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More From Our Schools Speaker Series

Want to help ensure that all kids in your community receive the very best education?

Save the Date to join us for the next speaker in the More From Our Schools series!

Thursday, March 4th – from 5:30 – 7:00 pm.
Valdez Elementary school located at 2525 W. 29th Ave. in Denver

The event is FREE, there will be food available and free childcare is provided. There will also be Spanish translation during the program.

Space is limited! Please RSVP to Claudia Winkler at cwinkler@dkfoundation.org or at 720-932-1544.
Let her know if you think you will need child care when you RSVP!

Our third and final speaker is Ben Austin, a member of the Los Angeles Parents Union and the founder of Parent Revolution.

Mr. Austin has dedicated much of his career to fighting for every child in California to get a great public education. Prior to joining the Parents Union, he directed the successful campaign to transform Locke High School from the worst high school in Los Angeles into a college preparatory model of reform. In 2006, he also created Parent Revolution—a coalition of organizations fighting to transform schools in LA. His work with the Parent’s Union is focused on the following belief: “For too long, everyone else had been in charge of their children’s schools: Politicians. Bureaucrats. Special interests. They had the power. Parents were told to do the bake sales. Now it’s the parents’ turn to take back the power over their children’s education. Parents are the only ones who will always stand up for our children, no matter what.”

What is this speaker’s series?
It’s a chance for you to learn how the community can advocate for an excellent education for all youth. We’re bringing nationally renowned speakers to you so you can be empowered to expect and demand more from our schools. Hear new ideas, ask questions, and learn what you can do.

Who’s behind it?
This series has been created by a group of educational and non-profit organizations who want to make sure that Denver parents and communities have the best information to improve our schools. Sponsoring organizations include A+ Denver, Metro Organizations for People (MOP), Padres y Jovenes Unidos, Get Smart Schools, The Urban League, and Stand for Children.

Why now?
Over the last several years, Denver Public Schools (DPS) has wrestled with how to create better schools; yet, despite these efforts, we continue to have a shortage of quality schools to serve DPS students.

● What does that mean to your community, your family, and your kids?
● What role can you play?
● How can you demand more for Denver kids and create change?

Visit MoreFromOurSchools.com to read about the third dynamic speaker, too.

(Photo credit: MoreFromOurSchools.com)

Mother U.

It was a Monday morning. We were getting ready for another grueling school week. The kids were moaning about the injustice of heavy backpacks and state laws.

I told them I went to school and survived. Put your shoes on, spit-spot.

My oldest son asked how many years I spent in school. I told him 20 years—13 years spanning kindergarten through 12th grade and 7 years of college. I waited for the oohs and aahs and hearty congratulations to pour in.

They considered my lengthy sentence for a moment. My son asked if they had to go to college, too.

I said no. They would be adults and it would be their choice. If they wanted good jobs they should attend, however.

“But mom,’ my second-grader noted, ‘You went to college but you don’t have a good job.”

He noticed.

I thought about launching into a defense of stay-at-home motherhood. I am important! Don’t you watch Oprah or read blogs, son? Isn’t my life enough of a shining example of Goodness and Work?

But if I put myself in his shoes, he sees a person who must wipe people and things in a never-ending loop of clockwise motion. He sees a van operator who drives in a similar loop to school and store, sometimes in her pajama bottoms. He loves me and appreciates my cuddles and bedtime prayers and the matching clean socks always at his fingertips. He takes socks seriously. When he’s sick, I pour sports drinks and arrange crackers on a plate. I kiss his forehead. I help him with homework, making sure when I have him spell “creak” it is not the water type. It’s the spooky haunted house floor type.

I didn’t have to go to college to learn any of the above skills.

Were my college years a waste of time, money, effort?

More From Our Schools Speaker Series

Want to help ensure that all kids in your community receive the very best education?

Save the Date to join us for the next speaker in the More From Our Schools series!

Thursday February 18th, 2010
5:00-6:30pm at Montbello High School in Northeast Denver

FREE and open to the public – Childcare & Food will be provided

Space is limited! Please RSVP to Claudia Winkler at cwinkler@dkfoundation.org or at 720-932-1544.
Let her know if you think you will need child care when you RSVP!

Speaker: Eva Moskowitz, Chief Executive Officer, Success Charter Network,
a former elected official and Chair of the New York City Council Education Committee

Ms. Moskowitz is a former elected official and Chair of the New York City Council Education Committee, and a forceful advocate for education. Eva has been a history professor and civics teacher at Prep for Prep, a program for gifted minority students. She then started the Success Charter Network in 2006 with the Harlem Success Academy 1, added three more schools in the summer of 2008 with plans to expand to 40 over a decade. As part of these efforts, she helped create Harlem Parents United, a group that shows up en masse at public hearings to demand good schools for their children.

What is this speaker’s series?
It’s a chance for you to learn how the community can advocate for an excellent education for all youth. We’re bringing nationally renowned speakers to you so you can be empowered to expect and demand more from our schools. Hear new ideas, ask questions, and learn what you can do.

Who’s behind it?
This series has been created by a group of educational and non-profit organizations who want to make sure that Denver parents and communities have the best information to improve our schools. Sponsoring organizations include A+ Denver, Metro Organizations for People (MOP), Padres y Jovenes Unidos, Get Smart Schools, The Urban League, and Stand for Children.

Why now?
Over the last several years, Denver Public Schools (DPS) has wrestled with how to create better schools; yet, despite these efforts, we continue to have a shortage of quality schools to serve DPS students.

● What does that mean to your community, your family, and your kids?
● What role can you play?
● How can you demand more for Denver kids and create change?

Visit MoreFromOurSchools.com to read about the third dynamic speaker, too.

(Photo credit: MoreFromOurSchools.com)

Mama Drama: Separation Anxiety Blues

Dear Mama Drama:

My daughter just started preschool and cries and clings to me every time I take her. This is her first experience away from me. What can I do to help her adjust?

~Struggling to Separate

(photo credit)

Dear Struggling:

Leaving your child when they are crying and scared is one of the most heart wrenching experiences a parent can have. The multitude of emotions you experience can be overwhelming.

Heading off to school for the first time can also be a scary experience for many children. If they have never been left anywhere like school or day care previously, they have no idea what to expect. Common fears for first time preschoolers are that mom or dad won’t come back, no one will play with them, and they don’t know what to do if they have to go to the bathroom. Many young children are not yet able to express these fears verbally, so instead they cry and cling to mom or dad.

Here are a few ideas to ease your daughter’s anxiety and yours as well:

  1. Arrange a visit to the classroom and teacher(s) before school starts. (It’s ideal to do before the school year, but since you have already started thirty minutes before class should do.) Explore the room with your daughter and the teacher discovering the materials and toys that interest her and allowing her to begin developing a relationship with the teacher.
  2. Use items that she was interested in on your visit together to entice her into the classroom when she comes to school. These transition objects help children move more smoothly from one part of their day to another.
  3. Reassure your daughter you will be back to pick her up. As most preschoolers cannot tell time, you can talk with her about her routine at school and let her know you’ll see her after snack (or whatever the last activity of the day is.)
  4. Take pictures of yourself and other family members in the home to send with her to school. Laminate them (clear contact paper works great, too) so they can hold up over time. My sons loved mom and dad on one side and the brothers together on the other. (Even at seven and ten they like to keep these pictures handy in their backpacks.)
  5. Read books with your daughter about what to expect at preschool. D.W.’s Guide to Preschool by Marc Brown is a great option and includes that very important reminder that the moms and dad do come back!
  6. Speak positively about preschool and the fun things she’ll get to do each day.
  7. Try to stay calm and relaxed yourself. Keeping your anxiety down will help her to feel more relaxed as well.

Getting Started On Your School Search

Tis’ the season folks – yes, it’s that time of year again, the holiday season, but it’s also the season to start making informed decisions about where your child will attend elementary school. You may be in the midst of completing applications for January. Some of you may be getting an early start on your research in preparation for next year. Then there are those of you who are scratching your heads and thinking, where do I even begin? Wherever you are in the school process, there is much to do and learn.

(Stock photo by nosheep)

scooptooFINAL(sm)There are resources to help with your research including your friends, neighbors, and online sites – some more comprehensive than others. Most of you will end up on a similar whirlwind tour to the one we took. Our educational blog, ScoopToo was created to help Denver parents get a grip on this process and all the school options available for your little ones. Whether you choose a private school for your child or a traditional public school that’s a bit more cutting edge, there is a lot of time and effort that goes into the search of finding the school that is the perfect fit for your child. When we researched schools a few years ago for our children, we wished there had been more resources available to assist us. We envisioned a one-stop-shop where parents could go and learn more about navigating the elementary school phase of their children’s education. And that’s what we did. We’re two moms that became passionate about this topic and wanted to help other parents make sense of it all.

Since this is the time for making a list (and checking it twice) that’s exactly what we did for you. If you are frantic or just unsure about where, when, and how to get started in your school search, please take a look below at this Top Ten List we created. We hope it will provide you with some sort of direction, along with helpful tips and advice while getting you on the right track to acquiring the information needed for your educational journey. To learn further about some of the tips provided below, you might find our Getting Started post on ScoopToo helpful.

Here’s a top ten list to get you started:

Mama Drama: Brotherly Love and Playgroup Problems

Dear Mama Drama:
I have three sons, ages 7, 4, and 2. Everyday after picking up my oldest son from school, within five minutes either the seven year old or four year old is crying. The struggles are often related to rude behavior and hitting. The oldest wants time to himself at this time of day and the younger brothers have been eagerly awaiting his return. The reconnection between the oldest and youngest is a love fest, but the middle and oldest set each other off. It seems like this should be a fun and exciting part of our day, but it quickly deteriorates into frustration for all of us.
~Hoping for a peaceful ride home

Dear Hoping:

Kids put out a ton of energy being at school all day and even though they may be running around, they are often exhausted emotionally and physically. Re-entering into their families low on energy can often lead to irritability and frustration.

Re-engaging with younger brothers after being with same age peers all day can be a challenge for older siblings. The older brother often struggles to remember that the younger brothers don’t have the same skills as his peers. He may have unrealistic expectations that lead to frustration for everyone. His low energy may prevent him from handling the situation with compassion and understanding.

From the perspective of the middle brother, he has been the big brother all day so giving that up when the bigger brother returns may be difficult for him. Aggression may be his outlet as he doesn’t have the language to conceptualize what he is experiencing. It may be even more difficult for him given the loving interactions the two other brothers demonstrate.

Reflecting with each child about how they perceive the after school experience is the first step. Understanding their thinking, helping them to understand the perspective of the other brother, and coming up with ideas for how they can handle that time of day is a good place to start. They may need more structure for this re-entry phase such as a secret brothers only handshake or hug ritual, a catch and release connection (meaning a quick hello, then let big brother be on his own for a few minutes), or a quiet time in the car or at home where everyone takes a break to rest or read. Having snacks and drinks available for the ride home gives them something to do and a chance to re-fuel without waiting too long.

Part of your problem solving should also involve helping them recognize their own internal cues of tiredness and frustration and how to read and respond to the non-verbal signals and body language of each other. This will take lots of time and practice, but you can help them by describing what you observe in them and explaining how you handle such feelings. Teaching them how to tune in to their own needs and read the signals from each other is a great life skill to start now.

Dear Mama Drama,

One of the children in our playgroup has a problem with hitting, and often uses my child as a target. (They are both approximately 3.5 years old.) The mother knows it happens and tries to discipline her child, but to no avail. It’s gotten to the point where my child doesn’t like playing with the hitter and is afraid. My child has tried telling the other child that kids won’t want to play with people who hit, but that doesn’t seem to be working either. Because the child’s behavior isn’t changing, which would be the best route to take: avoid playing with this person altogether, or keep playing and hope for the best?

Logistically, it would be a challenge to not see this child, and we love our playgroup, but I hate putting my child in harm’s way (literally!).

~Hit me with your best shot

Dear Hit me:

Hoping for the best without changing the interventions will lead to more of the same behavior. It is apparent that both the child and mother are struggling with the skills to handle this situation. My guess is that they are as frustrated with the problems as you are. If these relationships are important enough for you to continue in this playgroup, I suggest a direct conversation with this mom.

With compassion you can share how you have noticed her struggles in handling the hitting behavior of her child. You can also tell her how it is impacting your child’s feeling toward hers and that this is concerning to you. Let her know how important your relationship is and that you would like to support her in helping her child so that your relationship, and that of your children, can continue to be positive and successful.

For ideas on how she can support her daughter in using more appropriate social skills during your playgroup, you can refer her to last week’s Mama Drama column on Playtime Struggles. They may also need more direct support from a family behavior consultant or counselor.

If she is receptive and willing to work on this issue, then continuing may be a good idea. If she is not, you may need to take steps to limit or avoid contact with her and her child.

Mama Drama: Morning Routines and Evening Hysteria

Dear Mama Drama:
Every morning we struggle with my five-year-old son to get him ready for school and out of the house on time. He needs lots of one on one support to complete even the most basic tasks such as getting dressed. He can’t remember what to do next and often stops to play with toys or sing the song on the radio.
~Tired of running late

Dear Tired:
Many children need extra support getting through their morning routine. When we stop to think about all the small steps involved, it can be quite daunting. As adults we have practiced these routines thousands of times throughout our lives. Our children are often still figuring out what each step is and how to keep track of it all.

Creating a visual schedule for your child is a great place to start. You can use pictures of your son doing each activity, clip art, pictures from the web or cut out of magazines. Add captions or directions with the picture even if your child does not read well yet. Start with the basics such as getting dressed, bathroom routine, and heading out the door. Then break these down into the steps they require. Having separate charts for each of these tasks helps to keep it simple.

An example is

Making “A Day Made Better” For One Lucky Teacher!

We could all use a better day sometimes. Recently, a Littleton teacher’s day was made better thanks to Office Max and MomItForward. The “A Day Made Better” program is wrapping up this week as it has spanned the country, surprising teachers with huge boxes of classroom supplies and some with $1,000 gift cards! Their lofty and worthy goal is to put an end to teacher-funded classrooms.

Mrs. Suzanne Speir of Ralph Moody Elementary in Littleton Public Schools received her surprise on Tuesday, September 29. Barb Likos, the local representative for Mom It Forward, made arrangements to deliver the box. Ralph Moody’s principal, Doug Andrews, with thrilled with the presentation and full of “thank yous” to all involved.

Mrs. Speir was nearly speechless, but told us, “I never win anything!” She was extremely gracious considering the disruption to her classroom.

Of course, the children in Mrs. Speir’s first grade class might have been the most excited of all. They couldn’t wait to dig through the box bursting with markers, folders, pens and pencils, push pins, and much much more.

Mom It Forward (MIF) is an organization based on a simple principle: together, moms can make a difference. By partnering with organizations like Office Max that support cause driven marketing campaigns, MIF can reach a greater number of moms, children, and communities. Our very own Mile High Mamas recently partnered with MIF and A Day Made Better at the Warwick Hotel on September 10. Bloggers and friends joined together to donate items to the program as well as collecting monetary donations. And poor us, we even had fun doing it.

As always, Mile High Mamas is working to make the most of our influence.

Colorado Moms Voice Their Opinions About President Obama’s Speech to Schoolchildren

In case you have been living under a rock, President Obama will address the nation’s children at noon today from Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va. I first heard about the the debate that is swirling around his speech as I listened to NPR’s riveting social commentary in the car.

OK, so it was a call-in session on alternative rock station Alice 105.9. Don’t let that impact my street cred.

My first thought was that these opposing people were crazy. I incredulously posted on Facebook about how could anyone object to THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES trying to encourage our children to stay in school?

And then the plot thickened because I heard back from so many of you:

Gretchen White of LifeNut said:

I have no problem at all with the president giving a pep talk to kids about doing well in school. Other presidents have made similar addresses to students, and I think it’s harmless and important for kids to feel all levels of our elected representatives are friendly and accessible.

It is the after-speech curriculum/teaching plans that made the needle skip off my record.

I don’t understand why they must return to their classrooms to hear books read about Obama, brainstorm how they must help Obama, recall Obama’s historic moments and speeches, and think about what Obama should say in his next speech to them (interrupting an-already planned school day, again?) If Bush had done this? Uproar, and everyone knows it.

Jenna of Mom in Progress asserts:

For our children to be privileged to see their president on live television speaking to them in a personal way seems like something any parent should be glad for. Doing it in the evening is going to miss so many students, and perhaps the ones who would benefit most from hearing such a message. When did we become so cynical to think that the main reason for our president to address school-aged students is to bolster his own political agenda? Are we so jaded as to think that he would have no good intentions for the future of the country that he loves enough to serve in the highest position?

Chris of MaMa Bird’s Blog said:

Obama Speech Divides Parents

President Barack Obama’s plan to address the nation’s students during the school day Tuesday has polarized parents over whether it’s OK for their kids to listen to the speech.

On one side are parents who say the webcast speech to K-12 students is “political recruiting” and “spreading the liberal agenda.”

On the other are those who say listening to presidential speeches is an important part of American culture and the education process.

The White House officially announced the speech Wednesday morning, and the U.S. Department of Education followed up with a letter to school principals and a lesson plan for discussing the talk. The White House said the speech will address the importance of studying and staying in school.

Most metro-area districts passed information about the speech on to their schools Wednesday afternoon, asking principals to send the information home with students that same day.

But word of the address leaked out early and spread rapidly online and on talk radio, and some parents reacted strongly to the perceived motive for the speech.

School districts in the metro area immediately began fielding phone calls and e-mails from parents.

Many wanted more information about Obama’s agenda, but others reacted angrily and threatened to