Start early and make it a habit before you introduce TV and video games. Limit screen-time, including TV, video games, and computer. Trade some of their structured activities for free time. Appeal to kids’ natural interests (e.g. sports: try hiking or canoeing, science: try gardening or rock collecting). Model outdoor time behavior yourself and focus on fun!

It is an old argument to suggest that poorly performing schools or ineffective teachers are the result of having to deal with children living in poverty.

It may not solve your financial situation immediately, but it will help you network with other parents, with teachers, and with administrators. You will find friends and perhaps contacts that will be useful. As a bonus, you will find a sense of accomplishment for having helped children and for doing your part in education reform. If you have your own children in school, it will help boost their confidence knowing the importance you place on education. And, for you? You will stop thinking about your own situation, at least for the duration of the school day, and knowing you have accomplished something – an antidote to feeling useless.

I recently shadowed a high school sophomore student for the day. In biology this student was passionate and engaged. In math he couldn’t care less. Why? Because he already had a good idea what he wanted to do with his life, and he knew that he didn’t need the math he was learning. To those who say, well what if he needs it later, if he changes his mind, I would say, he will go back and learn it then. Just as any person changing careers would do.

Public schools are just that – public. By law, public schools must teach every student who walks through the door. Public school students are representative of the communities the schools serve.

J.C.:I started reading in Kindergarten. I remember keeping my book in my cubby and being so proud I could read a few words. I had a few favorite books as a kid. One was a book of fairy tales, and the other was a book of Bible stories. I still have them and read them to my daughter.

Barren of cognitive stimulation and encouragement, these environments create a tragic cycle of intellectual stagnation. I’ve met countless students who by age 15 had never seen a live earthworm. Some reach my class believing dinosaurs are fictional characters along with Godzilla or Superman. Others have heard neither Bach nor Black Sabbath.

As a teacher, I deal with many challenging students. And challenging parents, too. Most cases turn out just fine. But how can I hope to succeed with kids whose parents have taught them I am their enemy?