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  • LAUSD Magnet Schools: The Basics

    I will be shutting down my other website, LAUSD, and moving its content to Chief Family Officer. Our children’s education is a huge part of parenting and family life, so it’s a good fit here, and I plan to write even more about education as my older son approaches middle school age. If there’s a specific topic you’d like to see covered, please let me know!

    LAUSD Magnet Schools Intro

    The Los Angeles Unified School District’s Magnet Program is a court-ordered voluntary integration program that is available to students in grades K through 12 who live within the LAUSD boundaries. What that means in more simplistic terms is that years ago, there was a lawsuit alleging that LAUSD discriminated against minorities and provided fewer educational opportunities to them. As a result of that lawsuit, the Magnet Program was instituted to ensure that resources are extended to minority students as well.

    There are over 150 schools that offer the Magnet Program. Each magnet school has a different theme, and offers a curriculum that incorporates and focuses on that theme. There are magnet schools available at each grade level, though I believe there are only two magnet schools that are open to kindergarteners.

    With the exception of gifted/high-ability magnets, magnet schools are open to all LAUSD students and admission is determined through a points and lottery system. Gifted/high ability magnets admit only qualified students, but the admissions process for those who qualify is also through the points and lottery system.

    Image via by Grant Cochrane.

    Should your child start kindergarten early?

    Should your child start kindergarten early? -

    In the last few months, several parents have said to me something along the lines of: “I probably should have held him back.”

    It’s made me grateful that my children’s birthdays fall in months that didn’t give me much choice about when they would start kindergarten. I’ve watched many friends struggle with the decision of whether to start their child in kindergarten in the fall or wait a year, and as I said, I have friends who’ve regretted – or at least doubted – their choice to start their child early.

    Some of the reasons for starting kindergarten on the earlier side include:

    • The child is emotionally ready. Some kids have trouble sitting still, getting along with other kids, cry a lot, etc. Other kids fully participate in their preschool class, and handle interactions with other kids appropriately. If you’ve got the former, it’s easier to say your child isn’t quite ready for kindergarten. But if you’ve got the latter, you might wonder if keeping her in preschool for another year is actually hindering her development.
    • The child is intellectually ready. I know some kids who could not only write their names and the entire alphabet, but they could read Level 1 or 2 books and do simple addition and subtraction when they started kindergarten. Some kids get bored in preschool, too. Again, if you have an academically advanced child, you might wonder if holding him back will just make the next year more difficult than it needs to be.
    • The child is physically ready. In almost every class, there seems to be one kid who’s noticeably taller than everybody else. And a lot of times, that kid is one of the younger ones in the class. It can be difficult to look like you’re older than everybody else, especially when you actually aren’t. So parents with a tall kid might be more inclined to start their child in kindergarten than parents with a short kid.
    • The financial cost of another year of preschool is a burden. Preschool can be expensive {although it’s cheap compared to summer camp!}. So the thought of paying for an extra year of preschool when you don’t have to can be a huge incentive to send your child to kindergarten instead of holding her back for another year. That’s money that can be applied toward college savings or other good uses.

    On the other hand, there are also reasons to hold your child back:

    • Your child may be able to keep pace with her peers now, but may fall behind in a few years. As school work becomes more challenging, your child may have increasing difficulty with the material. One of my friends said her son was struggling with fourth grade math, and was wondering if he would have had an easier time in school if she’d held him back a year.
    • Your child will have to face social pressures earlier. Adolescence is never an easy time, and that may be when your child’s younger age compared to her classmates starts to show. So it’s important to project ahead and ask yourself if you want your child to be exposed to middle school or high school a year earlier than she needs to be. In fact, one of my friends who skipped a grade said that she felt fine about it until middle school, which is when she really started to feel the age difference.
    • It can be difficult to hold your child back later. Some schools will not allow you to hold your child back once she’s in school, especially if she’s keeping up academically. You may wish to check the policy of your local school district before making a decision.
    • Your child may have an advantage when it comes to athletics if he’s on the older end of the scale. While it’s statistically unlikely your child will become a superstar athlete, he may have a better chance of athletic success in high school if he’s older.

    This is one of those really difficult parenting decisions where you won’t know if you made the right choice for a few years, if ever. Ever since college, I’ve wished that my parents had held me back so that I was one of the oldest kids instead of one of the youngest – I think I would have been more self-confident, and consequently thrived more. But one of my good friends growing up had skipped a grade and was younger than me, and seemed far better adjusted in our late adolescence/early adulthood than I was. {I’d say there’s zero to no disparity now, so maybe that’s the real answer: eventually it just doesn’t matter.}

    Image via by AKARAKINGDOMS.

    “Summer School” at Home

    Summer School at HomeMy kids did well academically this past school year, but the curriculum is only getting harder and I want to make the coming school year as easy as possible for them since they’ll be busy with multiple sports on top of school work.

    My oldest child’s teacher sent home a math workbook that was virtually untouched, so I’ve got him doing the worksheets starting in the middle of the book, right where the material started to get difficult. It turns out my younger son is perfectly capable of doing the worksheets at the front of the book, so the earlier pages are definitely not going to waste.

    Reading comprehension and storytelling have been an area of difficulty for us, so while my husband works with our son on summarizing chapters, I’ve been using reading comprehension exercises I find online. What did people do before the internet?! It’s just the most amazing thing to be able to do a quick Swagbucks search for “third grade reading comprehension worksheets” and find thousands of free printables (you can be eco-friendly by having your child read the passage on the screen, printing on re-used paper, etc.). Some sites limit the number of free pdfs (they’re basically free samples), but since there are so many sites, I’m not in danger of running out of options.

    Although using worksheets from multiple sites requires a little more work on my part to find them, I like that my children are being challenged in different ways. They have to focus and pay attention because the instructions are written differently, the passages are written in different styles, and the questions vary greatly.

    Our routine this first week has been to go outside for a while after breakfast, then come back and work at the table. As I write this post, my oldest is working on his reading comprehension exercise, while my youngest draws since he finished his math and reading already. The added benefit for me, of course, is that when I’m not correcting their work or answering questions, I can get some of my own work done. And hopefully, by the time they head back to school, my kids will find the classwork pleasantly doable.

    Do your kids study during the summer?

    Image via by Felixco, Inc..

    Ask for Class Supply Lists Before School Ends

    I mentioned this over at LAUSD Magnet Schools & Beyond but wanted to share it here too …

    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 before school ends. 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 (Kleenex)
    • Baby wipes
    • Antibacterial wipes (like Lysol or Clorox)

    I have lists for both of my sons’ grades next school year, and both lists also include crayons, color pencils, folders, colored printer paper, zip top bags in various sizes, dry erase markers, and band-aids.

    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 at rock bottom prices, and I’ll be running my annual Back to School Sales series when the sales start up.

    I don’t know about other areas, but with all of the budget cuts in the Los Angeles Unified School District, public education really only works now if parents, teachers and the administration are a team. Presenting your child’s teacher with a gift of supplies sends the message that you’re there to support and help them, and can help everyone get the year off to a great start.

    Three Ways to Make Saving for College Simple

    Thanks to RBS Citizens Financial Group for this informative sponsored post. You can read the full CFO disclosure policy here.

    As a parent, one of the most important things you can do for your child is help pave their way into the future – and for most that will mean getting a college education. With education costs on the rise, establishing your college savings plans as early as possible is extremely important. Consider setting up a designated college savings account that will accumulate interest on your hard earned contributions. Here are three things you can do to make saving for college easier for you and your family:

    1. Start college savings plans early. When it comes to setting aside money for your child’s education, you cannot begin too early. Many parents wisely start funneling money into an account designed to fund their child’s future long before first words are even spoken.
    2. Put money into a college savings account on a regular basis. No matter how you want to save money for your child’s education, you should try to put money into the account with each paycheck. Designate an amount that you are comfortable setting aside and have it automatically deposited into the account of your choice. Some popular college savings accounts include:
      • Traditional savings accounts: Although it may not be specifically designated as a “college savings account”, an interest bearing savings account at your bank is really all you need to start a monthly habit of investing in your child’s future. Ask your bank about features like automatic savings account transfers, which can help you to commit to paying yourself first every pay period.
      • 529 accounts: Maybe the most well known method of saving for college, 529 college savings accounts provide college savings with a tax advantage. Money can grow in the account tax-deferred and all money saved in the account can be withdrawn by the beneficiary of the account tax-free as long as it’s being applied to qualified higher education expenses.
      • College savings account: Making monthly contributions into a college savings account provides you regular savings with interest, and some banks even offer incentives for regular contributions.
    3. Add high interest savings accounts into your college savings plan. One way to add even more money to your college savings plan is to utilize high interest savings accounts. Take a portion of what you’ve been saving for college and transfer it into a high yield account for an amount of time you are comfortable with. This will give you the opportunity to earn a bit more on your money, and diversify your savings portfolio.
      • Certificates of deposit: Opening a certificate of deposit (CD) for your children can provide them with a high interest way of saving for college that will continue to accumulate interest every term it is renewed. If desired, after the date of maturity funds can be removed from the CD and invested into an alternative savings product or used for other educational needs.
      • Money market accounts: For high interest savings with a slight bit more flexibility than CDs when it comes to withdrawals, money markets can be an attractive college savings account alternative.

    Start making college savings plans today

    Just the fact that you are thinking about saving for your child’s college career shows that you are on the right track. If you are ready to get started, a good first step is to visit your bank and talk through the options available to you. Commit yourself to regular contributions and know that you are well on your way to helping your child open doors in the future.