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Brushing Up on Parenting Skills


Planning workshops for parents was a new concept at Sherman Elementary School in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, so "we weren't really sure what to expect," reported Kim Winkelmann, the schools partnership coordinator. However, with several workshops under their belts now, Winkelmann is pleased to report that "workshops are a wonderful way not only to learn, but to help bring the school community closer together."

Kim Winkelmann and retired school counselor Tom Bomber flank presenter Jeff Haebig, Ph.D., during the "Brain Boogie" parenting workshop.
Parent education workshops were established as part of the school's "building goals," Winkelmann told Education world. Those goals included helping to educate parents for the benefit of entire families and reaching out to assist parents with specific problems and issues they might experience at home with their children. The workshops -- which have focused on topics like homework tips and strategies, discipline, and the developmental issues faced by young girls -- have met those goals and more.

When the idea of planning workshops was introduced, Winkelmann and the school principal and counselor brainstormed issues of importance to parents. Each of the school's workshop events began with dinner in the cafeteria, which was provided by a nearby restaurant. Then the students played games in the gym under the supervision of childcare volunteers (local college students) while their parents took part in a workshop session held in the library. An open discussion period followed each session.

At one workshop, called Brain Boogie, parents and students joined together for the entire evening. "Over 80 families were in attendance, Winkelmann told Education World. Our gym was full, and it was just wonderful to see so many parents and children working together."

The "Brain Boogie" workshop dealt with body movements that help individuals learn. At one point, Winkelmann recalled, there were more than 200 people turning in circles in the gymnasium. Watching families laugh and learn together was heartwarming, she said.

"Our discipline workshop was extremely well attended," she stated. "Many parents told us that they were very impressed with the speaker and felt capable of going home and putting their newfound skills into action."

Parents were also invited to share potential topics for future workshops. Winkelmann says that an array of topics and speakers may exist at the "fingertips" of any administrator, if he or she looks for it.

At a recent workshop "it was fantastic to have so many people asking when we were going to have our next workshop and sharing ideas for the future," Winkelmann added.

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