You are the expert!

Note: This is the first part in a series on being an advocate for your child in school, from preschool to high school.


If you’re a parent with a child in school, you’re probably gearing up for the coming school months. Ever notice the impact school has on your family and your communication with your child? How are you feeling about the start of school this year? How does your child feel?

Do you and your child feel more pressure and stress than during the summer or are you both excited?

My grandson just began first grade, and Orion, his wonderful daddy, has already visited Sebastian’s first grade class, and it’s just the first week of school. Sebastian’s new teacher has a Fly-On-The-Wall sign-up sheet so parents can visit the classroom early in the year. This is a great idea.

Orion made some important observations, and he’s going back to help in the classroom and to continue to observe. Knowing what’s happening with Sebastian while he’s at school is important to him.

Every parent needs to know what’s happening in their child’s classroom. Not just what the children are studying but what does it feel like to be in this classroom. Is the teacher genuinely kind? Is your child happy?

In my experience as a teacher and coach to parents and young people, I often see parents go along with the program, trusting the school staff, seeing them as the experts, and trying to implement what they have been directed to do, seldom questioning what is happening.

Even though school staff tell you what they want you to do, it is essential to research and evaluate for yourself and to make your child’s emotional and physical well-being your highest priority. Is your child flourishing at school, struggling, or just getting by?

Every child is born filled with a drive to learn and succeed in life, according to her Inner Brilliance, her inner knowing of what is best for her. What makes her heart sing. Your child is a natural born learner and no amount of ‘teaching’ can ‘teach’ her to learn.

It’s vitally important for parents to know and experience what their child experiences in the classroom for many hours a day, 5 days a week.

Schools are big places and often feel threatening and intimidating to young people of all ages. Children often see themselves as powerless and believe they need to conform and do what teachers tell them. They don’t know how or if they can speak up for themselves.

This is why she needs you, her parent, grandparent, or caretaker, to be her advocate, to look out for her and ‘have herr back.’ Many educators mean well, yet that doesn’t mean what they are doing or wanting what is best for your child.

It’s your job to pay attention, not in a paranoid, judgmental way, but by being conscious and aware of your child’s school environment.

Here are the three most important things to look for:

1. Does the teacher genuinely like and enjoy young people? Secondly and most important, does she like, admire and appreciate your child? Listen closely. Does she see wonderfulness in him?

As we all know, there are teachers who deeply care about children and enjoy their natural capabilities and brilliance. And there are teachers who only want children to do what they are told and to follow instructions without questioning.

Being a teacher is tough, given the standards and demands put on them by the government to follow the government’s mandates.

2.Does the teacher create a stimulating learning environment? Is your child curious and eagerly engaged in the classroom activities? Is she is eager to go to school every morning?

Children are hard-wired to succeed and to learn, and they do so with eagerness, joy, and curiosity. Is this how your child participates in his class? When he does his homework? Is he on-fire with learning the material and doing the assignments? Is he eager to tell you what he learned?

If not, this is a red flag the teacher is not creating a learning environment that nurtures your child.

3. Does the teacher create an environment in which your child feels emotionally and physically safe?

This is a big one and so seldom noticed. Bullying is bringing the extreme part of this to everyone’s attention, yet I have observed that school is often emotionally and even physically uncomfortable for children

Remember what it was like for you when you were in school? Did you feel you could be yourself and speak up? Was the teacher someone you deeply trusted and enjoyed? Was it comfortable having to sit still in those wooden chairs and be quiet for long periods of time?

Your child spends many hours in their school environment and is counting on you to be as diligent and selective about what is happening at school as you are at home.

I invite you to be your child’s biggest advocate this year, instead of an extension of the school. 

You are the expert and the one who cares most when it comes to your child.

How Children Learn Best

I had my 3-year-old grandson Sebastian here this week for our usual Tuesday time together. I always enjoy watching his enthusiasm to explore and create.

As I observed and played with him, I discovered something interesting about what he does when he creates, aka plays.

We have a rich variety of cool stuff at our place – two “hick-up’s” (Bas’s word for ‘pick-up’), lots of tools, ropes, bungee cords, a wood pile, all of which invite creating boy-style.

After sitting in the cab of our blue “hick-up” for a while and turning the dials, he asks to look at the area between the seats, an area filled with fascinating tools to explore. He spots the bungee cords, takes the red one, and walks to the back of the truck to find some way to use it, something to hook it to.

The tie-down’s around the pick-up bed are the perfect place. He asks me to lift him into the back of the truck where he hooks one end and then looks for a place to hook the other end. He tries several possibilities and the cord won’t stretch far enough.

Back to the other bungee cords, longer ones. He discovers the white bungee cords will stretch between two of the tie-downs’s on one side. Next question he asks, “What can I do with this?”

“Ah, I can use it to help me climb up the tire and get in and out of the truck by myself”. He repeats this several times. New hand-holds are discovered and he’s quickly swinging his leg over the top to get in.

Back to the other bungee cords and the process continues until he has 4 bungee cords fastened to 4 tie-down’s. Again he asks, “What can I do with this?”

“Connie, put my cycle (his Big Wheels) in here.”

Now he finds places to hook the unfastened ends of the bungee cords to his bike.

And so it goes. He finds tools (stuff in his physical environment) that catches his eyes and then explores ways to use them. He is in a constant state of exploration and discovery. The question he always seems to be asking is “What can I do with this? How can I use it?”

Thus, he develops both coordination and understanding about our physical world. His curiosity and experimentation motivate him and keep him inspired to discover more principles of our physical world, all of which will keep him safe and help him function successfully the rest of his life.

This is learning at it’s best. In fact, this natural, self-driven way of learning is the best way for children of all ages to learn. He asks questions and finds answers through experimentation, just like any good scientist.

What happens to this natural curiosity and drive to learn as children grow older? Why do children seem to stop being interested in learning and to need the external motivation of grades and gold stars? The answer – we adults believe we need to “teach” them in order for them to learn.

Not true! The best way for children of all ages to learn is finding answers to self-created questions.

How have you created an environment in which your child’s natural curiosity and experimentation have flourished? What could you create to nurture his learning from the inside out?

Please write in the comment space below and share with me what inspires your child, what you’ve done to nurture her interests, or what you’re going to do after reading this article.

Education that Nurtures Our Children

Our traditional approach to educating our children with its testing, grades, limiting structure and teacher-directed learning troubles me greatly. I can use words to describe what’s possible. Yet the most effective way is to show you.

That’s why, when I came across this inspiring, beautifully-done video of a child-directed learning program in which children’s natural curiosity and love of learning are nurtured, I had to share it with you.

Voyager Community School in Farmingdale, NJ, created this short video to tell others about their school and to demonstrate the joy and effectiveness of their non-traditional approach to providing an emotionally-nurturing learning environment for children.

I urge you to take just a few minutes right now – it’s less than 4 minutes long – to open your mind and your heart to considering the kind of ‘education’ you want your child to experience as you watch this video.

Then pause for a few moments to consider your child’s educational experience and consider what options you may have to create something more supportive of your child.

Summer is almost here. This is a perfect time to reflect on and create the best option for your child and for you this September.

Here is the viideo! Enjoy!

Helping Your Child with Homework – Most Common Parenting Mistake

If you struggle to get your child to do her homework, the most common mistake you’re likely making is taking responsibility for something that is her responsibility. Too much structure imposed by you limits your child’s ability to create structure that supports and works for her. You’re teaching her to rely on you instead of developing her own inner resources.

Plus, the frequent struggle, conflict and pressure you both experience profoundly hurts the emotional connection between you and your child – your most precious resource and delight as a parent.

The most powerful antidote to struggling with your child to do her homework is to empower your child to develop her own approach and plan about her homework and to stay out of her way, being there for her only when you’re asked.

Are you struggling or concerned about a school-related issue? If you’d like some new ideas and strategies that will help you resolve these challenges, check out my new teleclass series : “The Fast Track to Solving the Day-to-Day Challenges of Helping Your Child Succeed in School.”

Academic Pressure on Your Child – Most Common Parenting Mistake

Whether your child is an ‘A’ student or is struggling to ‘pass,’ she daily experiences pressure to perform and meet academic expectations. If she honestly loves school and is relaxed and happy in that environment because school comes easily for her, then she’s probably doing okay.

This is not the case for most children. Most children struggle in one way or another with the pressure to get good grades, learn math and science, to pass the tests, to be the best in their class, to never make a mistake.

If you’re like most parents, the most common and biggest mistake you may make regarding the academic pressure placed on your child is to ignore it. That’s right…ignoring it.

The most powerful antidote to academic pressure to perform in school is a great relationship with your child. With an emotionally close, honest relationship with your child, your child will talk with you about her struggles, her feelings, and you’re there to listen with an open, accepting, loving heart.

From here, the problems of the world can be solved…

Are you struggling or concerned about a school-related issue? If you’d like some new ideas and strategies that will help you resolve these challenges, check out my new teleclass series:  “The Fast Track to Solving the Day-to-Day Challenges of Helping Your Child Succeed in School.”