Spring Break Activities to Fight “Mom, I’m Bored” Syndrome

bored-16811_960_720It’s spring break time for many Illinois schools, and with it comes the “I’m bored” comments from your kids. While the old parental adage that boredom is a choice, not a condition probably won’t eliminate those comments, here are some sources of worksheets, activities, and ideas to provide some of those choices.

Take Your Family to School Week—February 15-19, 2016

HERO-TYFTSWPTAs across the country celebrate Founders’ Day, February 17th, in recognition of the legacy and work of Alice McLellan Birney, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, and Selena Sloan Butler to improve the lives of children. As part of this celebration, National PTA has designated the week that includes Founders’ Day Take Your Family to School Week.

Family engagement is critical to student success, and PTA has developed a Take Your Family to School Week toolkit to help your PTA host an event that will bring families in to your school. The toolkit provides leader guides for a variety of different events, Including:

Also included in the toolkit are templates to create flyers and posters, a sample invitation letter to families, a sample donation request letter, a sample proclamation for your mayor or school board, a media advisory template, and sample social media messaging. The toolkit also provides sample thank you letters to volunteers and to sponsors/donors to use after your event. All of these items are available in both English and Spanish.

Don’t miss out on celebrating Founders’ Day and Take Your Family to School Week—check out the toolkit today. Family engagement is critical for your students, and these tools can be used any time during the school year to help connect your PTA, your families, and your school.

Building Relationships Between Families and Schools

Research has shown that engaged families play a crucial role in student success, and today’s schools are reaching out to families more than ever for that SchoolOfExcellence_Logosupport. Whether it is e-mail lists, robo-calls, Facebook, Twitter, websites, or the good old “backpack express,” schools are trying to provide families with more information about their child’s school and education. Using all these means is important, but they are all generally one-way communication methods, using information sharing as an attempt at transparency.

But what students, families, teachers, and administrators really need are relationships, and relationships are built on communication between people. As schools call on parents to be more involved in decisions about how schools are managed through building councils, hiring committees, curriculum committees, and more, they need to develop those relationships with families as more than simple information receivers. And those relationships are built on periodic conversations between schools and families that allow for give and take.

A recent article in the Phi Delta Kappan illustrates how a school can undermine building those relationships. In the past, parents were generally considered engaged if they came to Open House, attended the school play, and checked their child’s homework. Today, parents may struggle to support their child’s homework, as new learning standards such as those for math focus on critical thinking, problem solving, and a solid understanding of numeracy. This new approach is far different than the basic rote memorization of math facts that today’s parents were taught, and as a result even well-educated parents are struggling to support their child. Schools may have Family Math Nights to help parents, but often only one or two, generally in the evening, and not all parents can attend.

So what can parents and PTAs do to help build these crucial relationships? One key tool is the PTA School of Excellence program. Built on National PTA’s National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, the program provides PTAs with a turnkey approach to engaging families, teachers, and administrators in building relationships for student success. A report on the first set of Schools of Excellence honorees showed significant increases in families reporting that their school and PTA empowered them to support their child, spoke up for every child, shared power in decision-making and school improvement, and collaborated with the community.

Your PTA has the opportunity to become a National PTA School of Excellence this year by following these simple steps:

  1. Enroll your PTA between now and October 1, 2015. Once you do so, you’ll receive the Getting Started Guide that describes the program components, including your first steps to gather feedback from families and set goals with your school partner.
  2. Survey your school community using the online tools provided and share the results with National PTA by submitting a Family-School Partnership Scan by November 1, 2015. You will choose a focus in one of three areas:
    • Improving family engagement in education
    • Ensuring students’ health and safety
    • Supporting arts in education
  3. Use the customized Roadmap to Excellence containing recommendations that correspond to your specific results and selected focus from the Family-School Partnership Plan to work towards your goal. Your Roadmap to Excellence will spell out exactly what you need to do to become a National PTA School of Excellence.
  4. Complete the National PTA School of Excellence application before June 1, 2016.
  5. Celebrate your excellence! All National PTA School of Excellence recipients receive a toolkit to support celebration activities.

You can find out more information from the National PTA School of Excellence Tell Me More Guide which provides some samples of the information you’ll receive throughout the process and gives more details on the individual steps.

Second Annual Spotlight Celebrates Illinois’s Amazing Children

Families from across Illinois gathered this past Saturday at Millikin University for Spotlight: A Children’s Celebration of Art and Community. The event at Kirkland Fine Arts Center showcased 11081325_10152684873140988_1690164095784135673_napproximately 500 PTA Reflections entries that advanced to the state level of judging, provided a wide variety of workshops, and recognized student artists and leaders from across the state.

The day began with a welcome (and a little showmanship) from Millikin University President Dr. Patrick White before families headed out for a wide variety of workshops. Developed by Millikin arts students and Illinois PTA leaders, the workshops focused on a variety of arts, including drawing comics, writing, working with clay, drumming, dancing, and more.

Following the workshops and fortified with cookies and punch, participants headed into the auditorium for the recognition ceremony. Highlights of the ceremony included the recognition of the special artists participating in the PTA Reflections program, awarding medals to those whose entries advanced to the National PTA Reflections judging, recognizing the winners of the two Illinois PTA scholarships, and the presentation of the Illinois PTA 2015 Outstanding Youth Service Leader awards to three amazing young people making a difference in their community. The ceremony concluded with Millikin University awarding $1,000 scholarships to attend Millikin in any field of study to the five high school level artists whose work advanced to the national level.

As Dean of Millikin’s College of Fine Arts, Laura Ledford, said in echoing the PTA Reflections theme, “The work of the young artists here today represents the continuing commitment of PTA to nurture creativity, curiosity, and wonder in the lives of our children, and Millikin University is proud to share and support that commitment. The world would, indeed, be a better place if the rich, innovative thinking and doing instilled by quality arts education had the support it deserves. Many thanks to the Illinois PTA for making the world a better place.”

Be sure to check out Illinois PTA’s Facebook page and its Cultural Arts Facebook page for lots of pictures and additional information on this wonderful event celebrating the accomplishments of our children.