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Westlake Legal Group > Education

Here’s a look at what’s coming to Shenandoah National Park in 2020

Westlake Legal Group shenendoah-national-park Here’s a look at what’s coming to Shenandoah National Park in 2020 Things to Do Shenandoah Valley shenandoah national park Shenandoah recreation programs programming parks and rec parks & rec parks outside Outdoors nps News & Updates News nature National parks national park service local parks Hiking explore exploration Education
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Just about an hour away from the heart of Northern Virginia, you’ll find the robust land of the Shenandoah Valley, home to Shenandoah National Park. And no matter the season, there’s something to do in the nature-filled site, ranging from park ranger-led hikes to field trips for local students to discover something new. 

This year, the park is offering several updated and new programs to NoVA residents and visitors alike, thanks to a donation of nearly $1 million from the Shenandoah National Park Trust, which invests in initiatives to ensure the national park remains an essential landmark of the National Park Service

Announced in December through a press release, the 13 additions include youth-centered programs hosted at the park; increased care toward exotic plant and trail maintenance; more opportunities for research using the park’s natural and cultural resources; and much more. 

Among the updates includes internship opportunities for young adults. Positions offered this year are from the Education and Interpretation Division, as well as the Cultural Resources and Maintenance Division, giving teens the chance to curate public programming and work toward increasing diversity and inclusion at the site, respectively. 

Another big change expected to come in the near future surrounds the Boulder Cabin, a 1911 historic cabin on the property. The Shenandoah National Park Trust will work toward raising funds this year for the renovation and maintenance of the building, which will eventually be used as a residence and studio space for participants of the Artist-in-Residence program. The program will provide local artists with the opportunity to live and work on the grounds of the park, with various dates available from May 2020 through October 2020. 

For more information on the programs offered at Shenandoah National Park this year, click here.

Want more park news sent straight to your inbox? Subscribe to our Parks & Rec newsletter today. 

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Virginia ranks as the sixth-most educated state in America, according to WalletHub

Westlake Legal Group 00-virginia-ranks-as-6th-most-educated-state-in-america Virginia ranks as the sixth-most educated state in America, according to WalletHub wallethub Virginia university public school News & Updates Most Educated grad school gender gap educational reports Education college Bachelor's Degrees Associate's Degrees
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It’s no secret that living and working near the nation’s capital attracts highly educated individuals from all over the country. Whether they’re fresh out of grad school or looking to climb the ranks in the later years of their career, it’s a place filled with opportunity, potential and very smart people. 

Because of that, as well as highly ranked colleges and universities in the region, strong education systems and more, Virginia has ranked as the sixth-most educated state in the country, according to WalletHub

WalletHub, a financial media brand that conducts studies regularly on quality of life around the country, released its list of the most- and least-educated states across the country on Jan. 20. In the study, the company analyzed a variety of factors that influence education, from school quality and overall achievement, to gaps between genders and races. 

Aside from being the sixth-most educated state, falling only behind Massachusetts, Maryland, Colorado, Vermont and Connecticut, Virginia ranked ninth in associate degree holders (or college-experienced adults), sixth for bachelor’s degree holders and fourth in graduate and professional degree holders. 

Virginia did rank first in one category: Gender Gap Educational Attainment. This key factor measured the difference between the population of female bachelor’s degree holders and male bachelor’s degree holders, and marks Virginia as the top state for having the smallest gap between men and women’s education on the bachelor’s degree level.

To find out where other states ranked, check out WalletHub’s interactive map and full report here.

Whether you have a first grader in elementary school or a freshman in college, there’s always something to stay updated on when it comes to education in Virginia. Stay in the know when you subscribe to our Education newsletter.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Here’s one local expert’s take on senioritis in NoVA

Westlake Legal Group graduation Here’s one local expert’s take on senioritis in NoVA university tips teens seniors senioritis senior year Motivation High School Seniors high school counselor graduation expert tips Engagement Education counselors counselor college advice
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The second semester of senior year for Northern Virginia high schools is officially in full swing. 

While for some, college acceptance letters are still on their way, the majority of teens in the region have heard from at least one school on their list. And while that’s exciting, it also means you may start to see your once-motivated, academically inclined child behave differently than they ever has before. 

Don’t worry, it’s normal. Yet sometimes, senioritis can go a little too far, leading to a missed final project, or maybe even overused absences. 

If you’ve noticed a case of senioritis with your child, Susan Chiarolanzio, the director of college counseling and the senior class dean at Flint Hill School in Oakton, has you covered. Here, she shares her experience with the ebbing of motivation and how you can help from home. 

Talk to me about senioritis in general. What exactly does it consist of and when do you see students participate in these behaviors?
It can happen at different times, and it seems to be dependent on the class’ personality. Last year, for example, I felt like our kids were affected in October, but it typically starts at the beginning of the last semester, when everyone is very aware that time is coming to an end due to announcements, updates and us constantly saying, “It’s the last one.” Also culturally, here in our area, for however long their family has chosen to make the college process the priority, everything is, “Do this so you can get in to college. Do that so you can get accepted,” and they’ve done all that, so in their minds they are done. They ask what they need to keep working for. 

I think the way it exhibits itself is they are late to classes when they never have been, the lower-priority assignments get turned in late or not at all, they don’t maybe put in the same amount of time as they would have with big projects. Sometimes it can be pretty significant, and it has a negative affect on their ability. A lot of students have found themselves in a hole where they missed too many days of school or skipped too many assignments and when that happens, it’s really hard to get back on track. 

Are there specific aspects of curriculum or the school day in general where you see kids continuing to stay interested?
I do think a lot of it is teacher dependent. If they’ve developed a good relationship with specific teachers, students will care. Here at Flint Hill, our seniors are done with classes around May 1 and then they do a senior project for the whole month of May. So right now, they are planning that, and I think in their mind, that’s a real-world experience that they are excited about. There aren’t too many restraints and some of them do career-related things, whereas some do things they’ve never done and probably won’t do again, like work in a bakery. It just gives them some motivation, which really helps us. Universally, seniors are often beyond the requirements for graduating so they got to choose electives in the first place, and I think those tend to keep students pretty engaged. 

When you notice a student falling into the senior slump, what do you do to combat that?
Honestly, forcing them to stick to requirements doesn’t always work. But there are still the normal consequences involved for second semester seniors, so we keep those in place. One of the things we try to do preemptively is host a session with the seniors in the winter where we give them a mock letter from a real college in the area saying, “You haven’t maintained your performance and we are thinking of taking your acceptance away.” We ask the students to defend themselves and explain why they should still be admitted. It’s a way to show them that there are conditions colleges expect you to stick to, and a lot of good conversation comes in. 

Also, when someone starts to really flip, it’s important that a lot of different adults can step in and motivate them. We remind them that they can do better by reiterating our belief in them. 

How can parents continue to motivate their child, despite receiving those acceptance letters?
Encouraging parents to continue to maintain the accountability of the kids is really important. It’s a difficult balance for parents because they hear how they have to increase their kids’ independence before college, yet they still have to keep some control academically. Parents can have conversations about maintaining academic standing, yet easing up on a curfew or maybe give other freedoms to get the entire family prepared for what’s to come.

Want more education tips, news and stories? Subscribe to our Education e-newsletter.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Michael Farmer: More children are being taken into care. All too often that means being put on a conveyer belt to crime.

Lord Farmer is a former Treasurer of the Conservative Party.

With the word Brexit banished from the lips of those who work in and around Downing Street, the Government is, at last, turning its full attention to the domestic agenda.

A radical shake-up of the Civil Service is on the cards, and other mooted reforms aim to make the Government less London-centric, improve military procurement, introduce tougher sentences for criminals, and boost NHS spending.

These are all important, but I would also urge Mr Johnson to press ahead with a big R-review of Children in Care as a priority. The system he has inherited is at breaking point. It needs to be looked at, root and branch – and through a relational lens. Does the system ensure our most vulnerable children have the relationships which are, for all of us, the very essence of life?

The Review also needs to address the fact that the number of children being drawn into it is growing: between 2009/10 and 2016/17, the total number of “looked-after children” increased by 17 per cent, from 64,460 to 75,420. The number of local authority court applications to take children into care rose by over a fifth (22 per cent) and the number of children on a child protection plan increased by 38 per cent, from 39,100 to 53,790.

At the same time, the profile of those taken into care has changed dramatically, driven by a growing share of older children and teenage care entrants, many of whom have more complex needs.

Some of the change in the profile of those in care is down to unaccompanied children arriving in the UK, but equally, there has been a significant rise in Section 20 applications, where parents effectively hand over their children to social services because they can no longer cope – a harrowing decision for any parent to have to take.

Worse still are the outcomes of those children and young people in the state’s charge. In 2017, just 2.7 per cent of children who had been looked after for 12 months or more achieved GCSEs in English language and literature, maths, science, geography or history, and a language, compared to 21.9 per cent of the general population

It is not just in the field of education that we are failing these vulnerable children. On average those in care have worse mental and emotional wellbeing, are more vulnerable to poor physical health, substance misuse, early pregnancies and are more likely to be known to the criminal justice system.

Now, this might seem like an unlikely subject for a former metal trader and Treasurer of the Conservative Party to champion, but I speak from a childhood lived under the dark cloud of parental alcoholism with all the stigma of neglect, shame and poverty this entails. If I had not been sent to a state boarding school and experienced stable relationships, I would likely have ended up in care myself.

I have also conducted two reviews for the Ministry of Justice on the importance of family and other relational ties to reduce reoffending and the intergenerational transmission of crime. The first looked at male prisoners, the second more broadly at female offenders. My primary recommendation was that the importance of relationships should be the golden thread running through the criminal justice system. This has been accepted by the Government not least because their own research found that prisoners who receive family visits are 39 per cent less likely to reoffend than those who do not.

So the broadly acknowledged failure of the current care system is also not simply a question of money, even if some claim it is. Local authorities in England spent nearly £8 billion in 2017/18, indeed many overspent. If the Review is limited to bickering about resources, it will fail. It must be far more ambitious in scope than a focus on resources – or on those already in the system.

We have to do far more to prevent children from coming into care in the first place, where possible. The answer to our high levels of fractured family relationships is not to sever existing ties but to do more, earlier, to strengthen families. Hence my strong support for the Conservative manifesto commitment to champion Family Hubs.

We must also prevent the care system from being a conveyor belt into crime, or other highly detrimental outcomes. Just this week, the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall said that young boys caught up in county lines drugs gangs should be seen as victims, not criminals. He points to the gap in family support as a root cause and he is right. Dysfunctional homes and the lack of family security in these children’s lives drives them into these gangs.

Currently, relationships are either treated as disposable or are under-exploited. My two prison reviews and a lifetime of experience have taught me the paramount importance of children finding a connection. Someone who is irrationally committed to you, who will support and guide you, and provide the unconditional love so many of us take for granted. The Government is alive to this and has developed the Lifelong Links programme through its Innovation Fund, but this programme’s DNA has to be replicated throughout the care system – and in the lives of care leavers in prison.

Adopting this relational lens will fundamentally reset the care system and thereby enable a generation of children, tens of thousands of lives, to escape the trap of low expectations, poverty and crime.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

With innovative curriculums, NoVA students are learning financial literacy before graduation

Westlake Legal Group kids-walking-through-finance-park With innovative curriculums, NoVA students are learning financial literacy before graduation teens Students Student Loans school program Mortgages money kids january issue information high school students high school financial literacy Finances feature Education educate debt
At Finance Park in Fairfax, eighth graders are equipped with tablets as they explore how to create a budget. (Photo by Christen Boggs Peyper)

It’s 9:30 a.m. on a Friday morning in a nondescript building off of Pickett Road in Fairfax, where 138 eighth grade students from Frost Middle School are noisily settling in to the auditorium for an orientation.

“Today, you get to be an adult,” says the grown-up at the front of the room before rolling a video that introduces the purpose of the field trip: money.

The cheerful cartoon kids on the screen explain that the students will spend the day learning how to create a budget and stick to it, just like the adults in their lives do.

“At the end of the day, like all adults, you’re going to pay your bills,” the cartoons continue, before offering up some advice to the students. “You may forget you have a husband or a wife or a kid who needs to be fed … Please don’t forget these people! Your budget must take care of everyone in your family.”

At the conclusion of the orientation video, two adult volunteers open the large double doors that lead into a shopping mall-like maze of kiosks representing each category of a typical budget.

Welcome to Finance Park.

This isn’t your average field trip. In today’s digital world, Finance Park serves as a physical representation of real-world budgeting, where students spend a day visiting storefronts that correlate with line-item budget categories (think: a stop for the mortgage, a stop for groceries, a stop for child care, with 23 categories in all) and learn what it’s really like to take on the adult responsibility of providing for yourself and your family.

The day is met with lots of eye-opening realizations for the students (“Holy crap, this is expensive!” and “I can’t even afford this!” were just a few of the exclamations heard during the bill-paying phase of the day), but it’s a real-world exercise that education and financial experts say is of dire importance as today’s adults and recent grads are grappling with astronomical levels of student debt. Here in the DC region, for example, the median student loan debt is more than $22,000—and the DC region ranks No. 1 for student debt holders who owe more than $100,000.

Fairfax County’s eighth graders getting a hard-knocks lesson in what managing your money really looks like is reflective of how schools in Virginia and across the nation are working to raise a new generation that is fluent in financial literacy.

Westlake Legal Group inside-finance-park With innovative curriculums, NoVA students are learning financial literacy before graduation teens Students Student Loans school program Mortgages money kids january issue information high school students high school financial literacy Finances feature Education educate debt
A day at Finance Park is the culmination of 14 classroom lessons on financial literacy. (Photo by Christin Boggs Peyper)

A Lesson in Adulthood

Finance Park is run by Junior Achievement, a national organization dedicated to teaching K-12 students about financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship through real-world and hands-on programs. There are 23 Finance Parks in the nation, and three in the Washington region (Fairfax, and Prince George’s County and Montgomery County in Maryland), where tens of thousands of students are taking part in the financial simulation each year.

A day spent at Finance Park is the culmination of a 14-lesson course, taught in the history and civics class for Fairfax County eighth graders, where they learn how to create and manage a budget, tackle debt, invest and save. When students arrive at Finance Park, each one is given a preloaded tablet with an identity that includes all the trappings of adulthood, including a career and annual income, debt, a credit score and a family. Then they spend the next four hours learning about and creating a budget based on that scenario—guided by their teachers and adult volunteers.

The students experience “a lot of surprise,” says Chelsea Soneira, vice president of education for Junior Achievement of Greater Washington. “They realize that being an adult is harder than they thought. [They’ll say], ‘I have to thank my parents,’ and, ‘Kids are expensive,’ and they have the realization that they can’t just ask for things. Money comes from somewhere and goes somewhere and that you have to work hard to put yourself in a place where you can afford the lifestyle that you want.”

Finance Park and the lessons leading up to it are “really their first exposure to [financial literacy],” says Steven Busch, a civics teacher and the Finance Park coordinator for Frost Middle School. “It gets them thinking, ‘These are things I need to start thinking about for my future’ … I think it’s really important for them. It’s an aspect of life that can get overlooked.”

Westlake Legal Group boys-in-front-of-wells-fargo With innovative curriculums, NoVA students are learning financial literacy before graduation teens Students Student Loans school program Mortgages money kids january issue information high school students high school financial literacy Finances feature Education educate debt
Each student is assigned a profile, including a career—and a salary—for the exercise, giving them the opportunity to see a range of life circumstances. (Photo by Christin Boggs Peyper)

This post originally appeared in our January 2020 issue. To have more local coverage sent straight to your inbox, subscribe to our e-newsletters.

A Graduation Requirement

“Overlooked” is arguably a fair characterization, at least, prior to the real estate bubble bursting and subsequent market crash over a decade ago.

Finance Park was created, not uncoincidentally, around that same time, when the nation was reeling from an economic nosedive.

“After the financial crash in 2007 and 2008, a lot of states responded with legislation to require financial literacy instruction for students, which is something nobody had seen before,” says Soneira. “This was something where everyone realized, ‘Uh oh, we haven’t actually been teaching this and it’s really important.’ It’s important that we make sure that there are certain things that every young person knows growing up.”

Here in Northern Virginia, the Fairfax outpost of Finance Park graduates about 38,000 students per year, including all eighth graders in Fairfax County, along with select students in the city of Falls Church, the city of Alexandria and Prince William County.

And while the program is growing in popularity—Junior Achievement is currently working on strategies to reach more students in both the greater Washington region and nationwide—it’s just one instructional resource that was developed post-Great Recession.
In fact, starting with the 2010-2011 school year, the commonwealth of Virginia has required all high school students to have one credit in economics and personal finance in order to graduate.

“We thought it was very important to include both economics and personal finance,” says Judith Sams, educational specialist for business and information technology in the Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education. “It’s more than just financial literacy. The students need to know what role economics play in personal finance and, vice versa, what role does personal finance play in understanding the economy.”

Prior to making it a graduation requirement, a similar course was offered to students in Virginia public schools, but now every student benefits from the real-world curriculum, says Sams. And, “There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t hear from more than one student, teachers in the classroom especially, ‘Thank you so much for making me take this course. It was one of the most valuable courses I’ve ever had.’”

The course has now been a requirement for a decade and, in January, the Virginia Board of Education is expected to approve revised standards of learning for the course, called Economics and Personal Finance. The updated standards of learning will include stressing the importance of post-secondary studies and the connection between higher education or training and higher earnings. The added curriculum has an eye toward helping students navigate the student loan crisis, including understanding the FAFSA and applying for student scholarships and loans. Essentially, the new requirements will teach students “how to avoid student debt beyond what you can afford,” says Sams.

Westlake Legal Group two-kids-in-front-of-white-wall With innovative curriculums, NoVA students are learning financial literacy before graduation teens Students Student Loans school program Mortgages money kids january issue information high school students high school financial literacy Finances feature Education educate debt
Oscar Persky and Shaheera Kamin, eighth graders at Frost Middle School. (Photo by Christin Boggs Peyper)

A Leader in Financial Literacy

The required course, along with supplementary lessons like those at Finance Park, have caught the attention of education experts. In fact, Virginia’s public school system is considered one of the best in the nation for teaching financial literacy.

The Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont puts out a National Report Card on State Efforts to Improve Financial Literacy in High Schools, and Virginia is one of only seven states to receive an A rating. Moreover, W!SE, a national education nonprofit dedicated to financial literacy and college- and career-readiness, announced its Blue Star Schools for the 2018-2019 school year. Of the 247 schools on the national list, 155—or 63 percent—were in Virginia.

The fact that Virginia is a leader in financial literacy education is promising for the next generation of students.

“First and foremost, I don’t know if [students], when they graduate, if they’re going to need to speak French or Spanish. I don’t know if they’re going to need trigonometry and calculus, but the one thing I do know is, they’re going to think about money every day until they die,” says John Pelletier, director of the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College and the report’s author. “Pretty much everyone is going to have to think about money: how to earn it, how to spend it, how to save it.”

And, says Pelletier, teaching financial literacy to students in a setting like Finance Park, is much more likely to stick. “Finance Park is considered one of the best in the country. What they’ve done there is very impressive. It’s a great facility and I think something like that, those sorts of hands-on, experiential learning opportunities for students, it’s a lot better than having some guy from a bank come in and talk to kids in middle school.”

An Eye-Opening Day

Back at Finance Park, the students seem to agree.

“It’s really fun. It’s really cool to step into an adult’s shoes and understand all the finances and have a cool simulation of how it will be,” says Shaheera Kamin, a 13-year-old eighth grader at Frost Middle School. She spent the day as a 22-year-old single accountant raising a 2-year-old child. Salary: $98,000.

Her fellow student, Oscar Persky, 13, spent the day as a 28-year-old designer, also single and raising a 6-year-old child. Salary: $48,000.

His take on the day?

“I thought when it came time to pay my bills when I was an adult, all I’d have to say is, ‘I want this car, I want this thing and I want this house,’ and it’d be like that, but you have to account for taxes and if you have a spouse or kids, so I didn’t realize how hard that was going to be.”

Both agree the cost of, well, lots of things, were surprising.

Says Persky: “I didn’t realize how much transportation costs. You have to decide whether you want public transportation and I don’t know how I’m going to decide between buying a car and public transportation, and then you have to account for if you have a spouse and if you have kids and I don’t know how I’m going to get my child to elementary school.”

Adds Kamin: “Day care is really, really expensive. It can get up to $1,000 a month and I have a 2-year-old child, so I’m going to be paying that for a long time.”

For Persky and Kamin, and the thousands of eighth graders that go through Finance Park’s doors each year, it’s just the first stop on their financial literacy journey in school. But it’s clear the lesson has already made an impact.

“Knowing all the different places your money is going to, not just a house and a car,” was a surprise, says Kamin. “There are so many more things than that.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Here’s how to set up a college savings plan for your child

Westlake Legal Group college-savings-plan-feautre-blacksalmon Here’s how to set up a college savings plan for your child Virginia 529 university universities Savings public college private education private college money Family Education College Savings college children Budget
© blacksalmon / stock.adobe.com

There’s no getting around it: College is expensive. 

There’s tuition (in state and out of state), room and board, textbooks, additional fees … you get the point. For some local residents who have children enrolled in private school, paying out of pocket for these costs won’t come as a surprise, but for those helping their soon-to-be adult children make the transition into college life from public school, this could be one of the biggest financial endeavors you face as a family. 

With the start of a new year and (potentially) the need for a new family budget, we spoke with two local financial advisers about everything you need to know in order to start saving for your child’s education—the right way. 

Travis Russell, CFP, is a principal and client adviser from Glassman Wealth Services, and Brett Bernstein is the CEO and co-founder of XML Financial Group. Both have shared their knowledge and experience in the highlights below. 

First things first, what options do readers have in terms of saving for college?

TR: The two most common savings options for children are the college 529 savings plans and the Uniform Transfers to Minor Act (UTMA) accounts.

The Virginia 529 college savings plan is the more popular option, and generally the type of account we recommend individuals use for college savings. While individuals from any state can open a Virginia 529 account, the owner must be a Virginia resident to receive a tax deduction. Individuals can receive a Virginia state tax deduction equal to the lesser of their contribution or $4,000 per account. Individuals over 70 can receive an unlimited state tax deduction based on their contributions, which can be a great savings opportunity for grandparents. Additionally, the growth on the assets within the account is withdrawn tax-free if the assets are used for qualified education expenses.

On the other hand, UTMA accounts are taxable accounts, meaning annual dividends and interest are subject to tax, and the assets within the account must be distributed to the child upon reaching age 21 in most states. Many parents are not comfortable with 21-year-old children having complete control of the money, and we see that as the primary drawback for these types of accounts. The benefit of the UTMA account is additional flexibility to use the money for purposes other than education. 

BB: Another way is prepaid, for example at the University of Maryland, where you pay for the education up front and in advance. But we tend to avoid suggesting those because, long story short, a lot of the prepaid plans don’t have to give you as much money as the plan earns. The nice thing about it is you know your child is going to go to the state school, but that doesn’t mean the investment was worth it in the long run. 

Out of all of the college savings options, which do you find to be the most effective?

TR: The 529 account is likely the best savings option for individuals in Virginia. Virginia 529 options can be opened online or through American Funds with the help of a financial adviser. Both platforms provide extensive investment options, and, if utilizing American Funds, we recommend utilizing the lowest cost share class available. The account can be used to fund all qualified educational expenses for college—both undergraduate and graduate programs. Additionally, 529s can now be used to fund tuition costs for private K through 12th grade educational programs, up to $10,000 per child per year.

BB: The Virginia 529 plan for college and other educational expenses is the best one. 

Other than simply having money set aside for your children to go to college, what are the benefits of saving money for tuition and fees in the future?

TR: The real benefit of saving for your children while they’re young is the potential tax-free growth within a 529 account. As the kids grow older and college grows closer, there is less time for the assets to grow, so it’s important to save early. The compound growth can be significant if saving starts at a young age.

BB: The power of compounding is invaluable. When kids get into the college years, it’s sometimes the biggest expenditure years for parents, especially if you have multiple kids. And with the cost of schools now, you could have a $40,000, $50,000 or even $80,0000 tuition per year. Parents could have to refinance their homes, take out an equity line or put the child into debt. But if you start early and do your planning, you could avoid that. The first question I always ask is, “What’s your goal?” If someone would rather have retirement goals and do what they can afford to do, that’s fine. Or maybe they do what they can do to make sure their child has no debt, that works too.  

What should readers know about setting themselves up to save, even if it’s not thousands of dollars each year?

TR: Like most savings strategies, there is nothing wrong with starting small and gradually increasing the savings amount. Starting with $50 or $100 per month adds up over time. 

BB: Nothing’s too small, the power of compounding is very powerful, and every situation is different. It’s about doing the best that you can for savings. Most people are never going to be able to put away enough to cover it all (tuition, room and board, expenses, etc.). When we do planning, I show parents the numbers. A lot of parents will estimate their child’s college costs and say, “Let’s say $50,000.” In today’s dollars (and with tuition increases in the future), the plan will show you that you would probably need to be saving $1,500 to $2,000 a month. Most people can’t do that, but if you take the approach of doing the best that you can and then supplement (with loans, cash at-hand, etc.) when the time comes, at least you’re not coming in empty-handed. 

Lastly, what is the best way to start talking to your children about the financial responsibility of college?
TR: Whether it’s college savings or finances in general, early conversations about savings, investments, budgeting and more can be extremely impactful as the kids become young adults. Opening up Roth IRA accounts with earnings from high school jobs, using websites like Mint to track spending, teaching kids about philanthropy or even adding them as an authorized credit card user to teach them about credit can be great lessons prior to heading off to college.

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Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Here’s how to set up a college savings plan for your child

Westlake Legal Group college-savings-plan-feautre-blacksalmon Here’s how to set up a college savings plan for your child Virginia 529 university universities Savings public college private education private college money Family Education College Savings college children Budget
© blacksalmon / stock.adobe.com

There’s no getting around it: College is expensive. 

There’s tuition (in state and out of state), room and board, textbooks, additional fees … you get the point. For some local residents who have children enrolled in private school, paying out of pocket for these costs won’t come as a surprise, but for those helping their soon-to-be adult children make the transition into college life from public school, this could be one of the biggest financial endeavors you face as a family. 

With the start of a new year and (potentially) the need for a new family budget, we spoke with two local financial advisers about everything you need to know in order to start saving for your child’s education—the right way. 

Travis Russell, CFP, is a principal and client adviser from Glassman Wealth Services, and Brett Bernstein is the CEO and co-founder of XML Financial Group. Both have shared their knowledge and experience in the highlights below. 

First things first, what options do readers have in terms of saving for college?

TR: The two most common savings options for children are the college 529 savings plans and the Uniform Transfers to Minor Act (UTMA) accounts.

The Virginia 529 college savings plan is the more popular option, and generally the type of account we recommend individuals use for college savings. While individuals from any state can open a Virginia 529 account, the owner must be a Virginia resident to receive a tax deduction. Individuals can receive a Virginia state tax deduction equal to the lesser of their contribution or $4,000 per account. Individuals over 70 can receive an unlimited state tax deduction based on their contributions, which can be a great savings opportunity for grandparents. Additionally, the growth on the assets within the account is withdrawn tax-free if the assets are used for qualified education expenses.

On the other hand, UTMA accounts are taxable accounts, meaning annual dividends and interest are subject to tax, and the assets within the account must be distributed to the child upon reaching age 21 in most states. Many parents are not comfortable with 21-year-old children having complete control of the money, and we see that as the primary drawback for these types of accounts. The benefit of the UTMA account is additional flexibility to use the money for purposes other than education. 

BB: Another way is prepaid, for example at the University of Maryland, where you pay for the education up front and in advance. But we tend to avoid suggesting those because, long story short, a lot of the prepaid plans don’t have to give you as much money as the plan earns. The nice thing about it is you know your child is going to go to the state school, but that doesn’t mean the investment was worth it in the long run. 

Out of all of the college savings options, which do you find to be the most effective?

TR: The 529 account is likely the best savings option for individuals in Virginia. Virginia 529 options can be opened online or through American Funds with the help of a financial adviser. Both platforms provide extensive investment options, and, if utilizing American Funds, we recommend utilizing the lowest cost share class available. The account can be used to fund all qualified educational expenses for college—both undergraduate and graduate programs. Additionally, 529s can now be used to fund tuition costs for private K through 12th grade educational programs, up to $10,000 per child per year.

BB: The Virginia 529 plan for college and other educational expenses is the best one. 

Other than simply having money set aside for your children to go to college, what are the benefits of saving money for tuition and fees in the future?

TR: The real benefit of saving for your children while they’re young is the potential tax-free growth within a 529 account. As the kids grow older and college grows closer, there is less time for the assets to grow, so it’s important to save early. The compound growth can be significant if saving starts at a young age.

BB: The power of compounding is invaluable. When kids get into the college years, it’s sometimes the biggest expenditure years for parents, especially if you have multiple kids. And with the cost of schools now, you could have a $40,000, $50,000 or even $80,0000 tuition per year. Parents could have to refinance their homes, take out an equity line or put the child into debt. But if you start early and do your planning, you could avoid that. The first question I always ask is, “What’s your goal?” If someone would rather have retirement goals and do what they can afford to do, that’s fine. Or maybe they do what they can do to make sure their child has no debt, that works too.  

What should readers know about setting themselves up to save, even if it’s not thousands of dollars each year?

TR: Like most savings strategies, there is nothing wrong with starting small and gradually increasing the savings amount. Starting with $50 or $100 per month adds up over time. 

BB: Nothing’s too small, the power of compounding is very powerful, and every situation is different. It’s about doing the best that you can for savings. Most people are never going to be able to put away enough to cover it all (tuition, room and board, expenses, etc.). When we do planning, I show parents the numbers. A lot of parents will estimate their child’s college costs and say, “Let’s say $50,000.” In today’s dollars (and with tuition increases in the future), the plan will show you that you would probably need to be saving $1,500 to $2,000 a month. Most people can’t do that, but if you take the approach of doing the best that you can and then supplement (with loans, cash at-hand, etc.) when the time comes, at least you’re not coming in empty-handed. 

Lastly, what is the best way to start talking to your children about the financial responsibility of college?
TR: Whether it’s college savings or finances in general, early conversations about savings, investments, budgeting and more can be extremely impactful as the kids become young adults. Opening up Roth IRA accounts with earnings from high school jobs, using websites like Mint to track spending, teaching kids about philanthropy or even adding them as an authorized credit card user to teach them about credit can be great lessons prior to heading off to college.

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Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

10 free events in NoVA to get your child excited about reading

Westlake Legal Group kids-reading-on-floor-story-time-feature 10 free events in NoVA to get your child excited about reading Things to Do Reading Workshops reading manassas loudoun county Learning. kids family friendly events Family Features Family fairfax Events Education arlington alexandria
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The New Year is upon us and it seems that everyone and their mother has a book suggestion. 

You may be wondering, what books should your kids be reading? Sure, they’ve probably read a good stack for school this year. But if you’re looking for ways to get them more interested, excited or confident in reading, here are 10 local events to attend this month.

Ukulele Storytime
Wednesday, Jan. 15, 10:30-11 a.m.
What’s better than getting to listen to a story with your kids? Getting to hear music to go along with it, of course! Let your child listen to a few stories while live music is played by the Northern Virginia Ukulele Society musicians. From infants to 5-year-olds, this story time will have them singing, laughing, clapping and learning along at Fairfax County Library. // Burke Centre Library: 5935 Freds Oak Road, Burke; free

Barnes & Noble Story Time: Baby & Me
Friday, Jan. 17, 11 a.m.
Most little movers or stroller riders aren’t quite old enough to sit for an entire story time, but luckily, this one is designed just for them. Every Friday at the Tysons Corner Center Barnes & Noble, local families can bring their babies to enjoy interactive activities and board books for all. // Barnes & Noble at Tysons Corner Center: 7851 Tysons Corner Center, McLean; free

Barnes & Noble Storytime: Nobody Hugs a Cactus
Saturday, Jan. 18, 11 a.m.
With hands-on activities and an intimate story time with local residents, even the littlest Northern Virginians can learn from a story about the prickliest cactus in the entire world. With lessons on the reality of loneliness for kids, as well as how to make friends and accept one another, this story will be sure to inspire you and your children while being a fun morning outing in January. // Barnes & Noble at Fair Lakes Promenade: 12193 Fair Lakes Promenade Drive, Fairfax; free

Seniors & Kids Pajama Story Time
Jan. 21, 6:30-7 p.m.
Everyone loves a good story before bed, and this intergenerational program brings together the love of reading to all ages through read-aloud stories, songs, rhymes and activities. Families are encouraged to participate together, borrow books they want to read and wear their favorite pajamas to the local library. // Arlington Central Library: 1015 N. Quincy St., Arlington; free

Stories to Grow On
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 11-11:45 a.m.
Meant for children up to age 5, this story time is not to “sit still and listen.” Through language development, large motor skills and social growth, little attendees will get to move, act, sing, dance and play while listening to a chosen story. Plus, yoga and take-home crafts are often themed with the story to help with all-around learning. // Kate Waller Barrett Branch Library: 717 Queen St., Alexandria; free

Paws to Read
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Having open ears to listen while you read, especially when they’re patient while you learn, is priceless. Let your child practice reading out loud to local therapy dogs, and not only will they get in their much-needed practice times, they’ll get puppy hugs and kisses too. This event is meant for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. // Shirlington Branch Library: 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington; free

Reading Buddies in Loudoun County
Thursday, Jan. 23, 4:30-5:30 p.m.
Learning to read doesn’t always mean your child is going to love to read (It’s a tough process, remember?). Let your child, from preschool through second grade, pair up with a local teen in order to learn to build their reading confidence and develop a better relationship with the activity. This one-on-one reading time will be beneficial to all. // Brambleton Library: 22850 Brambleton Plaza, Bambleton; free

Barnes & Noble Storytime: How to Catch a Dragon
Saturday, Jan. 25, 11 a.m.
In honor of the Lunar New Year, the Manassas Barnes & Noble location will be hosting a silly story time for kids, where they will learn how the dragon will avoid trap after trap in order to be fully trained, and they will get to try it for themselves! Hear the story and let your little ones get past the paper lanterns, red envelopes, fireworks and more. Plus, color your very own paper lantern to take home in time for the holiday. // Barnes & Noble at Westgate Plaza: 8117 Sudley Road, Manassas; free

Spanish Circle Time / El Circulo de Cuentos en Español
Monday, Jan. 27, 11-11:45 a.m.
Whether your child’s first language is Spanish or they’re in the process of learning, Spanish Circle Time with Ms. Roxana, also known as Señora Roxana, allows local little ones of all ages to hear story time in Spanish, from beloved classic kids’ books to those that may have never been heard of before. // Bull Run Regional Library: 8051 Ashton Ave., Manassas; free

Reading Tails: Read to Animals at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter
Sunday, Feb. 9, 4-5:30 p.m.
Help your child learn to love to read and help local shelter pets at this 90-minute program hosted by Fairfax County Animal Shelter. Local children of all reading ages are welcome to participate in Reading Tails, where they will get a tour of the shelter with behind-the-scenes areas and adoption facilities, as well as 30 minutes to read aloud to the shelter dogs and cats before they settle in for bed. Small flashlights and cozy blankets are provided. // Fairfax County Animal Shelter: 4500 W. Ox Road, Fairfax; free

For more family-friendly events (especially the free ones!) sent straight to your inbox, subscribe to our weekly Family e-newsletter. 

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Here’s how to help your kids have a successful second semester

Westlake Legal Group private-school-students Here’s how to help your kids have a successful second semester Students second semester parenting middle school high school Family elementary school Education
©Rawpixel.com/adobe.stock.com

From the Publishers of Northern Virginia Magazine // Written by Jess Feldman and Jennifer Zeleski

The holiday break is a great time for kids to relax with their family, either at home or under a warm sun on vacation, following a semester of hard work in the classroom. And while one to three weeks away may not seem like a very long time, it is just long enough for young children and teens alike to sway from their typical academic routines.

Plus, the celebrations have officially diminished and the reality of a new year is setting in, leaving kids both excited and nervous for what lies ahead. Whether you’re hoping to ignite your child’s motivation or are interested in maintaining healthy habits as an entire family, here’s everything you need to know before leading your kids into 2020.

How to Avoid the Second-Semester Slump

From setting reading goals to finishing up those final few college applications, here are a handful of ways to keep your kids motivated for the rest of the school year.

Goal setting is an essential part of academic success. Students of all ages can benefit from learning the importance of focusing, measuring progress and sticking to deadlines. Here are some essential tools to help you set realistic goals with your kids of all ages.

Elementary School

Ages 4 to 7
Maybe your growing child has already learned how to read more than a few pages at a time, or is impressing family members with their extensive vocabulary. Maybe they’ve even exceeded expectations on progress reports, and gone further than counting their fingers.

Whatever they might have accomplished this year, there is still more to to learn during the remainder of the school year, and to prepare for the next grade ahead.

Pre-K through first grade can be a real transition period for your child. There are lots of big changes happening, from adjusting their half-day kindergarten schedules to full-day first grade, to getting them used to hopping on and off the bus.

To keep young students engaged in laying the foundation of their educational journey, be sure to check in with a few of the following:

    • What are the goals their teacher(s) are hoping they will accomplish prior to the end of the year?
    • Is your child continuing to practice their reading and writing skills each day?
    • Is your child getting enough physical exercise and playtime?

The first will ensure that your child is keeping up with the pace of their daily subjects and engaging in their activities. Setting simple goals, such as drawing, coloring or writing for 10 to 15 minutes each day after dinner, or setting a reading goal each month (say, one book per day), can help your child retain lessons through memory and practice.

When it comes to physical activity goals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a minimum of one hour of physical activity for children. Not only will setting this physical goal help your child understand how to move, adapt and control their body, it will also continue to teach them the importance of playing, communicating and spending time away from electronic devices.

Elementary and Middle School

Ages 8 to 13
Late elementary school lessons and early middle school classes are yet another time of transition for your child, but with a higher emphasis on curriculum and challenging coursework. Goals should become bigger, but still attainable.

To continue to keep your child engaged, check in with the following:

    • Are they continuing to grow at the desired pace of the teacher, without feeling overwhelmed?
    • How are their personal goals adapting over time?
    • Do they have other interests that could benefit from goal setting?

For late elementary-aged students, focus on setting goals such as reading one book per genre in their school’s library, or making and sticking to a plan to stay organized (Let’s not lose those glasses again!). Remember to establish small goals that help create better habits.Setting bigger goals, such as spending time volunteering or joining a school club, and maintaining that commitment, should be introduced to encourage and teach them how to serve others, as well as how lessons can reach beyond the classroom.

It is also important to note that goals should take place in sports and extracurricular activities as well. As your child grows within their sport or activity, help them identify goals that aren’t simply “winning a game” or “attending practice.”

Aside from a potential boost on their report card, setting goals for your child’s extracurricular activites will help them develop a broader perspective of how their behavior and motivation affect their overall development.

High School

Ages 14 to 18
It’s important to remember that with high school classes and schedules, your child’s goals will probably look quite different, but they are even more important now than they have been before.

Although your influence on your child’s goal setting is now a bit more hands-off, check in with the following:

    • What bigger goals can your child work on to benefit them in the future of their educational journey?
    • Are they obtaining their goals in a healthy, realistic manner?
    • What’s next? College? A gap year? Vocational training?

Bigger goals, such as maintaining high grades can be stressful, but are still attainable. Help your child break the bigger goals into smaller pieces by setting aside a dedicated amount of time each day for them to study or practice a certain subject, assisting them in seeking extra help when they need it, and keeping the lines of communication open about potential challenges or obstacles along the way.

Other goals should include maintaining a regular sleep schedule to ensure proper rest, having time set aside to hang out with friends and thinking about their college plans.
If your child is in the process of applying for college, be sure to set realistic goals on submitting applications on time, getting recommendation letters and doing extra research on the schools they are interested in attending.

Westlake Legal Group backpack Here’s how to help your kids have a successful second semester Students second semester parenting middle school high school Family elementary school Education
adobe.stock.com

By the Numbers

  • About 56.6 million students are currently enrolled in elementary, middle and high schools across the United States, according to National Center for Education Statistics. (5.8 million students in private school, of that number)
  • 3.7 million students are expected to graduate from high school during the 2019-2020 school year, including 300,000 from private schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
  • According to a 2015 study by psychologist Gail Matthews, those who wrote down their goals were 33% more likely to be successful in achieving them than those who formulate outcomes in their heads.

3 Ways to Increase Motivation

By inspiring ideas in the home, you’ll inspire results in the classroom too.

Set Goals
Teaching goal setting when kids are young impacts general learning and self-evaluation. When children have the chance to set parameters for themselves, they feel a sense of responsibility to that desired ambition, whatever it may be. This year, make an effort to write down personal goals with your child on a regular basis.

Develop Your Child’s Strengths
While teachers work to develop all essential learning skills, it’s important to take the time to encourage your child to practice whatever subject they enjoy the most at home. Even if they didn’t ace that science test, they may have written a poem that received a standing ovation in English class. In addition to that assigned practice test, get them a notebook and set aside time to write, ultimately developing their interest into a passion outside of school.

Have Consistent, Meaningful Conversations
If becoming intrinsically motivated is practiced from a young age, then the general completion of tasks throughout one’s life becomes a lot easier. Studies show that having meaningful, one-on-one conversations with your child can be crucial for tapping into intrinsic motivation. By asking children how a certain event made them feel, you are encouraging them to think deeper and, in turn, care more, both at home with your family and in the classroom with their peers.

This post originally appeared in our January 2020 issue. Want more education news, tips and profiles? Subscribe to our Education e-newsletter.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Here’s how to help your kids have a successful second semester

Westlake Legal Group private-school-students Here’s how to help your kids have a successful second semester Students second semester parenting middle school high school Family elementary school Education
©Rawpixel.com/adobe.stock.com

From the Publishers of Northern Virginia Magazine // Written by Jess Feldman and Jennifer Zeleski

The holiday break is a great time for kids to relax with their family, either at home or under a warm sun on vacation, following a semester of hard work in the classroom. And while one to three weeks away may not seem like a very long time, it is just long enough for young children and teens alike to sway from their typical academic routines.

Plus, the celebrations have officially diminished and the reality of a new year is setting in, leaving kids both excited and nervous for what lies ahead. Whether you’re hoping to ignite your child’s motivation or are interested in maintaining healthy habits as an entire family, here’s everything you need to know before leading your kids into 2020.

How to Avoid the Second-Semester Slump

From setting reading goals to finishing up those final few college applications, here are a handful of ways to keep your kids motivated for the rest of the school year.

Goal setting is an essential part of academic success. Students of all ages can benefit from learning the importance of focusing, measuring progress and sticking to deadlines. Here are some essential tools to help you set realistic goals with your kids of all ages.

Elementary School

Ages 4 to 7
Maybe your growing child has already learned how to read more than a few pages at a time, or is impressing family members with their extensive vocabulary. Maybe they’ve even exceeded expectations on progress reports, and gone further than counting their fingers.

Whatever they might have accomplished this year, there is still more to to learn during the remainder of the school year, and to prepare for the next grade ahead.

Pre-K through first grade can be a real transition period for your child. There are lots of big changes happening, from adjusting their half-day kindergarten schedules to full-day first grade, to getting them used to hopping on and off the bus.

To keep young students engaged in laying the foundation of their educational journey, be sure to check in with a few of the following:

    • What are the goals their teacher(s) are hoping they will accomplish prior to the end of the year?
    • Is your child continuing to practice their reading and writing skills each day?
    • Is your child getting enough physical exercise and playtime?

The first will ensure that your child is keeping up with the pace of their daily subjects and engaging in their activities. Setting simple goals, such as drawing, coloring or writing for 10 to 15 minutes each day after dinner, or setting a reading goal each month (say, one book per day), can help your child retain lessons through memory and practice.

When it comes to physical activity goals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a minimum of one hour of physical activity for children. Not only will setting this physical goal help your child understand how to move, adapt and control their body, it will also continue to teach them the importance of playing, communicating and spending time away from electronic devices.

Elementary and Middle School

Ages 8 to 13
Late elementary school lessons and early middle school classes are yet another time of transition for your child, but with a higher emphasis on curriculum and challenging coursework. Goals should become bigger, but still attainable.

To continue to keep your child engaged, check in with the following:

    • Are they continuing to grow at the desired pace of the teacher, without feeling overwhelmed?
    • How are their personal goals adapting over time?
    • Do they have other interests that could benefit from goal setting?

For late elementary-aged students, focus on setting goals such as reading one book per genre in their school’s library, or making and sticking to a plan to stay organized (Let’s not lose those glasses again!). Remember to establish small goals that help create better habits.Setting bigger goals, such as spending time volunteering or joining a school club, and maintaining that commitment, should be introduced to encourage and teach them how to serve others, as well as how lessons can reach beyond the classroom.

It is also important to note that goals should take place in sports and extracurricular activities as well. As your child grows within their sport or activity, help them identify goals that aren’t simply “winning a game” or “attending practice.”

Aside from a potential boost on their report card, setting goals for your child’s extracurricular activites will help them develop a broader perspective of how their behavior and motivation affect their overall development.

High School

Ages 14 to 18
It’s important to remember that with high school classes and schedules, your child’s goals will probably look quite different, but they are even more important now than they have been before.

Although your influence on your child’s goal setting is now a bit more hands-off, check in with the following:

    • What bigger goals can your child work on to benefit them in the future of their educational journey?
    • Are they obtaining their goals in a healthy, realistic manner?
    • What’s next? College? A gap year? Vocational training?

Bigger goals, such as maintaining high grades can be stressful, but are still attainable. Help your child break the bigger goals into smaller pieces by setting aside a dedicated amount of time each day for them to study or practice a certain subject, assisting them in seeking extra help when they need it, and keeping the lines of communication open about potential challenges or obstacles along the way.

Other goals should include maintaining a regular sleep schedule to ensure proper rest, having time set aside to hang out with friends and thinking about their college plans.
If your child is in the process of applying for college, be sure to set realistic goals on submitting applications on time, getting recommendation letters and doing extra research on the schools they are interested in attending.

Westlake Legal Group backpack Here’s how to help your kids have a successful second semester Students second semester parenting middle school high school Family elementary school Education
adobe.stock.com

By the Numbers

  • About 56.6 million students are currently enrolled in elementary, middle and high schools across the United States, according to National Center for Education Statistics. (5.8 million students in private school, of that number)
  • 3.7 million students are expected to graduate from high school during the 2019-2020 school year, including 300,000 from private schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
  • According to a 2015 study by psychologist Gail Matthews, those who wrote down their goals were 33% more likely to be successful in achieving them than those who formulate outcomes in their heads.

3 Ways to Increase Motivation

By inspiring ideas in the home, you’ll inspire results in the classroom too.

Set Goals
Teaching goal setting when kids are young impacts general learning and self-evaluation. When children have the chance to set parameters for themselves, they feel a sense of responsibility to that desired ambition, whatever it may be. This year, make an effort to write down personal goals with your child on a regular basis.

Develop Your Child’s Strengths
While teachers work to develop all essential learning skills, it’s important to take the time to encourage your child to practice whatever subject they enjoy the most at home. Even if they didn’t ace that science test, they may have written a poem that received a standing ovation in English class. In addition to that assigned practice test, get them a notebook and set aside time to write, ultimately developing their interest into a passion outside of school.

Have Consistent, Meaningful Conversations
If becoming intrinsically motivated is practiced from a young age, then the general completion of tasks throughout one’s life becomes a lot easier. Studies show that having meaningful, one-on-one conversations with your child can be crucial for tapping into intrinsic motivation. By asking children how a certain event made them feel, you are encouraging them to think deeper and, in turn, care more, both at home with your family and in the classroom with their peers.

This post originally appeared in our January 2020 issue. Want more education news, tips and profiles? Subscribe to our Education e-newsletter.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com