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Articles and expert advice to help you guide your child to educational success.
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Infographic: How to Practice Parental Engagement

September 30, 2014

How to Practice Parental Engagement Infographic From birth through high school, 92 percent of a child's time is spent at home. Parental engagement is critical and it starts with YOU! Academic achievement: when your child knows you value education, they will, too. Emotional well-being: Spend time with your child regularly, talking face-to-face to learn how your child is feeling. Social well-being: Encourage your child to have an active social life and make friends. They will build confidence. Physical health: take part in some of your child's active life.

Text by Jessica Vician. Illustration by Libby VanWhy. 

Best Practices for Infant Care From a New Dad

September 26, 2014

By Mario Vela

Best Practices for Infant Care From a New Dad | Author Mario Vela looks at his newborn daughter, Mariana, as he holds her.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Shaffer Photography

As a father of a seven-week-old child, I’ve learned a new love that I wasn’t aware I was capable of feeling. My priorities have shifted and caring for my daughter Mariana has replaced any previous priorities I had. In moments when I typically used to be sleeping, I am now rewarded by watching Mariana’s development.

I’ve learned so much about my baby in such a short amount of time, just as many new parents before me have. Here are some of the best practices I’ve found help as a new parent. I hope they help you, too.

Anticipate Needs. My understanding of Mariana’s needs has improved with experience and patience. I have learned to anticipate some needed care to avoid crying or frustration. Types of care include feedings, carrying, soothing, and learning when to burp her.

Smart Buys. Before our daughter was born, my wife, Ana, purchased a few items whose value and effectiveness I didn’t initially understand, but now I highly recommend them.

  • A Boppie pillow is very versatile for feedings and naps.
  • A swing soothes a baby.
  • Bassinets help a child sleep.
  • Rocking chairs help during feedings and to put a baby to sleep.
  • A camera with a motion sensor helps you feel comfortable when your child is in a different room. Fair warning: the motion sensor may startle you in the beginning. I jumped out of bed the first time I heard the noise.

Zippers Are Easy. When changing Mariana’s diapers, onesies with zippers are much more convenient and easier to use than onesies with buttons, especially when there is limited light in middle of the night and you’re really tired.

Sing. Music, singing, and humming help soothe Mariana.

Move Around. Walking up and down the stairs helps Mariana to relax and puts her sleep.

Learn Your Baby’s Routine. I’ve learned a great routine to help Mariana sleep several hours at night that includes:

  • Dimming the lights.
  • Turning on music.
  • Diaper change.
  • Feeding.
  • Burping.
  • Walking the stairs.

Accept Help. My mother-in-law has been very helpful. She’s been staying with us since a few weeks prior to Ana’s delivery, and has helped a lot. I recommend accepting any help you are offered by family or friends.

Even though so much has changed since Mariana was born, I’m so glad that I was able to quickly learn these best practices. What are your best practices with your babies? Tell me in the comments below.


Rosh Hashanah

September 24, 2014

By Jessica Vician

L'shanah tovah!

Tonight marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, a two-day holiday of the Jewish faith often referred to as the Jewish New Year. The "head of the year" celebrates the first and second days of the Jewish year and is one of the holiest days in the faith.

While each family may choose to celebrate the holiday a bit differently, many parents choose to teach their children the importance of spending time with family and treating others kindly throughout the upcoming year.

Traditions include attending a family service at Temple, reading books about Rosh Hashanah, blowing the shofar—a ram’s horn—and eating apples and honey to bring a sweet new year.

Whatever your faith, Rosh Hashanah is a perfect opportunity to sit down with your family for a meal and reflect on the year so far. Ask your children how they think they can be kinder to others for the rest of the calendar year, and make suggestions for yourself, too. Cap the evening off with apples and honey and have your whole family wish for a sweet year.

L’shanah tovah!

Tags :  holidayfamily funactivities

7 Ways to Maximize Your Parent-Teacher Conferences

September 22, 2014

By Kevin Rutter

7 Ways to Maximize Your Parent-Teacher Conferences | A teacher stands in front of his chalkboard full of algebraic equations.

In my 15-year teaching career, I have had countless parent conferences. Here are seven tips for parents to make the most out of this time with teachers.

  1. Block off time to attend. Schools book time for parent-teacher conferences months in advance. Find information on this date on the school’s website or call the main office. Knowing early can help reduce conflicts with your work schedule.
  2. Ask about the format of the conference. Some schools, due to their size, hold group conferences with parents. This is great if you just want to meet your child’s teachers and know what they are teaching, but one-on-one time for individual student concerns may not be available. You may have to make an appointment to have a one-on-one chat.
  3. Attend. Even if you are very happy with your student’s academic progress, teachers, and school, make it a priority to attend parent-teacher conference night. It is very reassuring for teachers to know that parents are active participants in their student’s education and attending sends a message to your child that what happens at school is important.
  4. Review your child’s grades with him or her prior to the conference. Use the report cards that the school sends home or log in to your school’s grading system. Ask your student to explain the grade he or she is receiving in each course. Write down any questions you may have.
  5. Have a game plan. Time is usually scarce at parent-teacher conferences so prioritize which teachers you would like to see and have your questions ready. If you need help communicating, schools usually have a volunteer group or staff members willing to translate. Do not be afraid to ask; the most important thing is for you to get your questions answered. Sometimes important items are lost in translation if you rely on your student to mediate.
  6. Remember that the teacher is your partner and a trained expert in educating children. You are both working hard to make sure your student is as successful as he or she can be. Be open to the teacher’s suggestions and how he or she is teaching your child. Teaching strategies evolve and how you were taught a particular subject might be different from what the current research tells us about how children learn best.
  7. Commit to an action plan to help your student improve. This plan might include checking over homework for the overall level of understanding or completion, or requesting that the teacher send email updates on behavior or missing assignment completion.

Parent-teacher conferences are a very important time for you to get feedback on your student’s academic and social progress. By attending and being prepared to maximize this opportunity, you will demonstrate support for your child, the teacher(s), and the school.


My Story: Postpartum Recovery

September 19, 2014

By Ana Vela

My Story: Postpartum Recovery | The author, Ana Vela, holds her newborn baby, Mariana, against her chest.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Shaffer Photography

I spent so much time planning for my first baby, from reading books and articles to talking with my doctor to talking with friends and family. Yet I didn’t take the time to learn about the postpartum recovery process. Perhaps it was because I was a bit scared. Or perhaps it’s because I assumed I was stronger than most women and would recover quickly. I completely underestimated the challenge this recovery period would be.

The postpartum recovery period is defined as the six weeks after delivery. An article in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health discusses postpartum effects lasting until 18 months after delivery. A woman will experience physical, emotional, and mental challenges during this time.

As someone who was unaware of what to expect during postpartum recovery, here are some tips I would like to offer for anyone about to go through this process:

Focus on your physical recovery.
Pregnancy and delivery was hard work for your body, and there is a whole list of symptoms you will experience afterward. Although you want to take care of your baby, it’s important that you focus on your own physical recovery.

At first, I felt very guilty that I was relying on my mother and husband to care for the baby so much in order to sleep (my mother stayed with us for the first two and a half months of our daughter’s life). Do not feel guilty. If you do not take care of yourself, you will not be able to care for your child later.

One of the ways you can take care of yourself is to avoid going out to public places with your baby during the first weeks after giving birth, as you are both vulnerable to getting sick. Although I was going crazy from being indoors, knowing that my child was healthy at home was worth it.

Learn to ask for and accept help.
If you are like me, independent and in need of being in control, be prepared for the opposite. I have never felt so helpless before. I needed assistance with everything: bathing (extremely embarrassing for me), cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, getting groceries, and taking care of my pets. Family and friends will offer to help, and it’s okay to accept it and depend on them. Although it was difficult for me to feel so vulnerable, I realized that it was more important for me to spend my energy on what mattered most—the baby.

Prepare to continue feeling emotional.
I wasn’t very emotional during my pregnancy, but certainly was during my postpartum recovery. I wasn’t expecting to feel such a range of emotions—sensitivity, sadness, anxiety, regret, anger, impatience, etc. Once I even cried with my baby in my arms because I couldn’t help her get rid of her hiccups.

It’s okay to feel this way. In fact, 70 to 80 percent of women experience these types of symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you experience more serious symptoms that prevent you from caring for your baby, as these may be signs of postpartum depression.

Acknowledge that everything will change.
I was obsessed with wanting to be the same person I was prior to having a baby. I wanted to continue being dedicated to my career, my social life, my hobbies, maintaining my household, and even my weight and active lifestyle. Everything changes when you have a baby. I became stressed out that I couldn’t balance everything in my life anymore, and didn’t want to be criticized for it. After talking with friends and family, I learned to come to terms with these changes. Reconsider your priorities in order to enjoy your new life.

Follow all your health care provider’s instructions during the recovery process to ensure you avoid complications to your health, and enjoy the time with your new baby. Keep these tips in mind to help better prepare for the postpartum recovery process, and good luck!

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