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I was not a confident child . As a matter of fact, when I was my oldest daughter’s age I was evaluated for speech therapy because I was very quiet in class. Turns out my speech was fine. It was my confidence that needed work.

Looking back, I can see that my mom wasn’t a very confident woman. I wish she had known just how awesome she was. Confidence was something I had to slowly build over the course of my life, but I knew I had to help my oldest daughter so that she wouldn’t have to work quite as hard as I did.

Hannah is my mini-me; quiet and thoughtful, smart, shy, and very hard on herself. I’ve learned so much about who I am and who I want to be by raising her. Naturally, I don’t want her to have the same hang-ups that held me back. I’ve kept a watchful eye over the years and I’ve done my best to help her build confidence.

Here are four things that have really helped.

1. Enlist Her Teacher’s Help – Sometimes no matter how much we reassure our children, they need to hear it from someone else. I walked into my daughter’s Kindergarten orientation and as soon as the presentation was over I made a bee-line for her teacher.

I told him that Hannah is extremely bright, but very sensitive and hard on herself. She could already read before the start of school and I knew she could be pushed to excel in school, but it would have to come in the form of many gentle nudges. I asked for his help in making her feel okay about making mistakes, and encouraging her to answer questions.

I didn’t raise my hand in class much as a kid, not because I didn’t know the answer, but because I was afraid of being wrong. To his credit, he is an amazing teacher. He pointed out his own mistakes (like the time he accidentally wrote on the smart board with a permanent marker) so the kids would see that even teachers make mistakes. If she cried because she didn’t know the answer on a test, he reassured her it was fine.

At each parent/teacher conference, I made it my mission to find out more than the academic picture of my daughter’s development. I wanted to know how she interacted with the other kids, how her confidence was developing, if she cried at all, how she was overcoming the challenges of new material, and if she asked for help.

By the end of the year, her confidence was really starting to grow and it has continued to grow.  Every year, I always ask the same types of questions at every single parent/teacher conference.

2. Encourage Her in Math and Science – I can’t tell you how many times growing up I heard my mother say she was bad at math. Most of the time she deferred to my step-dad to help me with any and all math homework.

To this day I still think I’m bad at math, but honestly I was always a B student in math. That’s not really bad, but perhaps somewhere along the lines I made the association that too many girls do – that we’re just not good at math and science.

At my last parent-teacher conference with Hannah’s fourth grade teacher, she told me that Hannah is gifted. That’s not news to me. She was always reading a few grade levels ahead in school. What took me by surprise was the subject. She said Hannah’s state test scores in math were well above the district average and that she wanted to put Hannah in a special math group, which meets before school once a week and competes in math competitions. The group is primarily for 5th and 6th graders.

When I asked Hannah if she was interested I told her that she would probably see math problems she never had before and she had to be okay with that. She asked if they would teach her how to solve those problems and when I said yes she jumped at the opportunity.

I’m so glad she’s going to be challenged to excel in an area that many girls aren’t. I just know that when she has children of her own someday she’s not going to utter the phrase, “I’m no good at math.” That brings me to number 3.

3. Mind Your Words About Yourself – Like I said, the words my mother spoke over herself had an effect on me. I’m totally guilty of still saying things like, “I’m not very good at math,” but I still try to help her with her math homework whenever she asks. I know I’ve gotta watch what I say. My kids are always listening even if I think I’m just muttering something to myself.

My mom often said disparaging things about her looks too. I was very self-conscious of my own looks especially as a tween and teen. I’m not blaming it all on my mom, but I unconsciously learned to give a voice to my insecurities. I try really hard not to say bad things about myself or my looks in front of my daughter.

Girls look to their moms to understand their own self-worth. Be kind to yourself and they’ll learn to be kind to themselves too.

4. Encourage Leadership Skills – One of the best things I did was put Hannah in Girl Scouts. She’s gotten to meet with local business owners, our town judge and even our Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther. It’s great for the girls to meet influential women.

This year, they held mock elections to learn more about the election process. It was optional if the girls wanted to run for President and I was so proud that Hannah wanted to. Being in the spotlight was something I would have avoided as a kid.

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Hannah made campaign buttons for her Girl Scout Troop election.

She made campaign buttons and stood up in front of her peers and made a speech about why she would make a good President. My favorite part was when she said she wouldn’t be upset if they didn’t choose her.

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I’m so proud of Hannah and all the girls who went up to the podium to give speeches during her Girl Scout Troop election. The more girls practice leadership skills like public speaking when they’re younger, the less intimidating it will be when they get older.

I didn’t put any pressure on her, heck I didn’t even hear her speech until she delivered it to her troop on Election Day. To my surprise she won. She then had to run one of her troop meetings and pick a project they would work on.

I told her about Operation Christmas Cheer, a card writing project started by my fellow Hudson Valley Parent blogger Roxanne (aka The Whatever Mom) that sends holiday cards to kids who are very ill. She was all for it and that’s what her troop did during the meeting she had to run. I’m so proud of the girls.

It doesn’t have to be Girl Scouts. It could be sports or any activity that encourages your daughter to take a leadership role.

Hannah has already far surpassed me when I was her age. She’s taught me that confidence comes from practice. It’s slow and steady for some girls, but as long as we keep them moving in the right direction, we can help them reach their full potential. We are their moms, and we have more power than we know.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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Yup, you read that right. It might surprise you that being a stay-at-home mom can help you in your career even though you aren’t in one at the moment. I know not all SAHMs want to return to the workforce and that’s perfectly fine. I’ve been a SAHM/WAHM for the past five years, and I never expected that this gift of being home with my children would give me the time, motivation, and experience to finally achieve one of my life-long goals of writing a book.

For the longest time, I used working outside the home as an excuse not to pursue my passion of writing. I did plenty of writing as a Marketing Coordinator,but it never fulfilled me in quite the same way. I wrote what other people wanted me to write, which was sometimes really hard to do. I spent more of my energy trying to channel and deliver on other people’s expectations of myself than I did figuring out what I really wanted to say to the world.

After some time at home, I picked up my old blogging habit. I connected with Terrie Goldstein, publisher of Hudson Valley Parent, and expressed my interest in blogging for the magazine. I became a regular contributor and have enjoyed writing for this wonderful audience.

Eventually, I began writing a book about saving money based on my experience living on one-income as a SAHM. Two years later, I finished, So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life and published it on Amazon and it’s been an eye-opening experience. I could never have achieved this goal if I were still working outside the home. If I can follow my passion, you can too.

Here are five ways, you can achieve your career goals right now as a SAHM.

  1. Go Back To School – Now is a great time to think about what you want to do with your life, if and when, you go back to working outside the home. If you didn’t love your former career or if you never had one before, this is a perfect opportunity to explore your career options. There are an enormous amount of options when it comes to education or career training and you can pursue many of them online in your spare time.
  2. Pursue Your Dreams – Maybe you’re artistic and enjoy writing, painting, crafting or jewelry making. Whatever it is, pursue it while you have the chance. Even if you can’t make a career from it later, your soul with thank you. You never know if you might end up teaching classes, opening your own Etsy shop, or starting a blog.
  3. Start Your Own Business – When you pursue your passion, you might not want to put it on the back burner to work for someone else. You could use your skills and talents and turn them into a business that fulfills you.
  4. Volunteer – Being at home gives you the flexibility to volunteer your time and talent to local non-profits. While this may not lead directly to a job in the future, you’ll get valuable work experience you can use on your resume. Volunteering also offers opportunities to network with people in your former or future career field. One day you might find yourself sitting in an interview with someone you met at a charity function.
  5. Freelance – You can use your skills to work freelance. You can pick and choose which jobs to take and work on your own schedule. Sometimes you can charge higher rates for the same work you did as a staff member at your former job. Sometimes companies don’t have the budget to hire someone full or part-time, but can pay for a particular project that needs to be done.

I’ll never look back at this time at home with my kids with regret. Not only have I had the honor of watching them grow up before my eyes, but they have been my inspiration to find my voice and pursue my dreams with reckless abandon.

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Staying home with my kids and living on one-income gave me the time and experience to write and publish a book about living frugally.

I have no idea if I’ll end up going back to a traditional job once my youngest child is in school, but either way I know that I’ve used this time wisely, building skills that will help me later.Staying home with kids is not a vacation by any means, but you can use whatever spare time you have to pursue the career you want down the road.

What would you like to do in the future?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life. She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

I was having a conversation with a lady I met at church and I was saying how awesome it was to meet another Stay At Home Mom. It seems there are a ton of us online, but it can be pretty hard to connect with other SAHMs in real life. We were having the conversation about how we are viewed as an oddity at best and even looked down upon by some. She actually told me her own mother told her that she wasted a “good education” on her since she decided to stay at home instead of putting that education to use in the workplace. I was shocked a mother would say this to her daughter, but I’m not surprised some people think that way.

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Motherhood Degree

When I was in college I had a poetry professor who was especially hard and since I was getting a minor in creative writing and there weren’t a lot of writing classes I had to take not one but two of his classes to earn my minor. I remember during one office visit my senior year after reviewing some of my work he asked me where I was going to graduate school. Though I had looked at one in Boston I told him I didn’t think I was going to go. His response was, “What are you going to do then, stay home and have babies.” This of course to him was the biggest tragedy of earning a degree. Never mind that half the people I know aren’t working in the field their degree is in anyhow. But a degree left to rot in favor of motherhood; that was unthinkable. Keep in mind that this very professor had married one of his own students years ago so I wonder if he views his own wife’s choice to bear his children with such disdain. You can bet he’d look at my life and shake his head with a mixture of “I told you so” and “What a waste!” After all, I’m a lowly blogger with no published work and I don’t earn a salary at a fancy job. So I’m a failure right?

Making The Choice To Stay Home

I’ve already written a post about myths about being a SAHM including that you must not have an education or viable work prospects or that making the choice to stay at home is built upon a presumption of luxury the rest of the working gals can’t afford. Sorry but there is nothing luxurious about trying to use a bunch of coupons at the supermarket with your screaming baby and the people behind you in line giving you dirty looks. There is nothing fabulous about shopping at consignment shops – though if you’re frugal like me you probably don’t mind at all. I walked away from a 10 year career in marketing about 3 years ago. I wasn’t making the “big bucks” since I worked for non-profits. I worked around plenty of well to do career women that were all too happy to treat me like the “hired help.” I juggled work and family as best I could, but even working part-time I felt like I couldn’t hack it.

I give women who work full-time a lot of credit. It’s hard. It means having two jobs and one of them is 24/7. By the time I was ready to quit that job my nerves were shot. But even if you decided between you and your spouse that you would make it your job to stay at home and take care of your family and never worked a day in your life would an education be wasted on you? I personally think that investing in yourself is never a waste.

Role Models of ALL Kinds

If my children ask me one day if I went to college I will tell them that I graduated from the same college as their daddy. If they ask me why I don’t have a job, I’ll tell them that I chose to stay at home with them instead. I chose to sacrifice A LOT of things so that I could be there for every milestone. I will tell my daughter Hannah, that having her changed absolutely EVERYTHING about my life. Motherhood changed me. My life was not about ME anymore, but the lives I created.

I’ll tell them that by the time I was 15 I had lost my daddy and by the time I was 32 I had lost my mommy and I learned how precious and sometimes short life is. I will tell them that I don’t regret my decision not to work outside the home because I had been on the other side. I did both and struggled. I’m woman enough to admit it. It doesn’t make me any less because of it. I stopped working when my family really needed me. At my job I was easily replaced, but in my family I’m absolutely irreplaceable. My husband is a good dad, but I’m the primary caregiver and the loss of me would be staggering.

The truth is, I don’t know what the future holds for me. I don’t know how long I’ll stay at home. Maybe I’ll want to go back to work one day. The point of it all though is that it’s my choice. Isn’t that what women’s lib was supposed to give us – the choice to do what we want with our lives? BUT if you give someone a choice you have to allow for the choice to stay at home too without that degrading sideways glance or backhanded comment or even the platitudes of “you’re so lucky.”

The point is that I’m working on my choice every day. I’m raising my family the way I think is best for me. Would you look into the eyes of your daughter and tell her that she shouldn’t go to college or that raising a family is a failure on her part? Probably not. Why does it have to be an either or? Why does career “success” trump family “success?” While others are feeling sorry for my lack of a paycheck, I’m feeling intense sadness for broken marriages and families in turmoil. I have chosen the latter as the form of success to gage my life by. I’m one of the richest people I know. I am the CEO of my household. If the world doesn’t agree, well the world can shove it.

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This is my company – Jayden, Hannah
and newest addition Sydney.

The 24/7 Motherhood Shift

I’m not saying that it’s all rainbows and sunshine over here. I feel like there are days I would love to take some time off and not have three little people relying on me for everything. There are days I want to scream when I hear “Mom, what’s for dinner?” Why? Because I know that whatever I slaved away making will just be met with, “How much do I have to eat? Can I be done?, What’s for dessert?” and it’s frustrating to no end. There are days when I just want a nap and a shower and an hour to converse with an adult during the day. There are great days too. It’s not black and white. Staying at home probably has the same highs and lows as a traditional 9 to 5 job.

The key thing is to understand that it is a job. When you send your kids to daycare, you’re outsourcing it. No judgment here. I ran a daycare for a little while. Motherhood is an unglamorous job with crap pay and no vacation or time off, not even for sick days. But if you choose this life, this job then you learn to own your choices. You roll with it and shake off people’s eyerolls or sarcastic remarks. So I dedicate this post to my poetry professor. His prediction was right. I did just “stay home and have babies.” I don’t regret it for a single second. I’m glad I had the opportunity to get a college education. I don’t think it was a waste. It’s made me who I am. Do I recommend going into debt to earn a degree without an income? NO. But there’s never anything wrong with bettering yourself. I still pursue my passion of writing. After all, here I am writing for all you lovely people.

I’m also learning every single day how to become a better mother. Not a perfect one, but a better one. The whole reason we have all these parenting books and magazines is because we want to give our kids the very best of us. It’s a constant learning process. So when you really think about it, we’re all attending Motherhood University every single day.

Hudson Valley Parents and teachers are welcome to take advantage of this special educational offer. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has designed this program specifically for Middle and High School teachers, counselors, social workers, youth advisors, and after-school program directors to help their students recognize depression in themselves or their friends, and to encourage them to get help for this common and treatable problem.

This free 60-minute webinar on Teen Depression and Suicide Risk is designed to show school personnel how they can effectively incorporate depression education into the classroom, using AFSP’s ground-breaking new film, More Than Sad: Teen Depression.

The film features vignettes of four teens that will help students recognize the varied signs and symptoms of depression, reduce their misconceptions and apprehensions about treatment, and promote help-seeking behavior. Each participant will receive a free copy of the film More Than Sad: Teen Depression (valued at $49.99)*

To accommodate your busy schedule and give you more options, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s New York chapters have joined together.   Please note that: registration is mandatory for this event, you may enter the event up to 15 minutes before the start of the event but you cannot enter 15 minutes after the event has started

March 28th, 3pm

Register for March 28th Webinar

March 30th, Noon

Register for March 30th Webinar

April 4th, 3pm

Register for April 4th Webinar

April 6th, 11am

Register for April 6th Webinar

April 7th, Noon

Register for April 7th Webinar

April 8th, Noon

Register for April 8th Webinar

April 12th, Noon

Register for April 12th Webinar

April 19th, 9am

Register for April 19th Webinar

Please note that each offering of the webinar is limited to 250 registrants, so register today!

Would you love a chance to win an autographed Bon Jovi Guitar?  How about a signed photo of the hottest heartthrob, Justin Bieber?

Mark Friday, March 25 on your calendar and come on down to Anthony’s Pier Nine on Route 9W in New Windsor. This is your chance to bid on over 100 items in this unbelievable silent auction. All proceeds benefit Bishop Dunn Memorial School in Newburgh offering programs from pre-K through 8th grade.

This is the 20th anniversary of the school’s silent auction and it is sure to be the most memorable ever. With a delicious buffet served throughout the event, a dessert table and refreshments you won’t go hungry. Then bid on some of the over 100 items available.  

Not only will the evening be a blast, with no one going away empty handed, but this is a worthy cause. Bishop Dunn attracts children for all over the Hudson Valley. Located on the campus of Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, the school is unique with a curriculum that spans pre-K through 8th grade and provides a certified program for children with special needs.

Pier Nine, Rte 9W, New Windsor

Tickets: $30/person

Doors open for preview of items at 6pm

Live auction beginning at 7pm led by auctioneer Marianne Flannery from Flannery Estate Services

For more information call the Bishop Dunn Development office at 845-569-3496 or visit Bishop Dunn Memorial School.

Families in the Hudson Valley deal with bullying every day.

How does the White House plan to address this growing issue?

Over the past few months the Hudson Valley has been rocked by teen suicides and accusations that they were related to bullying.  Parents, students, teachers and school administrators are concerned with the climate within our local schools.  Monroe-Woodbury has been battling these accusations since early this year when 2 apparent suicides occurred within weeks of each other. Recently, students began bullying a national speaker who visited the school to discuss bullying issues.

Local Mount Saint Mary College professor Paul Schwartz, Ph.D. talks about the warning signs of bullying on HVParent.com.

Earlier today, I participated in a National Press Call with the U.S Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Assistant Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools Kevin Jennings.

“No school can be a great school, until it is a safe school,” says Duncan.

With the amount of pressure inside schools right now and the focus on standardized testing, I think we have tolerated bullying as a “rite of passage” and brushed it off. We, as parents, are also pressured by how much else needs to get done in a day.

According to Jennings, bullying isn’t worse compared to 10 years ago but it is different and has more venues such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.  We are now at a “tipping point” , states Jennings, where bullying is no longer tolerable or a rite of passage but a “wrong of passage.”
The Department of Health & Human Services in partnership with the Department of Education and Department of Justice, developed a comprehensive website for kids, teens, young adults, parents and educators with numerous free resources; www.stopbullying.gov.

Check out the Youth Leaders’ Toolkit which is a set of resources for teens to help younger children launch a bullying prevention project. I think you will find it a great resource.

President Barack Obama & First Lady Michelle Obama

Setting an educational course for a child with unique needs can be a daunting task for parents.

Federal regulations enacted under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act require schools to develop individualized education programs (IEP) for children who are classified as students with disabilities.

Parents or guardians are required to be a part of the team that drafts the child’s IEP, along with at least one special education teacher, one regular education teacher, a member of the school’s administration, and someone with advanced knowledge of understanding learning evaluation results, often times the school’s psychologist. The law requires parents to play a role in the IEP process because parents generally have in-depth knowledge of their child’s strengths and weaknesses.

Often, parents are unsure of what to expect when told that they are to be a part of their child’s education plans. Many parents do not have formal education training and have not been part of an IEP process before. There are several things that parents should understand before beginning the IEP drafting process:

Parents have rights when it comes to their child’s IEP. The law requires that school districts must make “significant” efforts to ensure that a parent attends all IEP meetings. The meeting must be scheduled in a timely manner and must take place at a location that both parties (typically, the school district and the parent) agree upon. Parents who cannot attend have the option of participating remotely. Parents have the right to be as active in the IEP drafting process as they so choose, and can request changes to the plan if they desire.

Parents should come to the meeting prepared. It is best to organize a list of questions and concerns beforehand. It is also wise to prepare to answer specific questions that the rest of the IEP team may have, such as what challenges the child has and how the family believes the child’s needs can be met. Many parents choose to obtain copies of the school’s paperwork several days in advance to review it before the meeting. It may also be beneficial to provide the school with paperwork before the meeting as well, including a list of goals and concerns.

At the meeting, it is best to phrase things in the most positive way possible. The IEP is designed with a child’s challenges in mind to help him or her succeed – success is the primary goal. Parents should try to work collaboratively with the rest of the IEP team, but should voice their concern and ask questions. While everyone in the room is ultimately trying to help the child, parents are an important part of the team. It is also important to remember that the child may act differently in educational settings than at home.

There are a few options for parents who want to learn more about the IEP process. A wide variety of IEP information is available at the U.S. Department of Education website at ed.gov. Parents of children who have been diagnosed with specific learning disabilities can find more information at respective organization’s websites. Law firms concentrating on special education advocacy and special needs planning are also a good resource to assist parents needing aid with the IEP process.

To read more, visit www.littmankrooks.com/

In an effort to encourage young women to explore career opportunities in typically male-dominated fields, Dutchess Community College will host its 15th Annual “Math and Science Matter … Especially for Young Women” program on March 5. The program runs from 8am to 1pm and is open to girls in grades 5-8. The registration fee is $10.

The program offers hands-on workshops in science, technology, engineering, and math. Workshop descriptions and the registration form are available at www.sunydutchess.edu/msm. There will be programs for parent as well.

Check-in will take place at 8am in the Dutchess Hall Lobby, followed by a welcome in the James and Betty Hall Theatre. Pre-registration is required. The program is presented with support from Hudson Valley Credit Union.

 

Monroe-Woodbury  High School has been rocked by two student suicides which occurred nine days apart. As grief counselors fan out to help students and families cope, they’re also scrambling to prevent copycat cases from occurring.  A high-profile teen suicide can cause others to follow suit. In fact, in some countries, teen suicides are not reported, in an effort to keep other teens from getting any ideas.

School officials say they don’t believe the two deaths were related. A 14-year-old freshman killed himself on Tuesday. The 16-year-old junior who committed suicide earlier was on the school’s football team. Friends and families have been left asking why, especially since the cases are not isolated. There has also been an attempted suicide by one student and a suicide threat by another.

Studies show that suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers. Experts say that the onset of winter poses a dangerous time for those susceptible to depression. Combined with the fact that teenagers can be impressionable; mental health specialists have plenty cause for concern.  Parents who think their child is at risk, should look for warning signs, such as depression and changes in behavior. The school is planning to hold sessions with parents this week to explain risk factors in detail. It’s important to seek counseling quickly.

Friends of both teens have set up Facebook pages in remembrance of them. One page posts a reminder to visitors about the importance of telling others if they’re considering suicide, while the other makes reference to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the Jason Foundation, which is another suicide prevention organization. If you know of someone who is at risk, contact Orange County’s 24-hour mobile mental health clinic at 888-750-2266, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK or email AFSP at afsp.org.

Julian Assange’s recent release of 250,000 diplomatic cables, via WikiLeaks, have made him a marked man.  The government of the United States wishes to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act while some say Assange deserves hero status for bringing these revelations.

Assange is currently on mansion arrest in England while he fights extradition back to Sweden.   He is wanted for questioning in two cases involving rape allegations.  Rape is defined differently in Sweden, but the allegations are no less serious.  Assange recently accepted over one million dollars to pen his memoirs, so whatever you think of his actions, they have certainly brought him a degree of wealth as well as unparalleled journalistic infamy.

As a former active duty Marine I empathize with our government’s position.  As a private citizen, I am appalled by what some of these cables reveal.   One thing is clear about Julian Assange.  He has made an impact.

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