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Helping Children Achieve – It Takes A Village … But He Came Out Of Your Hut

March 4th, 2011 · 4 Brilliant Opinions · Random Things That Make Me Smile

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Thanks to the makers of Pine-Sol® for sponsoring my writing. A study shows a clean smelling home can help children succeed, so Pine-Sol® is supporting Reading is Fundamental (RIF) this year. Click “Like” on Pine-Sol®’s Facebook page here and they will donate books to RIF!

I am not an educator but I have had the benefits of a first class educational experience.  I went to NYC public school, Head-Start to High School. I was blessed with the opportunity to attend Brown University and  subsequently went on to Yale Medical Schoool.  Oh, and I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth.  My parents immigrated to the United States from the tiny isle of Carriacou, Grenada.  Neither of my parents completed high school.  They were born into a poor agricultural society.  School was a luxury and they spent most  of  their time farming and tending livestock.

Both my mom and dad were strong believers in the power of education to improve lives and  enrich society.  My own mother raised seven children and worked part-time, but always made time for PTA and parent-teacher conferences.  If we didn’t do well she didn’t blame the teacher, she took responsibility.  As a friend of mine likes to say, “It takes a village to raise a child… but he came out of your hut.”

Like many parents, when I’m not at the office, I am with my children – working on school projects, supervising homework assignments  and working hard to help them achieve.  Years ago, I served as PTA President at my children’s NYC elementary school.  Currently, I serve as the chairperson of our School Leadership Team, composed of staff, teachers, and parents.  Now that I am on the inside track of planning budgets, doing strategic planning and reviewing the curriculum – guess what I discovered?  It still boils down to what I do at home to support my children’s academic success.

  1. There’s homework and then there’s studying.   Big P supervises most of the homework  but I do the “study.”  I call it “Mommy homework.”  I take a few pages from a book and will have my son read aloud.  We will discuss the characters, plot and main idea. This helps me get a feel for his pronunciation and comprehension.  We may tackle the multiplication tables or  a few math problems. It’s not  intense, probably 20 or 30 minutes. The little “extra” goes a long way.  Homework is a “minimum” requirement. “Studying” is for mastering the material.
  2. Be the dream. Parents often will ask me to tell their kids to read or ask me to give their kids advice on becoming  a “success.”  Well, guess what, the best role model for your kid is YOU.  Your children should see YOU reading, studying and embracing education.  In our home we have a family  library.  Our kids learned at an early age that books were special and meant to be treasured.
  3. You can’t teach what you don’t know. Hey, I have two Ivy League degrees – but put that “new math” in front of me and I’m babbling like an idiot.  A low cost option is to use your neighborhood high school students to do some  tutoring.  The high schoolers love having a part-time job and my kids really admire and look up to them.
  4. Make learning fun. We don’t talk science – we garden.  When we cook – we have the kids cut and measure along with us.  We use Scrabble game letters to spell words.  Before we travel we read about the places we are going to visit.  We draw, sing and play music.  And in the internet age, we still write letters, stories and thank you notes.  If you want to produce a life-long learner – make sure the “work” at school and at home is fun.
  5. It’s not just about your kid. A solid education should be the birthright of every child. Although “choice” has become the buzzword for education “reformers,” it should not come at the expense of equity, opportunity and excellence. Support your school’s PTA. Volunteer to mentor someone else’s child.  Read the newspapers and education blogs. Be informed. Vote. Lobby your elected officials to prevent budget cuts that directly impact student learning.  Respect and support our teachers.
  6. Know the end game. I hope and pray my kids will attend college. So guess what I did?  I got off my knees and took them to Yale!  We were on our way back from a road trip to Mystic, Connecticut.   I took them and their best friend to New Haven and had them walk around campus and go to the college bookstore.  They were so excited they asked to meet my professors.  I told them, “They’re probably dead.”  Their reply –  “Okay, let’s go to the cemetery!”    Set the bar high and let your kids know you expect them to succeed. Don’t worry if you didn’t go to college yourself.  Just expose them to it – and do it now.

    My kids and their best friend at Yale

    Don’t forget to click over to Pine-Sol®’s Facebook page to support our children’s success. I was selected for this Pine-Sol® sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

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