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Helping Your Child Who Struggles With Anxiety

Anxiety is an epidemic among teenagers and college students.

In many cases, students are dropping out of college because of anxiety and health centers are seeing more students than ever. The APA sites, “Anxiety is the top presenting concern among college students (41.6 percent), followed by depression (36.4 percent) and relationship problems (35.8 percent).”

So what’s the best way to help if your child is suffering from anxiety?

Talk to them about it. Let them know you understand they are suffering and assure them they are not alone. Encourage them to talk to their friends or roommates. Chances are their friends are suffering too. Visiting the mental health center on campus is also a good idea. Or even the urgent care at school, if they are really concerned.

Often anxiety presents itself with physical symptoms such as sweaty palms, a racing heart, and lightheadedness. It can also bring on numbness in fingers and hands. These symptoms can frighten a student who is otherwise healthy.

My daughter picked up a brochure at the health center about anxiety and the headline read: You Are Not Having a Heart Attack. It then explained the top physical signs of anxiety. She thought it would be a great idea if the college handed out these flyers to all the freshman, since just about everyone she knew suffered from the symptoms.

A friend who is a therapist suggested that sometimes freshman have too much time on their hands since often colleges suggest an easier workload first semester. She said they have too much time to worry and suggests they take on an additional pass/fail classes or find an on-campus job.

Social media is to blame for a lot of this newly brought on anxiety, but so is being away from home for the first time and tougher academics. Anxiety can also be hereditary. This article from the Huffington Post offers a helpful list of seventeen ideas to help with anxiety. My daughter and I are both trying ideas on this list. Just because I’m not in college, doesn’t mean I don’t get anxious. Getting off social media is one of the top items. Not a bad idea for all of us these days.

But please take your child’s anxiety seriously and if you feel it’s becoming a bigger problem than the above list can help with, seek professional help. If you can aid them in managing their anxiety at this young age, they will take those skills with them into the future.

Is It Too Soon to Start Planing for Summer?

It’s not even January and I have to think about summer?

Yep, now is the time. Especially if you have a high school student and they are planning on attending an academic summer program because applications will be due soon. And from my research, I’ve learned that colleges really look at what students do the summer between junior and senior year.

What if you also have a college student. How will they plan their summer? A  college class? Travel abroad? A summer job? And what happens to their dorm room? Most colleges close the dorms to college students during the summer, so they will have to move out and perhaps back home. Is their room ready or have you already turned it into a sewing room? Or has their younger sibling taken it over?

And what about family vacations?

I remember vividly my friend Jenny, who had her kids a lot earlier than I did, lamenting when they were in high school that there were only so many family vacations left. Her words are ringing true as I realize my kids will be in opposite directions very soon.

Gone are the days when both my children are at the same school with the same summer schedule. If you have kids in college and high school then I’d plug in the summer vacation dates now for both. Does your college student start back early August, but your high schooler begins after Labor Day? You might want to know that now as well.

How about college tours? Will you be taking those with your high school junior or senior? Will your college student want to attend those with you? Can you combine college tours with a family vacation?

This is all overwhelming as I try to coordinate college tours, summer academic programs, summer jobs, and a family vacation. Not to mention the cost as college payments are just around the corner. I’ve never been really good at planning so far ahead, but I see the benefits.

So during the upcoming holiday week, I will sit down with my family and try to sort all this out. Perhaps we can come up with a summer plan that suits everyone. Or maybe everyone will just want to stay at home this summer, as it might be one of the last ones at home where we can be altogether as a family.

Exploring Non-Traditional Colleges

What if your child isn’t a traditional learner? What if following the path of every other college freshman turns them off? Not to worry, there are colleges that cater to the needs of students who want a more independent academic experience.

St. John’s College with campuses in both Annapolis and Santa Fe offers only one major, Liberal Arts. They base the curriculum on a “Great Books Program” and they have few tests and lots of class discussions. The website boasts that it grants one of the most affordable tuitions at $35,000 per year.

How about Hampshire College, a member of the Five College Consortium including Smith, Mount Holyoke, Amherst, and the University of Massachusetts. At Hampshire there are no grades and the students can design their own concentrations of study (no majors either). It’s a great choice for creative, self-directed students.

Antioch College (Yellow Springs, Ohio) requires that the students hold down “full-time co-op jobs” switching between work and study. This can be great for students who need to support themselves and still wish to get a college degree.

College of the Ozarks is another college that requires the students to work. This time in exchange for tuition. The entire campus is run on solar power and 30% of their cafeteria food is grown on campus. It’s a liberal arts college that is also Christian based.

Then there is Colorado College which seems ideal for the outdoor student who would like to study one subject at a time for an extended amount of time, (three weeks) then have a week off to explore the great unknown.

Cornell College (not Cornell University) in Iowa offers a one class at a time curriculum. And according to their website, the student can immerse themselves in “1 Course x 18 Days x 8 Blocks. The territory we cover is the same as on a semester system. But the path we travel offers an entirely different journey.”

And for something completely different, Hamburger University in Oak Brook, Illinois is run by McDonald’s and based on managerial training. Classes translate into business management credits at other colleges.
It opened in 1961 and every year about 5,000 students graduate from campuses all around the world. China’s division has an admission rate of 1%.

Your student may find an alternative school that feels like home, or after looking at the alternatives, they might prefer a traditional college after all. But this is the time for exploration and with over 3000 colleges and universities in the United States, surely your student will find a school that is right for them.

Exploring why 30% College Freshman Don’t Go Back After the First Year and How to Prevent It

I recently read the New York Times story, When A College Student Comes Home to Stay. And wow. This would have been very helpful to read when my daughter was in high school. Luckily I still have one more at home and hope my son will benefit from my newly acquired wisdom.

The article suggests many reasons for dropping out of college after the freshman year including; finances, failing grades, mental health issues, and homesickness. But the idea that impressed me most was, “at the end of the day, what your child needs most is practice running his or her own life — and college is a risky place to do that for the first time.”

This rang true because I now understand the main reason my daughter is struggling at college emotionally is because we did too much for her while she was in high school.

She was telling me the other day that now in college she has to make every decision for herself including what she will eat for dinner when she will eat dinner and if she will eat dinner. What I thought would be a liberating moment for her, was more of a stressful one.

These simple choices about food are only compounded as she decides everything for herself. What classes to take, where to study, how to get around campus etc.

I hadn’t realized that while I thought I was supporting her by being on top of her high school schedule and driving her where she needed to go and cooking healthy meals, I was actually weakening her. She needed some training on making her own decisions.

How do I do that for my son? He is a high school junior, so there is still time. The first thing I have implemented is to have him help me with some household repairs, something I wish I had done with his sister.

So when the toilet clogged this weekend, I showed him how to use the plunger. When we needed to change out a deadbolt on our front door, I had him do the work as his dad and I talked him through it. And starting this week I am going to see to it that he finds his own way home from school on Fridays. He can take the bus or the train or ride with a friend. And I think one day of the week, we’ll have him make dinner. He needs to develop according to the article, “skills to take care of himself.”

The article goes on to say that, “students haven’t been given control of their own lives until way too late.” So even as our instincts as parents are to hang on to our young ones as long as we can, we actually need to let go a bit sooner. It’s going to be hard for us, but it will be more helpful to our students in the long run.

College Support Groups for Parents

As soon as my daughter committed to a college, I was sent an email from the school inviting me to join a parent’s Facebook page. I joined and didn’t think much of it.

At first, parents were mostly discussing dorm bedding and the best type of storage bins. As the quarter began, parents posted pictures of their students on moving day. I noticed a couple of posts about fall harvest festivals and a monarch butterfly festival that looked intriguing. I forwarded it to my daughter who actually went with her roommates and sent me a picture of the three of them with butterfly face paint. I didn’t post the picture.

Three months into the college year I now find myself gravitating to that Facebook page often and I notice others do too. Parents now discuss concerns. What to do when your child has anxiety, a bad roommate situation, not getting the classes they want? The parents rely on each other when they can’t find help within the university.

Over Thanksgiving break, there were endless posts of happy teens arriving back home for the holiday. Those were accompanied by photos of unpacked suitcases dumped by the front door. One single dad who had been posting quite a bit lately was so happy to be reunited with his daughter, his post brought tears to my eyes.

When my kids were in elementary school parent support was a big thing; room reps, cupcake baking, helping out on soup days. During middle school, the amount of parent support slowed down and by high school, the parents were not expected or really wanted to help on campus.

It feels like the parents of the college freshman are retreating back to elementary school where they want to get involved and need the support of each other. Leaving your teen at college is not dissimilar to leaving them in the first-grade classroom. You know it’s the right thing, but it doesn’t feel good having them so far away. I remember the first-grade moms clustering after dropping off waiting almost as if they hoped they’d be called back to take their little one home. I kind of feel that way now and I think other parents do too.

The parent Facebook group has become a support group. A place where parents go to share the joy and sorrows of having a child so far away. Even though the parents are from all over the country, I feel like I am getting to know them. And when I have a concern, I know where to turn for answers because someone else has probably had that same concern too.

Can Your Freshman Make it Through the Rest of the Semester?

My daughter was home from college this weekend and she was in heaven. She was grateful for her bed, her home and most importantly her family. She’s met many students with difficult family lives and realized how good hers was. Her revelation made us all grateful.

At the end of the weekend, it was hard for her to imagine a nine-hour bus ride back to college where she would be crammed into a small room with two other girls. Exams are looming and the food in the cafeteria is starting to all taste the same.

“What would your life be like if you didn’t go back?” I asked her when she started to make noises that she couldn’t. She said, she would get a job and then go to community college. She couldn’t finish the sentence without realizing it wasn’t really what she wanted. Yes, being away from home is hard. Especially when everything she has ever known is at home. But I asked her to think about what she wanted for her life and how she was going to get that. She wants to go into politics. So I asked her if she needed to go to college for that career. She agreed she did.

I suggested every time she thought about wanting to be at home, to think about her big goal and know she needs to finish college in order to achieve that. Don’t think about the comfort you are missing at home, but think about the life you will lead in the future. Besides, a comfortable life would be a boring life and I know if she stayed home and did not go back to college she’d be bored in about a week.

 

So how do you help your college freshmen get through the rest of the semester?

  • Remind them that Winter break is only three weeks away
  • Remind them that their job right now is to focus on schoolwork
  • Plan a couple of fun activities for winter break, a trip or something local. Put that special event on the calendar or buy tickets for it now, so they have something to look forward to
  • Perhaps start planning a community service day for when they return. Visit a nursing home or homeless shelter
  • Read one of the books they have been assigned so that you can discuss it with them when they return
  • Plan a day with you and your college student, lunch, mani-pedi, bike riding, tossing a football. Something where they get your full attention for the whole day. You will love this too because in a couple of years they may be studying abroad during winter break or off vacationing with friends

I believe freshman are confused as to where they belong. They are living between home and dorm. Let them know that when they are home, nothing has changed, you can still do the things as a family you used to. Comfort and routine are what they crave. Adventure is what they need.

What to Talk About With Your College-Bound Student in Preparation for Their College Applications

My son is a high school junior and we talk about college in small increments. We are trying to balance his life and not make it all about college, because at some point we know he will be shifting his focus to “it’s all about college.”

So what can we talk about now to plant the seeds so we are not scrambling next fall when he officially begins his college application process?

At a recent high school meeting for parents of juniors, we learned that colleges look at what the student will be doing the summer between junior and senior year. The colleges want to see that the student is either working, enrolled in an academic class, or enrolled in some sort of program to enrich their education.

This is not the summer to hang out at the beach! Luckily our son has already thought this through and is looking into several summer programs.

I have already put the SAT and ACT test dates on the family calendar, so my son can look ahead at the entire year and see when the tests are coming up. Hopefully, this will allow him to pace himself with his test prep and his social activities.

We’ve printed his transcript and have gone over it together. He understands the difference between his GPA and his weighted GPA. He sees what classes he needs to bring his grades up and what classes he needs to maintain grades.

After winter break, we will meet with his college counselor. Since he is interested in perhaps going to art school or drama school, we have encouraged him to set up meetings with the head of the art and drama departments at his school.

He will be able to get their input on colleges which might be a good fit for him. I’m encouraging him to seek out their advice since they know his work better than his college counselor will, even though she did attend his school play this weekend!

As a family, we will determine if we are going to go on a college tour this spring break. This will be planned and booked over the Thanksgiving holiday.

After getting input from his art and drama teacher, he will start working on his art portfolio and select some audition pieces. I know from past experience that if he wants to apply to drama school, he will need a reel and a resume. These are pieces that will take time pull together and I want him to get started on them as soon as he can.

It helps to have gone through this college prep with my daughter. But even if you haven’t had that experience, it’s not too soon to educate yourselves and jump right in!

College Prep List:

  1.  Plan for your student’s educational based summer activity 
  2. Add SAT and ACT test dates to calendar
  3. Review your student’s transcript
  4. Meet with your student’s college counselor and department heads
  5. Think about what colleges to visit with your student during Spring break
  6. Help your student plan art portfolios or prepare audition materials

How to Use the Thanksgiving Break as a Fresh Start to Set New Academic Goals if Things Aren’t Going Well

I always feel refreshed after a long nap. So I’m hoping the Thanksgiving break can be a long nap for my son. It’s been a tough junior year so far. He took on a big course load, a full plate of electives and two honors classes. He also performed in the school play and one outside play. I think a big meal and a long rest are necessary for him right now and Thanksgiving break is the perfect time for him to reset his battery and get ready for the rest of the semester and his impending final exams.

Not only is it important for your student to study and focus, but it’s equally important for them to have some downtime. Perhaps think of Thanksgiving break as that. Hold off on the college talk for a while. Get their mind off their studies and have them dive into family activities. Maybe an old fashioned game of Monopoly or a family hike. These are their last years of childhood so let them be a kid this week. The time for adulthood just around the corner.

Reading is essential for relaxing too. So in my son’s case, I am going to suggest now is a good time to catch up on his independent reading for school, or maybe get a jump start on that novel that is looming for his English class. He’s not the best one when it comes to independent reading, so we’ll take some reading time as a family this week. We can all use some downtime to curl up with a good book.

So after turkey day, a day of eating resting and family activity, then bring up your child’s academic year. Set some goals, maybe reassess their homework load and extra circulars. Is it important to be on the sports team for the Spring sport, or is that just too much to take on this year? Is it time for a tutor? Maybe the after school job is taking away too many homework hours. Be aware of their schedule, notice their concerns. Let them know you are on their side.

We decided as a family that this Thanksgiving we would decide if we are going to do college tours for Spring break. After reviewing my son’s Spring schedule, we think a trip would be too much and he should spend Spring break completing some extra projects he has signed up for. We all felt a big relief upon this decision and will now plan on some college tours this summer.

Just because our kids might be taller than we are and are driving, working and can do things themselves these days doesn’t mean they have the capacity to manage their time. It still is helpful if someone can access their schedule and look at it with fresh eyes. They may have bitten off more than they can chew and what could be a better time than Thanksgiving to learn how to manage just how much you can put on your plate without overloading it.

Enjoy your time with your students and family this Thanksgiving!

How to Help If Your Child is Struggling Academically in the Middle of a School Year?

We just had parent teacher conferences with our eleventh grader. It was the perfect time to review his grades since he still has time to improve before the first-semester report card comes out.

His science teacher, who was concerned that his grade wasn’t as good as it could be after the last test started the meeting by saying, “Don’t worry, your parents and I are your support team. We are rooting for you, not against you.”

After spending 11th grade with my daughter being angry at her if her grades slipped because I knew how crucial that year was, I decided it was important to take a different tactic with my son.

Instead of being upset with a bad test score, we talked to him about the root of the problem. He’s got good grades in everything else, so what was it about chemistry?

During the meeting, we asked his teacher to dissect his last test. During that time she determined he had froze on the first part of the test with the multiple choice problems. By the time he got to the short answers, he had lost his confidence and couldn’t even finish the test. Thus the poor grade.

So she introduced some test taking skills and told him to start with by reading the test through first and then start the short answers. She told him to write out the formulas before starting the math problems and then basically do what he would consider the “easy problems”. If he thought of those as a warm up, then he’d be ready to take on the word problems.

She also implemented a plan that he reviews his chemistry every night not just cram for the test. It had been okay to cram for the test last year, but in 11th grade, the tests are based on the progression of the year’s work, not just that past week. 

I truly believe we are his support team and I’m looking at things differently now. Generally, we are slowing things down at home. I’m trying to cook more substantial food for him and make sure he has eaten protein before school. We are trying to be quieter in the evenings and have asked him to pick one night a weekend to see friends.

He won’t get in trouble for a bad grade, I had to let him know that. I think he had been afraid he disappoint us which just made the pressure worse. These next two years are going to be hard enough for him. He doesn’t need our added stress. 

It’s too late to drop classes, so if your child is struggling, maybe it’s time to get a tutor. Nothing wrong with a little help. Often a local college student who is majoring in that subject is a good choice and more affordable than a tutoring center. Libraries offer tutoring programs for free as do after school facilities like Boys and Girls Clubs. 

Keep talking to your student and perhaps their teachers. Teachers love when students come to them. They really do like to see that the student is making an effort. If you have the chance to jump in now and help, you might relieve some stress all around. 

SPOTLIGHT: Terry Talks about Navigating the College Admissions Process With a Homeschooler

Terry’s daughter Ceylon is a talented dancer who chose to homeschool during high school allowing more time for her dance training.

Hi Terry, I am super curious about the process for homeschoolers when it comes to applying to college, so thanks for sharing Ceylon’s story!

First question, did you hire a college counselor to help out?

Yes, we hired a College Counselor. The mother who mentored me through homeschooling made a recommendation. We met with her three times and she was available through emails and for proof reading.

How did Ceylon get teacher recommendations?

Getting teacher recommendations, was tricky. We homeschooled 11th and 12th grade so Ceylon reached out to her 10th grade English teacher from her old school who was happy to make a recommendation. She also was taking classes at City College and one particular teacher seemed interested in her educational goals. She had some reservations about asking him because college teachers often have limited knowledge of students but he had least seemed like the best candidate due to questions he had asked her about her future plans. Thankfully, he agreed.

Do you feel colleges were more accepting or dismissive of homeschool kids or did it not seem to matter?

I would say the schools that have a lower acceptance rate may have been more dismissive of her as a homeschooler. The current school she is attending gave her a dance department acceptance letter about two weeks after her dance audition. There was understanding that she most likely was accepted into the college but official confirmation was necessary. We were not notified of the final acceptance until the day before she was moving into her dorm. My guess is the review takes longer to conduct for homeschoolers.

Did the homeschooling high school classes she took satisfy the needs of the colleges?

There are two point of views among Homeschoolers as to whether to make sure you take A-G approved classes or not, in order to meet the California college requirements. The college counselor advised me that colleges also look at a student’s ability to be diversified in how and where courses are taken. The majority of Ceyon’s (high school) classes were college classes but she also took an online chartered school (curriculum) for a very small part. And, we hired a private tutor for her Algebra 2 and Statistics because she was not ready for those classes at a college level.

Do you think she had a leg up on other college Freshman this year? I bet being more familiar with college campus and classes really helped her adapt.

Ceylon has said more than once she is so happy to have done City College classes before attending her current school. She enjoyed being at a small campus before going to a much larger campus. What she is most grateful for is to have a year’s worth of credits in her freshman year. Her goal is to do college in 2 or 3 years.

Tell us about the audition process for applying to a dance program.

Ceylon did 4 auditions for college dance programs. She had narrowed her college applications down to only schools that the tuition was reasonable because she could not justify us paying a lot of tuition for a dance degree. This was completely her decision. Luckily all of the schools had a Los Angeles audition even if they were across the country. She was able to determine a lot about the dance programs based on what the audition was like. All of schools had a lot of perspective students auditioning with some schools needing to hold several auditions to accommodate all the possible students. Ceylon had done summer intensive auditions so she found the college audition to be very much the same as an dance intensive audition.

How involved were you in guiding her through her decisions? Do you feel like you understood how to navigate this world or since you were not in a traditional high school, did you feel like you had to figure everything out yourself?

I imagine parents in both traditional and home schools have their share of having to figure out the whole college process. Even though we hired a college counselor, I was still responsible for her High School transcripts and a Homeschool description of our program. As the School Counselor, I also had to write an objective recommendation letter for my daughter. The college counselor we hired kept Ceylon on track but it was up to me to navigate my part. Again, Ceylon was very practical in her decisions about schools. She wanted a college with a reputable dance department and not an expensive tuition. She realized to balance the academics and dance she did not want a school with too much rigorous academics.

Any final advice for other parents with children who homeschool?

I felt a huge sigh of relief to know she was accepted into colleges having done our own homeschool. The mother who mentored us had a daughter two years ahead of my daughter who got into all the schools she applied to so they modeled how to do it. I suggest you have someone who can guide you through the process. The greatest gift this mom gave me was how to do a transcript and a school description. Both took a lot of work.

Any final advice for parents whose children are applying to dance programs?

Ceylon may not be the best one to give advise on college dance programs. She is ambivalent about college for dancers. There is a lot of work in a dance program that requires you to complete both dance and academic requirements. The only way she was able to commit to a college dance program was to continue her training outside of college. She recently also did a teacher’s certification program for teaching acrobatic-dance. So for Ceylon’s goals there is more she desires than just the college degree.

Sounds like she is off to a great start! Best of luck to both you and Ceylon. 

What Do You Do If Your Child Has Chosen a Career You Don’t Think Is Best For Them

My father wanted me to become a dental hygienist or a secretary. He thought he knew what was best for me. Those were different times and he was trying to be realistic. He attempted to steer me away from a career in the arts, but I wouldn’t hear of it.

I wonder now if I know what career is best for my kids? I watch them both closely and try to guide them towards their strengths. When my daughter said that she wanted to be a dancer I knew that was a bad idea. It’s so hard to become a professional dancer and you have to want it and nothing else. I knew she didn’t want it enough, but how was she to understand that? I spent a lifetime working with professional dancers and could see that only a few make it. Bursting that bubble was a tough thing to do. But I think she realizes now that she didn’t have what it takes. It’s confusing to her because she has the talent and sometimes questions her choice, but in the end, I think she gets it.

Right now my son wants to be an actor and everyone knows how hard that can be. So instead of suggesting another career I ask him questions like, are you sure you could study acting every day for four years in a conservatory school? After spending a month in acting school this summer he has an idea what that means and imagines wanting more out of his college experience. I also say things like, I can’t really see you waiting tables and going to auditions every day, which is the reality for an actor. He is starting to think of other jobs he could do that involve theater or film. He’s now thinking about set design and directing and dare I say it, writing.

A friend from high school wanted to be a doctor but learned during an internship that she faints at the sight of blood. She wound up writing medical text books. She managed to have a life in the medical field that she loved and earned advanced degrees but stayed away from scalpels. Not everyone can be a doctor or lawyer, but there are hundreds of careers that support those professions.

If your child is headed down a path that you don’t think is right for them, honor their interest in that profession. Research the various occupations in similar fields. Your child might say they want to go into marine biology, but what does that mean? There are thousands of jobs in marine biology. Instead of discouraging them, help them to find something specific in that field that matches their skills. Maybe they are good managers and can manage a marine biology team, or they could teach marine biology or even write about it.

My daughter just met the captain of her college surf team in the library studying physics. She asked him what he planned to do with his physics degree. He told her he wanted to design wave pools. How cool is that? He is taking his passion and knowledge of surfing and applying it to a real world job. That’s how we can help guide our kids. Help them find careers that combine their passions and skills.

What Do You Do If Your Child Is Not As Smart/Intellectual As You Are?

You have lived with your child for at least sixteen or seventeen years and by now you probably realize they are not the same as you. In many ways they are, but let’s face it, you are not clones. Now that they are about to apply to college navigating their journey will be different than how you navigated your own.

What if they are not as talented as you were, what if they aren’t as good at math as you were, what if generally they aren’t as smart as you are? These realities might be creeping up as you are looking at Harvard and they are looking at a local liberal arts school.

My advice is notice and embrace the differences between you and your child. You may have thrived in a city at their age, but you might have raised a home-body who loves fresh air and a chance to study under great oak trees.

This is their time to thrive and to shine and your time to support them. If their SAT’s are not as high as yours were, relish in what their accomplishments are. They are individuals and surely they have their own passions and strengths. You can’t put a square peg in a round hole, so don’t make them cram for that AP class if they just can’t handle the workload. Instead nurture their interest in community service or the school newspaper or a sport you never thought you’d want to play.

The differences you see in your child now will only become more prevalent once they go to college anyway. The doctor you thought you were raising might turn out to be afraid of blood. But maybe they discover a love for writing and end up becoming a medical text book editor or author.

Enjoy this time with your student and embrace your differences. The differences might be something that bring you closer together than ever before. And what do you have to lose? College is just around the corner.

The Difference Between Semester and Quarter System Schools

My daughter started college classes this Fall on Thursday, September 27. When I tell people that they usually ask, “Why so late? Most colleges began in August.” The reason is that my daughter’s school is on a quarter system, not a semester system. The Fall quarter or “term” begins late September.

The benefits to a quarter system that we have seen so far are that she was able to enjoy a longer summer. She had the whole month of August and most of September at home before heading off to college. In her case, this was a good thing. She was so burned out after high school I couldn’t imagine packing up the car and taking her to college in early August. She was also able to keep her summer job longer and save extra money. But the quarter system had a couple other surprises we needed to understand.

With the quarter system, the freshman are only allowed to take three academic classes. I remembered taking full loads of five to six classes per semester, so when I first heard this I was both concerned and confused.

My daughter explained that the quarter is shorter than a semester, so taking three classes makes sense. The total amount of time students spend in the classroom is the same as if they were taking more classes over more time. In the end, it evens out. My daughter will take fifteen credits three times a year. And if she decides, can add a fourth quarter and take summer classes. In the end of her freshman year, she will have completed nine classes. Her friends in semester schools will be completing eight to ten classes this first year.

Breaks between classes are different as well. The calendars look like this:

Semester System

Fall semester = 15 weeks
Winter break = 5 weeks
Spring semester = 16 weeks (includes 1 week Spring break)
Summer break = 16 weeks

The average student will take four classes with two midterms/per class. In the semester system, students are given an RRR (Reading/Review/Recitation) week – one week to study for finals. Quarter system students are not offered the RRR week

Quarter System

Fall quarter = 10 weeks
Winter break = 2 weeks
Winter quarter = 10 weeks
Spring break = 1 week
Spring quarter = 10 weeks
Summer = 19 weeks

The pros of a semester system appear to be fewer exams, longer winter break, the RRR week, and a break in between exams. The cons for the Semester system seem to be fewer classes per year.

In a quarter system, the student can explore more classes, usually 9-12. They have a real Spring break between quarters, they get a class done with less cumulative finals over ten weeks not fifteen weeks

The cons with the quarter system are that students are always in a go-go-go phase, midterms hit them over a short time, only a two week winter break, no RRR week, and more exams per year.

State schools tend to be quarter systems, but not all are. So keep these differences in mind when applying to colleges.

Remedies for Homesickness

It’s almost Columbus Day and I am learning some of my daughter’s friends who went to college across the country are flying home for the long weekend. I know they are also planning to come home for Thanksgiving, so why spend the money and take the long journey now? Homesickness is why.

My daughter who just moved into her dorm last week wants to come home next weekend to see her friends. She is already feeling homesick but I don’t think coming home next weekend would be a good idea.

I feel lucky to talk to my daughter almost every day since she has been gone and my son texts her most nights. I know she talks to her high school friends quite often. Her campus is amazing and there is so much to do and so many new friends to make. So why be homesick? I told her she is not missing anything here. “If you were home now you’d probably just be hanging out on the sofa reading.” “That’s what I want to do!” she said.

According to CNN, “… despite the way it’s coined, homesickness isn’t necessarily about home. And neither is it exactly an illness, experts said.
‘Instead, it stems from our instinctive need for love, protection and security — feelings and qualities usually associated with home’, said Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama’s School of Public Health. ‘When these qualities aren’t present in a new environment, we begin to long for them — and hence home. You’re not literally just missing your house. You’re missing what’s normal, what is routine, the larger sense of social space, because those are the things that help us survive,’ Klapow said.”

“He offered another way of approaching homesickness: It’s merely an emotion that comes in waves. ‘Very few emotions stay with you all the time, they come and they go,’ he said. But when it strikes, both children and adults often get caught off guard by it, he added. ‘They think something’s terribly wrong. But it’s normal and adaptive to feel homesick for some period of time. It’s just your emotions and mind telling you you’re out of your element.’”

“‘It turns out, [homesickness is] the very thing that inoculates against a future bout of homesickness,’ Thurber said. ‘By living through a difficult separation, your mind forces itself to cope.’ It’s this reason why experts advise parents against helicoptering their children out of college if they complain about homesickness.”

Kaplow suggests parents stop emailing and texting their students every five minutes. Instead set up a time once a week when they talk. Students need to learn problem solving and suffering a bit can be the best way to learn.

How can you not love it when your college freshman calls you and wants to tell you about her day? It feels wrong to tell my daughter I can’t talk to her for another week. But I see his point, I get it.

The last thing you want to do is to watch your child suffer. And if homesickness is not missing your home but it stems from the instinctive need for love, then us parents are suffering from homesickness too with our kids gone. So maybe the once a week call is good for all of us. As hard as it is to admit.

How Does It Feel To Have a Half-Empty Nest?

My oldest recently left for college and I am definitely feeling her absence. I first noticed as my son who is a high school  junior was getting ready for school. We both realized how easy the morning routine had become since he wasn’t fighting with his sister for the bathroom. And since he is sixteen, I am no longer driving carpool! Last year my mornings were very stressful getting them both out of the house and making the long drive to school with a car full of grumpy teenagers. So after eighteen years, I now have my mornings back.

My house is now cleaner. My daughter tended to spread out throughout the house with her things everywhere including in my room. She liked to make smoothies and weird concoctions in the blender and never really cleaned up properly. The dishes and laundry have sized down, as has the amount of homework help I am lending in the evenings.

I feel a shift in the house with her being gone but also an absence. It feels like something is wrong, kind of like there is a storm cloud blocking the sunshine.
But I do talk to her once a day and it’s lovely to hear her voice and to hear of her new adventures. She sends me photos of her new friends and tells me details about them. I feel really lucky that she wants to share this info with me. During her high school years, she kept a lot of her friends’ info to herself.

My husband remarked that dropping her off at college was like leaving her at Kindergarten. He wasn’t sure she was ready then and he doesn’t feel ready now. But we did leave her then and we left her last week. It’s the tough part of parenting, the knowing when to leave.

My daughter living away from home is an adjustment for all of us, but it’s not forever. It’s until Thanksgiving and maybe another trip home before then to see her brother in his school play. In the meantime, I am going to catch my breath. It’s been a fast and furious eighteen years. I remember after she was born thinking, okay now I can rest after that long pregnancy. And then the nurse handed her to me and I have not put her down since. Not until last week when I left her at college.

How to Pack For College

My daughter Sydney leaves for college in five days. Currently, her room is full of boxes and containers. She’ll be sharing a small dorm room with two other girls and has been advised not to take too much. So what exactly is essential?

“I didn’t take anything to college,” Sydney’s dad said last night. “I think I brought a toothbrush and a clock and that was it.” He is not a fan of the two-inch natural latex bed topper that we purchased. A mattress topper is on the college suggestion list of what to bring. Her dad remembered tripping over his GE electric clock that plugged into the wall. He kicked it repeatedly across the dorm room because he had no side table and his mattress was on the floor so the clock was also on the floor. He didn’t even have furniture in his dorm room. He told us this story as Sydney was packing her essential oils.

Sydney found her roommates online through a Facebook group established by the college. She was able to pre-screen and interview her potential roommates. Once they agreed to live together, they put their names on their dorm preference list and the college agreed. They’ve met each other once during the summer registration and have been in constant communication since. They determined who should be on the top bunk, who should have the bottom bunk and who gets the top bunk with no bed underneath based on a roll the dice app. They have also discussed room decor and texted each other pics from Bed Bath and Beyond getting approvals on purchases from each other.

Like Sydney’s dad, I had no mattress topper or pick of roommates or beds prior to my arrival at college. My roommates told me after I moved in, they snooped through my things and were confused when my record collection contained Broadway show tunes and Sex Pistols albums. Yes, I brought my stereo and record collection to college. We all did, so we had four stereos in our dorm room. I was relieved that my roommates didn’t have unicorns and rainbow posters on the walls, I didn’t really care what their music preferences were.

The important thing is that our children will sleep well. If the mattress topper and essential oils will help with that, then I am all for it. A touch of home doesn’t hurt, but starting fresh in a new place with new friends will be the true test of the freshman year. Fastweb has a pretty comprehensive list of what to bring to college, but be prepared, there is a lot more on it than a toothbrush and alarm clock!

5 Must-Read Back to School Tips for Parents

Though it may seem like the kids just got out of school, it is never too early to start prepping for the back to school season. With school starting next month for some, it is smart to get ahead of the game, but where do you start?

 

1. First things first, start with their basic backpack needs

The best place to start when it comes to back to school shopping is the traditional school supplies. Think about what your child is going to need in the classroom, or at school on a daily basis. Always stock up on extra paper, pencils, folders, binders, and notebooks. Even if they don’t end up using the supplies this time around, you will have them ready for next year.

One basic item that always comes up as a surprise expense is a graphing calculator. If your kid is in middle or high school, they will most likely need one of these for their math courses. It is important to invest in one that will last several years to prevent having to purchase a new one every year. You can’t go wrong with ordering one online to avoid scrambling once classes are back in session.

Outside of the backpack, a locker is a student’s safe space meant to store whatever they need with easy access. The best way to keep everything in the locker in order is purchasing some locker organization kits, with magnet organizers, shelves and supply drawers. These tools allow for optimized storage space and an eased state-of-mind.

With the unexpected accidents that we all periodically encounter, it can’t hurt to leave the locker stocked with some precautionary items such as a spare change of clothes, deodorant, mouthwash, extra pencils, and a few dollars in the event they forgot to pack a lunch.

 

2. When it comes to lunches and snacks, don’t make things too difficult for yourself

It’s always been best to eat natural and stay healthy, but nowadays, it’s also trendy. From Kombucha Drinks to acai bowls, kids these days love posting pictures on Instagram of their healthy, colorful foods. Keep it simple and always have fruit and vegetables ready to serve. Hummus and peanut butter go well with different crackers or some vegetables. For example, you can always pack the traditional “ants on a log” (celery and peanut butter with raisins). Don’t go crazy trying to prepare anything too fancy or exotic, unless you have the time, in which case, go for it.

As far as packing these healthy lunches goes, consider investing in an insulated lunch box to ensure a fresh meal. Some schools don’t serve lunch until four or five hours after the students arrive, so you want to make sure their food isn’t too warm, soggy, or stale.

 

3. A good sense of style goes a long way

Your student’s daily cuisine isn’t the only thing you’ll want to keep fresh this back to school season. A good sense of style goes a long way in school. The first week of school is crucial when it comes to showcasing your fashion sense and making excellent first impressions, but you may not know what’s in and trending. It never hurts to take a look at Teen Vogue every once in a while.

If you haven’t noticed, comfortable and athletic wear is what’s trending, which is perfect for long school days. You can’t go wrong with buying a comfortable pair of shoes and some track pants for the school day.

While athletic wear is currently in style, it is important to note that dressing for success does, in fact, help increase productivity. According to Brain Fodder, when a person wears a suit or formal wear, there is a psychological response that makes them feel more powerful than usual. Perhaps once a week, your child can have a day where they dress nicer to boost their self-esteem and improve the quality of their work.

Shopping for clothes can also be very expensive, which is why shopping smart and being aware of the deals around you is key to a successful back to school season. During the summer and early fall, winter clothes are marked down and on sale. They are the same quality as what’s sold in the fall and winter, but with the demand on them being lower, retailers are forced to lower the sale price. For parents shopping, it would be beneficial to take advantage of these deals and shop in advance for the coming winter months.

 

4. Start planning for your child’s post-secondary future

Planning for the future, whether it is shopping for clothes or setting up a savings account, is the best way to build security for yourself and your family. That is why this back to school season you should consider planning for your child’s post-secondary future. While most public schools have an on-site counselor, on average there are 482 students per college counselor, which results in a lack of guidance for the majority of students. Not everyone has the means or resources to hire a private college counselor, which can end up costing parents thousands of dollars.

This is why myKlovr, the world’s first digital college counselor, is an investment you should be willing to make. The platform is powered by artificial intelligence and has several features that will prove to be useful in helping you achieve their academic goals including an extremely customizable college finder, a GPA calculator for every grading scale, a personalized student dashboard and a linked parent account to help hold the child accountable and provide mentorship.

Outside of myKlovr, there are several other tech products in the realm of back to school shopping that any student must have. While laptops and tablets are often not required in school, they do help students to stay organized and keep track of their assignments with ease. If you do end up buying one of these, they can be pretty expensive and you want to make sure they last.

Getting a protective case for your phone and laptop is a wise choice and will provide some insurance of your electronic devices’ safety. With these new devices, you can’t go wrong with purchasing a good pair of headphones. Listening to music is very popular amongst youth and is also important when it comes to helping to relieve stress with the day-to-day challenges kids face in school.

 

5. Invest in products and services that help alleviate their stress

Let’s face it, school isn’t as easy as it once was. With the technology emerging at a rapid pace, excessive news coverage of political topics and national tragedies, the ongoing pressure of maintaining a social presence on the internet, constant contact with their social network, and many other factors, being an adolescent has never entailed so much baggage.

That’s why investing in products and services that help alleviate stress is vital for this back to school season. Listening to music is one way to eliminate some stress, but there are other items you can buy to help reduce the amount of stress your child endures. Organizational tools like a planner or purposed storage always help to declutter. Lotions, candles and bath products with scents like lavender and vanilla are also found to be beneficial in relaxing many people. Don’t hesitate to provide your kid with tools allowing them to relax because it can prove to make them more productive in the rest of their lives.

Encourage your child to exercise more often by buying a gym membership or a pair of running shoes. We all know that exercising is good for your physical health, but according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), it also can help to greatly reduce stress levels. Acknowledging your child’s stress and anxiety and taking preventative action is important for the well-being of your child.

The most important part of the back to school process is to allow yourself time to make your list and get all of the shopping done. It is never a good idea to leave it all for the last minute. So start talking with your child now and get a head start on your back to school shopping.

How to Help Your Parents Help You with College Admissions

The early 1990s were an exciting time. America had won the Cold War. Trappers Keepers were the bane of elementary school teachers around the country. (Teachers hated them because of the noisy velcro.) And on the news, reporters were talking about a newfangled technology called the Internet.

Why am I waxing on about part of a decade that I was too young to remember? It’s to get across the fact that a lot has changed since the days when airports and hotels were full of payphones. And your parents, who probably went to college in the early 90s, aren’t up to speed on how the college application process has evolved since then.

In this article, we’ll examine how you can help your parents help you. That phrase may seem a bit contradictory (or just confusing), but let me convince that if you invest a little time educating your parents about how applying to college works in 2018, they will become fully prepared to help you gain admission to your dream college.

Why Bother?

You ever know someone who had good intentions but made things worse because they didn’t know what they were doing? If you don’t educate your parents about modern college admissions, you and they may fall into the same trap. Also, since they’re family, your relationships might become strained as a result.

There’s a lot of risks involved keeping your parents in the dark. Let’s change that. The sooner you get started, the sooner your parents will be able to bring their skills to the table knowledgeably and productively.

What to Bring Up

The path to college has changed a lot in the last 25 years. Going over everything with your parents would take forever, so at a minimum, hit the following high notes when you talk to them.

Acceptance Rates Have Plummeted

When your parents applied to college, there were plenty of colleges and universities that were difficult to get into. Back then the Ivy League was closed off to all but the super smart or well connected.

In 2018, getting into any one of the top 75 colleges/universities is just as tricky as it was to get into the Ivy League 25 years ago. And with more high school seniors reaching for those top colleges every year, the odds of getting in are ever dwindling. When I graduated Vanderbilt in 2008, it was a running joke that no one in the class of 2008 would have been accepted for the class of 2012.

How do you get this point across to your parents? Show them the admissions data from their colleges since they graduated. Even if they attended a public college or university, you would still discover the trend I described in the previous paragraph.

Tuition Has Skyrocketed

If your parents went to a private college, they should know from experience that college can be pricey. Even so, tuition just about everywhere has gone through the roof. Like with acceptance rates, convey this information to your parents through a few relevant examples. If you haven’t already, now would be a great time to discuss just how much financial support your parents are willing to give you when you go to college.

(Just About) Everything’s Done Online

When I applied to college in the fall of 2003, about 50% of everything I submitted was done online. Today it’s approaching 100%. Don’t be surprised if some colleges ask for digital copies of your transcripts.

Once you have finished your college list, tell your parents how the application process works for each school. This way they will better understand and be able to help you throughout the process. Making them members of your myKlovr support team doesn’t hurt either. 😉

Standardized Test Scores Ain’t What They Used to Be

Your parents took the SAT/ACT when they were high school students. Yes, the tests have changed in the last 25 years, but not so much that your parents couldn’t recognize the modern versions. Also, your parents may even be able to help you prepare for the Reading or English sections. I wouldn’t count on Math, though. Everybody forgets high school Math.

The biggest change your parents should recognize is that the way college admissions counselors view these tests has changed significantly over the past 25 years. Back then, an impressive SAT/ACT score was a golden ticket to admissions success. Since then, the growing number of applicants along with the ballooning test-prep industry has made the value of a perfect or near-perfect score fall faster than a meteor falling to Earth.

What does this mean for you and your parents? The main point you need to get across to them is that yes, SAT/ACT scores still matter, but their importance has shrunk A LOT in the past quarter-century. Stress that college admissions counselors, especially those at the most competitive schools, want to see well-rounded candidates who excel in the academic, extracurricular, and community realms.

Benefits

So you’ve caught your parents up to speed, and they’re still willing to help out. That’s great! Here are a few crucial ways they can assist you throughout the process:

  • Buying organizational materials such as folders or organizational apps for your phone/computer.
  • Proofreading college essays or investing in Grammarly (or a similar app).
  • Hiring a standardized test or subject-specific tutor.
  • Researching scholarship opportunities.
  • Teaching you financial planning tips to budget for college expenses.

Final Thoughts

A little knowledge goes a long way. For you, imparting a little knowledge to your parents about the modern college admissions experience can go a long way to help you get into your dream college. Along with your parents, be sure to invite other trusted adults to your myKlovr support team. Over the following months (or years if you’re still a high school underclassman), use these adults as valuable resources.

Last, but certainly not least, happy beginning of summer break! 🙂

SPOTLIGHT: What’s It Like To Play On a Division III Team in College

A dad and daughter talk about playing Division III tennis in college. Dad would like to be referred to as Happy Dad (HD) and his daughter, Pleased Daughter (PD).

Before diving into the interview, here’s an explanation of the differences between Division I, II, and III sports: According to prepscholar.com, “Division I offers the highest level of competition and Division I schools’ athletic departments have the biggest budgets. Division III is the lowest level of competition in the NCAA, and Division III schools tend to have the smallest athletic department budgets.” The article here does a great job of explaining the differences in detail.

“Division III offers no athletic scholarships, tends to have the lowest level of competition, but the highest number of participants across all divisions. Division III schools offer an average of 18 sports per school. Also, Division III has the highest average percentage of the student body participating in sports.”

Thank you so much Happy Dad and Pleased Daughter for sharing your story with us.

PD, how much time at college is devoted to playing tennis?

PD: I play about two hours every day and a few days where I spend three hours on court if I decide to do an individual session separately outside of team practice with my coach. Then on weekends, matches can range from three to four hours and if we have back to back matches then I spend roughly six to eight hours over the weekend.

Do you travel with your tennis team? If so, is that challenging during the school year?

PD: Yes, during the season we have at least six away matches which requires us to travel to schools in Massachusetts as well as the greater New England area. It can be challenging if we have weekday matches because I would often miss classes. In the event that I missed class, I would have to catch up with classmates and my professors which was hard because I felt like sometimes I would fall behind. Also, it can be challenging socially because if we have overnight tournaments we miss weekends events on campus.

I can imagine starting college not having a group of friends is challenging for students. It seems like beginning with a group of students who share the same interests, tennis in your case, would help make the transition away from home earlier. What has your experience been?

PD: I think that in the process of transitioning into college, being on a team helped me immensely. I was able to meet new people through my teammates and I also made connections with other athletes on campus. Specifically freshman year we had our main season in the fall so our team arrived at school about a week and a half early to train during pre-season. During pre-season, our team got extremely close and I became a lot more comfortable with my new environment so when school actually started I already felt pretty familiar with campus. Also, I think naturally the athletes tend to gravitate towards each other because we all have a common understanding of what it is like to balance sports and school.

Does being on a sports team at college help to give you an identity, or a group of friends to be with?

PD: Currently, the majority of my friends are other athletes. I find that being on the tennis team does give me an identity as an athlete because people know that I play tennis and they wish me luck if they hear that our team has a match or they ask me how practice went when they see me walking across campus in my practice gear. I think that playing on a team gives me a sense of purpose and accountability because I am representing not just myself but also the team as whole every day.

Happy Dad how do you feel about your daughter playing on a Division II team?

HD: Division III sports can be very appealing because you get to play a sport you love and you get a good education. Many Division I athletes won’t study abroad because they can’t miss the time due to competitions.

What advice might you offer parents whose child plans to play sports in college?

HD: Students and parents can become very anxious and even hysterical during the college selection process; DO NOT FALL VICTIM TO IT. Do your best not to allow parents or other students to influence you. Encourage your student to only apply to schools they believe they would attend. Only visit schools they think they would attend. Parents be realistic about applying to a school that you can pay for and the student has earned.

Have conversations at the dinner table about what your child thinks they are looking for. Help them consider the pros and cons of each possibility. When I took PD to my alma mater she didn’t like it. No specific reason. That was the end of the conversation and it was off the list.

Finally, take the college selection experience as an opportunity to learn more about your kid and watch them make the first big decision of their life.

Thank you, HD and PD, I appreciate your talking to me and best of luck to you both!

Q&A: How Students Benefit from Their Parents’ Involvement

We spoke with Kristin Sherlock, a dedicated teacher at the Academy of American Studies who teaches algebra and geometry to 9th and 10th graders, to discuss parents’ role in their children’s learning and development, as well as their relationship with school.

Q: Experts agree that parents’ involvement positively impacts their children’s learning and development. From your experience, how can a high school student benefit from their parents’ engagement?

A: There are so many different ways that a parent’s involvement can help their student. First of all, it’s just been my experience that whenever a parent shows a genuine interest in the student’s involvement—whether it’s academics, sports or you would hope both—the kids just drive to do better. When I was a student athlete, my parents cared about my grades. I didn’t want to get a phone call home for anything bad. I always wanted to get the awards on the sports team. So it wasn’t even a show off for myself at that age but it was really a show off for my parents.

When a student is also held accountable to their parents, I think scores are just that much higher. For instance, we have an online grade book at my school, and I know Mike (Kristin’s husband who’s an Assistant Principal at an elementary school) has the same experience. Parents and students both have different portals of access. The second a grade is updated, whether it’s good or bad or even indifferent if a child’s score isn’t changed, I’d hear from the parents via email or phone, “oh I was wondering why he didn’t do his homework”,  “can he make the homework up”, or “are you going to offer extra credit since his test score wasn’t as high”. It also gives parents the ability on the grade book to interact with teachers because they can email us straight from the grade book.

Again, I think it goes back to the accountable piece. I think if students are accountable not just to themselves but to somebody else like their parents—especially in high school—their achievement is going to be so much higher. Teachers have very high expectations. But if a student is surrounded by chaos in their life and they don’t have an adult figure in their life, I think it’s too much actually of us to ask him to just focus on school, when they can’t even sort out XY and Z at home.

Q: How should parents support their children on their education path while still allowing their child to remain fully accountable?

A: I think it’s really important that kids never get the “get out of jail free” card from their parents, like an excuse note that says “please excuse them from the test because they are not feeling good.” I mean that’s not life. Anytime that they’re given a “get out of jail free” card, and they don’t have to face a life situation of being held accountable, you’re not setting them up for being successful. Being a parent, I realize that. Being a teacher, I see that unfortunately happen. Sometimes there are ways that you can go back and explain to the parents. And most of the time, parents are pretty understanding. As soon as they see a zero for their child’s grade, they want to know why it’s there. Well, you wrote the note and said that they weren’t going to take the test today. They didn’t get what they needed to get done. And all of the sudden, their grade is failing now. So they ask what can we do to make this grade go higher. You always have to, even as the parent, the teacher, put it back on the kids. You can give them options and opportunities, but if they don’t follow through, they don’t get that extra reward and they don’t get the grade they wanted. Mike, would you agree with that? Anything you can think of to add to that?

[Mike:] The school that I’m working at has the gifted and talented, or the better students for the lack of a better word. The parent’s—if their kids are not getting the grade they want to see—first instinct is to question the school, the grading policy, the teachers themselves and so on. If a kid is maybe not doing as well as you would like, instead of just going immediately blame the school or the teacher, which is very very common now, ask what did you do. Did you speak to the teacher? Did you seek out some extra assistance? Or basically—it’s how the real world works—try to equip the student with the ability to overcome the challenges and have the success that they want.

[Kristin] Another thing to add on to what you just said is the fact that it’s a very weird position to be put in. As a teacher, when a parent asks you a question in front of the student about why something is, our first instinct as teachers is to look back at the student and say, “do you want to answer that or would you like me to?” We need to put it back on the kids because we know why that grade is the way it is. I guess we try to make sure it’s the student’s job to be accountable and to have their own voice.

Q: Should parents allow their children to make mistakes for instance when choosing a college or a career?

A: Should the parents be able to tell somebody where to go to college? I don’t know if I believe in that. I always get excited when my students say that they’re taking a weekend to go away with their family because they’re going to go visit a college. That’s always exciting to me because that student has a voice and option. If a student is making the decision to apply to and go to college and following through, then it’s OK if the student makes a mistake in a sense of maybe choosing the wrong environment, as long as college is not taken off the table.

We have had students in the past whose parents have said to them, “if you don’t go here, I’m not paying for this school”. Sometimes because of that threat the students would go to that school that’s not their first choice. The parents might not see it on their end, but as the teachers, you see these kids get so nervous when their acceptance letters and sometimes the denial letters start coming in mail. If they don’t get into the school they wanted to, and they’re forced to go to the one that mom or dad wanted them to go to, that’s not always the best situation. Yes, it’s great that they’re going to go to school and it’s great that college opportunities exist and it’s there for them. But ultimately, I think they need to be given the right tools to make those decisions themselves. We still have a lot of parents who have never been to college. In their head, sometimes it seems more glamorous. I think sometimes they’re afraid of the kids making the same mistakes they made. So mistakes are fine if they are learned from. But I don’t know if I think a mistake would be going to the wrong school, if it was the child figuring that out for themselves.

Q: What do schools expect from parents? How does this change when children go to college?

A: I think you’d get a different answer from what schools expect from parents if you asked a teacher versus if you asked an administrator. I think they’d kind of blend and go together. I think schools expect parents to be involved and there’s nothing more uncomfortable then when you make a phone call home and the parents say, “well, what do you want me to do about that” or “yes, you know so-and-so is out of control, I can’t really reign them back in.” That’s very unfortunate call to make because the parent doesn’t give you insight. It would be possible to loop their child back into being interested in your class. But you as a teacher know that the parent isn’t supportive and have to find a different way in to get to the kids.

So I think ultimately, as a teacher, you want parents to be engaged, and you want them to ask questions. My classroom door is always open for instance. So if parents ever want to come in and interact with their kids during the school day, they are more than welcome to. I want them to go see their kids play sports. I want them to ask their kids questions. I want them to check up and make sure they’re doing their homework. I want them to look at the grade book and ask their children questions.  If they don’t get the answers they want, I want them to feel comfortable to come to me as their teacher and say: “I asked my child this question, this is the answer they gave me. I need more details about it.” I want to have an ongoing dialogue. I want them to be open and affirming to who their kids are and accepting of what they’re doing, even when it’s difficult. I don’t want them to ever lower their expectations because I as their teacher will never do that. So if they’re at home and their expectations are continually lowered, it’s going to be a battle that I’m going to continuously fight. I want them to always be engaged in every aspect of their child’s life. And I’d want them to ask questions when the questions are most difficult to ask.

Q: What is your advice as regards parents interacting with school? When should parents get involved and when should they not? What are the best ways of their involvement?

A: I think if a parent is truly going to be in support of their child, they’re paying attention to every aspect of their academic life. I don’t think you just get involved when it’s a bad situation. I think you have to applaud the successes as well. Involvement doesn’t mean you’re hands-free until it’s a do or die time and your child is sinking.

I don’t know if there’s a time I would ever say a parent shouldn’t be involved. Schools should have an open door policy to parents. I think parents need to ask their children questions. I think they need to ask the school questions. I think PTAs or PTOs, are great places for parents to be involved. Unfortunately, those have also become very political at many schools. So it’s not always as easy to be involved in those. I’m having a very difficult time being involved in my daughters PTA or PTO because of when they hold meetings and the things that they’re doing. But it doesn’t mean it’s impossible and that I’ll stop trying. If there’s an invitation to an open school night, every parent should make themselves available to go. If you can’t, send them an email so that you’re corresponding with your child’s teachers.

Make sure you know the principal and the assistant principal by name because you’re modeling that for your child as well. So the more comfortable as a parent you are at your child’s school, you’re just setting your child up for more success. Definitely don’t get involved if you’re going to have a combative relationship. You don’t want your child to be in an environment where they’re always fighting against their teachers, their peers or the administration. But I think if you can foster healthy relationships, that’s just another relationship, another model to set for your kids that will pay off in spades.

When they get to college, they’ll see the way that they have been able to interact with their teachers in high school and they can take that responsibility and set appointments with office hours with their college instructors. That was one of the scariest things I’ve ever had to do in my English lit class from my freshman year of college. But I knew what was expected of me because I knew that failure wasn’t an option for me. But I knew that because those were the expectations communicated to me all the way through school. So if I was going to get a not-good grade, I needed to make sure I could explain why in high school and in college. So I made those office hour appointments and I guess I still felt accountable to my parents as well when I was in college. I was doing that for myself but also for my family.

Q: What are the most common pitfalls of parent involvement? What are the watch-outs?

A: As a teacher, I would say one of the most common pitfalls is a parent who’s not actively involved in their student’s life. One of the saddest and most difficult things is to try to work with kids in high school, whose parents are not involved in their life. They are either too busy or they have things going on and they’re not willing to come in for a meeting with you.

We as teachers, my husband and I, when we worked with a team of people, have sat in meetings with the children whose parents don’t show up. That’s a very hard situation and that’s when you become not so much a teacher anymore, but more like a parent figure to that child because you’re consoling them and you’re helping them understand. Often times they get angry or they get sad and you become that person they come to.

Another pitfall? Probably when parents are too involved. It goes back to the part of parents not holding their children accountable. Parents holding the teachers first accountable as opposed to asking their kids “what should you have done?”. By all means ask the teacher too if they don’t get an acceptable answer. If you are even the least bit organized of an educator, when a parent asks a question about their child, you’re going to be able to give them an answer. Maybe it’s not what they want to hear, but often times they could’ve already gotten an answer from their child. So I think those are that the unfortunate ways I could say that parents can be involved or not involved in the right ways.

Q: What is your advice for parents who don’t have college education with regard to supporting their children on their way to college?

A: Like I mentioned earlier, we’re still teaching a large group of children whose parents have never been to college, and some have never even graduated high school. As the kids matriculated credits and passed regents exams and got closer to graduation of high school, college became more of a reality for their parents. And the genuine excitement that they had, the involvement and the weekend trips visit schools paid off because we had so many of the kids go to college.

We had a student whose parents immigrated to the United States. His brother before him had gone to college and he was going to be the second person in this family to graduate high school and then go to college. His parents worked so hard so that he’d be able to go to a private school in Massachusetts. One of the things that I remember, that really got Frankie so excited about the whole process was it wasn’t just a school thing for him. His parents asked questions and his parents filled out the paperwork. His parents met the deadlines that needed to be met. His parents were interested in all of the FAFSA information. They came to all the college meetings with the students at the school. And that’s another thing that schools can do. Schools can hold college meetings. The more information that you can put in a child and a parent’s fingertips, the more exciting the process is.

You know, prior to myKlovr, you really only had collegeboard.org to go on and research colleges. It would kind of tell you from PSAT scores, and what colleges they think you might do well at. It’s not that it wasn’t personalized, but it wasn’t personalized enough. Anytime that you can personalize something for children, even when they’re still in high school and make it feel like a genuine, true, new, exciting experience, it’s just an amazing. All of the kids at my school are going to have all of their college applications in around December 1st of this year. That’s a week from Friday. And some of them are applying for rolling admissions and they might find out around Christmas or New Year if they get into some of the schools. And then some of them won’t get the letters they’ve been waiting for until maybe March.

But what an exciting time and I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through that process alone without your parents by your side. There are kids that go through that regularly, without their parents support. I just remember watching the kid in the Bronx whose parents would get more excited on every little level. When they get their financial letters, or their SAT scores, even for the third time in the mail, they celebrated it. Celebrations go far, college is something to be celebrated.

You can’t do much in life without a college degree anymore. You can’t even get a job at McDonald’s that’s worthwhile if you don’t have your high school diploma now. I think we as parents and as educators always want our kids and our students to do better than we did. I think of that when I look at my math classes everyday. I’m trying to give these kids knowledge that they can take and apply in a real world. Some of the knowledge that I have to be in part on them is not applicable. Some of them will never use it again except to take and pass a test at the end of the year. But my job is to make it exciting and get them engaged, even if it is something as trivial as a translation. They have to be able to just take an object and move it. But if I seem excited about it, about math, and it works with the kids. If a parent got excited about their school, and if a parent got excited about the college application process, and even got excited about taking them to school, imagine the future that they’ll have.

You know, I look at my girls and I think about it all the time. The hardest thing ever will be dropping them off to college. The best thing ever will be dropping them off to college.

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