Life Times Newsletter

Winter 2010
Vol. 12, No. 1

Helping our children succeed in school
Teaching our children what we want them to learn
Giving gifts that last!
Growing vegetables and flower transplants
Eating well on a budget




Helping our children succeed in school


Rosilee Trotta, MSW, LCSW
Urban Youth & Family Specialist

There are two things that parents want most for children:  happiness and success. Of course we want them to be good citizens, practice OUR values, and a myriad of other things, but all those other wishes will hopefully result in happiness and success.
       Parents are clearly the first and most important teachers to their children. It’s a job most of us take very seriously and do pretty well. When we turn over part of that responsibility to schools, we probably do so with mixed emotions. Certainly, our obligations do not end at this point. They merely change.
      I have had the pleasure of working in the past with one of the great, award-winning educators in St. Louis. Rosalee Johnson has 35 years of experience in the educational field, and she is currently both an Educational Consultant and the St. Louis Area Coordinator for Practical Parenting Partnerships. She has a passionate and unwavering commitment to improving home-school
      I interviewed Rosalee over lunch one day about how to help our children succeed in school.  (Since we are both named Rosalee/Rosilee, my questions will be denoted by the letter T.)

T: What would you say is the most critical factor in helping children achieve success in the school environment?

R: While there are many factors that contribute to children’s school success, nothing is more critical than the role of parents. The basic foundation for learning is fostered in the home. Parents really are the first teachers of their children, and they can build upon this value at all times.

T: Are there things parents can do to instill a love of learning in their kids?

R: In order to instill a love for learning, parents must talk to their children about the importance of education and set a good example. They must maintain and display a positive attitude toward the school and school personnel. When parents remain supportive throughout the child’s educational experience, the children have increased self-esteem and are encouraged to do their best. The entire family can become involved in reading and fun learning activities that promote learning in the home.

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T: How can I help my child develop good study habits?

R: Parents can help their children develop good study habits by providing appropriate space, materials and supplies for study and homework. A routine should be established and a time set aside for study. By modeling good habits, being consistent, communicating expectations to children and by removing all distractions during study times, parents can reinforce their feelings about the importance of learning.

T: Where might I find resources if my child needs extra help?

R: There are many resources for families when they need extra parenting help. Chief among these resources is the Practical Parenting Partnerships Center in Jefferson City. Additional help can be secured through the school, public libraries, ParentLink, Literacy Investment for Tomorrow (LIFT), state and federal education agencies and by accessing the Internet.

William Butler Yeats once said: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”  Fire requires three elements:  fuel, heat and oxygen. Children’s success in school requires three elements as well:  child, teacher and parent. Together we can light the world.




Teaching our children what we want them to learn


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Rosilee Trotta, MSW, LCSW
Urban Youth & Family Specialist

Being our child’s first and most important teacher is an awesome responsibility. As parents, we need to keep in mind that every interaction with our child is a potential learning experience. The question we must ask ourselves is: Are we teaching what we want our child to learn?

• Do we use language that shows respect for our child and others? 

• Do we set a good example by doing our best, no matter the situation?

• Do we make excuses or blame others when things go wrong?

• Do we teach good problem-solving skills by working through a difficult situation and ending with the most positive solution?

• Are we angry much of the time?

Our children watch us closely. They learn from everything we do . . . or don’t do.  Are we teaching them what we really want them to learn?




Giving gifts that last!

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Elizabeth Reinsch, 
Human Development Specialist
I had the pleasure of having some of my family with me for this past holiday; it struck me that many of the gifts given and received probably wouldn’t be around next year. This led me to think about gifts 
that do not get broken or thrown out as so many material things do. 
   The gifts of time, caring and appreciation can last forever in families, but little references are made to them. These are things that can be given anytime of the year, not just for the holidays. Following 
are several activities that University of Missouri Extension’s Building Strong Families curriculum identifies as things family members can do for one another just because they care.
• Make lists of things that make you feel loved, and share with one another. Spend some quality time discussing those things and how each family member might gift each other. Have "Caring Days" 
  when each family member does one special thing for the others (such as back rubs, read a book, prepare a meal, or help out around the house).
• Kindle kindness. This is just being thoughtful and considerate, even when you don't feel like it. Open doors, offer rides to those who need it, treat someone to lunch. Remember the old saying, 
  "The more you give, the more you receive."
• Share love notes. Everyone likes to be appreciated. Sometimes it's hard to say what's in our hearts out loud, but easier to write it. Short notes tucked in lunches, on the bed pillow or on a dinner 
  plate may be just the small surprise that can make someone's day.
Special memories are often made when our families spend time together. Here are some ideas for scheduling quality time with family members.
• Dedicate one or two meal times where everyone in the family will be together. During this time be sure to share the happenings of the days, the highs and lows. This allows the family to stay 
  connected in good times and in bad.
• Plan time for "Just the Two of Us." Whether it's Mom and Dad, parent and child, grandparent and grandchild, or brother and sister, take time out to be together to go for a walk, watch a movie, 
  or ride bikes. One-on-one discussion offers the opportunity to share our deeper hopes and dreams.
• Do some "Little Sprouts" activities. "Your kids can learn about life from gardening," according to the Building Strong Families curriculum. This is my favorite since I'm a gardener. One idea is to 
  fill an old shoe with potting soil and plant grass seeds or early spring flowers. By keeping it moist for several weeks, you can see the new grass sprouting or the little flower starting to germinate. 
  Or try sprouting spring bulbs indoors to add delight to a dreary winter's day.
Source: “Having Fun with Your Family 365 Days a Year: Family Survival Activities,” Family Strengths Handout #2, Building Strong Families, University of Missouri Extension. Available at




Growing vegetable and flower transplants


Starting seeds indoors permits you to select the varieties you like best, but pay attention to the following details. 

Growing medium – A bagged, peat-based potting mix works best. Don't use garden soil.

Water – Once watered, seeds must remain moist (but not saturated).

Heat – Between 72 and 80 degrees F is best. A nearby heat source, such as an incandescent bulb, is often beneficial.

Light – The average window will not provide enough light. To keep seedlings from getting leggy, place them under and right next to fluorescent bulbs that are meant for growing plants.

Timing – Consult the Vegetable Planting Calendar at MU Extension's Website to know when to move them outdoors ( Once outside, protect them from extremes in temperature and moisture.


Contact:  Nathan Brandt, MS, Horticulture Specialist,




Eating well on a budget

With food costs rising during these hard economic times, it is often difficult to purchase good, wholesome foods while on a budget. Supermarkets today are filled with food
choices, but many of them are not so healthy.  With a little planning, it’s possible to purchase a variety of healthy foods and not go over your budget.  Here are a few suggestions.

Make a shopping list.  If you stick to the grocery list, you are less likely to purchase items you already have. You are also less likely to forget any necessary food items.

Review supermarket advertisements.  This helps ensure you are spending less by purchasing more items that are on sale.

Don't shop when you are hungry! You are much more likely to make impulse purchases on less nutritious items that may cost more.  

By: Camila E. Fletcher, Dietetic Intern, Bureau of WIC and Nutrition Services, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Contact: Linda S. Rellergert, MS, Nutrition & Health Education Specialist,



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University of Missouri Extension Editor: Roxanne T. Miller