Last year my oldest went off to kindergarten and I didn’t have nearly as much time to volunteer in his class as I’d hoped. Parents are busy but kids and teachers need us to be involved. Children get more out of school when there are deep school to home connections. Volunteerspot works hard to make those connections easier than ever to make.
I was thrilled to hear about Volunteerspot’s free online signup sheets and scheduler to make organizing activities easier and faster for everyone. When they asked me to help promote their amazing back to school sweepstakes I was happy to jump on board.
Before we get to the rad sweepstakes let me share my 10 tips to be a great and involved parent this year.
- Get your kids prepared. The whole school year will be smoother if your kids are ready for it from day one.
- Fill out your calendar NOW. Add items as they are emailed and sent home in notices but don’t forget the main calendar from the school district. That mid winter break in February won’t sneak up on you if you take the time to add it to the calendar now.
- Find time to block off for each child’s class. This might be twice a year or twice a week but being involved is much easier if you have set time aside.
- If you are allowed to bake, cook or bring snacks make sure you have an updated list of food restrictions and allergies before you even think about what to make or bring in. Let’s all make it easier on families with restrictions by limiting how many times kids need to be excluded or put in potentially dangerous situations.
- Label everything. EVERYTHING with your kids’ names. That way when your kids lose something ( and they will ) it’s easier to get it back.
- If you can don’t just send gifts to your child’s classroom teacher, send them to specialists, office staff, bus drivers… and simple thanks are just as much a gift as any expensive item. This doesn’t have to cost you a cent.
- Teachers are busy so be proactive. Ask if you can come in , take home busy work or ask to volunteer for a different part of the school like the library or at recess. You may not get the most glamorous job but you will be involved, present, and helping.
- If your child takes the bus to and from school try to pick them up from time to time as a treat and for some facetime at school. It’s not a time for a full on conference but a quick hello and simple offer of help or thanks can make a big impact.
- Don’t for once think that money is more important than time. Give what you can to your child’s school in minutes, hours, dollars or cents. Just get involved.
- Get organized and organize other parents with Volunteerspot – better yet win $1500 for your school !!
How to Enter to Win (You can do one of these, or all.)
1. Use VolunteerSpot during August to Take the Pledge to volunteer for your school. Don’t worry if you don’t have a specific activity to sign up for yet; just make the commitment to help out with one thing this school year.
Just be sure to include your school’s name when prompted during the easy registration process.
2. Use VolunteerSpot’s FREE online sign up sheets during August* to organize the parent volunteers for any school activity: back-to-school events, classroom helpers, carnivals, book fairs, hospitality teams & potlucks, concessions – any activity that involves multiple volunteers will be easier to manage with online sign ups and scheduling.
3. If you are a TEACHER, we have a special contest just for you. So be sure to check out the Teachers Win with VolunteerSpot sweeps here too.
How to Get More Chances for Your School to Win
Invite your neighborhood friends and fellow parents to use VolunteeerSpot this August too. Every new Pledge and new activity organized in VolunteerSpot.com counts as an entry for your school, so the more people you can get to sign up, the more entries to win $1,500 your school will get.
Post it on Facebook, or even better, email your whole class and ask them to take the pledge too. You might even remind people to take the pledge when you see them on the first day of school. Isn’t it worth it for the chance to win $1,500 bucks for your school?
One Last Awesome Idea
Send the link to this page (http://vols.pt/GSVOL) to the person you know who is most involved with your school’s parent/school organization. That way, even if you don’t need to organize an activity with VolunteerSpot right now, you can still help someone else out AND help your school win.
You can read the official rules here.
Here is an easy-to-read summary:
- 3 schools will be chosen at random to win. Each will receive a $1,500 grant from VolunteerSpot for their designated school’s parent-teacher organization.
- You must be at least 18 years old to enter for your school.
- You must reside in the United States. (We know, we know, but international sweepstakes laws are just too complex for us to handle. We are sorry!)
- The following uses of VolunteerSpot count as entries: registering and school organizer or teacher/educator VolunteerSpot account (it’s free!), setting up an activity, signing up for an activity someone else has set up, and pledging to volunteer.
Thousands of parents have already taken the pledge to volunteer this year (thank you!), but with many schools just heading back after Labor Day, some have asked for a little more time to GET MORE ENTRIES for their school. So we have officially extended the deadline to enter for TWO more weeks, until September 15th, 2013
If you’ve already entered, now is your chance to get on the horn (or email, or Facebook) and remind your friends to take the pledge too. It only takes a few minutes to help your school win.
And if you haven’t taken the pledge yet, pledge now.This post is sponsored by Volunteerspot.
I am a staunch believer that kids NEED time off. They need time to dig in the dirt for no reason other than digging in the dirt but I get asked year after year to put together a list of things parents can do to get their kids ready for preschool and kindergarten. These five things are the things I would tell my own friends they should do to get their kids ready to go to or go back to school. So I am sharing it with you. Getting kids ready doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive but we do need to take time to prepare our kids. This is just the tip of the iceberg if you want a much more in depth look at what kids really need check out my dear friend Deborah J. Stewart’s new book Ready For Kindergarten.
Reading doesn’t only help teach your child to read it also works on many of the other things on this list. Listening and taking turns are two obvious lessons children can learn while reading with a parent but what I love most is that reading a book can often open up a dialogue. This is so important. Opening up a dialogue like this lets kids express worries and other challenges they are facing. Try books about school to get your child to open up about how they are feeling and their needs regarding going to or back to school. Further down are more book suggestions for tougher issues like anxiety, bullying and standing up for yourself. For older children reading over the summer is imperative but if you have let it slide jump back on the reading train now so your child is ready to go back to the class with the same ability they left with.
Starting Preschool For The First Time
- Maisy Goes to Preschool: A Maisy First Experiences Book by Lucy Cousins
- Little School by Beth Norling
- My Preschool by Anne Rockwell
- Kindergarten Rocks! by Katie Davis
- Kindergarten Countdownby Anna Jane Hays
- On the Way to Kindergarten by Virgina Kroll
- Kindergarten Diary by Antoinette Portis
General School Books
- Follow the Line to School by Laura Ljungkvist
- David Goes To School by David Shannon
- I Love School! by Philemon Sturges
For the full reviews of these and more books check out our Book Section.
2. Practice Listening.
If your child isn’t used to a group setting or has been out of it since the school year ended practicing listening is a great idea. It can be very challenging for young kids to wait their turn to speak especially when excited and sometimes it doesn’t matter how many times we reminded them their impulse control is just not there yet. Work on listening in fun playful ways.
3. Practice self reliance.
Open yogurt tubes, zip jackets, tie shoes etc… a good rule of thumb is to only send your kids with things they can manage themselves. Teachers are happy to help but whenever a teacher is helping a child zip a coat, tie shoes etc… that might be time away from teaching. Multiply that by 10, 15, 20 kids and it adds up.
- Try a get ready for school obstacle course. Line up your kids in their bathing suits and have them race to get dressed , get their shoes on , lunch put in the back pack and to the finish line. Race against the clock not each other if the skill level is drastically different.
- Wood Lacing Sneaker for tying practice. This is almost identical to the one I learned on in 1982 and I like how stable it is.
- I love this Learn To Dress Monkey for practicing buttons , zippers and snaps.
4. Talk about differences, bullying and standing up for yourself .
School can be an anxious place for some kids and talking about that before hand can help. The following books are some of my favorites for these subjects:
- Spaghetti in A Hot Dog Bun: Having the Courage to Be Who You Are by Maria Dismondy
- Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell
- The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand Up For Others by Bob Sornson and Maria Dismondy
- I Don’t Want to Go To School! by Stephanie Blake
- Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
- The Kissing Hand by Audry Penn
- Jake Starts Schoolby Micheal Wright
- Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
- The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
- Stephanie’s Ponytail by Robert Munsch
Troubles with Friends:
5. Do some fun more learning activities to get into or back into the swing of things.
Being ready for school in the early years ( preschool – 1st grade ) is much less about what kids know and much more about having them ready to learn. Making sure that they are emotionally stable to be away from the home for the length of time that they will, giving them confidence and tools to handle issues, and being ready to work in a large group where their needs will not be met as immediately as they are at home. That said doing some fun learning activities won’t hurt! Here are some of my favorites for each age group. You can also have fun by making Alphabet Crafts – my ebook is discounted for back to school.
- Kindergarten and 1st Grade
Kids are heading back-to-school and it’s time to celebrate whether you wave goodbye as they get on the bus or sit down to teach them at the kitchen table. These are fun crafts for a new school year!
Need some alphabet activities for homeschooling? Try my ebook!
I warned you I am crazy about apples right now, I can’t help it as more kids head back-to-school apples jump to my mind ! This week won’t all be apple themed here but over at my FamilyEducation.com blog it is. So if you are looking for more ideas check it out! This craft is awesome because it requires almost no supplies, and it’s safe to assume most of us have paper rolls around the house. Oh and it’s so cute! These could also be used for cute apple napkin rings, a useful craft.
- Gather your materials. You will need a toilet paper roll, red and green paint, a sponge paint brush ( any brush or even fingers will work but sponges work best!), scissors and glue.
- Start by cutting your roll into rings, you can make think or thin.
- Cut 1 or 2 into strips ( these will be made into the leaves).
- Paint the rings red, inside and out. Let dry.
- Paint the strips green. Let dry.
- When the paint is dry cut the strips into leaf shapes.
- Bend the bottom.
- Add glue
- Stick it on the red ring!
The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall is a cute look at a year in the life of an apple tree from the perspective of a little girl. From the bare branches of Winter to the pretty flowers in Spring we follow along not only with the tree but with a family of robins as they develop along with the fruit. The illustrations by Shari Halpern are so expressive that a child could easily read the pictures and enjoy this book independently even if they aren’t reading yet. I dare you to read this and not consider making apple pie after, if you need a recipe there is one at the end of the book!
Apples, Apples, Apples by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace will not be returned to the library on time. We got it out today and my son has had me read it to him 3 times, and his dad read it twice. Clearly it gets the 3 year old seal of approval. It also gets mine. The story is more than just a story about a family going apple picking at an orchard. It explains all sorts of apple facts but what I really love is that it also explains that there are different kinds of apples and each are used for different things. Since each member of the family is using their apples for different purposes that fact is driven home . Great book for preschoolers going on a apple picking field trip , making applesauce or apple prints ( psst check back for a craft in a few days!).
One Red Apple by Harriet Ziefert is stunning. I really enjoy this author but most of my praise for this book lands squarely on the illustrator Karla Gudeon’s shoulders. WOW. I just adore the look, and creativity of this book. The story follows the cycle of one apple from orchard, to market back to seed, tree and back into the hands of a child. I enjoy books like this that simply explain the cycles of the natural world to young kids , but you can’t miss this one. As I turned each page I gasped, it’s one of those books you just need to sit and look at because each time you do you find some little detail you missed before.
This apple craft can be done two ways, lacing it for older more dexterous children and simply using a stapler for younger kids and toddlers. Either way there is something I just love about apples made from brown craft paper or my low cost alternative – grocery bags!
- Gather your materials. You will need a brown grocery bag or craft paper, newspaper, hole punch ( or stapler if you aren’t doing the lacing), ribbon, red, brown and green paint, scissors and paint brush.
- Start by drawing an apple on the paper.
- Cut out 2 apples ( back and front).
- While the paint dries crumple up your newspaper.
- When dry punch holes in the apple ( make sure you punch them in the same spot on both front and back).
- Tie your ribbon on. You can also use a button to act as a stopper.
- Start lacing.
- Stuff with your newspaper.
- Finish lacing.
Back to School Books !
Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come by Nancy Carlson did not live up to my expectations. It was written in 1999 but the information seems out dated, the little mouse in the story is entering kindergarten but is still unsure of his ABCs and could only count to 10. I know this seems like a minute detail but it bugs me because most kids entering kindergarten are well aware of the alphabet and can count past 10 with ease. I felt like it covered the basics about what a child can expect but it doesn’t go into any depth and I doubt it would ease any anxiety or fulfill any honest curiosity. I hate giving bad reviews but I just don’t like this book.
Miss Mingo and the First Day of School by Jamie Harper is a delightful book. Miss Mingo is a flamingo and teacher who wants to know about her students on the first day of school. She starts the exercise by sharing some fun facts about being a flamingo , like why she is pink, and before you know it the whole class of different animals are sharing. This book not only shows kids that it’s okay to share about themselves but it is full of fun facts about animals in the fine print. I learned something I never knew about a Narwhal! It is a bit long for a toddler but each page highlights new animals and it’s easy to skip a few for those that aren’t ready for a book of this length. This is going on my buy list!
The Kissing Hand by Audry Penn is an absolute favorite . Chester is a raccoon who like most of us doesn’t like change. In his case it’s starting school. He wants to stay home with his mama and play with the friends he already has instead of going to school away from her and his friends. So his mama explains to him the magic of the kissing hand . The real magic is the message that we have to do things that scare us sometimes but that the love of our family is always with us to help us through. Go get this book.