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Entries in education (3)


Does the PTA at Your Child's School Welcome Noncustodial Parents and Stepparents?


We are pleased to be presenting a workshop at the National PTA Convention--"Engaging Non-Custodial Parents and Stepparents"--in June.  In preparation for this presentation, we want to hear from non-custodial parents, stepparents, and PTA volunteers and leaders about their experiences.  In particular, we're interested in the following:

1) If you are a stepparent or noncustodial parent, have you felt welcomed by the PTA at your child’s school?

2) If you are a PTA leader or volunteer, what has been your experience engaging noncustodial parents and stepparents in PTA activities?

We welcome your responses in the comments section.

Co-Parenting Through Tough Times With Art and Love


photo courtesy of Thomas WarmWhen co-parenting dad Kaleb Hill found out his son wasn't doing well in school, he knew immediate action was required. Below, he shares his story with us.

This post is dedicated to my son. I published this on your birthday as a reminder to myself that you’re steady growing into a Black man. Let no one, but you, establish your definition of success for you. I love you.

Nothing is more alarming than a drastic change in your child’s behavior at school when he or she previously enjoyed learning.

My son is currently at the age where most young Black men lose interest in school. When I learned that my son was receiving poor grades, I was more concerned about his emotional well-being than the letter grade. As a student, I experienced the same disinterest in school at the same grade level. I was a straight "A" student eager to learn until social stress took a toll on me. I was diagnosed with a learning disability, but this was not before I was labeled “lazy.” When I heard him described this way for losing interest in school, it cut deep.

Instead of using negative words to describe my son, I took a more compassionate approach. I asked my son if he was still interested in attending college.  He replied “yes.” This wasn’t a time to berate or belittle him. This was my time to listen to him express himself. We have always had an open line of communication. I learned from our conversation that he is still passionate about science and math, but he wasn’t as enthusiastic about reading or writing. His tone of voice showed signs of depression. Although he didn’t say it, I knew it. I also knew his mother wouldn’t take him to a therapist, if I suggested it. Art and music has worked wonders for me managing my own depression, so I decided to send him some art supplies for his birthday. I know from our time together that he likes to draw. I worked out my schedule in a manner that made time to video chat with him every night and do different art assignments to help him express himself. During this time, I also make sure he does the work his teacher assigns him too.

I’ve learned to bypass all scripted forms of parenting a long time ago. I’m not here to micromanage his life. Everything I do for him is rooted in love. I think back to the days when he was an infant who cried out for me when he felt insecure. The tears have dried but his failing grades are definitely a cry for help. Parenting is a teaching and learning experience for both parties involved. I had to watch the cues my son gave me and adjust my behavior in a way that benefited him.

He knows his mother and I have high expectations, and we stress the importance of formal and self-education. He wishes to attend college, but he hasn’t connected the importance of discipline as a 5th grade student to what he will need once he reaches higher education.

Too many Black male voices are muted by stereotypes and statistics. If you’re raising one, now is not the time to throw caution to the wind.

What does success look like for a young Black male navigating a world ruled by systematic oppression?



Co-Parenting and After School Care

The following content has been compensated as part of an Early Childhood Program promotion for Pittsburgh Public Schools. However, all opinions remain my own.

As summer winds down, our co-parenting family is slowly, reluctantly entering back-to-school season.  For us this means talk of new school clothes, making lists of must-have school supplies, gearing up for high school and pre-season sports practices, and wondering what the brand-new 4th grade teacher will be like.  For many co-parenting families, this is also the season for other conversations, conversations about things like who pays for what and adding extracurricular activities to the parenting time calendar.  

For co-parents whose workday doesn’t end in time for immediate pick-up after school, these conversations might also involve the question of their children’s care between dismissal time and dinner time.  Finding convenient, affordable, quality after-care can be challenging for any parent, but for parents of children who live between two households, the after-care challenge can also be an opportunity that benefits both children and parents. Here's how...

Co-parented children and their parents often lament a lack of time together. Further, some children, including ours, express frustration that living in two homes means that on any given day (or week), they are with one parent or the other, rarely both.  To address this, the after-school hours and the drive home from an after-care program are opportunities for parents to spend extra time with their children (if their work schedules permit), even if it’s not their designated day/evening according to the parenting time schedule.  This arrangement would be especially beneficial to families with an alternate week parenting time schedule or an alternate weekend only parenting time schedule.  In these cases, parents and children may go long stretches of time without seeing each other, so even a short car ride together or a hour a two before dinner a few times a week would be a welcomed addition.

Here in Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Public Schools Early Childhood Education Program now offers extended hours to provide after-school care for children in PreK through 5th grade at five school sites throughout the district. At Pittsburgh: Brookline (Brookline), Colfax (Squirrel Hill), Morrow (North Side), Phillips (South Side) and the Crescent Early Childhood Center (Homewood), the after-school program offers full- and part-time care featuring a researched-based curriculum and age-appropriate activities overseen by a qualified, dedicate staff. Homework help is also available.  Community partners including Gateway to the Arts, the Carnegie Science Center, and Jump Start organize on-site enrichment activities for participating students.  So more than just a safe, supervised space, this program provides enrichment and support, enhancing students' learning experiences in and out of the classroom.  In particular, enrichment in science and the arts gives students unique exploratory opportunities that reinforce or supplement their grade-level curricula.

Even if your child’s school doesn’t provide an after-care program option, the "what to do after school" challenge can still translate into an opportunity.  For non-custodial parents or for parents who have less than 50% parenting time, the after-school hours could be shared or negotiated as additional parenting time, if their work schedule permits.  Some shared parenting agreements even stipulate that each parent be given the “right of first refusal” and the opportunity to enjoy additional parenting time whenever the other parent is in need of child care.  

But as with all aspects of co-parenting, the overall best interests of the child should be considered when making any tweaks to the schedule.  For example, "off the schedule" parenting time shouldn't disrupt established dinner, homework, and bedtime routines.  Also, co-parents will need to be consistent and reliable with regard to pick-up and drop-off, and they should be able to communicate respectfully with each other as needed.  So while not every co-parenting circumstance lends itself to this type of parental interaction, “off the schedule” extra parenting time is one example of how flexibility and cooperation between co-parents can benefit the parent-child relationships.  

For the Pittsburgh Public School’s Early Childhood Education after-school program, the application deadline, August 9, is fast approaching. Applications are available online at, or you can contact the Early Childhood Department at 412-325-4291 for a paper application and more details.

Pittsburgh Public Schools Early Childhood Education Program photos by Jason Cohn

PPS EC Poster