Being Your Child’s Advocate for School and for Life

Being Your Child’s Advocate for School and for Life

This past academic year was a bumpy one – and that’s putting it mildly! We have encountered so many challenges and obstacles in our family life, in our work world, and in our children’s academic needs. When thinking about all the difficulties that you had to navigate to keep your child’s learning momentum going, I urge you – keep going. Once students return to school in the fall, whether in person, some form of a hybrid program, or heaven forbid a terrible outbreak and distance learning starts again, they will still need you – their parent – to be their advocate. Stand up for what is best for your child, whether by nudging your child gently, or by intervening on their behalf. Here are some ways to continue guiding your children and showing them you care.

Mental Health

Above and beyond all else, please check in with your child and connect with them on a daily basis. Regular interactions in which you can express love and affection to your child in a way that speaks to their heart is the best way to go. A lot of external factors can be swirling around in a teen’s world, but children need you –  their parent – a constant source of affirmation. If things are rocky between you and your child, try to find another trusted adult role model who could provide a regular check in for your child. If your child is completely withdrawn and sullen, seek advice from your medical provider, your school counselor, or other professional help.

Physical Health

The old adage “You are what you eat” comes to mind here! Eating healthy, nutritious food gives you a foundation for a healthy body and a clear mind. For middle schoolers who are experiencing puberty, healthy eating helps regulate mood. Steer clear of sugary snacks and drinks, as they lead to inflammation and can cause acne, among a host of many other health problems. Drink plenty of water and get enough sleep at night. Take advantage of cool mornings or longer daylight hours in the evening to make sure you and your teens are getting regular exercise.

Family Life

If there’s a positive aspect to come out of sheltering in place, it is the regular interaction with family members in your household. Thankfully, we are in a post-shelter-in-place environment now, and hopefully, you will continue the good habit of eating and communicating regularly with your children. Even as society transitions into a post-pandemic reality, children still need the stability of regular relationships and positive connections with their family members.


I always thought this practice was strange, but when my middle school aged daughter attended get-togethers at a friend’s house pre-pandemic, she would tell me that they would watch movies on their device or be on their phones talking about memes they sent each other over text. During the pandemic, children might not have had any choice but to connect with friends virtually, and maybe even participate in online games. It is my sincere hope that they don’t return to in-person get-togethers – only to revert back to online interactions! Suggest that your children and their friends ride their bikes at the park, visit the beach, or plan outdoor picnics. Gently wean them from reliance on their devices so they can appreciate and nurture true human interaction.

Media and Technology

While we’re on the topic of screen time, cell phones, social media and all things technology for our tweens and teens, please do check out Common Sense Media for their age-appropriate and thoughtful reviews of books, video games, apps, movies, and more that your child may be consuming. As for cell phone use, consider these convincing points presented by Wait Until 8th. To adopt a healthy perspective and relationship with technology, check out recommendations made by the Center for Humane Technology.

Life Long Learning

Acquiring knowledge does not happen at school alone. Now that summer break is upon us, I highly encourage a brain break for your kids! Opt for enriching activities that emphasize critical thinking as applied to life skills. For example, your children might find it enjoyable (and delicious) to research and plan healthy recipes, prepare a budget for grocery shopping, and cook a family meal. Kids who are interested in learning how to invest money might find it captivating to take some online financial literacy classes and participate in mock stock market simulations. Other topics to consider exploring – play an instrument, learn to code, design a webpage, create art using a new medium, start a home business, take up photography, or learn a new language. The possibilities are endless!

These next eight weeks of summer blogs will feature a variety of activities that you can share with your children and family throughout the summer break. Happy play and learning!

Wishing you well,


Copyright © 2021 by GenParenting

Giving Tweens and Teens Freedom with Responsibility

Giving Tweens and Teens Freedom with Responsibility

“Wash the plate not because it is dirty, nor because you were told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.” – Saint Teresa of Calcutta

Wanting Freedoms

When my children were little, they couldn’t wait to tie their shoelaces by themselves. They couldn’t wait to brush their teeth by themselves. And they couldn’t wait to put on their clothes by themselves. Now that they are both in middle school, they can’t wait to use their own credit card, get their driver’s license, own their own car, and live in their own house all by themselves – all of which are out of reach for them at the moment! So how does the transition from childhood to adulthood happen? What should a parent do during the tween and teen years before their kids become a young adult at age 18?

Learning Independent Life Skills

In our family, we use the tween and teen years to teach our kids independent life skills as a responsibility out of deference to others. Sure, we could teach their kids to complete tasks out of necessity, or to follow direct instruction, but ultimately, we want to teach our children that true freedom comes when you choose to do a menial task that is motivated by love. To help work towards that goal, my children are assigned individual and shared household tasks based on ability by age. We want our kids to be grateful participants and productive contributors to their community as adults. Since the family is the most basic unit of society, the best practice for freedom with responsibility starts at home.

Managing Financial Responsibilities

In terms of financial freedom, we adhered to conservative spending habits and taught the girls to follow these guidelines: save 70%, spend 20%, and give 10% of their money to charity. We put their savings in a high yield children’s account so they can learn about compound interest. As parents, we always bought them items they needed and sometimes wanted, but we let them spend 20% so they can splurge on purchases for items they enjoy. So why give 10% to charity? When children are young, they easily accept that there are others in need and we should give some of our money for other’s benefit and for the greater good. We have given to the Salvation Army, participated in canned food drives, and donated funds to animal preservation organizations. Later in life, our kids will have to pay taxes, and they will approach taxes with the same mentality that it is for others – money goes to schools, money goes to maintaining the roads, money goes to upkeeping the library! Of course, they will vote on measures as to how that money is spent, but they will have adopted the habit of giving for the greater good.

Coordinating Household Chores

To help our middle school aged daughters learn responsible, independent living, they share a bedroom, share the bathroom, tidy up the kitchen together after meals, and take care of their laundry together. By design, they have to learn how to communicate effectively with one another, cooperate to complete household tasks together, and coordinate schedules to get their personal things done in the limited space they share. These life skills will help them when they have a roommate in college, a housemate as a young adult, or to live with their spouse as adults!

Gaining the Right to Drive

Once they have mastered managing their money wisely and living together harmoniously in a shared space, we can begin the conversation about driving a car. In a young person’s mind, of course, the ability to drive means freedom. However, this privilege also comes with a greater responsibility of learning basic car maintenance skills, abiding by the rules of the road, and driving defensively for the safety of your passengers – all of which are others-oriented.

Friends, what other life skills to do you teach your tween and teen?


Copyright © 2021 by GenParenting



Can My Grandson See Dad Yet?

Can My Grandson See His Dad Yet?

It has been over a year since my grandson has been able to visit with his father who works in another country. Thankfully, Kenji and his dad continue to meet online twice a week and enjoy discussing everyday activities and plans for the future. As summer is soon upon us, Kenji’s dad is in the process of relocating his business contract to live near his son and family. This change is heartwarming and full of wonderful future shared adventures.

It is helpful that Kenji and his dad continue to build on a history of long-distance Facetime visits. For example, when Kenji was a preschooler, he needed prompts to help him talk with his dad. We would build a Lego project to share with dad and collect thoughtful art projects to discuss with dad. As Kenji became older, he would build a Lego project with his dad while talking with him on the phone. Sometimes, dad and son would build the same project at the same time in two different countries. Now Kenji is a second-grade student and he is able to carry a thought-provoking discussion with dad. They talk about important topics in each of their lives. For example, they discuss the differences of weather, schooling, and daily activities in two different cultural communities. Regardless of the topic, both dad and son are bound together with their love and commitment to each other from afar.

May each of us value the little child within us as we play with our children!


Copyright © 2021 by GenParenting

Let’s Talk Math Strategies


Let’s Talk Math Strategies

My second-grade students are asked to fluently add and subtract within 100 when using strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction per CCSS 2 NBT.5. Was that a mouthful? It’s a lot of words to explain how one can use different place value strategies when adding and subtracting two-and-three-digit numbers. This approach is a big departure from the kind of math I was taught when I was my students’ age.

Relaxation Strategies for Learning

I’d like to introduce you to some of the different elements that go into educating the minds of these young seven-year-olds. In distance learning, it is paramount that the students are able to tell me what their readiness is to learn. We accomplish this through an emotional check-in. After a quick temperature check of the anxiety level the class has moving into the lesson, we center by taking a predetermined and preferred brain break. Some students may snap their finger 50 times while counting to 50. Others take three breaths or say a personal mantra. These strategies are intended to release discomfort and refocus students’ minds to tackle some math concepts that may cause stress due to the nature of trying something that is new. We acknowledge our present emotional state, regulate by using a practiced coping strategy, and then turn our centered attention toward receiving the lesson.

Math Teaching Strategies

If you’re ready now, take some breaths and I will introduce you to some of the strategies that a young seven-year-old wrestles with daily in second grade.

  1. The first one is the number bond strategy. This is formally known as a fact family. Students take the knowledge learned in first grade and really put it to work when adding and subtracting two-and-three-digit numbers as seen in the photo of circled number groupings.
  2. The next strategy is a ten frame. This common tool was first introduced in kindergarten to train students to readily see a number when it is organized in a consistent predictable pattern. In second grade, students use the ten-frame to help them organize their place value discs when using the hundreds, tens, and ones’ chart per the HTO (Hundreds, Tens, Ones Place Value) photo.
  3. The last most widely used strategy is the number line as shown in the photo. Specifically, we use an open or empty number line.

Number Bond Strategy


HTO Place Value Chart


Number Line

Student Solving Options

The purpose of using multiple problem-solving strategies is to give each student a choice. This option empowers the student to take control of whatever strategy they feel they will be efficient using. We define efficiency in math as being quick, easy to use, and that gets us to the right answer most of the time. Students prefer using the number line because it is easy to use and has a high success rate. Secretly, I think they love it because they don’t have to do the standard addition or subtraction algorithm.

There you have it. Three different strategies second graders are using to conquer the common core state standard of adding and subtracting numbers to 100 using strategies based on place value.

Much success exploring math solutions with your children!


Copyright (c) 2021 by GenParenting

How to Help Our Children Enjoy Reading at Home

How to Help Our Children Enjoy Reading at Home

When our children are small, they are eager learners and love to hear us read stories at bedtime.  Many will fight with us to read just one more story. When our children start elementary school, they will learn to read. Some will struggle with learning vowels sounds, memorizing sight words, summarizing what they just read, or applying new concepts to the story. When working with primary grade students, here are some tips on how to make learning fun when practicing reading with your children at home:

  • Continue to read with your children each night and take turns reading to each other.
  • Let your children select the book that you will read. Many children want to read beyond their reading ability or below their reading ability. Let them enjoy that opportunity after they practice reading their assigned book.
  • Make reading fun by incorporating an art project. Some children like to act out the stories and they cut out characters and act out the story while you both take turns reading.
  • Some children love to illustrate the story and write summary sentences about what they read under the story.
  • Other children prefer to rewrite the story and create their own unique ending.
  • Get a journal for your reader and let them create new chapters or stories about their favorite characters.
  • Children love to create songs and write poems based on a story.
  • Reinforce learning skills by having the children sound out the words and use relaxation skills when they become frustrated. Some children prefer memorizing words instead of sounding them out.

All of these strategies help our struggling readers overcome basic reading challenges. Most readers learn to overcome beginning reading challenges through practice and by building self-confidence. If your child continues to become frustrated with reading, schedule a conference with the teacher to learn new strategies to support your beginning reader at home and to determine if your child needs added support services.

May your evenings be filled with relaxing reading adventures!

Mary Ann

Copyright © 2021 by GenParenting