Holiday Parties

Kids love parties!!  This is no suprise to us as parents, but when the kids get to have parties with their friends at school INSTEAD of doing work, it’s a GREAT day!!  Throughout the year there are opportunities to celebrate.  As a parent, we can contribute in many ways. 

Most likely, your elementary school student has a “room mom” who will coordinate a celebration or party.  She will definitely appreciate your help!  If your child’s teacher needs you and you can be present at the party…go.  Your child will (most likely) be so glad to see you there!  Kids love the chance to show you where they spend their day.  If you cannot go to the party, see what you can contribute.  Maybe you can send in cookies or maybe your class needs theme pencils to give away. 

The more parents that get involved, the more resources that are available for your child’s classroom. 

The importance of classroom theme parties are often times minimized, but parties provide an opportunity to teach various skills.  For example:

  • Students get the opportunity to give to their peers.
  • Hostessing (greeting/serving) skills are practiced.
  • If the students do a short holiday program for the parents, they might get to do a bit of public speaking or prepare a powerpoint presentation for viewing.

Both you and your child’s teacher can make a Holiday Party a fun way to learn!

Goals! Set them, reach for them, attain them!

Everyone big or small, young or old, can be motivated by setting goals.  We all love the feeling of achievement.  But goals do not have to be only for the student. Teachers and parents too can benefit from goal setting. Here are some examples:

Goals for teachers:

Teachers already have goals placed before them of teaching core curriculum, state standards and raising test scores.  Additional goals can be set to help with personal achievement, like completing all grading work before going home at night. 

Goals for students:

Goals for students can be short term,  like keeping lockers or backpacks organized for a week at a time.  The goals can be set for longer lengths of time,  like completing all homework assignments on time for an entire grading period. 

Goals for parents:

Parents can set goals for themselves as well as for their children. Some examples are, beginning bedtime rituals for kids on time, keeping the homework area tidy and available daily,  reading at least one story to kids   at bedtime, introduce one more veggie or fruit every week.

Schoolhouse ABC’s wants to know what your goals are? What are you striving for?  Share it with us.  Leave a comment below with your goal, either present or one that you have achieved recently.

Following Up

By now in the schoolyear, there has been at least one progress report period, school newsletter, parent/teacher conference, or some kind of communication about your child’s education.

Now its time for the follow-up.  Teachers and parents alike have been spending the last few weeks feeling out the dynamics and personalities of students, teachers, parents and administration of the school.  Many strengths have been identified as well as weaknesses.  Its now time to follow up with these things. 

For strengths, the follow-up is important to increase encouragement, involvement and challenge for the student.

For weaknesses, the follow-up is important so as to measure any improvement in those weaknesses.

Teachers can follow-up via mass communication to all families represented in the class, or to individual student’s families.

Parents can follow-up via note, email or visit to the school.

For both, follow-ups need to be made and records kept, especially when dealing with developmental, behavioral or educational concerns.

When following-up, consider the time frame.  For developmental or educational concerns, consider a longer time frame in order to have enough time to have a measurable improvement. For behavioral concerns, follow-ups should be more often and possible daily.

Follow-ups are important to stay connected between parent and teacher. Communication is the key to provide a successful year for everyone!

Fantasy vs. Reality

Fantasy stories (fiction) and reality stories (non-fiction) are the majority of the reading material for kids.  Both have positive impacts on kids.

Fantasy (fiction):

> can inspire creativity in kids

> think about things in a different way 

> give an escape from reality

> inspire “out of the box” thinking

  Reality (non-fiction):

> introduce other ways of life

> expose to other cultures

> create sense of sympathy, inspiration to achieve

> relate to others in similar or different walks of life

Both kinds of reading material can inspire kids in new and different ways.  Together they create a well-rounded repetoire of reading material as well as creating a well-rounded reader!

Essay Writing

Different strokes for different folks.

Well, I’m sure that phrase wasn’t coined in reference to English teachers, but I’m sure it applies!  Each teacher has a different method to use in teaching your child to prepare and write an essay.  You can:

  • use an outline (main point and subpoints)
  • utilize a T-Chart (fact/opinion, pros/cons, nouns/verbs)
  • draw a picture

Whatever your method, preparation is a large portion of the work!

When it comes to the writing, the 5 paragraph essay is a pretty standard form:  Intro paragraph, point one paragraph, point two paragraph, point three paragraph, conclusion paragraph.  No matter how long your child’s essay is supposed to be, the main idea should be stated clearly at the beginning.  Follow it up with a few supporting facts (see preparation techniques above) and then conclude by restating the main idea a different way.  A meaningful quote can also be incorporated.  Make it interesting!

After it’s written, do a quick read-through of your child’s paper.  Offer high praise and constructive criticism when it’s necessary before the final draft.

The best way to get better at writing is to write more and write often!

Etiquette–At the table and in the classroom

Etiquette: rules of acceptable behavior

Most of the time when etiquette is discussed with relation to children, it involves table manners: sitting on bottoms, putting napkins in lap, asking for things instead of reaching, chewing food and swallowing before speaking.

There are many ways that those same manners and forms of etiquette can be applied to the classroom: sitting on bottoms at desks, raising hands and asking before going somewhere, raising hands before speaking.

Here are some following ideas on how to apply etiquette in a cross-curricular fashion for both teachers and parents:

>Parents:  at dinner, create a fun “proper behavior” atmosphere at the table every once in a while, where etiquette may be over the top, but laying foundations of manners at the same time.

>Teachers: conduct a history unit of period etiquette.  Follow social rules and behaviors from different eras and discuss with the class how things have changed and how they have remained the same.

Teachers and parents can work together to train young courteous kids!

Division–Divide and Conquer!

Long division has often been used to strike fear to the hearts of students both young and old. Never fear, though, division is conquerable.

Next time your child is working on division homework and begins to get frustrated, try these options:

> read the problem over again

> read the page in the book that explains the problem and their solving strategy

> ask student to explain in their own terms, the solving strategy taught in class

> look at previous problems, if possible, and review steps taken

> review multiplication facts pertaining to the problem

> if the answer is still not coming out correct, recheck all the small details: the subtraction, carrying, re-writing of numbers, multiplication. Sometimes the stumbling block can be a simple reason.

Divide and Conquer!


Parent/Teacher conferences can play a very critical role in your child’s school year.  The parent’s viewpoint is often shaped by the report brought home by the child.  However, there could be another side to the story.  Scheduling time with your child’s teacher will provide valuable insight.  Before you go, spend a few minutes in preparation:

  • Ask your child to clarify their perspective on pending issues.
  • Write down any questions you have for the teacher.
  • Determine to stay positive!

If you have a problem with the child’s teacher, be sure to open communication with the teacher first.  Many times the issues can be resolved on the classroom level.   If the problems persist, pursue communication with your school’s administration and include the teacher as well.  It is the aim of everyone involved to focus on educating your child in the best possible way!

Remember that any light you can shed on your child’s performance or behavior will help the teacher understand the situation better.  Be an advocate for your child!

Cooking With Math

One great way to encourage kids to use math everyday  is by cooking. 

For younger kids, simple number recognition can be used by having them read the number of cups or teaspoons that a recipe calls for.

The measuring cups and spoons can be great visual aids to demonstrate the difference between fractions (i.e. 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/8, etc)

By doubling or tripling a recipe, kids can practice their addition or multiplication skills, convert fractions to mixed numbers and vice versa, convert decimals to whole numbers and use estimation.

Try some of these practice skills by making our Recipe of the Week.

Get in the kitchen and start cooking up some math!


Creativity could be the parent (and teacher’s) most valuable tool.  Even if you don’t think you are especially creative, try something new!   

Whether you are helping your child with homework or trying to get them to clean their room (again), try approaching it a different way.  We all learn in different ways, and it’s important to get to know your child(ren) and what keeps their attention while learning.

  • If your child is easily distracted by inside noise or action -  take a picnic blanket outside and let her read on the lawn or in a swing.
  • If your child gets overwhelmed at their homework – break it down in “bite-sized” pieces and make a ‘”bite-sized snack to go with it.
  • If your child has trouble with math – find unusual places to work her problems (like on the bathroom mirror with dry erase markers or on the driveway with sidewalk chalk).
  • If your child likes to sing – create a little jingle to help him remember his science facts.

Think outside of the box!  Kids will remember the experience and are able to recall the facts easily when tested.

Tip Of The Week

Effortless Mornings

To keep your mornings effortless and stress free, prepare things the night before. Lunches, clothes, book bags: have them all set out and ready to go. The other essential is to get up on time! This is a tip we've heard a thousand times, but it really does work! Get up on time and have everything ready to go. Two keys to stress-free mornings!

Recipe Of The Week

Coconut and Chocolate Grahams

1 package graham crackers
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup toasted coconut

Melt chocolate chips. Break up graham crackers into small rectangles. Dip graham crackers into melted chocolate and place on wax or parchment paper. Sprinkle with coconut. Let dry. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.