How to Use This Book The Parent Backpack for Kindergarten through Grade 5
is divided into three parts. Part one provides you with the big picture—the insights and perspective you need to be involved in your kid’s education in the right ways. These first four chapters give you a solid foundation for understanding your child’s journey, where education stands today, the important role you play as a parent, how to get involved, and what to expect. Part two gives you the background, practical tips, and tools you’ll need to navigate the many different phases you’ll discover as a parent of an elementary student—from learning to read to managing the social-emotional journey and communicating with teachers. Part three provides you with everything you need to know to support your children’s learning at home, including how to fuel little brains and bodies, end homework battles, and coach your kids on advocating for themselves.
If you’re feeling eager to jump ahead to a chapter that deals specifically with an issue that you need help with now, by all means, do that. This book can be read from beginning to end or by skipping around to relevant chapters. Be sure to read the first few chapters so you gain an understanding of the system, where it’s been, where it’s headed, and why your role in your child’s educational journey is so crucial. It’s important to understand where things stand and what to watch out for so you can be an effective advocate for your child.
Throughout the book, I share stories about real kids, real parents, and real teachers who have grappled with the same questions and situations that you might be experiencing. The names have been changed, but all of these stories are based on situations that I either experienced or heard about in consultations, interviews, or focus groups. Each chapter also ends with a list of Top Ten Takeaways. These are key summary points from each chapter: what to consider, to avoid, and to do. You can refer back to these takeaways after you’ve read the book. They are the reminders that we all need—that I still need—no matter how hard we try to parent well around education. It’s not always easy to do, especially in this busy, activity-crazed world we live in, but it is doable.
Getting involved in your child’s education today is tricky. No matter what zip code you live in or what school your child attends, there has never been more controversy about how we educate our children. Most of our schools struggle with test-driven mandates, higher expectations, underfunded budgets, and teachers who need more support. Add to this our hypercompetitive culture, and it all adds up to growing tension and fear among parents, teachers, and kids. Tension that trickles down even to our kindergarten classrooms. Expectations for student achievement turn some reasonable, levelheaded parents into unreasonable watchdogs, who often watch the wrong things, while other parents run the other way and hope for the best.
Our world is changing faster than our schools. Connecting to our children’s learning has never been more challenging—or more important. Our system has become so overburdened that in most schools, we parents have to advocate for our children more than ever before. But how we do that makes all the difference. The more parents we have who support education and advocate for their kids’ needs in effective ways, the better our schools will be. It’s up to parents and teachers to work together so that our children do get the best education possible.
I hope that The Parent Backpack
helps to bridge the gap between parents and teachers. I hope it inspires you to support, encourage, and guide your children to do the best they can, knowing that their best will look different every day, and to cherish those questions that keep your kids’ curiosity alive. I hope the tools in each chapter help you advocate effectively for what your child needs. Most of all, I hope The Parent Backpack
helps you discover and celebrate the joy within your child’s journey.
Excerpted from The Parent Backpack for Kindergarten through Grade 5 by ML Nichols. Copyright © 2013 by ML Nichols. Excerpted by permission of Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.