Don't miss out! Get Chief Family Officer's free daily roundup:


  • Check out Chief Family Officer's Halloween Pinterest board for lots of spooky (and cute) ideas!
  • Recently read and enjoyed: The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs (LOL funny, as well as thought-provoking and educational)
  • Enter for a chance to win a $15 Starbucks Gift Card! And click here to see all of our current giveaways.

  • My Best Back to School Tips

    I know it’s early compared to a lot of schools, but public schools in Los Angeles start the new school year tomorrow! I actually can’t believe it – it feels like the summer just flew by. But here I am, getting ready for yet another school year, and I thought I’d share my favorite tips.

    Back to School Tips | Chief Family Officer

    My best over-arching Back to School tip should come as no surprise: Plan and prep as much as possible ahead of time. This includes:

    • Label everything – Pretty much everything your child takes to school should have their name on it, including lunch boxes, backpacks, jackets, etc.
    • Pack those backpacks – Put the writing utensils, notebooks, folders, and other first-day-of-school supplies in your child’s backpack (with your child so he or she knows what’s in there).
    • Prep for lunch – If your child will be buying lunch at school, make sure there’s money in the account or that it’s paid for. If you’re making a lunch, pack as much as you can the night before and make sure what you need for the morning is available and accessible.
    • Prep any necessary paperwork – My kids come home with packets for me to fill out on the first day of school (I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I get the homework the first day). But some schools send paperwork home ahead of time, which you should definitely complete and have ready on the first day. And for my child with allergies, I have to leave medication with the nurse so I have the paperwork and medication ready to take to the office on the first day of school. If we have new staff in the office, I include a recent photo that they can leave with the medication (a tip I got from our former school nurse).
    • Lay out clothes the night before – This might apply more to you than your children, depending on what your kids are like. If your children are picky about their outfits or wear uniforms, make sure their first-day outfits are ready to go in the morning so as to avoid unnecessary delays.

    I also suggest having a discussion with your children about what to expect the first day of school, such as who their teacher is or might be, and where to meet at the end of the day. Depending on the circumstances, your child will need more or less detail. For instance, my older child is off to middle school this year so we’ve been talking a lot about staying organized, moving from classroom to classroom, transportation, and more. But my younger child is just moving up a grade in elementary school, so we’ve hardly talked at all.

    Another tip is to shop the loss leaders at back to school sales and stock up on supplies the kids will need throughout the school year (you can see the weekly deals here). When my kids tell me they need more pencils or a new spiral notebook, I love being able to raid the closet rather than having to drive to a store to pick up what they need. And the sale prices now are often 75% or more off of what you’ll pay the rest of the year.

    Finally, plan something fun for yourself, especially if you are a stay or work at home parent and the kids have been around a lot more during the summer than they are during the school year. Although it can be a relief to see the kids off to school, the house can also seem a bit lonely and empty that first week. It’s a great time to catch up with friends you were too busy to get together with during the summer!

    How to be a Good Room Parent

    How to Be A Good Room Parent | Chief Family Officer

    Volunteering to be the room parent for your child’s class is a great way to get involved at your child’s school. You’ll get to interact with your child’s teacher, other parents, and maybe even school staff. Your involvement can contribute to your child having a great school year. I’ve been the room parent for both of my children throughout their elementary years, and I’ve really enjoyed how my role helps their teachers, the other parents, and all of the children in each class.

    Your primary role as a room parent will vary according to the culture at your child’s school, so you’ll need to figure out what the expectations are for particular position. At my kids’ school, my main task is to help the teachers and PTA communicate with the other parents in the class.

    I recommend that you start by talking with your child’s teacher, as early in the school year as possible. Ask what he or she expects of you. What happens most often to me is that the teachers will email me or ask me in person to send out an email to the other parents. The message is usually about an upcoming event like a field trip, a noteworthy homework assignment, or a classroom or school need.

    One easy way to make sure all parents feel connected and involved is to create a class web site. Shutterfly has a free web site builder called “Share Sites” that makes creating a class web site incredibly easy. Just select a template, input the required information, and you’re done! You can use the class web site to create a calendar of events, share photos, post event sign ups (which is very handy for class parties), post homework assignments, and send an email blast to everyone. There are also ways to manage permissions so you can control who can send a group message. To collect the information you need to create the web site, have each family complete a form like this one (Word document).

    As a room parent, you’ll likely find yourself fielding questions from other parents regarding classroom events and activities such as homework and field trips, and school events and activities such as performances and fundraisers. To help the parents in your class stay informed (and to keep from having to answer the same questions repeatedly), consider sending out a regular email update. Ask your child’s teacher if he or she would be willing to draft a quick weekly newsletter to parents to let them know what’s coming up during the week, such as field trips, tests, and special events. Also, ask if the school and/or PTA can put out a regular newsletter with information for parents. Then all you have to do is forward these newsletters to the other parents via email and/or post them on the class web site, and everyone (including you!) can be well informed. Some teachers will refuse to do the newsletter, but any weekly update to parents about what’s going on at school will help them feel connected and involved.

    The most challenging part about being a room parent at my children’s school – and probably at most other schools – has been organizing class gifts for our teacher and the annual silent auction basket that each class must donate. These events usually involve collecting money, and since my kids attend a public school, every contribution is voluntary. Most families are great about contributing, but I’ve been finding as my oldest makes his way up the grades that participation has been falling off. According to my friends who’ve been involved in PTA fundraisers for years, it’s always been the trend that the highest percentage of participating families comes from the lower grades, so it’s not exactly a surprise. When the difficulty of fostering participation has deterred some friends at our school from wanting to be a room parent, I’ve suggested joining forces with another parent and becoming co-room parents so the burden doesn’t fall on just one set of shoulders.

    Finally, be sure to check in regularly throughout the school year with your child’s teacher. Many teachers hesitate to ask for assistance – they may not be used to having a room parent who is genuinely helpful, or they hate to impose, or maybe they’re just shy. But your desire to help throughout the year can be a huge factor in making your child’s teacher feel that the school year is going well. And that, in turn, will help to ensure that your child has a good school year. And after all, isn’t that why you’re volunteering as room parent?

    Original image via by Witthaya Phonsawat.

    LAUSD: Maximizing Your Chances of Admission Through Open Enrollment

    Getting in via Open Enrollment -

    What can you do if you want your child to attend an LAUSD school that’s not your “home school” or a magnet school, and you don’t qualify for any of the priority options like Public School Choice or Romero Open Enrollment?

    You can try to get your child in through Open Enrollment, by which a school will accept students who wish to attend if there is space available. I have friends whose children have gotten into schools with excellent reputations via Open Enrollment, so this process is a viable one. You will need to provide transportation for your child, and admission is not guaranteed.

    Because admission is not guaranteed, you should call the school you want your child to attend in mid-April to find out when you should contact them about applying via open enrollment. Most likely the date will be in May, but you want to make sure you’re high on the wait list to maximize your chances of getting in so call to make sure the date isn’t earlier. Note that some schools will not accept any students via open enrollment due to lack of space.

    In addition to calling the school, you should check often beginning in mid-April to check if the list of schools with open enrollment availability has been posted. As soon as you see that list go live, give the school a call to see if or when you can apply for admission. Be prepared to go to the school in person, with your child, along with documentation the school may require (like your child’s birth certificate), in order to complete the application/enrollment process.

    Image via by Supertrooper.

    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!