Short stuff: EducationAs a busy, working mother, I know how hard it can be to find the time to lend a helping hand at my son’s elementary school. But let’s not make excuses: We can all find a way to show children that we value their school and education—and not just with words. Research proves that involved parents make for better schools.
Here are some ideas for getting in on the action at your local school:
• Are you a great writer? Offer assistance with educational grant writing. Research available grants at Schoolgrants.org.
• Organize and publish the school newsletter. This can easily be done online, at home.
• Attend local school council meetings. Get acquainted with the politics behind your school and community.
• Offer to start up and moderate a school/parent Yahoo! group to communicate school news and announcements. Families can also discuss school-related topics in a moderated, online forum. To get started, visit yahoogroups.com.
• Be familiar with your school’s mission and vision statement. Know the goals that the teachers and administrators are working towards.
• Ask your child’s teacher if you could help out with photocopying, gathering activity center supplies, cutting out shapes/letters for bulletin boards or organizing materials for projects.
• Teach an after-school mini-course. Focus on your hobbies and share your love of knitting, scrap booking, painting—whatever your favorite pastime happens to be—with children in after-school care.
• School librarians always need help organizing their shelves at summer’s start and end. Donate copies of your childhood favorites to inspire a young reader.
• Take over the handling of monthly book orders.
• Do you love to garden? Tend an existing garden or grow a colorful flower patch to brighten up the days of children and teachers alike.
• Get back into the game and coach or officiate a team sport.
• Be a guest speaker on Career Day and inspire a child to follow in your footsteps.
• Sign-up as a tutor and help a child who is struggling with academics.
• Sneak out of the office for a couple of hours and be a guest storybook reader in your child’s classroom.
• Chaperone a school dance. You’ll have a chance to catch up on latest dance and music trends and you’ll leave with a renewed sense of gratitude that your preteen years are said and done.
• Set up a station (or simply a large envelope) at the door of your child’s classroom where parents can deposit General Mills’ box tops. Send them in once a month and earn 10 cents each, money that can be used to buy classroom necessities and treats. boxtops4education.com
• Partner with the school science teacher to raise funds and awareness on energy efficiency with the Lights for Learning Program. Sponsored by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and ComEd, this program educates kids on our limited energy resources and raises funds through the sale of CFL light bulbs, with a 50 percent profit margin on a competitively priced product (from $1.50 for a mini-spiral to $5 for a sample pack of three bulbs). lights4learning.org
• Got tech skills? Take over as the school Web master.
• Cheer on the school soccer/football/baseball/basketball team—even if your child isn’t playing. Every player appreciates the support of fans.
• Get involved in the PTA. If you are a working parent and meetings are scheduled during the daytime, when it’s difficult to escape your job, suggest alternating daytime and evening meetings.
• Set up a program to host high school students as summer interns at your place of employment. Even if they are doing simple tasks, such as filing papers or stamping envelopes, exposure to the working world is an education in and of itself.
• Put those misprints to good use: designate a box near your office Xerox machine for scrap paper collection. Teachers especially love colored paper, even if they have printing on one side.
• Chaperone a field trip.
• Organize a bake sale for the Booster Club.
• Even if your children have left the nest, your local school still needs you. Stand up and ask: "How can I help?" Our children deserve an entire village looking after their education.
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