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  • LAUSD: Volunteering at Your Child’s School

    Volunteering at school -

    LAUSD policy allows parents to volunteer at their child’s school, and most “good” schools encourage parents to volunteer – especially now, when budget cuts mean schools need all the help they can get. {And there’s a correlation between student achievement and parent involvement.}

    In order to volunteer, you’ll need to complete a School Volunteer Application, which requires some background info. I think this is less important when it comes to parents, but since anyone can volunteer at an LAUSD school, it does help to weed out anyone who might have a less than honorable purpose for volunteering. The application is not required for one-time activities, such as chaperoning a field trip.

    A negative TB test is also required within the six months prior to the volunteer period. However, TB test results are good for four years, so you won’t need to get one every school year.

    What can you do as a volunteer?

    Some teachers welcome parent assistance and will be thrilled that you’ve asked to help them – even if your child isn’t in their class! I know many teachers who love having a parent come in to read to the class on a weekly basis, and some teachers even have parents and grandparents of former students who read to their class weekly.

    The school’s administrative staff may be able to suggest other ways to help. At our, the PTA has a number of on-campus activities that could use more volunteers, including cleaning the cafeteria tables, supervising the kindergarten lunch period, staffing the library, gardening, and providing playground supervision during recess.

    The bottom line: If you want to volunteer, do it!

    Image via by Supertrooper.

    Make Homework Easier with Homework Caddies

    Homework Caddies -

    When my boys are older, we’ll probably have to get desks and chairs so they can study in their rooms, but for now, they do their homework near me while I make dinner or work on my laptop. For years, we’ve had an area with homework supplies, including a mug standing in as a pencil holder on a bookcase, a tub full of crayons, another tub with glue sticks, and so on.

    But I got sick of watching my children – especially the youngest, who works the furthest away from the supplies but seems to need the most variety – constantly walking back and forth. So this school year, I’ve made the boys the homework caddies you see above. The caddies themselves were just $1 each at Target in The One Spot section, and each caddy contains:

    Mechanical pencils
    Colored pencils
    An eraser
    Glue sticks
    Pencil sharpener

    The only thing I deliberately left out was a pair of scissors, because I thought it would be too dangerous. {It would probably be fine, but just isn’t worth the risk.} I substantially pared down the color selection when it came to the crayons, but my kids really don’t need blue green and sea foam to do their homework.

    And, I accomplished my mission, as I no longer see my youngest walking back and forth from the supplies area to his homework area!

    Get off to a Good Start with Your Child’s New Teacher

    Good Start with New Teacher -

    A new school year is often a scary time for our children, because they’re in a new class with a new teacher and probably at least some new classmates. It’s a new environment, with new rules and new expectations.

    But what about Mom and Dad? The start of a new school year can be a scary time for parents too, because we don’t know what’s in store for our children and there’s so much we can’t control.

    One of the best ways to ease your anxiety as a parent is to get off to a good start with your child’s teacher. Here are some tips to make that happen:

    Read everything your child’s teacher sends home. Especially at the beginning of the year, teachers send home a lot of information for parents. Be sure to read everything, even if it’s tedious, and even if it seems repetitive. Think about how frustrated you would be if you provided answers to the most common questions, but no one read them so you had to keep answering the same question over and over anyway.

    Keep an open mind about your child’s teacher. Regardless of what you may have heard about your child’s teacher – positive or negative – remember that a teacher’s relationship with every child is different. What your friend and her child may have experienced with a teacher may be the opposite of what another friend and her child experienced with the same teacher, and both of their experiences will differ from what you and your child will experience. In fact, I have friends who dislike a teacher as intensely as other friends like that same teacher!

    Have a chat. Sometime during the first week of school, make some time to have a chat with your child’s teacher. I usually just wait after class is dismissed, and then catch the teacher for a few minutes. If the teacher doesn’t open his or her door to parents during the first week of school (or if you work and rarely see your child’s teacher), send a note or email asking if you can meet one day before or after school. During the meeting, ask any questions you might have, and tell them anything you want them to know about your child. For example, one of my kids has food allergies, and I want to make sure his teacher knows that. Other friends have told me they talk with the teacher about their child’s legitimate need to use the bathroom more frequently than normal (something teachers discourage because it’s a distraction), and others simply discuss their child’s personality quirks. Be sure to ask if there’s anything the teacher would like you to do, or if there’s anything they need. At public schools in Los Angeles, parents are frequently asked to donate basic supplies like facial tissue, baby wipes, and antibacterial wipes for the classroom.

    Keep an open mind about your child and his or her abilities. Over the years, our children show some characteristics that don’t change. For example, some kids are chatty while some hate to raise their hand, and some kids work quickly while others work slowly. You may have some ideas about how best to help your child, and it’s great to share those ideas with your child’s teacher. At the same time, however, be aware that your child’s teacher may have some new ideas. Let your child’s teacher try “their way” first, before you get frustrated about how things are going.

    Be communicative and ask lots of questions. If your child’s teacher isn’t providing the information you want, ask for it. He or she may not realize that their communications aren’t sufficient, and you may have to ask specific, detailed questions in order to get the answers you want. For example, this past year, my older son’s teacher administered a timed math test on multiplication, but we didn’t really know anything about it until a note came home in May. All we knew at that point was that our son hadn’t passed, and we didn’t know what it would take to him to pass. So we met with his teacher for a few minutes one morning before school, and learned that the same test was administered over and over again, and that our son could bring the test home (why he didn’t do that on his own is one of the great mysteries of children). Once we understood the parameters of the test, we had him take the test multiple times at home and he passed within a few days.

    Be appreciative. Teaching is a hard job, and at times can feel thankless. Let your child’s teacher know that he or she is appreciated with a note, or a small gift like cookies or classroom supplies. Since my children attend a budget-strapped public school, I like to give classroom supplies like facial tissue, baby wipes, and even pens and copy paper. These are all inexpensive items, but they go a long way to making my children’s teachers feel that we’re all in this together, and that their hard work isn’t unnoticed.

    Image via by tor00722.

    LAUSD & Charter Schools

    LAUSD & Charter Schools -

    According to, “[c]harter schools are nonsectarian public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. The ‘charter’ establishing each such school is a performance contract detailing the school’s mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success.”

    Within LAUSD, there are two types of charter schools – a “conversion charter” whereby an existing public school is converted to a charter school, and a “start-up charter” established by a member of the public. Some charter schools are affiliated with LAUSD, while others are independent.

    District-affiliated charter schools adhere to all LAUSD guidelines and policies but have more autonomy with their school budget and curriculum choices than traditional schools. They can purchase services from LAUSD, hire LAUSD teachers who remain part of the teachers’ union, and have access to free LAUSD facilities.

    Independent charters have even greater autonomy than district-affiliated charters but receive no organizational support from LAUSD, meaning they must handle their own hiring, employee benefits, payroll, facilities management and more.

    Charter schools are public schools. There is no formal tuition, but most schools fund raise and solicit donations. Many schools also have substantial parent participation requirements.

    There are over 180 charter schools within LAUSD. You can find a list of charter schools here.

    Image via by Supertrooper.

    Ask for Class Supply Lists Before School Ends

    Ask for supply lists -

    If you’re like me and you enjoy supporting your child’s school and individual teachers by providing classroom supplies, ask for a wishlist or supply list for next year before school ends. In LAUSD, you most likely won’t know who your child’s teacher will be in the fall, but the school may have a grade-wide list of supplies that all teachers need/want. And some requests are universal – every teacher I’ve met can use the following:

    • No. 2 pencils
    • Erasers
    • Glue sticks
    • Facial tissue (like Kleenex)
    • Unscented baby wipes
    • Antibacterial wipes (like Lysol or Clorox)
    • Hand sanitizer

    In the coming months, Staples, Office Depot, Target, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid and other stores will start their back to school sales. It’s a great time to stock up on supplies – for home and to donate – at rock bottom prices.

    With all of the budget cuts, public education in LAUSD really only works now if parents, teachers and the administration are a team. Presenting your child’s teacher with a gift of supplies at the start of the school year sends the message that you’re there to support and help them, and helps everyone get the year off to a great start.

    Image via by Supertrooper.