Student Banking 101

Starting a first bank account is an important part of growing up. Whether it is to handle money from a summer job or to have local banking when going away to college, such accounts often last longer than originally anticipated. The US Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has some tips for setting up that first bank account.

The article has three key points for those students setting up a bank account for college:

  • Choose an account as soon as possible.
  • Avoid paying unexpected fees, as “free” or “easy” accounts often are neither when looking at the fine print.
  • Sign up for direct deposits as soon as possible, as this can speed up financial aid money coming to you.

The article also covers the key factors to compare when choosing a bank account, explains overdraft fees and how to avoid them, and accessing financial aid with a bank account. Check out the full article for additional information on setting up that first bank account.

Photo is copyright 2003 by Jacob Edward under Creative Commons license.

Safely Watching Monday’s Solar Eclipse

Luc Viatour /

On Monday, August 21, a total solar eclipse will sweep across the country from Oregon to South Carolina, passing through southern Illinois during its journey. While the total eclipse will only be visible in a narrow path and only for about two and a half minutes, all of Illinois will see a partial solar eclipse. Here are some things to know about viewing the eclipse.

Never look directly at the sun.

During the eclipse, the only time that will be safe to look at the eclipse is during totality, when the moon completely blocks the sun. Even with the moon blocking much of the sun, it is still too bright to look at without using special solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses.” Be aware that there are some unsafe eclipse glasses being sold, and Amazon has issued a refund for those who have purchased ineffective glasses. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has published a list of safe solar filters. AAS also has other ways, including pinhole projection, which you can use to safely view the eclipse.

What will the eclipse look like where I live?

Time Magazine has created a solar eclipse simulator that will show you how much of the sun will be covered as the eclipse happens. Simply type in your zip code or location.

What should I know about travelling to see the total eclipse?

Expect heavy traffic and delays. The Illinois Department of Transportation anticipates that between 100,000 and 200,000 will be visiting southern Illinois to view the eclipse, since the longest period of totality will be in that area. The department has a special web page dedicated to travelling on Illinois roads for the eclipse.

Is it worth it to travel to see the total eclipse?

From those who have experienced a total eclipse, it is described as an incredible, even life-altering, experience. The difference from seeing the sun 99.9% eclipsed and 100.0% eclipsed is literally like night and day. Check out the TED Talk from David Baron below. Note that if you can’t catch Monday’s eclipse, you’ll get another chance on April 8, 2024 as a total eclipse passes from Texas through southern Illinois and much of Indiana.

9 Back to School Pro Tips

This article was originally published on the US Department of Education’s Home Room blog by Dorothy Amatucci. The photo is copyright 2015 by Geoff Livingston under Creative Commons license, provided and modified by Illinois PTA.

Back to school time can be a hectic time for both you and the kiddos. These are some of our best back to school tips to help ensure this school year gets off to a great start!

  1. Visit the school. Walk or ride the route your child will take and make note of school patrols, crossing guards and high traffic areas along the way. Talk to your kids about NOT talking to strangers and find out what, if any, policies your child’s school has regarding early arrivals or late pick-ups. Learn about the school’s entrance and exit policies. Then, if you can, pop in and check out what the inside of the school looks like.
  2. Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher. Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher and ask him or her about the preferred method of communication. (Some teachers are active on email and social media, while others prefer the phone or in-person meetings.)
  3. Make homework a priority. Make homework time a daily habit. Find a quiet and consistent place at home where your child can complete his or her homework. If your child is having difficulty with his or her homework, make an appointment with the teacher sooner rather than later.
  4. Prepare a study area. Set up a special place at home to do school work and homework. Remove distractions. Make it clear that education is a top priority in your family: show interest and praise your child’s work.
  5. Take charge of TV time. Limit the time that you let your child watch TV, and when you do decide to do TV time, make it a family affair. Talk together about what you see and ask questions after the show ends.
  6. Get everyone to bed on time. During the summer, children aren’t always on a schedule, which is understandable. But, proper rest is essential for a healthy and productive school year. Help your kids get back on track sleep-wise by having them go to bed earlier and wake up earlier at least a week in advance of when school actually starts.
  7. Make healthy meals. Let’s face it – no one can concentrate when they’re hungry. Studies show that children who eat healthy, balanced breakfasts and lunches do better in school. Fix nutritious meals at home, and, if you need extra help, find out if your family qualifies for any child nutrition programs, like the National School Lunch Program.
  8. Get a check up. It’s a good idea to take your child in for a physical and an eye exam before school starts. Most schools require up-to-date immunizations, and you may be asked to provide paperwork showing that your child has all the necessary shots and vaccines. So, check your state’s immunization requirements. And, always keep your own copies of any medical records.
  9. Plan to read with your child every day. Make a plan to read with your child for 20 minutes every day. Your example reinforces the importance of literacy, and reading lets you and your child explore new worlds of fun and adventure together.


Parent Guides for the New Science Standards

You may be familiar with PTA’s Parents’ Guides to Student Success, which highlight what your child will be learning in Math and English/Language Arts from kindergarten through high school. During the 2016-2017 school year, Illinois required the use of its new science standards, based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Now the NGSS developers have created a series of parent guides to help families support their child’s science education. The guides cover what students will be learning in the four key areas of physical sciences, life sciences, Earth and space sciences, and engineering design. The guides also give concrete examples of how the science students learn under the NGSS focus more on hands-on investigation and less on rote memorization. The guides are available for the following grades:

Check out the guide for your child’s grade level to learn more about what they will be learning in science and how you can help support them. Illinois families should also be aware that while the state conducted science assessments in both the spring of 2016 and 2017 for grades 5, 8, and 11, neither of those assessments have been scored due to the lack of a state budget. That means that families in Illinois have not seen how their student is doing in science since the ISAT science assessment given in spring 2014.