Parent-Teacher Conferences: Post your tips and tricks! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 38 Old 11-23-2011, 07:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I apologize if there is a duplicate thread out there-- I did not see one!

 

I thought we might share some ideas for making the most of our parent-teacher conferences.  We had ours last night and I felt like it was very successful.

 

  • I brought in samples (photocopied pages-- to keep) of three different kinds of books my daughter is reading (non-fiction and fiction).  The teachers responded to this very enthusiastically.  It gave them an idea of not only her interests, but the level of which she is capable.
  • I brought in a sample of my daughter's writing (something she did on her own).  Again, this gave them an idea of her capabilities.
  • I discussed my children's interests outside of the classroom.  The teachers were excited to hear about them, and wrote down what I said.
  • I asked teachers for suggestions for areas of improvement very specifically.
  • I scheduled an appointment with one of their resource teachers.  She works with them in small groups and was able to give me new insights, and was also glad for the information I gave her about each child. 
  • We discussed one daughter's behavior at home-- the teacher was then able to see DD's behavior in a new light and understand it better.
  • I wasn't afraid to give suggestions to the teacher . . .phrasing it, "Would it be possible to . . .?"

 

What I noticed, overall, was that the more information I gave them, the more they brainstormed with me for plans for how to meet my children's needs.  As a teacher, I know there are "two" children . . .the one we see in the classroom and the one at home.  I think if we can bridge this gap, the better a (good!) teacher will be able to take advantage of strengths and help work on weaknesses.

 

I am also interested in how often/how you communicate with your children's teachers.  I do it rarely, unless the school calls me to a meeting.

 

 


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#2 of 38 Old 11-23-2011, 11:04 PM
 
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Holy cow, that's an extensive conference! How much time did you have?

 

This is the first year I'll attend parent conferences. Teachers are on job action due to a labour dispute, so there haven't been any grades or report card marks or comments. (This is very odd for me: my kids have never been in school, have never had tests or assignments, or "written to task" for evaluation, and have been thrown somewhat arbitrarily into courses that they thought felt "about right" in terms of challenge, and yet I've got no hard feedback about their performance. Except in the two courses taught by the principal, who isn't a union member.) Teachers are not actually doing interviews per se, just "student-led conferences" where our kids show us around the classrooms and the work they've been doing and teachers are available if we have specific questions, but no individual time is booked and everyone will be milling around. 

 

My kids are older, though, (newly 13 and newly 15) and are looking for an independent college-like experience, so they do not want me communicating on their behalf, advocating, questioning, or getting involved at all really. They don't want me asking if they've got homework, or keeping an eye on project work, or even really knowing much about what they're up to. They're mostly doing self-paced courses, and basically they're of the "I've got it covered, don't worry mom" mindset. They want to do their own communicating, questioning and advocating and would prefer that I trust them to do so. I'm happy to do so, as they've proved themselves up to task as far as I can see. And honestly, I'd rather they mess up now, while the stakes are lower, and learn from those mistakes, than have their hands held through this transition into the school system and then make bigger mistakes later as they get nearer to graduation, or during college.

 

So for me, at this age and stage, conferences are more about staying out of the way while still making it clear I'm available and interested if invited and/or needed. I was very involved in my kids' education (via homeschooling) when they were young, but handing over autonomy and trust to them started some time ago and continues on a new plane as they take on high school. 

 

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#3 of 38 Old 11-24-2011, 12:49 AM
 
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I've had regular conferences with about 40 teachers more than 30 times over the years (my kids are in middle and high school now.) The only time I needed to bring in sample work was when the principal called us in wanting to accelerate our eldest daughter out of kindergarten. Even then, they already knew where she was academically and didn't need proof of it. In elementary, we were always contacted prior to first conference because both the kids had a variety of accommodations in place. Conferences were always pretty relaxed and enjoyable on both sides. I tend to do more listening than talking and I've always been impressed with how well the kids K-8th teachers knew/know my children academically and in their outside interests. Sometimes I add things here and there when relevant. Often I wait and instead suggest to my kids that they be more forthcoming about something their teacher seems unaware of. In our experience, everything "sounds" good when discussed parent/teacher but everything actually gets done when a child does some of their own advocating. By middle school, we just go/went to conferences  because it feels good to hear teachers gush about our child lol. There are no high school conferences unless your child is failing and that's not our situation.

 

I think it's great you have a teacher open to your style but I actually caution most from taking this approach 1st conference. For starters, the teacher should already have a good idea of where your child is academically by November. I wouldn't bring in sample work unless there is a vast difference between what a child is accomplishing at home and what they are accomplishing at school. If that is the case, I'd at least wait until the teacher has had her say for she likely already knows. Let them lead the meeting as you learn a lot about your kid by what they know AND do not know about your child.


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#4 of 38 Old 11-24-2011, 08:03 AM
 
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For starters, the teacher should already have a good idea of where your child is academically by November. 

 

Yes, I wondered about that. How could a teacher not already be familiar with your child's reading and writing level and out-of-school activities and interests by November? I would be very concerned if they didn't already have a decent handle on that stuff. Even my kids' secondary teachers, whom they only have for one or two subjects, are aware of their extra-curricular interests and aptitudes. 

 

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#5 of 38 Old 11-24-2011, 08:53 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I think it's great you have a teacher open to your style but I actually caution most from taking this approach 1st conference. For starters, the teacher should already have a good idea of where your child is academically by November. I wouldn't bring in sample work unless there is a vast difference between what a child is accomplishing at home and what they are accomplishing at school. If that is the case, I'd at least wait until the teacher has had her say for she likely already knows. Let them lead the meeting as you learn a lot about your kid by what they know AND do not know about your child.

As I said, I was a teacher, so I am pretty versed in parent-teacher conferences.  I brought in the work samples because I know they had no idea what my daughter could do (my other daughter has been tested extensively by them already-- they initiated it all-- so my conference was different for her). They thanked me and told me how glad they were that I let them know.  They made suggestions based on what I said.  The thing is, in most schools (maybe yours are different), they give children x work, and if the children succeed in x work, teachers are pleased, but don't look to see if they can do x + 1 work, even in gifted classes. 

 

I also did learn a lot from the teachers.  Showing them the samples took all of a few minutes.  I added in their interests during our conversations.  Conferences were 20 minutes.

 

When I did parent-teacher conferences, I always wished the parents talked more.   As I said in my OP, there is often a gap between what we see in the classroom and what parents experience at home.  For example, quiet children are often loud at home . . .by knowing their interests, it's a good way to bring out their personality more in the classroom.  So much of learning involves making connections, and the more teachers know about children as people, the better they are equipped to help children make these valuable connections.  This is one of the reasons homeschooling works so well!

 

Anyway, I wasn't really looking for a critique of what I did because it worked out well for us. I am amazed at the ideas the teachers came up with for my children-- for example, one teacher is going to start having lunch with one daughter to discuss books that are at her level.  Extremely dedicated.   Every situation is different, but I think it's good to have a "buffet" of ideas to pick from.

 

 


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#6 of 38 Old 11-24-2011, 09:04 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Mizelenius View Post

The thing is, in most schools (maybe yours are different), they give children x work, and if the children succeed in x work, teachers are pleased, but don't look to see if they can do x + 1 work, even in gifted classes. 

 

But are there no open-ended assignments? Like journalling, or writing a story, or writing an explanation of the life cycle of the salmon, or creating your own word problem for math, or choosing a library book for independent reading, or creating a poster to communicate what you've learned about trees? Is it all lock-step fill-in-the-blank worksheet stuff and levelled readers? If so, I guess I understand the need. That would seem a terribly impoverished style of education though.

 

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#7 of 38 Old 11-24-2011, 10:17 AM
 
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In primary/elementary school, there were usually two scheduled opportunities to meet the teacher: 

- a "curriculum introduction" - typically 2 or 3 weeks after the start of the school year

- parent-teacher conference - typically 1 or 2 weeks after the first report card

 

At the curriculum introduction, the teacher speaks to the assembled parents as a group, with a Q&A at the end of the presentation, and then often spends a little time chatting with individual parents. For those meetings, I avoided discussing any specific issues about my child since it's not an appropriate setting. I might ask general questions, but if I had a specific concern, I'd make an appointment for a private conference. I usually found the curriculum introduction meetings helpful to get a sense of the teacher's attitude and methods, as well as a sense of the other students in the class and their families. 

 

I believe that you are asking for tips about the second kind of meeting - the parent-teacher conference following the report card.

 

-My first tip is to read the report card carefully before the meeting and glean whatever information you can from it. I'm not overly concerned about grades, but it's helpful to identify any significant concerns or discrepancies. Perhaps one subject stands out as a problem area - or an area of excellence that provides clues for improving in other areas. If the class mean was 72 in math and a child's grade was significantly different (higher or lower), that may be something to address. The comments section may also reveal issues, particularly if the child is evaluated on non-academic items like "organization" and "self-regulation" and "punctuality". 

 

- My second tip is to bring any particular tests, assignments, projects etc. that are of special concern with you, so you have examples of the student's work during the discussion and the teacher can explain the grading. 

 

-My third tip is to focus on one or two major issues for your discussion. If you have more to cover, ask to schedule a longer conference at a different time. The teacher probably has 20 other parents to meet with in one or two days/nights - more if it's a rotary system and s/he teaches several classes. It will be unsatisfying for both of you if you try to cover a long laundry list of topics. You will have to skip through it rapidly to squeeze it into the alloted time (and you probably won't succeed) and s/he will be anxious about the many other parents who are impatiently waiting for their chance to talk. 

 

My last tip isn't possible for everyone. When they were in elementary school, I volunteered as much as possible at the school. It gave me great insight into the teacher's methods, the environment in the classroom, the relationships between classmates etc. It was easier to raise issues as they arose, rather than wait for report cards and scheduled conferences. Either the teacher spoke to me or I would identify a concern and broach it with her/him. By the time the parent-teacher conference rolled around, we could relax and have a pleasant chat for a few minutes, rather than trying to squeeze in a loaded discussion during a hectic conference day. 

 

 

 

 

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#8 of 38 Old 11-24-2011, 10:40 AM
 
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As I said, I was a teacher, so I am pretty versed in parent-teacher conferences.  I brought in the work samples because I know they had no idea what my daughter could do (my other daughter has been tested extensively by them already-- they initiated it all-- so my conference was different for her). They thanked me and told me how glad they were that I let them know.  They made suggestions based on what I said.  The thing is, in most schools (maybe yours are different), they give children x work, and if the children succeed in x work, teachers are pleased, but don't look to see if they can do x + 1 work, even in gifted classes. 

 

I also did learn a lot from the teachers.  Showing them the samples took all of a few minutes.  I added in their interests during our conversations.  Conferences were 20 minutes.

 

When I did parent-teacher conferences, I always wished the parents talked more.   As I said in my OP, there is often a gap between what we see in the classroom and what parents experience at home.  For example, quiet children are often loud at home . . .by knowing their interests, it's a good way to bring out their personality more in the classroom.  So much of learning involves making connections, and the more teachers know about children as people, the better they are equipped to help children make these valuable connections.  This is one of the reasons homeschooling works so well!

 

Anyway, I wasn't really looking for a critique of what I did because it worked out well for us. I am amazed at the ideas the teachers came up with for my children-- for example, one teacher is going to start having lunch with one daughter to discuss books that are at her level.  Extremely dedicated.   Every situation is different, but I think it's good to have a "buffet" of ideas to pick from.

 

 

 

Our experiences are different then. I taught preschool through a school district for many years and found that most parents have plenty to say and don't listen enough in conferences. They come in with a laundry list of wants without a real understanding of what the various options already offered in class are and what choices their own children are making. Often, they don't see the value in the less academic choices their child is making either even when there actually IS quite a bit of value in it.

 

As to schooling, our experiences have been different as well. Only once have we had a teacher totally miss an advanced skill in our child and I knew full well that was because my stubborn 5-year-old DS had no intention of sharing it lol. In that case, I actually chose not to enlighten her to the fact he was reading a few grades ahead. I decided to let DS bring that skill out when he was ready and not because he felt pressured to... he did eventually share it and the teacher immediately responded to it. Like Miranda said, our schools offer a great deal of open-ended work in the regular classroom. Journalling starts in kindergarten and is a regular fixture in the classroom through 5th grade. Higher level reading material is offered in all the classes. The math program starts pretty challenging and even if there isn't your child's level of math in the class, teachers pick-up on what kids seem to already know it, who is picking it up with little or no repetition and who seems to need a little extra help. Our GATE programs are project based as opposed to accelerated academics. Academics are either differentiated in the classroom or the child is sent to a higher grade to do their work. We just have not encountered classrooms like you have described nor have we encountered teachers who stopped doing their job once a child was performing at a standardized level. If this has been a continual issue, you might want to explore other educational options.

 

Like I said, I'm glad your approach works for you! If you have a child with any sort of special needs that have not been addressed, certainly, I totally support your style. I've even suggested many of the same things to parents with specific issues  You asked us to post our "tips and tricks" on a general education board and so my "tip" to the general public is to listen more. Don't assume that your child's teacher does not see them. Give them a chance to show what they know about your child. Give your child a chance to advocate for themselves. I'm just answering your question based on my own experiences as BTDT mom and teacher.

 

 


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#9 of 38 Old 11-24-2011, 11:13 AM
 
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-My first tip is to read the report card carefully before the meeting and glean whatever information you can from it.  

 

 

 

I can't agree with this more. Report cards can vary greatly from school to school. Many elementary schools have moved to a number system and many parents inaccurately try to equate it with a letter system. Some schools are rigid with their rules on grading (like insisting teachers give grades that allow "room to grow.") Some give individual teachers more freedom and so one year you will have a teacher that gives "4's" (above grade level standard) to a child they "know" is capable of more and the next a teacher who will only give "4's" if your child is actually DOING above grade level work regularly either in class or in a higher grade. Some areas, the highest grade you can get is a "3" (like penmanship.) Some teachers grade based on the requirements for one trimester and some grade based more on where the child is supposed to be end of the year... so one report card, your child may show advanced in math but the next show a drop. Good to find out if the teacher was grading based on overall math ability shown in class or whether the grade reflects more difficult material handled during the grading period.


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#10 of 38 Old 11-24-2011, 12:02 PM
 
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As a teacher and a mother, I'd be very uncomfortable with a school that by November didn't know my child's level, especially in Reading and Writing.  Do they not assess every child individually monthly for their reading level?  Are they not independently reading books at that level every day in school?  Are writing assignments open ended and available with a variety of entry points for kinds at various levels?  Are there any math activities/investigations that allow the child to work to the top of their ability?  Or are lessons/assignments all at the same basic group level? 

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#11 of 38 Old 11-24-2011, 01:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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As a teacher and a mother, I'd be very uncomfortable with a school that by November didn't know my child's level, especially in Reading and Writing.  Do they not assess every child individually monthly for their reading level?  Are they not independently reading books at that level every day in school?  Are writing assignments open ended and available with a variety of entry points for kinds at various levels?  Are there any math activities/investigations that allow the child to work to the top of their ability?  Or are lessons/assignments all at the same basic group level? 

At many schools (inc. ours) there is a ceiling to these assessments.  So, teachers definitely know (unless there is some sort of undiagnosed special need . . .then it gets more complicated) where the child is based on those assessments; they have pre-determined goals, and children are evaluated as "working towards," "meeting" or "exceeding" those set goals.  If your child happens to be in the "exceeds" category, then, no, they don't really know.  Our school only goes up to 5th grade, so if your child is reading at the high school or college level (but also enjoys grade-level books), then there really wouldn't be an obvious way for the teacher to know this because the classroom/school library isn't stocked with those kinds of book.  (Maybe yours is?)  If your child demonstrates an aptitude for science and contributes a lot to the discussion in science, can pass with 100% without studying (which teachers do NOT know--- they aren't in our homes!), then the teacher can see that that the child enjoys science and it comes easily.  However, there would not be an easy way for the teacher to know that the student really wants is to be studying quantum physics or books about surgical procedures.  If the teacher tells you that your child "gets" the concepts within 5 minutes in certain areas, but the class has to spend 45 minutes on it (several times a week), then I think it's OK to ask (not demand or insist) if there are other options for your child during that time. Would every school be able to support this kind of learner?  No, but if you find one that does and wants to work with you . . .and is even excited about it, then you do your child AND the teachers a favor by having good, two-way communication.  I personally only communicate with teachers during conferences unless they call meetings, so I was glad that it went so well.

 

The other issue is time. Studies show that teachers get about 10 minutes per day per child.  Not a whole lot of time to get to know each child the way we do as parents.  Teachers have to serve the classroom as a whole-- that is the reality.  However, effective teachers will be as efficient as possible, finding little ways of interweaving what they know about each child into the curricula; the more knowledge about the child is always better.  This is one of the reasons some teachers (and the whole concept of Montessori) use the idea of looping.  They know each child's strengths and weaknesses, and can work with them far more easily without wasting the precious resource of time.  Time also plays into the part of the student.  Students (in our school) have limited time to complete projects. For example,a student may want to go more in-depth in a writing assignment, but there is a limit for how long he/she can spend, so the teacher wouldn't know what the child can accomplish (or they may, but it would take time to learn about this.)  The teacher told us this has already occurred.

 

As a teacher, I always saw parents as my most important partners.  I was always very disheartened when a parent didn't come for report cards or did not return phone calls (thankfully, that scenario was rare)-- not because I wanted to talk AT them, but because I wanted to hear what they had to say.  I guess this is pretty different than what the rest of you have experienced.  I loved learning about my students' interests outside of school, family life, etc., and planned routines and activities into the day to learn more about them.  Even with everything I learned about them, I knew there was a whole other side to each child (this was esp. obvious when I went on home visits) that I would not know.

 

Anyway, feel free to continue to debate!  This was not my intention at all, so I'll be staying out of it.  I just thought I'd share some ideas about what worked for us and am enjoying reading what works for others.

 

 

 

 


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#12 of 38 Old 11-24-2011, 04:23 PM
 
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We've had parent teacher conferences at a traditional public school (both elementary and middle school) and now at an alternative school. The teachers have always known what my kids were reading, both in class and for pleasure, and had samples of their writing as well as other subjects. Although I'm not saying that every teacher knows what is going on with every student in the country, I think the teacher knowing is the norm.  thumb.gif

 

At our public elementary, the teacher spent class time preparing for conferences. Each child helped select what work they wanted to show their parents at their conference and filled out a sheet on themselves that went on the top of their samples, saying what they felt their strengths and weaknesses were. These were age appropriate. The students were part of the conference, and older elementary kids were encourage to lead the conference discussion.

 

In our public middle school, parents could opt to see all the teachers at one time in round table discuss or one on one. We opted for round table unless there was an issue with a specific teacher/class. Then the teachers went around and each said how the student was doing in their class. The student was part of this conversation. 30 minutes were scheduled for these, and honestly, the only reason the system worked was because so few parents showed up for conferences!  I asked the school secretary how they could have every teacher spend 30 minutes with every student, and she said that only a handful a parents came, and sadly, it was usually the parents of the kids who were doing just fine. She felt their was a direct relationship between a parent valuing education enough to come to the conference and valuing education enough to make sure their kid was successful the rest of the time.

 

In our alternative school, every student, regardless of age, works with several teachers. The school does not assign grades, so the feedback at conferences is all parents get. Each teacher writes up what the class is doing, and then writes a report (usually about 1/2 page typed) about how each student is doing. This is attached to work samples for the class. The conference is just with the homeroom teacher, the parent and the student. So when I go in, my kids' home room teacher has a STACK of papers for me -- and we go through them all together, as well as review if my child is making the appropriate choices to get in all their requirements. The kids have tremendous freedom over their days, but a lot of requirements over the course of the year. Conferences (which happen 3 times a year) are when we review how the child is doing with that.

 

I both listen and talk. I know that the teacher sees my kid in a very different situation than I can, so I really want to hear what they have to say. I usually do have a question or concern, but I'm also listening for clues as to ways in which my child is different at school than at home. For example, one of my kids is currently far quieter at school than her true personality. I'm not sure why. But I realized it during parent teacher conference quite by accident -- I was just listening.


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#13 of 38 Old 11-24-2011, 05:10 PM
 
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... the teacher can see that that the child enjoys science and it comes easily.  However, there would not be an easy way for the teacher to know that the student really wants is to be studying quantum physics or books about surgical procedures. 

 

Again, is none of the work open-ended in your school? There's no ceiling on that. My youngest is homeschooled, but is occasionally able to participate in some of what's going on at the school, and as a 2nd grader she did the K-6 Science Exploration Week and presented an experimental study in thermotropism in plants complete with graphs, measurements of angles, paragraphs of discussion and such. She does the school book club, and submits incisive book reviews that talk of "interweaving" and "parallel themes" and "plot pacing" and such. She decorates the margins of her math worksheets with artistic renderings of the first 26 digits of pi. I don't see how a teacher could not get a sense of a child's abilities from open-ended work. 

 

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#14 of 38 Old 11-25-2011, 12:51 PM
 
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I guess it depends on how progressive the school is then.  If lessons are taught based on teacher- directed lessons, and then follow-up activities, then yes there is a ceiling in content subject matter.  If lessons are more based on *how* to access information, and the bulk of the work is open ended and exploration based, then there's no ceiling on the level the child can be working at. 

 

In the case of reading, I come from a Balanced Literacy background so I really don't see how there is any "stopping point" or upper limit on assessments.  In fact, 2 of the new K students this year took me hours each to assess because their reading level is so advanced.  But it was worth the time because now I know the classroom library needs to change drastically. 

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#15 of 38 Old 11-25-2011, 09:14 PM
 
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At this point, I've learned to listen during the p/t conferences.  I take it as a time to take in what the teacher wants to let me know about how the year is going.  If I have a specific issue that I feel needs more i depth conversation, I'm likely to try to plan that at a time that is not during the conference week (s).

 

This isn't to say that I don't intimately know what's going on with my kids, and advocate strongly for them.  I do, on both accounts.  I just find that the non-conference weeks are a less pressed time to get into in depth discussions. We are fortunate to have really responsive teachers, and it's not a problem to pick up the phone and ask for a meeting.

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#16 of 38 Old 11-26-2011, 07:16 AM
 
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At many schools (inc. ours) there is a ceiling to these assessments.  So, teachers definitely know (unless there is some sort of undiagnosed special need . . .then it gets more complicated) where the child is based on those assessments; they have pre-determined goals, and children are evaluated as "working towards," "meeting" or "exceeding" those set goals.  If your child happens to be in the "exceeds" category, then, no, they don't really know.  Our school only goes up to 5th grade, so if your child is reading at the high school or college level (but also enjoys grade-level books), then there really wouldn't be an obvious way for the teacher to know this because the classroom/school library isn't stocked with those kinds of book.  (Maybe yours is?)  If your child demonstrates an aptitude for science and contributes a lot to the discussion in science, can pass with 100% without studying (which teachers do NOT know--- they aren't in our homes!), then the teacher can see that that the child enjoys science and it comes easily.  However, there would not be an easy way for the teacher to know that the student really wants is to be studying quantum physics or books about surgical procedures.  If the teacher tells you that your child "gets" the concepts within 5 minutes in certain areas, but the class has to spend 45 minutes on it (several times a week), then I think it's OK to ask (not demand or insist) if there are other options for your child during that time. Would every school be able to support this kind of learner?  No, but if you find one that does and wants to work with you . . .and is even excited about it, then you do your child AND the teachers a favor by having good, two-way communication.  I personally only communicate with teachers during conferences unless they call meetings, so I was glad that it went so well.

 

The other issue is time. Studies show that teachers get about 10 minutes per day per child.  Not a whole lot of time to get to know each child the way we do as parents.  Teachers have to serve the classroom as a whole-- that is the reality.  However, effective teachers will be as efficient as possible, finding little ways of interweaving what they know about each child into the curricula; the more knowledge about the child is always better.  This is one of the reasons some teachers (and the whole concept of Montessori) use the idea of looping.  They know each child's strengths and weaknesses, and can work with them far more easily without wasting the precious resource of time.  Time also plays into the part of the student.  Students (in our school) have limited time to complete projects. For example,a student may want to go more in-depth in a writing assignment, but there is a limit for how long he/she can spend, so the teacher wouldn't know what the child can accomplish (or they may, but it would take time to learn about this.)  The teacher told us this has already occurred.

 

As a teacher, I always saw parents as my most important partners.  I was always very disheartened when a parent didn't come for report cards or did not return phone calls (thankfully, that scenario was rare)-- not because I wanted to talk AT them, but because I wanted to hear what they had to say.  I guess this is pretty different than what the rest of you have experienced.  I loved learning about my students' interests outside of school, family life, etc., and planned routines and activities into the day to learn more about them.  Even with everything I learned about them, I knew there was a whole other side to each child (this was esp. obvious when I went on home visits) that I would not know.

 

Anyway, feel free to continue to debate!  This was not my intention at all, so I'll be staying out of it.  I just thought I'd share some ideas about what worked for us and am enjoying reading what works for others.

 

 

 

 


I'm actually not trying to debate you. I'm very glad you have a method that works for you! I just feel it's a method that should be prefaced with... "my child has a special need that isn't being met within the classroom." I really feel it is a mistake for a parent of a child who does not have such issues to walk into a conference (often the first time a parent has had a real conversation with the teacher) with photocopies of work from home in hand. It can be a huge turn-off and a signal of dissatisfaction. If that is not the intent, it shouldn't be done. 

 

We also differ fundamentally on what a teacher really needs to know. What is a 2nd grade teacher going to do with a child into quantum physics (especially if the child themselves is not forthcoming about it?) My eldest had an obsession with Ancient Egypt. By kindergarten, she'd read a ridiculous amount of books on the subject including many college history texts. However, what was her K teacher actually going to do with that? She couldn't provide anything that my DD didn't already know on the subject. I couldn't expect her to take time from the other kids to further my DD's ability in this particular subject. DD had a much better time doing this research at home where no one was pacing or grading her on it. Perhaps that is why my DD chose to keep that interest out of the classroom herself. Now, in 6th grade when they actually do a full Egyptian festival including the building of a walk-thru pyramid, DD happily pulled out all her knowledge on the subject and was thrilled to work with others in this area! She has consistently had things to learn in history over the years... often sparking new interests and taking her home research in new directions (middle school was one massive civil war study lol.) Instead, we focused on getting appropriate accommodation where the school could realistically give it like in math and language arts during elementary and then adding other subjects start of middle school. The classroom should have built-in options for a child who is done early as there always are many who are. Our school always offered free reading, journal writing or computer time (and the computer programs always offered higher level options.) If it's a consistent problem, then you have to look at either differentiated curriculum or acceleration for at least strongest subjects.

 

As for reading levels, most adult books score at the 5th grade level believe it or not. While the difference between the 2nd and 3rd grade level can be massive, the difference between 5th and 6th isn't even noticeable. It's all vocabulary after that and a kid will get that whether they read at home or at school. My own kids really didn't care what a book was leveled at as long as it was a story or subject that interested them. School and classroom libraries always had plenty of material that interested them. If they wanted something a little heftier, they just brought one from home. Reading material was never the issue and past 3nd grade, language arts wasn't such a big deal either as long as it was open-ended work and offered individualized spelling lists. Again, if your school is limiting the classroom to grade only books or doing nothing but leveled worksheets, I'd start looking into other educational opportunities.

 

I'm not trying to debate you or belittle your child's needs at all. I don't doubt that you did the very right thing for your own child based on who they are and what their schooling environment is. I just think it's important that when giving advice to others, we are clear about where our perspective is coming from. It would be a mistake for a parent of a child who is engaged and learning happily to go into a conference to go in this manner.

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#17 of 38 Old 11-26-2011, 08:08 AM
 
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Honestly I don't try or expect to get much out of conferences. The teacher has 25 parents and or kids coming in and have usually put together some work samples to show parents and know what they want to briefly cover with each parent. I always feel like it is so rushed and the teacher has so much to cover in the three days of conferences that that is not really a time to tackle concerns. It's mostly for us just a chance to check in.

 

I actually usually drop some classroom donations off after school sometime around the second or third week of school and that is my chance to do more what the OP describes if I feel I need to. Honestly I feel I get a lot more collaboration and communication out of that meeting than I ever have out of conferences. The teacher and I can both concentrate on just the one child without the next parent waiting outside the door for their turn. I keep in touch by email. I check in at conferences but really we don't cover much of substance or at least not anything new.

 

 


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#18 of 38 Old 11-27-2011, 06:06 AM
 
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Our two are in college now, public K-12 all the way down the line.  Most of our conferences have been open-ended conversations.  The kids were academically solid played by the rules, and their enrichment opportunities were outside the school system, so we mostly had pleasant updates.  What did turn out helpful for DS2 was the descriptions his teachers gave of him.  I took careful note of those details, and he was able to refer to the info when he was completing college applications.  When you've been up for 36 hours and hitting deadline, it's a lifeline to have the icebreaker of someone's opinion of you when you run across "What are three adjectives that describe you?"

 

One question I asked was a variant of "What do you feel it would be helpful for him to hear from us about his work in this class?"  One of our boys got helpful focus about his approach to problems in an AP class because of the teacher's response to that one.

 

And a heartwarming postscript . . . We've attended family weekends at DS1's small college, and more than one of his professors made it a point to tell us something very nice about him. 


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#19 of 38 Old 11-27-2011, 07:32 PM
 
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I agree with the posters who emphasized the importance of listening. I am glad that the op's technique worked for her but I had the same technique fail miserably and create more problems for my DD. What I have done since then is mostly listen, ask for ideas for home, and let the teacher know when I think my DD is holding back based on what she can do at home. Just letting the teacher know that my DD tends to slide by with as little effort as possible but that she is capable of more has been much more effective than the first meetings before I started listening more.

If you really feel like you know the teacher or have already talked about bringing work samples in then it might work better, otherwise i think it is something that you should use as a last resort after working together in other ways has failed.
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#20 of 38 Old 11-28-2011, 02:14 AM
 
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I agree with the above. Listening with an open heart.

For the 1st P/T conference, I viewed that as a way to get to know my DS outside of ourhome. I mostly listened to what his teacher had to say and a lot of it was spot on. She did an excellent job really trying to get to know my DS.

We had a very extensive P/T conference which lasted a little over an hour. Conferences were scheduled for 3 days for 18 kids. Most of that involved brainstorming ways on how we can supplement learning at home and keeping our DS challenged at school. His teacher has really been responsive and there's a lot of follow-through as she often sends me resources and links that support DS' learning as per what was discussed during conferences.

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#21 of 38 Old 11-29-2011, 11:31 AM
 
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Huh.

 

I actually see Mizelenius' perspective quite clearly.  I'm not sure I'd bring in items done at home -- capabilities at home are often quite different at school.  My kids can do many things at home that they won't at school.  I'm fine with that as long as my kids continue to learn and engage.  I intervene when I see stagnation.  For acceleration issues, we've learned to request testing and then let the school decide.  Our state has a formal process for this.  Twice now this has produced exactly what we needed. 

 

Indeed, I go into a conference with open ears.  I want to know what the teacher has seen and observed.  I also want to know how the teacher plans to work with DD on both her strengths and weaknesses, so I often reflect the teachers comments back to them with questions about the teacher's goals and approaches in response to their observations.  However, this is the first year I went in with examples I'd pulled out of her returned homework, and I'm so glad I did. 

 

The teachers do not communicate much about the kids from year to year.  DH and I are the only adults in the relationship that has any memory across years.  I'm finding that giving the teacher some context is quite powerful.  In DD's 5th year in the school, bringing up the same issues over and over again at P-T conferences each time, I finally brought in returned work over the last three years that consistently show the same writing problems.  We're finally got an evaluation from that, and 2 weeks later, DD is being taught very differently as a result.

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#22 of 38 Old 11-29-2011, 11:48 AM
 
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Thank you for this thread.  I had another bad parent teacher conference yesterday.  Teacher gives me a run down of all the reasons why she doesn't like me, my kid, and how behind my kid is...yet offers nothing to improve or help the situation.  I suggest us starting to consider special ed or an IEP just to get eyes rolled at me.  I also got an eye roll when I mentioned that I have a Early Childhood Development degree and that I am doing all I possibly know how to do for my daughter at home already (I really am, I am out of new ideas here).  She is already in therapy, OT, special tutoring, has been held back a year, etc.  Eventually you think the school would have an idea or a plan as to how to help this.  Cause continuing to blame me for homeschooling her during kindy is getting us nowhere.  I just don't know how to force the kid to talk in school when I am not there.  And frankly home school is looking better and better again (all of her daily school work gets sent home unfinished for me to tackle with her any dang way).

 

Sorry for the vent.  I have actually learned a lot from reading this thread and I am grateful for it.


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#23 of 38 Old 11-29-2011, 12:50 PM
 
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 I suggest us starting to consider special ed or an IEP just to get eyes rolled at me.  .


 

time to go over her head.

 

You need to request the eval in writing -- in a real letter with a date and signature. This is a legal step in the process. I suggest you start on thread on the special needs board about how to handle this.

 

talking to anyone at the school regarding the possibility of special needs doesn't count. It MUST be done in writing (because of federal laws)


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#24 of 38 Old 11-29-2011, 01:53 PM
 
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Thank you for this thread.  I had another bad parent teacher conference yesterday.  Teacher gives me a run down of all the reasons why she doesn't like me, my kid, and how behind my kid is...yet offers nothing to improve or help the situation.  I suggest us starting to consider special ed or an IEP just to get eyes rolled at me.  I also got an eye roll when I mentioned that I have a Early Childhood Development degree and that I am doing all I possibly know how to do for my daughter at home already (I really am, I am out of new ideas here).  She is already in therapy, OT, special tutoring, has been held back a year, etc.  Eventually you think the school would have an idea or a plan as to how to help this.  Cause continuing to blame me for homeschooling her during kindy is getting us nowhere.  I just don't know how to force the kid to talk in school when I am not there.  And frankly home school is looking better and better again (all of her daily school work gets sent home unfinished for me to tackle with her any dang way).

 

Sorry for the vent.  I have actually learned a lot from reading this thread and I am grateful for it.


Sounds like you got a bad egg. Not all teachers are good. Sounds like she's already shown you that she has nothing to offer. I'd arrange a meeting with the principal and request LD testing in writing. In our state, if a parent requests testing for LD's, they HAVE to comply.

 


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#25 of 38 Old 11-29-2011, 05:19 PM
 
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Originally Posted by CrazyCatLady View Post

Thank you for this thread.  I had another bad parent teacher conference yesterday.  Teacher gives me a run down of all the reasons why she doesn't like me, my kid, and how behind my kid is...yet offers nothing to improve or help the situation.  I suggest us starting to consider special ed or an IEP just to get eyes rolled at me.  I also got an eye roll when I mentioned that I have a Early Childhood Development degree and that I am doing all I possibly know how to do for my daughter at home already (I really am, I am out of new ideas here).  She is already in therapy, OT, special tutoring, has been held back a year, etc.  Eventually you think the school would have an idea or a plan as to how to help this.  Cause continuing to blame me for homeschooling her during kindy is getting us nowhere.  I just don't know how to force the kid to talk in school when I am not there.  And frankly home school is looking better and better again (all of her daily school work gets sent home unfinished for me to tackle with her any dang way).

 

Sorry for the vent.  I have actually learned a lot from reading this thread and I am grateful for it.


So, was your dd retained a year in school without any formal process of evaluations and consideration of learning disabilities?  That seems really drastic for that to have happened, esp if a service like OT or extra tutoring was in place.  I would second the advice to request, in writing, an eval.  This must be responded to, and can't be ignored.

 

You might think about contacting the principal because if you have a teacher bring personal issues such as not liking you or your child, into the conference discussion, that's very inappropriate.  

 

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#26 of 38 Old 11-29-2011, 08:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The teachers do not communicate much about the kids from year to year. 



This has been the case for us, too, with both children.  One (previous) teacher complained to us that the principal (not sure why she didn't hold the previous teacher responsible?) had not told her more about our DD before entering her class . . .by then it was late November (this was a typical conference) and the teacher said she was just starting to realize DD's capabilities, was going to attend a conference/classes/etc. to learn more about her needs.  So, in many ways, she was JUST getting started in not only understanding DD but in figuring out what to do.  After that we homeschooled for 3 years, so there is no way DD's teacher from last year (other than me :) ) could share information.  DD only started back in school this yr. 

 

In the case of the other DD, it seemed like the teacher had to start from scratch.  She was very thorough in doing so, but I sort of think it's a waste of that precious time resource for her to have had to do that . . .not sure why the previous teacher did not communicate better.  I did not, however, bring in any samples for her, since I knew the teacher was informed and had plenty of samples for me.  With her, it was a matter of the teacher understanding her behavior (teacher brought it up) . . .I was concerned about it, asked the teacher questions, and then gave feedback as needed-- just more info to complete the "puzzle" that we as people are.

 

As for listening, believe it or not, I did most of the listening and not much of the talking during the conference.  It took less than 5 minutes to communicate what I wrote in my OP.   I give full credit to everyone reading this thread not to follow my advice blindly, so I would never have presumed I needed some sort of disclaimer. 

 

CCLady-- that sounds like a nightmare.  Please try to write down what the teacher said, what you said, etc. as objectively as possible.  Keep notes with dates and such.  There is no way that eye-rolling should be going on, or as a pp said, that she was held back without any sort of evaluation, conference, etc.  You are 100% correct that it is not your job to get your DD to talk in school-- this is a need that THEY need to be handling.  However, in our district, what I've heard is that they will not evaluate children because then they are responsible for getting the needs addressed!  Instead, they tell people to go to their private doctors and the school stays out of it.  Not for all children, of course, but even for some of the more serious cases. 

 

You are an ECE so probably already familiar with this site, but just in case . . check out Wrightslaw for good info.

 

ETA: Homeschooling is a great option, but it shouldn't be because your DD has been stuck with some bad teachers . . .it just depends how much you want to fight, though.  Sometimes it's just too hard to change the system.  (My mom would kill me for writing that!  She's all about changing the system-- she even went on TV to say this!)

 

Maria, that is an interesting question to ask.  I would never have thought of it!  And what a great idea to take notes for the future!

 

I asked in my OP and got sort of lost if anyone answered this (sorry!)-- how often do you communicate with the teachers?  Personally, I am not planning on having any more conferences with the teachers until the 2nd/final one of the year.  Based on what they told me during the conferences and the gaps I was able to fill in, there is not anything else I want/need to address.  Whatever they do with the info is up to them.    A book I read suggested MONTHLY conferences, but there is no way I would want to burden the teachers with that unless there was a serious issue, and I think the teachers would be contacting me if that were the case.


 2/02, 4/05, 2/07, 11/09, and EDD 12/25/11 wave.gif

 

 

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The teachers do not communicate much about the kids from year to year.  DH and I are the only adults in the relationship that has any memory across years.  I'm finding that giving the teacher some context is quite powerful.  In DD's 5th year in the school, bringing up the same issues over and over again at P-T conferences each time, I finally brought in returned work over the last three years that consistently show the same writing problems.  We're finally got an evaluation from that, and 2 weeks later, DD is being taught very differently as a result.


This is unfortunate. Until middle and high school, this hasn't been our experience. Elementary teachers in our area meet in the summer to arrange classes and talk about what each child needs. Each child has a folder full of assessments, tests and notes that follow them from grade to grade. Any accommodations are expected to continue unless the child's needs change. A child shouldn't be a clean slate every year.


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#28 of 38 Old 11-30-2011, 05:44 AM
 
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On the question of how often I communicate with my children's teachers -- it depends.

 

My most common form of communication is an email. I've found it works the best because teachers are busy!!!  Then they can read and respond at an appropriate break point in their day.

 

I volunteer twice a week at my kids school, and sometimes talk to the teachers for a moment then, but often I don't because it's usually a point where they are really busy. I volunteer because I enjoy it and also because it helps me know what is going on, but I don't find it a great time to communicate. None the less, just being around the school as at times meant that a teacher mentioned something to me that I was glad to know about  that I'm not sure I would have known without just bumping into them.

 

I have requested meetings at other times as needed, but it's really random. We had one with with a bunch of meetings because my DD was having a lot of problems, but during a smooth years, extra meetings are very infrequent.
 

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Elementary teachers in our area meet in the summer to arrange classes and talk about what each child needs. Each child has a folder full of assessments, tests and notes that follow them from grade to grade. Any accommodations are expected to continue unless the child's needs change.


 

This was our experience with public school as well.  Teachers met in the summer and talked. Our public school had an elementary school and a middle school on opposites of the same property and is was the exact same set of kids that attended the two schools. There was a ton of communication between each grade, and even between the two schools.

All formal accommodations (IEPs and 504) were carried from year to year.


For the high school transition, it was different. Only those children with IEPS or 504 would be discussed in meetings, and their current accommodations would be reviewed to see what the best guess as to what help they would need with the high school transition.  

 

My kids homeschooled when they were young, and when they first started school, the school tested them to see where they were in basic skill sets, and the specialist who did the testing met with the teachers before the kids started.

 

At the small private school, kids have many of the same teachers from year to year, and because kids see so many teachers each week, the weekly staff meeting at times will discuss specific issues with students. Even when we moved cross country and started at a new school, the new school wanted to hear about how the previous year had gone. They were happy to have the information from us, but before the beginning of the school year. It wasn't discussed at conference but at enrollment.

 

At absolutely no point in my kids formal educational experience have they been in a class room with a teacher who didn't have a clue what they were capable of or what was going on with them.


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#29 of 38 Old 11-30-2011, 06:59 AM
 
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Frequency of contact varied by age.  K-5 -- in the 1990's -- was very casual and frequent.  The teachers had me in the classrooms to help; DS1's first-grade teacher was welcoming and enthusiastic about DS2 coming along in PJ's.  Middle school, not so much, DH and I had a chance to chaperon field trips, but the volunteering was more on a school-wide level (fundraising, PTO); any time an issue came up, though, we were able to email and got a response within a 24-hour time frame.  High school was, again, PTSO, plus I had the chance to be on an accreditation committee with quite a few of their teachers.  Didn't talk about the kids in that venue, but my boys got to hear about their teachers in a different context and seemed to gain quite a bit of understanding and perspective from that.

 

This might not be appropriate here, but I'll bring up college again in case it's useful for someone down the road.  Both boys go to schools that really impress me with their approach to student support.  Given privacy constraints with adult students, the small (under 2,000) schools our sons attend capture a really warm, respectful balance of legal responsibility and concern.  If we parents become worried about a situation, we're encouraged to call staff so they'll reach out to the student.  That takes a balancing act on our part, too, of course, but it's a great option to have . . . IF the school in question has supportive, constructive policies of student outreach.  We feel very lucky with where our two ended up, and if we had God-forbid horrible news for them, or if they ran into an awful time with something, we feel comforted that staff there would provide the help needed and would include us in any way warranted and possible.


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#30 of 38 Old 11-30-2011, 07:00 AM
 
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Thank you for this thread.  I had another bad parent teacher conference yesterday.  Teacher gives me a run down of all the reasons why she doesn't like me, my kid, and how behind my kid is...yet offers nothing to improve or help the situation.  I suggest us starting to consider special ed or an IEP just to get eyes rolled at me.  I also got an eye roll when I mentioned that I have a Early Childhood Development degree and that I am doing all I possibly know how to do for my daughter at home already (I really am, I am out of new ideas here).  She is already in therapy, OT, special tutoring, has been held back a year, etc.  Eventually you think the school would have an idea or a plan as to how to help this.  Cause continuing to blame me for homeschooling her during kindy is getting us nowhere.  I just don't know how to force the kid to talk in school when I am not there.  And frankly home school is looking better and better again (all of her daily school work gets sent home unfinished for me to tackle with her any dang way).

 

Sorry for the vent.  I have actually learned a lot from reading this thread and I am grateful for it.



This really blows, I am so sorry.  You already got good advice here, just couldn't let pass without saying something.


Empty-nesting SAHM to DS1 (1989), DS2 (1992), an underachieving Bernese Mountain Dog (2006-2014), and an overachieving mother (1930).  Married to DH since 1986.
mariamadly is online now  
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