Sardonic Sistah Says

Observations… Ruminations… Ponderances… & Rants from Another Perspective

The Urban Mama’s Guide to Helping Your Kids Through School and Beyond

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It’s the beginning of a new school year and you don’t know how happy I am that it’s finally here.  Not just because my kid is entering his last year of high school but because the children that come into the library will be heading back as well (Yay!). 

However, what I am not looking forward to are the ensuing statistics of how African American students are not doing as well in school as their non-black counterparts.  Immigrant black families also seem to be pulling ahead of us.  Yes, there are a lot of empathetic and bad teachers whose main goal is to pick up a paycheck whether your child learns or not, but that is not the topic of this post (although I will explore it in the future).  This post is for those who want their children to get the best out of whatever school they are in.  And these rules are not “middle class” values, either.   This is a list things that I, my family and  friends have employed to help make their children do well in school.

1) Leave your all your issues about your education in the past.  This is the most important one for many people and that’s why I made it the first one, although the rest of the list isn’t in hierarchical order.  I have family members who have regarded the education system with suspicion and with the first slight they are ready to fly off the handle at teachers and administration.  In the past, well when I was in school, a lot of the white teachers were harder on black students than they were on white students.  Growing up, people might have forgiven, but not forgotten which leads to residual feelings of resentment.  Don’t let your child be the inheritor of emotional education baggage and please don’t ever say, “Those schools don’t want to teach us, anyway.”

2) Develop a partnership with your child/ren’s teacher/teachers. Your first contact with the teacher should be in the first month of school, if not within the first week.  This person is spending more hours with your kid than you are during the day, don’t you want to know who they are?  You need to.  If your child is in high school things will be different since you have to coördinate meeting many different teachers so try to make it to the first open house and if you can’t send an email expressing your regret to each teacher and let them know you care about how your child learns.  For primary school, go in and introduce yourself.  If you work a lot and can’t be reached, let the teacher know that and who they can contact. Yes, it’s on the emergency sheet you filled out, but saying it to the teacher will stick out in her memory more than what she has to pull up.  It’s the first step in being an involved parent, even if you are a busy one.

3) Set bedtime, even through high school.  This is probably the hardest one to do because tired children are cranky; it seems when they don’t want to go to bed they get more wired so it’s easier to just let them pass out in front of the television.  Or maybe you work late and it’s hard to get children from the babysitter’s to home before 10 or 11 pm on public transportation.  You need to work something out, like maybe asking the babysitter to let them take a nap before you get there.    Growing children need sleep.  If they aren’t getting enough sleep chances are they are groggy and frustrated during the school day or falling asleep in class.  Teens need just as much sleep as younger kids but many don’t get it because of stimuli like social networking and texting (more on that in #10).  If the kids are at home at a proper hour but still can’t get to sleep then ask yourself why.  Do they have a lot of electronics in their bedroom that’s keeping them awake?  Or are they wired on sugar which brings us to number…

4) Cut back/eliminate sugar from the family’s diet.  Sugar is every where, even in places you wouldn’t expect.  There’s high fructose corn syrup in breads, drinks, diet bars, you name it.  We are a nation of sugar addicts, no wonder why diabetes is on the rise.   So, if your child is snacking on candy and chips everyday just think about all the sugar they are consuming.  I’m sure it’s more than the recommended daily allowance.  When I was growing up (yeah, I went there)  candy and dessert was a treat not part of the usual routine.  I am not a nutritionist, but something tells me the consumption of sugar may also be tied into the high numbers of children diagnosed with ADHD.   Add to it children are big couch potatoes and you have a group of wired sugar addicts.  Cut back on the sugar –even the fruit juices that are touted as healthy– and let kids snack on non processed whole foods like fruit and vegetables.  Prepackaged meals are also high in sugar and sodium so, when possible, cook large meals when you have the time so your family can eat that a few times a week.  Somethings will be hard, but do what you can to make sure your kids eat healthy.  At one time my baby sister works two jobs and has two sons.  Even on her regular job she worked odd hours.   Her youngest child is a sugar fiend and diagnosed with hyperactivity.   She keeps no sweets in the house, but of course he can get it on his own because his friends are overloaded with cookies, chips, and candy bars.  But she makes sure she doesn’t add to his sugar surfeit by stocking it at home.  He’s naturally hyper (he gets if from us) so not having more sugar than his system can handle in addition to exercise has helped him in school.

5)Where is the homework?  I see this with many kids that come into the library to play computer games for hours, none of them have homework.  To be fair, some school systems don’t give out homework, especially if they dont’ have enough books.  There’s even a growing movement of educators and parents who are against homework, citing it offers little reward and cuts into valuable sleep and playtime.  I am not anti-homework but I do feel that overloading an elementary child with work that isn’t properly explained in school can lead to frustration for parents and children.  If you child is on his second or third week and you see very little homework check with the teacher and school to see what their policy is.  If your child does have homework he seems to finish before even hitting the door you might want to take a page from neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson.  His mother, Sonya Carson, barely had a third grade education but when Ben was a child she figured out how to get him to learn by making it mandatory he read two books a week from the library and write a report on them.  His mother could barely read herself, but she pretended to read and score his papers anyway.  Mrs. Carson is a mother that I admire, when Dr. Carson tells the story of his success he always begins with how his mother raised him.

6)Demand organization.  Let’s say your child does their homework but can never find it in their folder.  This has happened with my son.  He would leave his homework at home or, sometimes, he’d talk through class and forget to turn it in.  My husband and I remedied that by putting our foot down on having an organized folder.  We make him study in the same place, the dining room table, and before he goes to bed at 11pm (yes, he’s 17 but lights are out at 11pm) he needs to make sure all his homework is in his backpack.  It doesnt’ make sense to have the homework done but you can’t turn it in because it was left.

7)Even before they begin school, introduce them to reading, science topics, math.  I began reading to my daughter when she was a newborn.  I know some people read to them when they are in the womb, but I just talked to her then.  Before my daughter was one she knew what a book was, by the time she was two she understood rudimentary science and math.  Science and math?  Yes, just counting things out to her as I handed them to her, or counting steps as we walked up and down.  At the park we talked about dirt, grass, compared leaves and paid attention to bugs.  Learning doesn’t start in school and it’s not just about ABCs and addition.  Learning is about introducing your child to the world and you are your child’s first teacher.  Piquing your child’s curiosity about the world is the first step in getting your child ready for school.

8)Balance.  Are your kids all about school but not about anything else?  Do they make time for sports but not reading?  Trying to strike balance in your life is hard as an adult but with kids, who have no concept of what it is, will find it evenmoreso.  Instill in your kids that there is a time for playing as well as a time for studying.  Teach them not to procrastinate until the last minute even if they swear they do better under pressure.  And if they like to read too much, encourage them to socialize more.  Balance varies from person to person, family to family so you have to figure out how to even the scales for yours.

9) Are you still reading and learning?  How can you tell your kids they should learn in school if you treat education for yourself as a disease.  If your attitude about learning is negative then your kids will pick up on that.  What you do impresses your children more than what you say.  Learning is more than just picking up a book but doing things.  Do you want to learn how to play guitar?  Crochet?  Build a carburetor?  Check your local recreation center and take a class, hell take some friends with you.  Learn yoga, learn to cook.  If your child sees you learning and growing then chances are their attitudes will be the same when it comes to learning. 

10) Limit television/computer/video game time. This ties in with #8.  For years research has shown that black children watch more television than their white counterparts and a recent study proves it again.  Television shows like Yo Gabba Gabba and computer games can be helpful learning tools, but when used in excess they do more to impede learning, not engender it.  And some children aren’t even watching educational television.  You need to ask yourself, if your child is six years old but doesn’t know some addition and subtraction but can sing almost every song in the top one hundred you have to think about how you are falling down on your job, not what the teacher isn’t doing.  In the library I have seen plenty of moms pat themselves on the back that their child can click on YouTube links but can’t read the word “you” when they see it.

What is up with that?

Unplug your child from the world and give them only a few hours of it a day.  Or even better, let them earn their internet rights over the weekend.  Even if they are in junior high/high school?  Especially if they are that old.  Teens can easily get distracted away from studying with socializing and gaming.  For our son we don’t prohibit it, we just limit it to the weekend, although when my daughter was a teen she was busy with a lot of extracurricular activities as well as a heavy course load and I encouraged socializing so her gaming was limited to non school time although she was allowed an hour a night of online socializing.  Like I said before, you can see for yourself how long you spend on a computer, if you have read this article all the way through it took some time.  You can’t always expect a child to exercise self-restraint when adults have problems doing it themselves.

This is not an exhaustive list and if anyone has topics on education please type them in the comment section or email them to me.  Sounds like a lot of work, right?  Well, raising children can be a lot of work, no one said it would be easy.

Next time: can your kid pass the marshmallow test?

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Written by rentec

22 August, 2011 at 1:16 pm

One Response

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  1. Love your post, very informative and helpful. As a full time mother of a 5 year old kid is a kind difficult adjusting to all the demands of my family.

    I had learned a lot from your post. And totally agree with what you have written. Keep on writing one. Thanks! 🙂

    irisferrero10

    26 March, 2012 at 1:48 am


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