I’m back.

I took a little time away from blogging to enjoy our 11-year-old showcase her talent at the
Nike National Juniors Tour tennis tournament in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  The participants wore a cool Nike sponsored t-shirt with the words: “Who’s next?” splashed across the front--a bold message for a bunch of young tennis players aspiring to hit a powerful forehand stroke like Serena Williams to win the tournament.

There were 128 families with their daughters from various parts of the Midwest.  There were so many different ethnicities, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds represented.  But we all shared one thing in common:  encouraging our kids to pursue a passion that enhances confidence and develops focus.   It was obvious that each girl spends a minimum of 10-12 hours per week honing their skills on the court, which means they are consistently balancing homework and the hours of practice it takes to be as good as these junior tennis players—and I’m not talking about the homeschooled kids. 

Millions of children all over the world spend hours polishing piano playing skills, violin concertos, free throws, memorizing lines for theater productions, perfecting plies, achieving black belts and more. 

I don’t have to do much research to dare state that those kids outperform their peers who unfortunately have no one to develop their interest in music, sport, dance, or drama. 

Millions of children all over the world spend hours on
Facebook to proclaim their boredom.   The idle mind is a playground for the devil.  Unfortunately, many of those become influenced by the dark forces of drugs, gangs, premature sex, and gangs. 

I know a young person that consistently posts “I’m bored” status updates on
Facebook.  I respond with “Go get a book and tell your mama I got something for her!”  The idle mind is the devil’s workshop.

Our kids can’t afford to be bored.  There is a world out there waiting for the next principal dancer, CEO, general surgeon, best-selling author, Chief Justice of the United States, and the next Oprah.  There is work to do.  There are books to read, math problems to solve, museums to explore, music to make, games to win, and life lessons to learn to prepare our kids to become better than us to improve our nation’s economy, health care, environment, technology, and education. 

You know plenty of parents that need to raise their expectations of their children and put in a little more effort to set them up for success.  Tell them about the Dean of Parents blog.  Right now, I have readers who appreciate my content but, for the most part, are fortunate enough to understand the importance of setting up their kids for success.   Other parents have kids posting “I’m bored” on Facebook.

I dare you to ask, “Who’s next?”  Send them this link:  Dean of Parents

 
 
This morning, my oldest daughter was dressed and ready to go.  The daddy doesn’t leave the house until 8:30 am.  It was only 7:15.    “Can you take us to  camp because I don’t wanna wait around for another hour”.  I expected her to be comatose after the last couple of days of playing tennis in the hot sun.     I bombarded her with questions to jar her memory of the plethora of options to choose from:  
  • Did you write the thank you notes to the generous friends that contributed to your school fundraiser? 
  • Did you write in your journal?
  • How many algebra problems have you solved?
  • Did you contact Guinness for being the fastest reader in the world because you checked out four books from the library yesterday and you’re already finished reading them all? 
When I was finally finished rushing to leave the house, for work, I saw my 6th grader curled up in a chair writing in her journal.  I admit wanting to take a look to she if her page was filled with rantings such as, “My mother is psycho”. 

There is time for it all.  My husband says we make time for the things that are a priority to us.  Setting our girls up for success is our priority.  As parents we are responsible for

1)      Developing their moral compass to point in the right direction (In our house, we serve and honor God)

2)      providing a good education

3)      meeting their physical needs

4)      preparing them for life so they can be good people

5)      proving recreation, entertainment and enjoyment

Will they whine and moan?  Of course they will.    But all that matters is that we’re the parents—we’re in charge—we make the decisions that will be beneficial to their future.   Now she has an entire hour to devote to journaling, solving algebra problems, writing thank you notes, or reading chapter books.  She will thank me when she has her own children.

I’ll thank her for getting college scholarships.

The Summer Education Plan does not mean all work and no play.  But if you treat most summer evenings like a regular homework filled school night, there will be plenty of time to relax, hang out and do the fun stuff summer is made for. 

He who every morning plans the transaction of the day and follows out the plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy life.“ – Victor Hugo

 
 
Monday was the girls’ first day of summer camp.   They are both enrolled in The XS High Performance Tennis Camp between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm. 

A long day in the hot sun playing tennis does not seem to leave a lot of room for any Summer Education Plan does it? 

It does.

Yesterday, we went to the library after tennis camp.  It helped to make a quick stop for ice cream to convince them my library trip was a good idea.  While their teachers provided a summer reading list to choose from, I allowed them to include books they would find enjoyable, even if it included a books about Selena Gomez and the Teen Vogue Handbook.   Their SEP includes reading at least 10 chapter books during the summer.   Avoid statements like, “I want you to read for one hour each day.”  When you find a book that is enjoyable, do you give yourself a time limit?  You can get lost in a good book and lose track of time.  So, imagine the number of good books your kid can read this summer!  My rule of thumb: If it takes 3 chapters and you still are not interested in the book, get another one.  There are too many good books for you to get stuck with a boring one. 

When my girls choose to read the books, is totally up to them.  They read in the car.  They read while eating breakfast.  They read in the bed.  I’ve even caught my oldest reading in the bathtub.   I highly recommend selecting a couple of books to read together to enhance dinner and car conversations.  A few questions that could be used for most books are:
  • What do you think the author wants you to learn?
  • Can you relate to the characters?  Do they remind you of yourself or someone you know?
  • Are there parts of the book that make you feel uncomfortable?
  • What would you say to convince someone to read this book?
Have your kid highlight unfamiliar words and encourage them to impress family and friends by using them appropriately in conversations.  Over time, they will be amazed at the level of vocabulary and their reading fluency and comprehension skills will skyrocket!

I just heard you ask, “When do you get to the other stuff, like multiplication tables and algebra?” 

People always make time to do the things they really want to do. 

Come and visit Dean of Parents tomorrow and I’ll be happy to share.



 

 
 
Our up and coming 3rd grader is reaching for this goal:  I will write a book that will win the Young Authors Competition next school year.  I’m excited to help her achieve that simple yet important goal.   The deadline for the entries usually fall near the middle of January.  She is starting today. 

While many of us recently celebrated the special high school graduates in our lives, university professors are finding that incoming freshman are not as prepared to write basic five page essays upon entering college.  One of the quickest ways to improve writing skills is to do it every day.   

When my cousin, Ebonne, was a little girl barely able to hold a pencil, her mother encouraged her to write daily journal entries.  She could choose her topics which ranged from simply providing a summary of her day to poetry.  Today, she is a successful producer at CNN.  

Today, my girls will start writing in their summer journals.  By the end of the summer, pages will be filled ideas and thoughts about daily experiences or anything else on their minds like poetry or creative stories.  To keep it fun, I will write notes, responding to their entries that suggest more colorful vocabulary words (good vs. scrumptious), give
proofreading edits, and encourage them to write more. 

LOL and SMH are simple examples that prove writing has become a lost art. Encourage your kids to write thank you notes.  Write letters to friends.  Write a letter to their congressman.  Write a poem.  Write a song.   Just write.   The more they do it, the better they become.

And they will be prepared college freshmen.

Steinway,C. (2008, February 20) Not All Freshman are Ready for College Writing. Tufts Daily (Retrieved from http://www.tuftsdaily.com/2.5512/not-all-freshmen-are-ready-for-college-writing-1.588604

 
 
Grab a pad of paper and pencil.  Sit with your kids to develop the SEP.  Open the conversation with suggesting you work together to have a fun summer that includes giving attention to areas that could use new attention or improvement.  Use the following questions to guide your discussion:

1)     What school subjects were the most challenging to you?

2)     Do you believe you could do better?  What could you do better?

3)     How did you feel about the quality of your homework assignments? Projects?

4)     Would you like to be one of the starting five on the basketball team?  What skills should you work on to become a better player?

Make list of their answers.  This list will help you develop the SEP.    For example:

I will know how to solve and explain
algebra problems by July 15th

            a. Solve 10 algebra problems, each day, using the symbols and conventions.

            b. Learn to solve equations by simplifying expressions and combining like terms. 

            c. Solve 5 algebra word problems, each day.  Find websites to help, if necessary. 

I will be one of the starting five on the basketball team by fall tryouts.

          a. Practice free throws for one hour everyday.

            b. Practice dribble drills to maintain control of the ball.

            b. Invite friends to the basketball court to help improve skills.

            c. Exercise for one hour everyday to get physically fit. 

I took my girls to breakfast last Saturday morning to develop the Summer Education Plan.  It took a couple of conversations because I had to guide their efforts with writing goals that were more specific than “Do better in math”, and “win tennis tournaments” . 

Try to stick with 4 or 5 goals as not to overwhelm your kid or yourself.  Maybe there is a goal to become more organized.  Or perhaps your kid has a goal to try out for the school play.   Keep the goals simple but reward their efforts with reaching goals with trips to the beach, movies, ice cream treat, or shopping for a new back-to-school outfit! 

Uh-oh! I just heard you whine, “There is not enough time!”   More than likely, your place of employment did not provide you a summer vacation; therefore, your kids are probably in a summer day camp, hanging out with the grandparents, or the babysitter.    Believe me, I know the pressures and stress involved with finding time to get everything into a tight schedule. Sign up to get updates from Dean of Parents and let’s share our efforts with keeping our children on the SEP!. 

The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine. – Mike Murdock

 
 
Today is the official last day of school for thousands of Chicago Public School kids.  My girls deserve a couple of days of mindless activities to unwind like watching the questionable Disney shows on TV, exchanging goofy youtube videos with their cousins residing in Los Angeles, and going to the pantry 27 times per hour to sneak handfuls of carb loaded snacks.

Out with the old friends and in with the new.  Kids will miss the daily routine of seeing their friends.  A handful will be transferring to other schools in the fall.  One of their friends will be transferring to another school closer to her home.  I hope her friendship will be missed more than her outstanding ptiching skills that help bring home a 2nd place city trophy for their girls' softbal team.   But new friendships will accompany the next school year with fun memories waiting to be made.

Out with the old teachers and in with the new.   Some kids will sadly miss their teachers and will brace themselves to meet new ones.  Will they be mean or nice?  Calm or cranky?  Funny or dry as toast?  Today my kids met their teachers for the 2011-12 school year.  "ugh, I heard Misses Watchamacllit is so mean!"  My reply:  "So is my boss.  Deal with it."  

Out with the frustrations of the old school year to welcome the improvements of the new.  I don't know about your kids but my kids have some skills that need tightening up like solving algebraic expressions and writing more than "Because I am smart."  when the workbook question request a more elaborate response to "How did you come up with that answer?"  I'm excited that so many of my blog readers have requested tips and suggestions to help keep their kids on track during the summer. Stay tuned for DeanofParents blog series: The SEP: Summer Education Plan.  Imagine the next school year with awesome progress reports, fantastic grades, and completed homework assignments--turned in on time!

Looking forward to the journey of setting our kids up for success--together!

 
 
While I’d love for you to think I am the perfect parent that did everything right to support my girls’ school success, there is room for improvement.  Sometimes I’m occupied with items listed on my personal agenda—like creating this blog--that distract me from giving them my undivided attention.

My 7-year-old could use more support with staying organized.  I wonder if she mistakes her book bag for the trash bin.  The organized eleven-year-old needs to learn how to work smarter.  She spends too much time perfecting simple assignments and waits until 10:00 pm to start the more challenging projects.  I tried telling her that child protective services take parents away for going to bed before their children.  That didn’t work.

The end of the school year is a perfect time to take a look at what’s working for your kid and what areas need improvement:

       Reading comprehension: Does Jordan remember what she read? 

       Reading fluency: Does Kayla read with smoothness? Quickness? Expression?

       Vocabulary: Do your hear Tyler use new vocabulary words when talking with you?

       Math concepts: Of course Lauren can do the problems but can she explain the concept to you?

       Homework completion: Does Isaiah finish homework with minimal difficulty?   

       Staying organized:  Did you receive the school communication two days after    the field trip?

       School project quality: Did the science fair board exhibit your creativity or Steve’s? 

       After school activities:  Is there too much on Sydney’s plate or not enough?   

       Home workspace organization: What can you do to improve Jonathan’s homework space?

       Television time: Oh, wait a minute…what TV? Right? (New blog topic!)

   What tips and strategies can The Dean of Parents offer? What can you share with others?