of a child. The following are five ways to celebrate your whole child during parent teacher conferences. 
Before you arrive
1) Think about your child in terms of the whole child:
  • What is his or her academic history and experience? What has and is going well? What are some challenges you notice your child having? What books does your child love to read?
  • What is his or her learning style and skills?
  • Reflect on how the school experience is going for your child. What do you hear is going well and what do you hear has been difficult?
  • Review how learning is being supported at home. What do you feel is working and what advice do you need from your child’s educator?
  • Take your child’s social-emotional-physical-academic quotient and determine areas of strength and areas of challenge. Be ready to share these with your child’s teacher. *The SEPAQ is an inventory you can use to identify strengths and areas of challenge within a child’s social, emotional and physical development. 
During the conference
2) Listen to your child’s teacher’s report. Jot down notes within each category of your whole child.
  • Academics
  • Learning Style and Skills
  • School Environment
  • Family Environment
  • Social-Emotional-Physical Development
3) Share the information you have gathered and ask important questions.
Does the information I share with you help you to improve his/her learning experience in school/in your class?
What can I do at home to support my child?
Does my child seem happy at school? Has she/he made friends?
Does my child participate in whole group activities as well as small group work?
After the conference
4) Write up a summary of the conference and share it with your child’s teacher. 
You may organize this using the list provided above in step 2, or just type up your notes from the conference along with next steps.
5) Partner with your child’s educator to create a plan for how to use areas of strength to improve areas of concern. 
Each educator will want to approach this differently. It’s important for parents to ask educators how they’d like to proceed with the plan, as they might prefer to take the lead on the instructional needs.
For more resources on developing parent and educator partnerships, which support the development of the whole child, please read Supporting School: A Guidebook for Parents and Educators by Mary Miele and Deanna Hyslop.

You Have Gotten a Spot in a NYC Public School

Congratulations! Now What?

An EEC Primer for Parents of Children Transitioning to a NYC Public School by Gina Rotundo at The Evolved Education Company

Transitioning to a public school as a new student or a transfer student will mean an adjustment period for you and your children. It is an exciting time! If you’re armed with lots of information, you can ensure a smooth transition for you and your children. You will not be handed a guide on the first day of school explaining who is who and whom does what. Then one day, you will receive communication from a member of the school staff and you will ask yourself, “Who is this person and what is this person’s role?” The New York City Department of Education (DOE) is the largest school district in the United States, serving 1.1 million students in over 1,800 schools. This link will bring you to an organizational chart explaining the DOE Leadership.  The purpose of this primer is to help you and your children experience a smooth transition to a NYC public school, to know who is who and what is what, and to learn some at-home strategies you can use to help facilitate a seamless transition.

Who’s Who in a NYC Public School?

*These roles are not listed in hierarchal order, nor order of importance. 

School Secretary: The school secretary is often the first person you will encounter at your new school. He or she takes care of administrative duties, attendance, enrollment, immunization records, etc. At some schools, he or she is the person you will see to arrange to meet with the principal or the assistant principal. Large schools may have several secretaries, each one with different duties and some with crossover duties in the lunchroom and/or at recess. If you have an inquiry, be very specific about what you are asking and make a note of which secretary handles which duties. Be advised: school secretaries are the busiest at the beginning and end of the year and at the beginning and end of each day.

Classroom Teacher: You may get notice over the summer of your child’s teacher’s name and classroom, but you will not meet teachers until the first day of school at drop-off. This time of the morning is hectic for all and your teacher is tasked with lining the student up and getting them settled in. Some schools will allow students to be accompanied to the classroom for the first few days, but this is often not the case. Take time over the summer to prepare your child for this transition. Teachers use many of the books on this list to help kids on the first day of school.  Click here for suggestions. Be sure to find at least one that suits your child’s reading tastes.

Your child’s teacher(s) will be able to answer questions about academics and grades as well as behavioral, social, and emotional growth. Once enrolled, the teacher should be your first and primary point of contact. You should feel comfortable checking in regularly to help ensure your child’s success at school. Each school has it’s own way of handling communication (email, written notes, phone calls or a combination of all).

Parent Coordinator: Most schools have a parent coordinator who provides families with information about the school services and programs. He or she helps answer families’ questions and concerns and can arrange translations services. Some parent coordinators will send out weekly or monthly newsletters and coordinate workshops for families. If you are unable to resolve a concern with your child’s teacher, speak with your Parent Coordinator.

Assistant Principal: The assistant principal helps oversee the school programs, academics, student support, and discipline. Larger schools may have multiple assistant principals. If you are unable to resolve an issue with the Parent Coordinator, contact the Assistant Principal.

Principal: The school Principal leads and oversees all the school staff and students. If you have concerns that cannot be resolved through your child’s teachers, parent coordinator, or assistant principal, speak to the principal.

District or Borough Family Advocate: District Family Advocates support families with students in grades Pre-K-8 while Borough Advocates support families of high schoolers. If you have an issue you cannot solve at the school, contact your advocate. Find yours through this link.

Superintendents: District superintendents support families with students in Pre-K -8 and Borough Superintendents supports families with high schoolers. Find yours here.

School Social Worker: The school social worker helps parents, students, and school employees identify and address issues that interfere with students’ learning and work. He or she works with both general education and special education students to resolve social, emotional and behavioral issues.

School Psychologist: The role of school psychologist ranges from consultation to assessment to intervention. One of the primary responsibilities of the school psychologist is assessment. He or she assess students suspected of having a disability as part of the process of determining if the student needs services and what the services are to be. School psychologists are also trained to consult with teachers so as to help struggling students.

Guidance Counselor: Elementary, Middle, and High Schools will have at least one guidance counselor. Speak with the guidance counselor about your child’s academic schedule and classes as well as middle, high school and college and career planning.

Paraprofessional: The paraprofessional often referred to as a “para,” is the person who works alongside educators or therapists to provide students with IEPs and Section 504 Plans education services and accommodations that support learning. You might see paras working inside classrooms or assigned to just one student.

School Nurse: The school’s nurse responds to and cares for students’ medical needs at school. Speak with the nurse if your child requires medication or treatment during the school day.

Safety Agent: The school’s safety agent(s) is often the first adult you see upon entering the building. It is his or her job to ensure the safety of students and staff and to monitor and sign in visitors. They are members of the NYPD, but are not police officers and are not armed.

What’s What in NYC Public Schools?

*These events are not in order of sequence nor importance.

What our children are learning in school: While each school is unique, all schools will follow chosen programs through which they deliver the Common Core Standards to our children. In addition to a plethora of useful information like the DOE school calendar, the link below brings you to a guide that provides details about expectations for each grade. You can check the DOE website often or opt to sign up to receive email alerts so that you will have the most updated version of this guide as well as other important announcements.

What our children are not learning in school: While there is some variation, most NYC public elementary schools are not teaching handwriting, typing, foreign languages or computer skills. If learning these skills are important to your family, you may want to research your school in advance to see what “specials” your school offers and determine where you may want to supplement at home or outsource to a tutoring company.

Parent Teacher Conferences: Conferences are held between two and four times a year. These meetings give you a chance to sit down with your child’s teachers and ask questions about how he or she is doing at school. It is critical you attend and if you are unable to meet at the pre-determined time, schedule the meeting for another time. Teachers are mandated to have about 40 minutes each week to be available to meet with parents. Write down your questions ahead of time as most conferences are timed. Be sure to meet with ALL of your child’s teachers so as to have a complete picture of how he/she is doing in school and how he/she spends her day. It is important to support your child in ALL subjects, including physical education and the arts.

This DOE guide can be useful to help you prepare.

Supplies: The DOE has a limited budget. In most cases, the DOE provides a school with a building, all the administration, staff and teachers. The parent body compensates for discrepancies in what is provided and what is needed. Mostly, monies are collected through fundraisers throughout the year. As for classroom supplies, your school will either post a list on the school website during the summer, you will be given a list on the first day of school, or your school will ask for a contribution toward bulk purchasing. If your school distributes supply lists, you may want to purchase supplies over the summer, when you can find items on sale and avoid the back-to-school rush.

Fire Drills, Lock-Downs, Evacuations and Shelter-Ins: Directly from the DOE Website:

A vital component of emergency readiness within the DOE is the School Safety Plan (SSP). As part of the Safety Plan, schools/campuses must identify individual staff members to become BRT members.  In campus settings, each school must have one representative on the BRT.  The BRT members are hand selected by the Principal(s) to manage all school-related emergencies until the first responders arrive.  In addition, all schools implement General Response Protocols (GRP), which outlines the initial actions to be taken if an incident results in an Evacuation, Shelter-In, or a Lockdown. These actions are based on the use of common language to initiate the measures all school communities will take in a variety of incidents.

All staff, and students receive training in the GRP and drills are conducted at various times throughout the school year. Lessons have been designed for different grade levels so that the information is delivered to students without causing unnecessary alarm.

Information on the GRP should be sent home to parents help guide conversations with their children about emergency readiness in schools. Click here for a summary of the General Response Protocol for staff and students.

Summer Checklist for Parents

  • Purchase books about transitioning to Pre-K or Kindergarten.
  • Make a note of your school’s schedule.
  • Become familiar with your school’s website.
  • Make sure your enrollment is complete.
  • Create a contact list of all the major players at your school and in your district.
  • Print and browse all of the DOE guides.
  • Print the School Calendar and sync it with your family calendar. Working parents beware: there are many ½ days and holidays for which you will need to make childcare arrangements.
  • Be prepared before school starts: create a schedule and practice your commute to school. Read Evolved Education’s Back to School Seven Part Back to School Blog Series.

First Week of School

  • While most schools will email communication, paper copies are still the norm. Be prepared for an enormous amount of paperwork to come home through your child’s backpack during the first two weeks of school.
  • Your individual school’s calendar will also come home during the first week of school with important dates for you to sync with your family calendar.
  • Create a system for papers to come in and go out. As children are usually expected to transport papers through their backpacks and then submit them to their teachers, you can help your child with this important skill by teaching him or her to unpack his or her backpack at home and where to place important papers.

Do You More Questions? Feel free to email me, Gina Rotundo, at gina@evolveded.com.  Happy Transitioning!

 

 

Key Pieces of Advice from Parents who have been There

Parenting Standardized Tests: A Series for Parents of School-aged Children

Key Pieces of Advice from Parents who have been There

by Mary E. Miele and Gina Rotundo, from the The Evolved Education Company

 

Here are a collection of tips, strategies, and best practices from parents who have gone through the process at least once.

  • Rule # 1 – Do not let them see you sweat. Your child will feel your anxiety and internalize it and this will not help you or your child.
  • Learn all you can about the tests. Learn what the formats are, the time spent on each section and how the test is graded.
  • Discuss your child’s abilities and challenges at the first parent-teacher conference and translate these into test-taking skills.
  • Express to your child she needs to do her best and not compare herself to her peers. You can opt to not tell her what scores she earned. Just let her know she did well.
  • Do not pressure your child; she will pressure herself and will feel the pressure from her peers and teachers.
  • Remember, state tests are only one of the many ways to measure what your child is learning and able to do.
  • Look for signs of test anxiety. Ask your teacher how your child does on in-class tests. Does she finish on time? Does she know how to pace herself? Does she make careless errors?
  • Give your child a practice test at home to see how she handles the different formats so you can work on strengthening her weaknesses.
  • Make sure your child reads a variety of genres and reads for at least 30 minutes every night as even the math test involves a lot of reading. Doing this will expose your child to a variety of texts and vocabulary; but, most importantly, this will help build stamina.
  • Create a quiet study space for your child and make sure she can sit and stay on task the full time of your child’s test. Do not expect this to happen immediately; you will have to work up to the full time. For children who have a 504 granting extended time, find out how long your child will sit for.
  • Do fun activities throughout the year that are timed so your child will learn a sense of pacing and time management.
  • Use your child’s 3rd grade experience to learn how she handles test taking and whether she will need a 504 Plan, tutoring, or both.
  • Talk about the tests with your child: why they have to take tests and what they are used for. Normalizing test taking will help alleviate stress.
  • Remind your child that the test measures certain things, but does not measure intelligence.
  • Remind your child that one test is just that, one test. Some tests will go very well and others will not. Take it one test at a time and maintain a healthy perspective.

 

Parenting Standardized Tests

Parenting Standardized Tests: A Series for Parents of School-aged Children

by Mary E. Miele, learning specialist and founder of The Evolved Education Company

In 2016, students beginning Kindergarten will take 18-28 standardized tests before they graduate in 2029; and, if current trends continue, the number of tests may increase. Public schools offer standardized testing beginning in grade three, while most private or independent schools require a standardized test to gain admission to their institutions. Every college-bound high school student will take either the SAT or ACT along with a host of other tests such as the Regents, SAT II tests or Advanced Placement Exams.

All along, the only constant supervisors of a child’s K-12 education, the parents and guardians, are often responsible for and involved in their children’s preparation for standardized tests. Some schools offer test preparation, but as this series will present, traditional, school-led test preparation programs do not address the specific needs of every child. Quality parenting must supplement any test preparation program, and when it does, children can thrive even within a system that has its significant challenges and downfalls.

Parents who are on the front lines with their children as they grapple with test content, strategy, stamina and practice almost always encounter some kind of problem their children must overcome. Formal testing may present anxiety, avoidance or perfectionist qualities for the first time. Once a standardized test is completed, parents are also tasked with making sense of the feedback, which is often only in the form of a grade. Dealing with inconsistent scores or undesired scores requires additional tools and strategies that parents do not always have. Students who perform poorly on just one standardized test might internalize that experience and continue to do poorly. Or, they can use feedback as constructive criticism and perform better with each subsequent test. How a parent handles feedback can greatly influence a student’s ability to take a standardized test.

Parents require tools and strategies for how to help their children problem solve and overcome obstacles while preparing for tests. With a strong education and quality parenting, children can thrive within test preparation and standardized testing.

This six part series will offer parents information about parenting standardized tests. A presentation on this same topic will be offered on January 6, 2016 from 7:30 – 9:00 pm in NYC. Registration for this talk can be found by clicking here.

The articles in this series will include:

  1. A brief history of standardized testing and its ideal benefits to a student’s education
  2. A history of the Opt-Out Movement and the movement’s effects on students and schools
  3. How to Access and Interpret Key academic elements of the ELA and NY State Math Tests Grades 3-8
  4. Key Elements of Test Preparation: A Primer for Students
  5. Strategies for parents on how to help children thrive before, during and after a standardized test
  6. Key pieces of advice from seasoned K-12 parents –here is where I will offer anecdotal pieces of advice, share cautionary tales and teachable moments, and offer suggestions from parents who know what works and what does not

When parents take the time to educate themselves about the tests and how to parent their children who take them, the experience of undergoing standardized testing improves for the entire family.

 

Back to School Class Notes

Thank you to all who attended our back to school workshops!
Below are notes from our lectures, activities and discussions.
Please remember that all participants may call upon us as needed to strategize approaches to group work, organization, test taking strategies, and home-school-self care.

The students who attended this back to school class not only learned the content that is outlined below, but they also benefited from being in a group of their peers. By speaking with one another about tactics to be a strong student, they confirmed their own workable approaches, they learned specific tactics needed to be a strong student within each topic, and they shared stories and strategies from their own experiences with one another. Many renewed their goal to make this coming school year a strong one.

GROUP WORK

The following are approaches that we discussed before engaging in our own group work projects.

  • Before you begin any group work, understand your process:
  • Understand your objective
  • Write out the steps that you need to complete the task
  • Divide up the work equally among each participant
  • Make deadlines for each person’s role/task.
  • As you work, meet with your group members and share information, ask questions, use the group as a resource.
  • No matter what always do your best work. Sometimes classmates will not have your same drive, work ethic or expectations. Do your best for the group work project–do this for your own learning experience.
  • If a group member is not doing enough work, speak to him or her directly and be sure that at the end of the conversation he or she has a defined task. (e.g. Samantha will take notes on ____ by Wednesday at 6pm) Write down the agreement or email it to your group member so that you have a record of the agreement.
  • If you have tried to speak directly to the group member and he or she is not following up with what he or she agreed to do, then go to the teacher and ask for help.  If you are worried about going to the teacher, reach out to another adult to share your concerns. Make a plan to resolve the problem.
  • Try not to pick good friends to be in your group if they will distract you from work.

ORGANIZATION: 

The following are tactics that we discussed regarding organization:

Strategies for managing the school day: 

Get around the building with ease and preparedness:

  1. Print out a copy of your schedule for your planner, your locker and make one for your pocket.
  2. Organize what you need for various times in the school day. Make LOCKER STOPS when you can. Some students talked about being aloud to go to the lockers at different times of the day depending on their schools and schedules, so this is something that has to be worked out for each individual student. 
  3. Be prepared for the start of class. What do you need to have out for each class? Usually a binder, homework, something to write with or a computer.

Use your time wisely:

  1. Do homework during free periods or study halls.
  2. Meet with teachers to clarify any areas of confusion during free periods, or before or after school. We cannot stress this tactic enough! Successful students ask questions about what is confusing. 

Keep track of assignments and supplies needed to come home and back to school:

  1. Write down homework AS it is assigned with the due dates and all of the requirements.
  2. Write down what you need to bring home next to the assignment. Use all CAPS for what you need to bring home. This way you can quickly see at pack up time what you are supposed to have in your bag. 
  3. Use a homework folder. Divide the folder into “to-do” and “completed hw” sections. This helps to ensure that you have the homework to give in at class too.
  4. If you have a hard time remembering to give homework into class, you can always have a friend remind you or put a reminder in your planner or phone.

Strategies for managing after-school/work time: 

  1. Create an afternoon work routine.
  • Gather information on what you have to accomplish: check your online homework postings, your test calendars, your planner.
  • Write down all assignments in your planner. For studying and writing assignments, write down what you have to accomplish each day leading up to the due date.
  • Prioritize what you will complete. Do the assignments due the next day first. Complete the hardest assignments first.
  • Try to get your work done before you do fun activities such as online activities or socialization.
  • You need to employ discipline: doing what you do not love to do with 100% effort.

2. Study and organize each weekend.

  • Take time each weekend to review your notes and everything that you have learned.
  • Organize your binders, folders and notebooks.
  • For math: create a separate notebook to record tricky problems and their solutions so that you can go back and study them.
  • For history and science: create study guides for the information you have covered. Use the blue notebooks that were handed out–they have really useful formatting, with two-column notes where a student can take notes on one side and create questions on the other side (creating a study guide). Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 10.04.52 PM

STRATEGIES FOR TEST TAKING AND OVERCOMING TEST ANXIETY

  1. The best way to tackle test taking anxiety is to be prepared and to put your mind in a positive, relaxed place before each test.
  2. Study along the way and be active with your studying. We talked about using quizlet.com to actively study terms and create practice tests. We also talked about creating a notebook of “tricky problems” for math and their solutions as well as study guides for history, science, foreign language and English classes. Handwriting information can help a student to remember information. 
  3. Be aware of your anxiety levels before taking a test. If you feel that you are having a hard time handling test taking, then reach out to an adult for help. Everyone feels anxiety when they are being evaluated, but if the feeling is hard to overcome and it is impossible to perform at your best, then you may need extra strategies.
  4. Make a list of the feedback that your teacher gives you after each assessment or graded assignment. Pay attention to that feedback as you study for the next test or write the next paper. You may perform better with that guidance.

STRATEGIES TO HELP ACHIEVE HOME/SCHOOL/SELF CARE

School is the priority for students. The purpose of our class is to give students “professional development” to do their jobs well. We want every student to reach his or her potential in the classroom.

Of course, we want students to have time for extra curricular activities, social time, down time, family time. The key is for students to look at their schedules and realistically plan time for homework, studying and organization and then place in time for self-care (e.g. showers, dinner, laying out clothes for the next day) and extra-curricular activities (e.g. sports, music, drama, art, etc.) as well as time to be social with family and friends.

Realistic planning is a key aspect to home/school/self care.

Communication with family members is another important aspect of achieving good health while being a student. It is important that parents know when tests or quizzes or papers are due and what needs to be done each weekend. Family plans need to take into account the work that a student needs to do.

 

ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR HANDLING THE TRANSITION FROM SUMMER TO SCHOOL

Get Ready for Back-to-School

A seven part series for parents of school-aged children
Part Seven: Essential Tips for Handling the Transition from Summer to School

By: Mary E. Miele, founder The Evolved Education, veteran learning specialist and mother of three children

School is here! Why don’t you have your shoes on? Where is your backpack? Did you comb your hair? Wait, you can’t wear that its still 90 degrees outside! Did you pack your homework? What time is it? Are we going to be late?

Ah yes, the transition from summer to school can be hectic. There is so much to organize and accomplish. Transitions can be overwhelming, but they can also be managed. These strategies can help:

  1. Keep things simple. When your family is undergoing a transition, that change is complicated. Try to keep everything else to a minimum during this time. For instance, do not implement a new chore system, a new dinner plan and a new bedtime routine all at the same time as your children are going back to school.
  2. Communicate with the entire family about the schedule. Since everyone is undergoing a change  with schedules at the start of school, it is important that everyone know when they need to leave for school, get homework done, or have dinner. Get a wall calendar and post information for all to see.
  3. Give alone time and down time. Give your children some space at the end of the day to decompress and to be alone after being “on” all day.
  4. Ask pointed questions. Be sure to foster conversation with your child, but do not ask open-ended questions such as, “How was your day?”  Rather ask any of these questions to facilitate conversation:
  • Who is in your ____ class?
  • Who sits next to you?
  • What do you think of your math teacher/English teacher?
  • What did you eat for lunch?
  • Who did you sit with on the bus home?
  • What do you think is going to be the best/worst part of ____ grade?

5. Be positive. Students may struggle to enjoy the transition from summer to school. Remind each of them of the rewards for being in school. There is so much to learn, do and achieve! If your child is really feeling down, enlist the help of his or her teacher. As time passes, many students find comfort in the routines and lessons at school!

No matter what experience your child has with his or her transition to school, be sure to extend unconditional love and affection as well as your support. Students have so much to work for and having a loving, supportive parent always on their side can mean everything to a child or teenager.

MORNING AND AFTERNOON ROUTINES

Get Ready for Back-to-School

A seven part series for parents of school-aged children
Part Four: Morning and Afternoon Routines

By: Mary E. Miele, founder The Evolved Education, veteran learning specialist and mother of three children

Parents know that morning and evening hours are challenging, especially at the start of school. So much needs to be done. There are many moving parts, and whether you have one child to get ready, to get homework done with, or to get to bed, or more than one child to care for, these hours can be difficult to manage.

The best piece of advice I can give you to avoid a ‘free for all’ in the morning or in the evening is to establish morning and evening routines with your K-12 student. If possible, begin these routines BEFORE school starts. By having your children work through the morning routine at least a week before school starts, your children will transition to school with better form.

For this article, I have divided the routines into suggestions for each grade category (early elementary, upper elementary, middle school and high school). Please visit our site for examples of checklists you can use for your child for his or her morning and evening routines.

EARLY ELEMENTARY:

Five steps to make your early elementary students’ mornings and evenings go well:

1) Make a list of what you need your child to do in the morning and in the evening.

2) Pair the list down to its MOST ESSENTIAL components. Children at this age need a FEW items to do, not MANY.

3) Find pictures to correspond with each task you wish your child to complete.

4) Place these pictures IN ORDER OF HOW YOU WANT THEM DONE onto a document. If you are computer savvy, you can create this document on the computer. You can also cut and paste pictures onto a piece of paper. I advise that you have your child do ALL of the ‘work’ tasks before playing (so in the morning get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, pack up backpack, THEN play)

5) BE CONSISTENT: Walk your child through the checklist and post the checklist. Keep it up–eventually, your child may know it so well that he or she will not even need to look at it!

Click here for example checklists.

UPPER ELEMENTARY:

Four steps to make your upper elementary students’ mornings and evenings go well:

1) Make a list of what you need your child to do in the morning and in the evening.

2) Have your child weigh in and let you know what order he or she wants to complete the tasks. For instance, if your child needs to get homework done, read, do a chore, eat dinner and brush his teeth, you can allow your child to read and do chores after or before dinner.

3) Put times onto the checklist so that your child knows when to get up, when to go to sleep, when dinner will be.

4) Be sure that your child understands what he or she will be doing in the afternoon. Each morning, it is a good idea to remind him or her what day it is and where he or she is going after school.

Click here for example checklists.

MIDDLE SCHOOL:

Four steps to make your middle school students’ mornings and evenings go well:

1) Before you meet with your middle school student, spend some time creating a list of the tasks you wish your pre-teen/teenager to complete in the morning and in the evening. Also, have your child do the same.

2) Have a meeting in which you negotiate the terms of the morning and afternoon routine. Of course you can deem certain items “non-negotiable” and others “negotiable”.  It is important for middle school students to have a voice in how they spend their time.

3) Talk about accountability for following routines. Agree upon what will happen if the routine is not followed. Talk about the privileges that will be in place if the routine is followed. Write these agreements down.

4) If you get push back on creating a routine with your middle school student, remind him or her that you are doing this to help; as in life, routines help us to achieve goals and to be successful in accomplishing important tasks. Sometimes knowing WHY a new set of rules are being established can help. Remind your child–when a middle school student has to juggle homework, studying, extra-curricular activities, social connections as well as self-care, a routine ensures that there is time to address each component of a middle school student’s life.

If nothing else works, “This is what we do in our family,” tends to be a reason that most pre-teens and teenagers cannot argue.

Click here for example checklists.

HIGH SCHOOL:

Four steps to make your high school students’ mornings and evenings go well:

1) Before you meet with your high school student, spend some time creating a list of the tasks you wish your teenager to complete in the morning and in the evening. Also, have your child do the same.

2) Have a meeting in which you negotiate the terms of the morning and afternoon routine. Of course, you can deem certain items “non-negotiable” and others “negotiable”.  It is important for high school students to have a voice in how they spend their time.

3) Talk about accountability for following routines. Agree upon what will happen if the routine is not followed. Talk about the privileges that will be in place if the routine is followed. Write these agreements down.

4) If you get push back on creating a routine with your high school student, remind him or her that you are doing this to help; as in life, routines help us to achieve goals and to be successful in accomplishing important tasks. Sometimes knowing WHY a new set of rules are being established can help. Remind your child–when a high school student has to juggle homework, studying, extra-curricular activities, social connections as well as self-care, a routine ensures that there is time to address each component of a high school student’s life.

If nothing else works, “This is what we do in our family,” tends to be a reason that most teenagers cannot argue.