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Just four things

The busy parent's guide to easier living.

By Leslie Crawford

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Highly effective volunteering. The school year's just started, and the volunteering mania (and guilt-tripping) has already begun. Don't get us wrong. In these budget-squeezing times, schools rely on parents like you to help keep them afloat. But consider being strategic about how you donate your valuable time and energy. Ask the school or your child's teacher for a list of the year's school events and class trips, as well as wish lists of needed resources. Then in advance — before you come down with a severe case of volunteer burnout — decide what you are able to take on.

When choosing what you'll do, remember that although research shows that all parental involvement improves student learning — both for the whole school and the child of the volunteering parent — not all volunteering packs the same educational punch. Fundraising, for instance, has less of an impact than helping in the classroom or correcting essays. Rule of thumb? Ask if your contribution directly supports student learning. Then when the PTA head calls at 8 p.m. desperately pleading for a quadruple recipe of your triple fudge brownies, do the math and graciously decline: "Sorry, but I've already committed to working on October's science fair and simply can't take on another task this semester."

is a senior editor at GreatSchools.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

09/16/2010:
"this great,but ask my two daughters fear maths to death,but their average performent is good in class."
09/15/2010:
"Great Tips; mostly common sense but some innovative ideas as well. Parenting is our most challenging 'job'. Thanks for making it a little easier."
09/3/2010:
"Love this new feature! Quick to read and easy to apply! As a professional organizer, these are the kind of tips that parents need to help our kids grow into thriving adults! Thank you!"
09/3/2010:
"any advice for starting an older child doing more chores, the research article indicates starting later is not helpful. "
09/3/2010:
"Thank you for this article. I loved it, particularly your segment on volunteering. This is my first kindergarten-er and I was absolutely overwhelmed at the volunteer opportunities. I sincerely appreciate your advice. I will look forward to this newsletter every month. "
09/2/2010:
"Great idea to use Amazon!"
09/2/2010:
"This is exactly what I needed. :)"
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