A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

‘Parent U’ offers tools, support for Lansdowne families, sheds light on lesser-known topics

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Families find that in building the school community, Lansdowne offers workshops that are relevant and useful. (Photo provided)

 
By Tammy L. Lane
Special to KyForward
 
 
Lansdowne Elementary’s “Parent U” is designed for people like Tasleem El-Amin, a mother of three who recognizes the value of partnering with schools to benefit her children.
 
“I’m here often, so all the teachers know me,” she said. El-Amin found the latest workshops especially helpful, noting, “I didn’t know how to deal with cyberbullying so it informed me a lot,” and “I’ve always wondered what my children’s learning styles were.”
 
Raine Minichan, Lansdowne’s child guidance specialist, organized the Thursday evening event, which included a free dinner and activities to occupy the youngsters on hand. Staff from the school’s Family Resource Center, Title I program and technology area pitched in, along with the PTA. Lansdowne offers workshops throughout the year and at different times of day to suit families’ varying schedules.
 
“Some parents might be intimidated, but we keep trying to reach them. We can work side by side for the betterment of our students,” Minichan said. “We want them to feel a sense of connection with the school. It’s not just a place where they drop their kids off, but it’s for them, too.”
 
In building the school community, Lansdowne tries to pick “Parent U” subjects that are relevant and useful. For instance, the Fifth Third Bank presentation on household budgets has been a popular workshop – suggesting how to reduce expenses, plan for emergencies and develop monthly spending guides.
 
“This topic is important to all of our families as financial matters can be a source of great stress. By providing parents with tools to increase their control over their family’s finances, we hope that some of that stress can be reduced,” Minichan explained. “Just having that stability in the financial area hopefully makes home a more relaxing place to be.”
 

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In the Cyber Safety session, Lori Farris from the state attorney general’s office talked about such areas of concern as identify theft, cyberbullying, ill-advised selfies and sexting. (Photo provided)

The two January sessions were Cyber Safety and Digging into “The Parent Backpack,” based on the book by M.L. Nichols. In the first hour, Lori Farris and Tom Bell from the state attorney general’s office talked about such areas of concern as identify theft, cyberbullying, ill-advised selfies and sexting.
 
“Sexting is very popular now, and the kids are getting younger,” Farris said. “A lot of times it’s pressure-based, but a lot of times they’re just exploring.”
 
She noted how students often don’t think about the consequences and their online errors in judgment can haunt them, even affecting college admissions and potential employment. Bell, an investigator in the cyber crimes unit, also urged parents to be aware of what their children are doing online and to be vigilant about protecting them.
 
“Kids are getting more devices, and they have Internet access. When you give them a smartphone, you’re handing them a key to the rest of the world. Once you connect them to that world, you’re giving every predator on the Internet access to your kid,” he said, adding, “Don’t be afraid to take the device and look at what’s on there.”
 
Lansdowne’s Minichan led the second hour, which touched on everything from the importance of adequate sleep and unstructured play time to how a parent’s reading aloud enhances a child’s brain development. She also highlighted how the classroom environment has evolved, with more cooperative learning in small groups and less sitting in rows of desks while listening to lectures.
 
Minichan noted that each child hits developmental milestones at their own pace and today’s teachers try to honor the individual student’s temperament and learning style (visual, auditory, kinesthetic or some combination).
 
“The content of this workshop is important for parents to hear. They can better understand what’s going on at school and how they can better support that at home,” she said.
 
Minichan emphasized that a parent is a child’s first and most important teacher and that a family’s unconditional support and encouragement are crucial to a student’s success.
 
“Your level of education doesn’t matter so much as the quality of time you spend on educational activities,” she told the group gathered in the library. “And the most important thing you can do is advocate for your child at school.”
 
 
Tammy L. Lane is communications specialist and website editor for Fayette County Public Schools.

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