Saturday, February 9, 2013

Being an "Involved" School Parent... Even When Things Are Crazy!

So, I've been working *reallllllly* hard this year at being an "involved" parent at our sweet daughter's school (despite our crazy life).  Let's face it - multiple trips to the VA every week, little sleep, endless ups and downs, etc, etc, can make it sort of difficult to even get her to school on time - much less do EXTRA stuff :)

A lot of "us" - veterans and spouses raising kiddos while also dealing with PTSD and TBI - have a hard time with that.  BUT statistics say our kids do better when we're involved (and, it is actually fun! LOL).

Here are some things I've done this year (and then I'm going to give you instructions for helping your child and his or her classmates make the card above!).

This year, I have:

  • Asked for the teacher's e-mail address (and if it was okay to stay in touch that way since it's the easiest / most efficient for me since a lot of my catch-up is done in the midnight to 2am range)
  • Checked as often as possible (as time and budget allow) if there are extra supplies or items the teacher needs for the classroom that I can send.
  • I've also watched clearance racks and super-sales for items that are useful to the teacher and/or school.  For example, our local dollar store had tons of kids crafts on clearance for $0.10 - $0.25 recently.  I spent $5.00 and sent tons of "stuff".
  • Her teacher frequently uses her own iPad in the classroom.  So, when I run across permanently or temporarily free apps that may be helpful, I send a quick e-mail with the link.
  • About once a month I send a "thank you" - a short, hand-written note in our daughter's take home folder - and mention something our daughter has been particularly excited about lately.  For example: "Thanks so much for putting together the story book activity for the class.  Our daughter LOVED it!".
  • And, as pictured above, I try to watch magazines (or my latest addiction - PINTEREST!) for cute, classroom friendly crafts.  When I find something fast and easy, I'll send a photo to the teacher via e-mail and ask if it would be helpful for me to send the supplies and instructions.

Anyway, this strategy has kept me a lot more involved this year - and, as a result, has really helped keep the communication between our daughter's teacher and I going at a lot better level this year.  When issues do arise (much more common in our PTSD / TBI households), there's now a "rapport" already built... I'm comfortable, she's comfortable, everybody (most importantly our daughter!) wins :)

As promised, here are the instructions for the card above.  It was originally printed in the last edition of Family Fun magazine, but didn't have many detailed instructions.  See it on their website here:

For each card you'll need:

  • 1 - Full Sheet (8-1/2 x 11) of Red Cardstock (for the base of the card)
  • 1 - Half Sheet (8-1/2 x 5.5) of White, Purple or Pink Cardstock (for the hands)
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • A Red Marker, Pen, or Crayon

To get the "craft kits" ready to send for our daughter's classroom, I purchased enough for each child to make a few (so they could give one to parents and also grandparents, siblings, etc.)

I pre-folded all of the red cardstock (simply fold in half - easier to do in a large quantity if you have a hard surface to press on) and then used a "Handmade for you by..." stamp I already had on the back (so each child could write their name!).  I also pre-dated the backs neatly with a black permanent marker (I always hate it when I look at a craft our kiddo has done and can't remember exactly when!).  I put all of the pre-folded card bases in one, gallon-sized ziploc and labeled it.

Then, I cut enough half sheets of the "accent" colors (white, pink, purple) for each child to choose 3, and placed those in labeled bags.

I also included 3 "samples" for the teacher to be able to show the kids and instructions for her.

Now, if your child is part of an "older" classroom, you can stop here.  You're done :)  Good job!

If your child is younger, like mine who is a first grader, you may want to go a step further.  When my daughter and I practiced at home, the hands took the longest (and where the most irritating for her!).  So, I sent with the "craft kits" an extra white sheet labeled with each child's name and a quart-size bag with each child's name.  Then, I asked the teacher to have the children pick their three "hand pieces" (white, pink, or purple) and trace their hand on the labeled white sheet and put everything in their labeled bag and send them home to me.  Then, I cut out all the cute little hands and sent them back.  It didn't take too horribly long AND made things MUCH simpler in the classroom.

This is something you could replicate (I plan to) for other holidays, too!  Maybe even as a way to help the teacher announce to parents the "end of year" activities.

So, there you go... go get involved ;)


Brannan Vines
Proud wife of an OIF Veteran
Founder of - an organization dedicated to helping heroes and their loved ones survive and thrive after combat with real world info about PTSD, TBI, and Life After Combat!

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