Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Back To School Challenges

Guest Blogger 
By Shelle Lenssen

After a fairly relaxed and laid-back summer, our family is in full-on back-to-school mode. Bedtimes are enforced, homework is done, backpacks are checked, and clean clothes are laid out nightly. Even though we’ve done this back-to-school routine for a few years now, this new school year feels a bit different.

The Moms Code author Eileen Wacker also writes the acclaimed childrens books The Fujimini Adventure Series Find the book series by clicking here.

This is the year my oldest daughter transitions from being one of the little kids in her elementary school, to being considered one of the big kids. The hand-holding days of kindergarten and first grade are behind us and my big second grader is required to take on more responsibility for herself, her work, and her belongings. My head understands this is the healthy and natural progression of things, and I ultimately want to raise a confident, independent critical thinker, but my heart feels otherwise. I still see her as my little baby and my heart aches to do everything for her. It’s been taking intentional thought and action for me to step back and let her do it herself. Often that means sloppy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in her lunchbox and mismatched socks on her feet, but a growing confidence inside a growing girl.

Second grade is also the year that students in our school have the wide world of afterschool clubs and sports opened to them. In our family, this means more days than not, my daughter will not go to her trusted after care program, and will instead stay at school for her extracurricular activities. She’ll have the option to try various activities such as volleyball, basketball, soccer, cheer, robotics, gardening, and choir. I’m grateful she has these wonderful opportunities to learn and grow, but unlike years past, parents aren’t required to attend with their children. Her coaches and club advisors will be her guides and mentors, not her parents. I guess my little girl really is growing up. 

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In addition to dealing with the emotional aspects of watching my daughter grow up, I've got to deal with the new logistical issues that arise. Having my second grader take on more responsibilities means she'll be making more of her own lunches, so I've got to have the refrigerator and pantry stocked with easy-to-assemble lunch items. After school activities mean hurried or late dinners, so I better re familiarize myself with my slow cooker and come up with a solid meal plan before each week begins. My Pinterest boards and recipe binder are currently being filled with easy lunch and dinner ideas that will hopefully make busy days run a bit more smoothly. The extra activities also mean more driving for pick-ups and drop-offs. My husband and I have stepped up our communication to coordinate all of our schedules to make sure everyone is where they need to be, when they need to be there.

While it’s my daughter’s growth and development we’re focusing on, as a family, we all will need to rise to meet the challenges of this new school year.

First Week of School

Guest Blogger 
By Kenna McHugh

For the past week or so, I have been doing everything in my power to have a smooth transition from ending summer vacation as my kids start the new school year. All of it is challenging, but getting through this first week feels like an enormous achievement, and I give myself a jumping high-five.
We’ve made it through those endless shopping trips to purchase school supplies, “What we have to go to back to Target, again!”

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Let’s face it, the first week of school is stressful for both me and my kids. There are totally different schedules and schools to keep track of. There’s paperwork, permission ships, and syllabuses to read and sign. I am one of those parents who actually reads everything before I sign it. “What does this mean…’the Science teacher may request your child to remove his or her contact lens’?”  “I don’t know. I am not removing my contacts for anybody,” answers my sixteen-year-old daughter.  “Why do I read this stuff?” I ask myself.

So, the ritual begins where I need to make sound judgments and not rash decisions about what the teachers and the schools are or are not doing. Clearly, my daughter doesn’t want me to be a Mama Drama. She jumps to her feet, “Oh please, no emails. Don’t worry about it mom. I am sure it is just a safety precaution.”

“Mom is sending emails already?” asks my son.

“No, I am not sending any emails, yet. I am just trying to understand these syllabuses. They get more and more complicated each year.”

Proud parents just like you appreciate multi-cultural education for your children.  The Moms Code author Eileen Wacker has also written a children's book series.

Now, my son is bringing home syllabuses from his P.E. and Art teachers. He is only in fifth grade. I have so many things to keep track of like donations for art supplies and volunteer hours at P.E. testing. Not to mention each school has different holidays and bell schedules. Then, there is the idea that other moms somewhere and somehow are managing all this quite well.

So this year I am taking a different approach. I am throwing in the towel. I am stepping back a bit and trusting the schools, teachers, and my kids more, and so far, it is working.

Just a week, but this time I will do my best not to make waves or butt heads with their guidelines and teaching methods.  Still, I will keep my ear to those classes I have concerns about, like the English teacher who spews psycho-mumbo-jumbo as a learning method and has a neurotic daughter, who is 18 and is still a sophomore in high school.

I am not emailing. I am letting my daughter deal with it. “Don’t send an email mom. I want to stay on good terms with her, so if I ever need it, she’ll bump up my grade.”

I need to stop harping on myself and being overly concerned about my children’s education. They are both bright, well-mannered kids with high GPAs.  I need to concentrate on the good work they are doing because the results are two very awesome kids who are learning to be more independent each year as they grow into responsible adults.

Monday, August 1, 2016

First Day of School Jitters

Guest Blogger 
By Kenna McHugh

"I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework." 

- Lily Tomlin as "Edith Ann"

So, I have the jitters knowing that the first day of school is just a few weeks away. My eldest is going to be a junior in high school, and my son will be in fourth grade with even more homework compared to his earlier years. I am under pressure to tow the line.

School and parenting for a junior in high school will be a roller coaster ride that I’ll never get off. My daughter and I are heading toward a more hectic, fragmented, and demanding life than ever before.  Her college search process begins for real, as does the pressure of getting good grades, trying to champion SAT tests, and disentangle herself from the masses of other qualified high school students trying to get into the same colleges and universities. It’s not just the academic pressure, she’ll have dance rehearsals every day after school, and swim team practice with an in between dash home for dinner and hours of homework.

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We will no longer have the carefree mornings of summer. Instead, my kids will wake up tired and anxious by the haste of getting out of bed, fed, prepared, and off to carpool in time for class. Even though the school year hasn’t started yet, I ache for July mornings when all I do is worry about getting myself out of bed, fed, dressed, and to work. The joy of simply sipping my coffee as I organize my day in our quiet house while my kids slumber until mid-morning. 

No more leisurely evenings. Instead, I will be grabbing a quick bite between picking kids up from baseball practice and dance rehearsals, flipping flash cards for test questions, or proofreading essays and school papers. If I am not driving or helping my son with his common core math, I won’t be the good cop in the neighborhood, patrolling screen time so my kids are doing their homework not texting or showing photos on Snapchat.

I am trying to be optimistic, but it isn’t easy with the overall importance of grades, baseball tryouts, and making dance production. The strained nerves of my daughter being consumed by the social pressures of school. Not to mention my youngest announcing at ten o’clock at night he has a science project due the next morning and needs my help.

The Moms Code author Eileen Wacker also writes the acclaimed childrens books The Fujimini Adventure Series Many proud parents just like you appreciate multi-cultural education for your children.  Find the book series by clicking here.

What can I do to be optimistic about this coming school year?  I know my kids come first, and then it is my time. With the 5 – 6 hours during the day that I have to myself and work, I am going to take an hour and do something for me - like exercise.  Exercise is a great stress reliever.
When my kids stress out and can’t sleep at night. I will give them B-1 and B-5, both are great for handling stress, turning the mental thoughts off, and helping the body sleep.

And, I will look back when they are all grown up, and yearn for the first day of school because there are pleasurable moments in school, and my kids won’t be home anymore. The house will feel empty.