What’s going on at school?

by Deb on April 13, 2010

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Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting advice!

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we’re writing letters to ask our readers for help with a current parenting issue. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Dear Other Parents, especially ones further down the schooling track.

My big girl has now done a term of preschool, the first formal year of schooling here, she’s 4.  She only has it in the afternoon and it is all about preparation for real school later.  Overall I’m pretty happy with how things are going, in spite of being at home with me before starting (Oh Noes!) she settled in very quickly, has made friends and is bringing home bucketloads of craft and drawings. I talk to the teacher regularly in a friendly way, ask the big girl different things every afternoon, and next term I will be helping in the classroom once a week.

My question is, how do I really know what’s going on in school?  As she gets older there will be a lot more that I can’t be there for.  I have a very bright little cookie and the school has some problems, but because we live in the middle of nowhere changing is not an option.  I don’t want to be the parent from hell, I respect that early childhood teachers know more about it than I do, but how do I make sure she’s getting what she needs in all areas, without alienating anyone?!

I’d love any ideas and suggestions of what I can do to work with the school and my daughter, to make schooling a happy and helpful experience for all of us.

Yours sincerely,

New School Parent.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama April 13, 2010 at 2:48 pm

I have no experience in this at all (so take this for what it’s worth), but it sounds like you’re doing the right things: having regular conversations with the teachers, volunteering when possible, keeping the lines of communication open with your daughter . . . I’d only add in making friends with some of the other parents too. I would imagine the most important piece is making sure your daughter feels safe talking to you about whatever happens at school. Good luck!
.-= Dionna @ Code Name: Mama´s last blog ..How We Came to Unschooling =-.

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Kate Wicker @ Momopoly April 13, 2010 at 9:43 pm

I have no experience on this one or grand pearls of wisdom. However, I’m so glad I discovered your nifty niche blog through the carnival and will be adding it to my reader.

I guess the only no-brainer advice I have is to volunteer at the school if at all possible to get a feel for it.

Blessings! 🙂
.-= Kate Wicker @ Momopoly´s last blog ..Peer Pressure =-.

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kblogger April 14, 2010 at 12:10 am

I do a couple of different things.
Firstly, our school has “observation rooms” where you can observe classroom activity at any time, without the children or teacher seeing – so I make regular observations; just to see how my kids are interacting with other students, watch how the teacher is interacting with my kids & other children, and generally get the feel of the classroom. I do this several times in a semester with each of my children.
Next, I make sure to make myself availalable to my childrens’ teachers by making sure they have my cell phone, work phone, email address. I have signed up on their volunteer lists, talk with their teachers at pick-up time and bring things for the classroom regularly – snacks, crafts, etc. I also make it a point to be present at after-school events, and to know the office staff. I make sure I’m a parent that *can* be talked to, so that if there ever is a need, I’m not a stranger, know what I mean?
Finally, I talk with my kids every day about school. How they feel about their teachers, students, what activities they did, who their friends are, etc. Our school has photos posted each week of classroom activities – so I use that as a springboard for launching into conversations with my children (because often “how was school?” just gets a “great!”) – I try to remember to ask open ended questions. 🙂
Anyhow, I think a teacher would appreciate an actively involved parent – one who is communicative when things are going well & normally, so that if there ever IS an issue, there’s no hesitancy whatsoever to contact you or for you to contact them.
.-= kblogger´s last blog ..Breastfeeding Support and Normalcy =-.

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Maman A Droit April 14, 2010 at 12:30 am

My little guy is only 9 months old, but my best friend’s a teacher, my sis-in-law is a teacher, and I used to help in a junior high science classroom,(for HS class credit) so I feel like I know a little about it from the teacher’s perspective. I think volunteering is awesome, and don’t be afraid to e-mail teachers. Just be sure your tone is helpful, because many parents send grumpy e-mails that set up an adversarial relationship between the teacher and parent. But most teachers I know would respond really well to a parent that e-mailed often asking what’s coming up in the class and whether there’s anything you can help with. Coming to parent teacher conferences is a good idea too.
.-= Maman A Droit´s last blog ..Driver’s Ed For Mommies =-.

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Meghan April 14, 2010 at 1:20 am

Schools teach and cater to the average student. If your daughter is not an average student at her school (if she is significantly more intelligent, less intelligent, has unique learning disabilities/opportunities, etc.) then the school may not be a good fit for her. Growing up, I was bored through most of my schooling; 3rd grade I was in a split class and basically took 4th grade. Then for 4th and 5th grade, myself and the other “bright” kids did advanced work in the hall, while the teacher taught the other kids. Middle school and high school were not much better. I got good grades, but am surprised I was not kicked out for mischief.

My sister and many of my cousins are teachers in public schools (I am now a biochemist so the poor school environment didn’t turn me off education), and have voiced their concerns about these situations. Unfortunately, a teacher cannot gear a class towards an exceptional child. The American school system is meant to provide an average education to the next generation, which means teaching to the average.

When your daughter gets older, if she is not challenged, I would suggest providing supplemental education – either through you or tutors. Education is only fulfilled in it’s most basic sense at school, parents are responsible if they want anything more.

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Mammapie April 14, 2010 at 1:57 am

Hrm. I am not completely sure. I was homeschooled until high school myself and my brothers, as well as most of my nieces/nephews have been as well. One thing that I can suggest is make it personal. You could consider walking or biking her to school when possible, volunteering lots, dropping in occasionally, and making bento lunch boxes so she knows you are a part of her school experience.
.-= Mammapie´s last blog ..Solo Parenting =-.

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Melodie April 14, 2010 at 2:39 am

I would make an appt with her teacher,or principal, explain your desire to keep abreast of what’s going on and ask them if they have a preferred method of communication if you have any questions or concerns as they arise in the future. This is what I have done with my daughter’s teacher. I would encourage you to build a relationship of some sort with your child’s teacher, so they can get to know you as well. The better they know you the more likely they will feel comfortable talking to you about things too. Good luck!
.-= Melodie´s last blog ..How Can I Avoid Beauty Obsession? =-.

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Alexandra April 14, 2010 at 5:44 am

my son will be starting preschool this fall…so I don’t have full expereince in this yet. But I will have no problem being the parent that is always there asking questions and making sure things are good. My mom is a preschool teacher and I know she would rather parents ask 100 questions than none at all.
.-= Alexandra´s last blog ..Extra Curves =-.

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Cream of Mommy Soup April 14, 2010 at 6:08 am

I think just being as involved (as a volunteer — there are always tons of opportunities to volunteer at a school!) will be your best bet. Of course, lots of pressure-free conversations about what’s going on at school will help too. My kids were in public school last year before I decided to take them out and unschool them.
.-= Cream of Mommy Soup´s last blog ..Dear Lovey Hart, I am Desperate =-.

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Danielle April 14, 2010 at 6:12 am

I don’t have any experience with this on the parenting end (my little guy is just a year) but I do have experience from the teaching point of view.

It sounds like you’re doing all the right things. Talking with the teacher, your daughter, volunteering. Actually, you sound kind of like my dream parent. (I worked at an inner city school with LOW parent involvement.)

one thing that I would say though, don’t assume that the early childhood experts know more than you. You are an expert on your child and you deserve to be a leading player in your child’s education. I would take issue with any teacher that feels differently.
.-= Danielle´s last blog ..Help a Mama Out =-.

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Zoey @ Good Goog April 14, 2010 at 8:00 am

As someone who also has limited schooling choices (in the future) I’m so interested to see what kind of responses you get!

It sounds like you are doing all the right things. A good way to make sure that you get off to a good start with the teachers – is to tell them that if you do cross-over into parent-from-hell territory they can let you know ;o) Although the teachers that I know are always really appreciative of parents who take an active role.
.-= Zoey @ Good Goog´s last blog ..The Real Toddler =-.

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Darcel April 14, 2010 at 9:28 am

First I have to say…I don’t believe that anyone knows what our children need better than we do. We are their parents.
It sounds like your doing everything you could be doing right now.
Homeschooling could also be an option.

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Lauren @ Hobo Mama April 14, 2010 at 6:25 pm

My kid’s on the younger side of yours, so I don’t know how much help I’ll be but I’ll try. Could you suggest that the teacher send out an email or printed newsletter occasionally with updates? I enjoy regular communication like that from my son’s preschool. Does the teacher do daily or weekly status updates for each student or would s/he be willing to?
.-= Lauren @ Hobo Mama´s last blog ..April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting advice =-.

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Sarah @ OneStarryNight April 14, 2010 at 9:24 pm

When DS1 was in school (I do not want to scare you off here!), it was a FIGHT to get the school and his teachers to not only RESPECT me but stay in contact. I wouldn’t find out about issues until MONTHS down the line, my emails/phone calls/etc would be ignored.

My only advice is to BE THERE. Really get involved with the schooling, with the SCHOOL, with the teachers. Make EVERYONE aware that you ARE an active participant.

We unschool now heh.
.-= Sarah @ OneStarryNight´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: At the Chicago Botanic Garden =-.

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keepingmumsane @ what I don't say April 15, 2010 at 9:51 pm

I work with kids with special needs and one thing that most of the schools do for these kids is keep a communication book. They record things in them that the child did each day including photos etc. Obviously that’s going to be hard in a class on 20 kids with only 1 teacher as opposed to a class of 6 and a teacher plus an aid but they could still keep a moddified version.

Also regularly dropping into the school, coming to the classroom, getting involved with the school etc.
.-= keepingmumsane @ what I don’t say´s last blog ..A question of sleep and sanity =-.

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Deb April 18, 2010 at 11:30 am

Thanks for the ideas, I love the idea of observation rooms, that would be so cool! I suspect that we’ll always be supplementing their education, my parents did so it’s just the natural thing to do. We’re waiting on a Spanish course to arrive right now – my sister lives in Spain and after visiting her cousin at Christmas the big one wants to learn to talk to him.

I’d love to have regular updates, the problem is having the assertiveness to ask for them! I can ask how she’s going, but I find it really hard to ask someone to do something extra.

I agree I know what my daughter needs, however there’s a huge difference between that and knowing how to help them learn it. As a science teacher I know the appalling job most non-specialists do of science, even with the best of intentions. I’ve sat in too many staff rooms and talked to amazing colleagues to assume I am an expert in early childhood education, I could do a reasonable job by my daughter deserves more than that. Unfortunately, that’s a general position that may not work in this specific case. There are no other social or group activities available here so I’m very reluctant to take her out of school even if I end up doing 90% of the educating at home. But it may end up unsafe, in which case we’ll definitely be homeschooling!

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