Happy Monday! It’s been an exciting, educational, and exhausting couple of weeks over here and I’m beyond ready for a few days of relaxation. Who am I kidding? Work, kids, and life is the on the agenda for me but a girl can dream ;). Last week the fam and I got to spend a few days in the beautiful Pennsylvania mountain town, Seven Springs. I was invited to the PA State Parent Advisory Council Conference and luckily the whole family was able to come with me! I live for work/play trips and anytime they are able to travel with me is a good time.
The conference took place at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Seven Springs, PA. About a 4 hour ride from Philadelphia. Before we get into the conference deets, let’s get into these views. Simply gorgeous!
The SPAC Conference is a two day statewide conference geared toward helping parents who are invested in their kids education both in and outside of school and parents who are–or interested in becoming–parent leaders in their communities. At my boys school, a Philadelphia public school, I’m super involved. I serve as the VP of our schools advisory council, publish a monthly newsletter, and volunteer wherever and whenever I can. When I found out the family was invited to attend the annual conference, I was beyond excited.
WHY I WANTED TO ATTEND
Over the past year since we’ve been part of our northeast Philly community and with the boys in public school, I have definitely taken on a new outlook when it comes to my children’s education. At first, I was overwhelmed and uninformed. Moving from the ‘burbs to the city, all I heard were the horror stories about public school system and wanted nothing to do with it. I had never had to do so much research, to ask so many questions, to advocate so much for my kids education before. And to be honest, I looked at the whole thing as something to get through the year and find either a charter or private school for next year. But, getting up close and personal with the inequalities in our education system ignited something inside me. It wasn’t enough to just make sure my kids were getting the education and opportunities they deserved, but I wanted to help all children, especially black and brown kids get them too. It started with volunteering at my son’s elementary school and once I learned about this conference I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to figure out what more I can do, network with other parents doing this work, and learn strategies for educating my kids at home.
WHAT I LEARNED
Sooo much. With over 40 workshops available over the course of two days I learned a ton. I have a notebook full of takeaways but for sake of the blog I’ll go over big ones.
- Literacy is essential. This was a main focus of the conference. Some of the data we got to review was both mind blowing and heartbreaking. To see in plain view the gap between the reading levels of Blacks and Latinos vs. White people and how that affects every area of achievement over the course of a lifetime emphasized how critical literacy is to both academic and life success. The takeaway: Literacy matters! What are we doing about reading in our schools and at home?
Family involvement is crucial to academic success. Family engagement is one of the main things I wanted to learn more about. If there is one thing that I have learned this year it’s that when families are involved at the school, things get done. At the conference I learned just how deep that goes. Higher graduation rates, students are less likely to be involved in criminal behavior, suspended or expelled, more likely to be involved in extracurriculars and to go to college. The takeaway: Grow family engagement! How? By meeting family needs.
Parent leadership starts at home. The last day of the conference I attended a workshop on Parent Leadership and it was basically designed for the goal setting, planner geek in me. We learned about creating vision statements and goals for the family like you would for your personal life or business. Now, as a girl who is serious about her goal setting I never thought to do something this on a family level before. We also learned about the characteristics of a great leader and a not so great leader…let’s just say I think we all have some room for improvement ;). The takeaway: If you’re a parent, you’re a leader. Be intentional and specific in leading your children.
I love how from the moment we stepped into the resort it was all about literacy and education. The boys got to choose three free books each, while the parents got to choose from an assortment of parenting guides. I chose Achieving Success in Middle School (still dealing with the reality that we will have a middle schooler in a month), School Community Involvement, and Social Media and Internet Safety. We also got two board games, perfect for our newly implemented Family Game Nights and two swag bags packed with school supplies. Yessss. On the second night of our stay we attended a program where we got even two educational kits from innovative educational solutions company Really Good Stuff. We’ve literally replaced hours of previous screen time with the games in these kits. Cutting back even more and adding more time spent reading, learning, and family activities is what we’re focused on in the coming months so this was right on time!
Overall, the SPAC Conference was a really awesome experience and I’m ready to head into the school year with a ton of ideas and support to really make a difference. ~ xoxo