Parents prepare for the school year
Reena Legarde from Lac des Mille Lacs First Nation and her husband Mel Legarde from Long Lake #58, currently live in Thunder Bay and are active in their child Seth’s education.
Back to school is a time when most parents are getting routines, strategies, special needs, academic and social plans and supplies ready to support their children in the new school year.
The Richmond-Saravia, Legarde and Pelletier families are masters at supporting their children during this time but also balancing parenthood and work while completing their own post-secondary education.
Michelle Richmond-Saravia is originally from Pic River First Nation and now resides in Thunder Bay with her husband and three boys Julio, Emerson and Cruz. In 2012, she completed her master thesis of education with a focus on how the land is significant to First Nations youth learning and health.
While parenting for the last seven years and completing grad school, Richmond-Saravia has worked as a sessional lecturer and curriculum writer at Lakehead University and taught at Oshki-Pimache-O-Win Education and Training Institute.
Richmond-Saravia is most excited about enrolling her two eldest children this year which means more of a break for her.
“I think this year is going to be exciting because we have our two older children enrolling in grade two and JK,” she said. “I have another little one at home. It is a break for me to get organized again. I look forward to them being cared for by a caring school and also engaged in more activities.”
The opportunity for children to learn at school and have some separation from their parents is beneficial for everyone involved, Richmond-Saravia said. However, school should match parents and their children’s learning expectations and a families cultural planning. Choosing the right school to enroll a child in can contribute to a successful lifelong learning opportunity and the school Richmond-Saravia’s boys are attending offer excellent cultural programs and support systems for their family.
“You need to trust in the school itself. I know we have made a good decision with the schools we have chosen,” she said. “There are a lot of culturally-appropriate opportunities for our kids to feel mentored by the school and I think it will be a really good opportunity for them.”
Every parent has tips and tricks to help set their children and family up for success during the academic year. And Richmond-Saravia is no different.
“Tell your child to ask a trusted adult for support or help at school if they’re having a concern. Teach your children how to advocate for themselves by giving them proper sentences to use to ask for help at school and ensure they engage with their teachers,” she said.
“Encourage children to always be with other children and not to be alone. When you are alone things can happen. So, stick to a buddy system. Siblings should take care of each other at school when they can.”
It has been Richmond-Saravia’s experience that talking with the school faculty and being present and involved with children at their school sets them up for success.
“You need to find tangible ways to get involved in your kids school. And children need parental support to succeed. It’s a different experience for kids in school today. I feel a parent needs to develop a good relationship with their kids and the people they are interacting with,” she said.
“If you don’t feel your child is number one at school, it’s time to rethink about where your child is going to school. And you need to have your child in a place where they are in that circle of belonging because that’s really important. You don’t want your child to be in the backrow looking unimportant. You want your child to shine. So if that means moving then I totally say, move on.”
Reena Legarde from Lac des Mille Lacs First Nation and her husband Mel Legarde from Long Lake #58, currently live in Thunder Bay and are active in their child’s education. They believe in building a healthy foundation for a child is the first step in a child’s education.
Legarde is a reintegration counselor in youth justice and her education is in the child and youth field. She is a full time working mom, traditional dancer and involved community member. She works hard at providing an exceptional cultural education foundation for her son and setting cultural examples for other families.
“Have communication with teachers,” she said. “If there are any concerns it’s good to address them. Children can tend to go under the radar if they are struggling.”
“Make sure the proper resources are there for your children. I think all children have that right. Parents don’t always recognize they have a voice. They can advocate to make sure they are being heard in the school system.”
Both parents communicated and strategized an education plan with their son Seth’s teachers. Like most children their son was shy and had anxiety about school. Because of this they stayed very involved in their son’s education to ensure he didn’t fall behind.
Legrade who is currently a student at Confederation College and works part time said, “It is important for dad’s to get involved with their kids at all times with everything. You want to make sure children are developing normally and they are interacting really nicely with other kids.”
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