Connecting Home and School

Did you finally get all of the school events in your personal calendar? Have you purchased the last minute supply requests? Often we focus on getting children ready for school to start that we overlook how we can continue to support the school learning while at home.

Dare to Excel is a resource, available in both Spanish and English. Created by ISU Extension and Outreach this resource provides families with ideas on how to extend the school learning while at-home. Monthly newsletters,  September through May, feature the seven Proven Parenting Practices that research has shown helps children become better learners.

 

Download the newsletters below or share the links with your friends, family and schools.

Let us know if you did any of the activities and what learning you were able to extend.

Connecting School and Home- Dare to Excel

Children spend many hours at school. Creating positive school/family connections are vital to school success.  Also available in Spanish.

Find more resources at Everyday Parenting

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Back To School Communication

As children prepare to head back to school, parents are getting ready as well. Buying school supplies, registering their children for activities and arranging for transportation are among the activities on many parents’ to-do list. However, another necessary item for back-to-school planning is open communication, which will ease everyone’s first-day nerves.

All children will not react the same way to the beginning of the new school year. Set aside some time to talk with your child about the upcoming year.

Parents take the time to ask your children what excites them about the beginning of the new school year, and what they may be curious or worried about.

If your child is anxious about school, acknowledge those feelings. Remind your child that you are always available to talk through any situations that may be worrisome. The time you spend communicating will help to alleviate fears that both of you may be feeling.

Let me provide a few helpful suggestions:

  • Remind your children that you care for them and are proud of the many new things they are learning and accomplishing.
  • Try to find some alone time with each child to explore the day’s happenings and how he or she is adjusting to school.
  • Family mealtime offers another opportunity to explore the school day.
  • Talk about your expectations, but offer support and guidance. Let your child know that you are open to solving problems together.
  • An older sibling also may provide support and information about school transition.
  • Establish a good relationship with your child’s teacher. When you have concerns, check-in with your child’s teacher to get a wider perspective.

A new school year brings opportunities to participate in many activities. Be aware that over scheduling can increase stress for everyone.

As a family, make some decisions about after-school activities that are meaningful to your children and that make good sense with the time available.

When you communicate and plan together, the new school year can be a year of success.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Science class: 24/7, 365

iStock_000003889494Small[1]Helping_1One of my favorite things to say about young children is  “their life is like science class 24/7, 365 days a year”. I love watching young children (especially infants and toddlers) explore their world.

Infants take in EVERYTHING. They can’t seem to get enough of looking, touching, tasting, shaking, and smelling everything in sight. Toddlers do the same, with just a bit more gusto.

Everything is a discovery session. Everything a science experiment. They wonder, “What happens if I drop the cup milk off the high chair?  What does it sound like if I shake the bowl of cereal? If I chew on my mom’s arm what does she sound like?”

It seems like everything they do can be based around science! The discovery of cause and effect. The observation of the ‘law of gravity’. The exploration of mass and volume.

I’m sure you’ve witness hundreds of science experiments at your house. Some experiments turn out very successful. Other experiments may have been less than stellar. No matter the outcome, fantastic learning has probably taken place.

How have you seen your children take in information from their every day experiences and turn it into scientific discovery? How did you encourage them? (and my favorite part, active participation)What did you do to partake in the experimentation with them?

Share with us what everyday science exploration you have done.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Help Kids Learn about Science

Not all parents feel confident having “the talk” with their children — when the topic is science, technology, engineering and math. However, it’s an ongoing conversation parents and kids need to have.

STEM — Science, technology, engineering, and math — is a vital part of our kids’ education and their future and parents play an absolutely critical role in encouraging and supporting their children’s  STEM learning at home, in school and in the community.  This month we will discuss how to create a science-learning friendly home. We’ll also talk about how parents can be more actively engaged with their children’s teacher and school.

Want to receive texts Science of Parenting information via text?   Text  sciparent  to  95577

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Parents take lead for summer learning

A child only educated at school is an uneducated child. —George Santavana

School is out and many educational experts would say learning is on hold.    So parents…… it’s up to you!   Remember, learning doesn’t just happen in a classroom.  How, and when do children learn?   Learning…can be anytime, anywhere, on demand and individualized.  Parents as their child’s first and foremost teacher can be in a position to assist their child in 24/7 learning.    Learning is most optimal when it can be as individualized as the kid.  Teachers know that this is important, but struggle to achieve this with increased class sizes and academic achievement.  But parents can, if they take on the challenge.  With a little planning and researching, parents can fill their child’s day with many brain boosting activities and strategies.

To quote philosopher George Santavana—“A child only educated at school is an educated child”.  Lifelong learning goes far beyond the classroom setting and summer can be the perfect time to set your child on a journey to authentic learning.  Let’s start with the notion that learning can and should be fun.  Ideally, we can learn to capitalize on our child’s ideal learning style.  Many kids prefer hands on learning and traditional classroom teachers are challenged to find the time and resources to provide learning activities are geared for hands on learners.  Hands on learning can be both academic and fun.

As parents always remember to vary activities.  Remember that a little fresh air is the best way to wake up a sleepy summer brain. Get them outside. Get them moving. Keep them reading. Keep them learning.  Summer can be a great time to discover music, attend outdoor concerts, boost music lessons, write songs, make instruments or try a new instrument.  Consider an outdoor talent show in your neighborhood.

Make your home “learning friendly”—fill with books, newspapers, games, how to manuals, magazines,  and access to the internet. Be a learner yourself.  Let your kids see you researching how to do things, and see you reading.   Remember to TALK.  Ask questions. Ask probing questions for deeper meaning and thoughts.  Challenge each other.   Learn from each other.

It has also been said that “Necessity is also the mother of invention”.  Consider a hands-on project and the research that is necessary to complete it.  My son-Cole has been a project kid.  We have learned all sorts of things through his persistence and ongoing projects.   We have taken on projects like survival skills including:  catching water in a catchment system, making char cloth, constructing a fish trap, creating snares, beekeeping,  willow whistles, blacksmithing techniques,  fishing lures and fly-tying—(flies mimic insects actually found in nature, understanding of fish and entomology) as well as the perfect homemade dough bait prepared in my kitchen! We attempted engineering challenges like catapult creations, mobile ice house construction,   leather making, knots and lashings, and coin collecting—just to name of view of his own-going learning bucket list.  Has he traveled this learning journey alone?  No—his father and I have learned alongside.  As a parent I have also learned to take his lead.  I’ve learned to support and encourage what he is interested in.  As parents we have learned that lifelong learning is about giving kids learning experiences.  It’s about asking questions.  It’s about being mindful and observing their interests.  It’s about letting them fail and learning from those failures.  It’s about encouraging curiosity and not squelching ideas.  It’s about asking thinking questions.  It’s about knowing your child and where their interests lie.

Take time this summer to look at learning as a life time of exploration not only for your child but for yourself.  Learning shouldn’t be a chore!    Take time to let learn with your child!

Janet Smith

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a Human Science Specialist-Family LIfe with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She currently provides family life programming in eight counties in southeast Iowa. Janet is a "parenting survivor". She is the mother of Jared-21, Hannah-20, and Cole-15. She and her husband, David have faced many challenges together, including their son Jared's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis.

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Science and Math in 4-H?

Of all the possible clubs and organizations parents and kids can choose to belong to, a 4-H club should be number one on the list. What do you know about 4-H? Some think it’s all about farms. And animals. Period.

We know it’s so much more. All the activities are and always have been STEM focused, meaning the members are engaged in science, technology, engineering and mathematic principles. Members of 4-H who belong to a 4-H club are immersed in STEM activities.

But, what if your child isn’t in 4-H? How about trying a summer camp? Most camps are open to all youth in the area. Those who attend will have much to write on “What did you do this summer?”

Examples of some camps ISU Extension and Outreach offer:

  • Robotics Camp I, II and III
  • KidWind
  • Free Style STEM
  • NASA STEM
  • 1st Steps Vet Science
  • Explorations in Vet Science
  • Next Steps Vet Science
  • CSI:  Learn to Investigate
  • CSI:  Unsolved Mystery
  • Jelly Genes and DNA:  Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Green Thumbs, Dirty Fingers

Or, how about: photography camps, NASA Mars rover camp, nature STEM camps, sewing camps, explore medicine camps, and more. Many of the camps could not happen without community partnerships such as area hospitals, school science teachers, NASA astronauts (yes, really), and many more.

Want your child to Join 4-H? Contact a county office near you.

From guest blogger, Cindy Gannon, Northwest Iowa Marketing Coordinator

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Summer Learning Can Continue through 4-H and Scouts

I grew up on a farm in northeast Iowa and my summers were spent picking up rocks, cutting volunteer corn from soybean fields and learning from 4-H.   4-H was interwoven

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into the culture of rural life.  Learning was at the center of summer and 4-H was the catalyst.  Fair projects provided the incentive for me to learn many things.  I learned about the science of cooking—why eggs turned green if boiled incorrectly, the process of canning and using a pressure cooker, tying a variety of macramé knots, the details of furniture refinishing, photography and the effects of different light exposures to only highlight a few.  Learning didn’t stop when the school bell rang, in fact, learning moved into high gear.  For me learning that was purposeful or necessary to do something was powerful.  I learned early the importance of how to learn and the joy and satisfaction that can come from learning.

How can we encourage this kind of learning today? Kids are still joining and learning through 4-H and the Scouting organizations are still running summer camps.   I’m seeing my 15 year old off to Scout camp this weekend for a two week stint and he can easily give testimony to what he has and will learn at camp.  Youth programs like 4-H and Scouts offer valuable opportunities for youth to learn not only practical, technical skills, but life skills like communications and getting along with other youth and adults.    Sadly, more should and could take advantage.  Summer youth programs can provide a unique opportunity for youth to learn in a relaxed environment outside of school.

It’s not too late to get your child enrolled!  It’s not too late for learning!  Call today.

Janet Smith

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a Human Science Specialist-Family LIfe with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She currently provides family life programming in eight counties in southeast Iowa. Janet is a "parenting survivor". She is the mother of Jared-21, Hannah-20, and Cole-15. She and her husband, David have faced many challenges together, including their son Jared's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis.

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Help Kids Learn this Summer

MomClasses are over, swimming pools are open and summer sports leagues are in full swing. But summer vacation from school doesn’t have to be a vacation from learning.

Researchers have documented that young people may lose some of what they learned during the school year if they aren’t engaged in educational activities during the summer. However, many communities, schools and youth organizations have summer learning opportunities worth exploring.

Parents are extremely important in encouraging and motivating their children during the summer months. This month, we will explore ways for parents to help their children discover the joys of reading and tips to keep those math skills sharp. We also will discuss challenges that parents face when trying to encourage learning.

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Expanding vocabulary

For the next couple of blogs I was able to sit down with Constance Beecher, Ph.D,  Assistant Professor, School of Education and Human Sciences Extension and Outreach. Join us as we converse about children  and expanding their vocabulary.

I began by sharing with Dr Beecher that often parents ask, “How much should my child be talking?” or “Is my child using enough language?”

“How can parents help their children? Build a strong vocabulary.” says Dr. Beecher.

Below Dr. Beecher shares about vocabulary development and a vocabulary recipe for success.

Research on the importance of vocabulary development in the early years finds:

  • Having a good vocabulary is one of the best predictors of school success.
  • Very rapid vocabulary acquisition occurs in the pre-literate preschool in into school age (2,000-3,000 words/year)
  • 12th grade seniors near the top of their class knew about four times as many words as their lower-performing classmates.
  • Third graders with large vocabularies were about equal to lowest-performing 12th graders.
  • Children with speech and language disabilities and from low-income and second language homes have the lowest vocabulary gains.

A Vocabulary Recipe for Success:

  • Increase the number of conversations (have more than just short adult to child conversations, allow the child respond back)
  • Check for comprehension (ask follow up questions)
  • Use strategies to increase breadth (like using big words and synonyms)
  • Repeat words and have children practice with you  (let them do more than just watch)

We would love to hear how you have added to your child’s recipe for success. Share your tips and techniques here!

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Fingerplays and Fun Enhance Infant Language

It’s cliché!  But oh so true.   Parents— really are a child’s first teacher.  It is amazing to watch tiny babies grow physical and mature into walking and running little people in less than 12 months.  It’s equally amazing to not only experience but influence the miracle of understanding and talking.  From the first babble of sounds to the uttering of 492024543recognizable words and then real sentences.  Infant communication is a miracle.    But it only happens with parents who take the time to interact.

Parents and caregivers who take the time to listen, coo, talk, read, sing, and  play games with their babies are teaching important language skills that will set children up for success.  Success in school is related to the acquisition of vocabulary.  Preschoolers who have increased vocabulary do better in school.  That sounds really simple!   ISU Extension has a helpful publication called “Understanding Children-Language Development”. (PM-1529f).  The publication has some great parent tips on ways to nurture child language skills as well as assessing your child’s typical developmental language skills.

Finger plays can be  a great way to interact with infants and toddlers.  Try out the “Old Owl” finger play, included in the publication.   Don’t worry if you can’t sing.  I don’t know any infants that care about your lack of pitch.  Remember some of your favorite finger plays from childhood.  My grandmother had some good ones that I still remember including—“Here is the church…Here is the steeple”?  Or how about “Fly Away Jack, Fly Away, Jill”.   What are some of your favorites?

Janet Smith

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a Human Science Specialist-Family LIfe with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She currently provides family life programming in eight counties in southeast Iowa. Janet is a "parenting survivor". She is the mother of Jared-21, Hannah-20, and Cole-15. She and her husband, David have faced many challenges together, including their son Jared's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis.

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It’s ok to be silly…

It’s been a while since my kidos were babies. Lucky for my offspring,  smart phones had yet to be invented and my bag cellphone had a 30 minute limit!  The technological distractions for parents of young children has exploded.  Certainly it is as important now as ever to connect to with babies not only verbally but with eye contact and touch.  I’ve seen some parents who easily communicate with their babies and others who feel silly and awkward.  One technique that I remember using was what I’ll call the “tour guide” .  Babies are seeing the world through completely new eyes.  Parents can describe and converse with their babies over almost anything that they see, hear, touch, taste, or feel!   I can remember some pretty strange looks in the grocery store, as I talked my way through the aisles in conversation with my than youngsters.   The more talk that goes on…the more natural it becomes.  The awkwardness soon fades..but  hopefully some of the silliness stays!

 

Janet Smith

 

Janet Smith

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a Human Science Specialist-Family LIfe with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She currently provides family life programming in eight counties in southeast Iowa. Janet is a "parenting survivor". She is the mother of Jared-21, Hannah-20, and Cole-15. She and her husband, David have faced many challenges together, including their son Jared's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis.

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Do I Have to Practice?

pianoThose old upright pianos – you’ve seen them in church basements, gathering dust at the back of stages, sitting unclaimed at auctions. While they’ve been replaced by smaller pianos and keyboards, these music instruments provided the setting for early music lessons for many kids. I remember staying in town after school a couple of times a month to walk to a home for music lessons. Then there was the daily practice in an unheated room pounding away on an old piano donated by a great aunt and uncle. My great aunt was the church organist and maybe she thought I might be her replacement someday. Each year I learned my pieces for the recital and managed not to humiliate myself.

So did I become an accomplished pianist? Nope – quit the lessons in high school. Were the lessons worth the time and money? I like to think so. Did I ever wish I’d continued lessons? Well, many years later as an adult I took lessons again for a year. The funny thing is I found I still wasn’t very good at playing and I still didn’t like to practice.

The point of my story is that I did learn a couple of important life skills. I found out quickly that it took a lot of patience on my part (and the teacher’s) to learn to play an instrument. It did not come easy; it was not always fun; and no matter how much I practiced, I still made mistakes. Learning to play a piano was my introduction to perseverance. The list is long of all my life experiences where it was not easy or fun and I made mistakes. But I kept working and practicing and did my best.

Want to know the rest of my story? In the living room, I have an old player piano that belonged to my grandmother. I taught the 3 daughters how to read music and they all played it to varying degrees. The grandchildren took their turns. And on a quiet afternoon or evening I am sometimes drawn to the keyboard where I play for my own enjoyment. Patience and perseverance and now relaxation – that’s a pretty good return on the investment.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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The Beat Goes On

Attending school concerts, paying for instruments and supervising practice sessions, parents might wonder: Is it worth their time, money and nagging for their children to be involved with music?

Sometimes those beginning piano lessons – and those teenage garage bands – can be difficult to listen to, but music helps children build skills and develop their brains it also helps children improve their concentration, coordination and self-confidence, as they take pride in their achievements.

 

Join us in October as we delve deeper into the skills learned in music and how those skills transfer into other learning. We’ll also talk about what parents can do to share their own love of music.

 

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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That Wasn’t the Smartest Choice

“Why in the world did you do that?” “Didn’t you think about what you were doing?” Ok, I’ve heard these words and I’ve said these words. Sometimes kids make bad choices and sometimes parents and adults don’t make the best decisions.

If we ask kids why they make some of the choices they do, responses might be:

  • It seemed like the thing to do at the time.
  • I just did it. I didn’t think about any consequences.
  • Who takes time to think?
  • I wanted to be cool with my friends.
  • We just wanted to have a little fun.
  • I don’t need my parents telling me what to do all the time.

These aren’t exactly what parents want to hear, but let’s face it. Kids will do unwise (even stupid) things as they grow up. That is one way they learn. It is important for parents to help ensure that kids do indeed learn and don’t repeat bad choices.

So how does this work? Well, one important piece is to let kids be held accountable and bear the consequences. Turned in homework late – lost points on the grade. Didn’t do assigned chores – have to miss favorite TV show to catch up. Broke curfew for football team – sit on the bench for a game.

If a child’s safety isn’t compromised, most of the time parents can allow the consequences to teach the lessons of making decisions. How have you responded when your child makes a bad choice?

 

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Cell Phones as Learning Tools or There’s an App for That!

Child and phone at schoolI just read an interesting report titled “Living and Learning with Mobile Devices.” The report from Grunwald Associates LLC focuses on what parents think about mobile devices for early childhood and K-12 learning. Many parents see the potential and value for mobile devices (smartphone, tablets) and apps as learning tools.

Some of the learning benefits are: promote curiosity, foster creativity, teach problem solving, teach reading, teach math, teach science, and teach foreign languages. Early in the “mobile era”, schools often fought the battle of keeping cell phones out of the classroom. Now it appears, teachers are beginning to embrace smartphones as a teaching tool.

Occasionally I think about the evolution of tools and techniques. I learned to type on a manual typewriter and take shorthand. Now I type on a smartphone and use shortened words or initials to communicate a message. Different times – different ways – but still communicating and learning.

The kids are coming home from school with assignments so how about one for you parents? Check with your child’s teachers about use of mobile devices in the classroom. Are they permitted? Are they encouraged? Are they used for learning or communication? If mobile devices are used for learning, what provision is made for students who do not have these devices?

Go ahead and share what’s happening in your school with others reading this blog.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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