Parents Smarten Up About Education. You’ll Never Guess What Happens Next…

Of the recent reviews and feedback on our recent book Smart Parents: Parenting for Powerful Learning, this is our favorite to date. Its honesty, humanness and authenticity is why we are elated to share this. This blog was originally published on Medium by Jonathan Oglesby, the changemaker behind imaginED.

Jonathan Oglesby

tl;dr — I am a great dresser and need zero help in that department. I was/am a lousy student and look for inspiration from anyone who will share as I attempt to juggle being “Cool Dad” and “Concerned Dad” along my kids’ education journey…


I am not the best parent in the world. It’s not a problem, though. Apparently, my wife was engineered from birth to be a mother, so I get to take advantage of drafting behind her in the parenting race.

And somehow the boys survive.

I am a great playmate. I research and share information about whichever obsession-of-the-week has drilled itself into the boys’ brains. I enjoy Yo Gabba Gabba and Teen Titans Go! more than almost any kid I’ve ever met. I make pretty good pancakes. I can hold more pop culture trivia in my brain at one time than is deemed healthy for a single individual by the Surgeon General. I can juggle.

But you put two boys with ADD and a dad with ADD into a room or on a project together for too long and the result is often complete disaster.

What was I saying? Oh, yeah…

So I’m more of a sideline coach and I let Mom mix it up on the field. I work the overall strategy and give pep talks. And I know deep down (way deep, like where it can never be seen or shown or acknowledged — but, trust me, it’s there) she appreciates my armchair quarterback reactions to her parenting decisions. #Teamwork!

There are two areas of the transition from my wheeling the boys around in a stroller to their wheeling me around in a chair, however, for which I will always step up to the plate. (How many different sports metaphors can you find in here? Quiz at the end.)

First, if they don’t learn how to dress properly right from the very beginning, they will be doomed. This goes for all children. So I am totally serious about them knowing which attire is appropriate for what/when/where and that I don’t think hoodies are a good look for anyone (sorry, Silicon Valley and every sullen emo kid ever). Just to add to this tangent, if I had daughters, the same would go for Uggs. Not cool.

Still here? Good.

Their education is the other area in which I am overly involved (at least, as far as they’re concerned). Unfortunately, while I am a snappy dresser (no, you don’t need to confirm that with anyone), school was never my thing. My complete disengagement from my own education is the very reason I work to make sure all kids have access to learning environments that motivate them (as individuals) to achieve all they possibly can.

But life is busy and education/school/learning is a really big thing and where do I/we start?

Well, my techniques have included awkwardly cornering people at conferences, hijacking conversations with experts, deep diving into white papers, and making sarcastic requests for information from teachers and administrators. But that’s just me. I know many of my friends-with-kids are doing the same/different/more for their own families. Parents are hungry for information (and not just the magic solution to helping their children figure out Common Core math homework assignments — trust me, this is an unintended consequence of an otherwise super-important policy shift that I will someday develop a solution for… and make a bajillion gazillion dollars off of).

Is this going anywhere, you might be asking. Yes. Ready? Go!

(Understanding) > (Knowledge)

I thought you said this was going somewhere…


If, like me, you pretend to, but do not actually have all of the answers (and don’t be ashamed of it), run, don’t walk, out (or in) and grab a copy of Smart Parents: Parenting for Powerful Learning by Bonnie Lathram, Carri Schneider, and Tom Vander Ark.

(insert link to the book here)

Got it? Good.

There is truth to be found in the strategy of surrounding yourself with smart people in order to achieve success. And they’re all there in the copy of Smart Parents you just picked up (or will). And they’ve all asked, answered, or considered the very same questions you are mulling as your kids totter or shuffle or drive off to school each day. How do we make this work (for all of them)? How should a classroom feel? What does learning sound like? Is technology a boon or a burden? How do I advocate for my kid without being labeled “that parent” in the teachers lounge? What was that I saw them serving in the cafeteria last week? (Okay, maybe that one’s not in the book — but it’s definitely an important question.)

Could you use some advice from some/many of the top minds in education today? How about some context-setting commentary by folks on the front line of both the now and the future of “school”? Could you just admit that you might possibly benefit from a better understanding of phrases such as “personalized learning”, “competency education”, and “blended learning” already? Sure you/we could. Whether you/we need a life raft or just a swim lesson, it’s all in there (I promise!)

Look, my parents didn’t need a guide to my education. Because they understood my school experience as intimately as they did their own. Just as my grandparents understood my parents’ school experience as intimately as they did their own. Because they were so similar as to be indistinguishable. Because the only differences were the wars crammed into the end of each history course or the slight alterations in maps for their geography lessons. There was no difference in how they were taught or where they were taught or when they were taught.

We don’t have that luxury. If classrooms in your local schools aren’t very different than your own were, they soon will be. We need to catch/keep up. It’s our responsibility as parents (and as adults concerned about the future of our communities). We all need a little help along the way. It’s okay.

There are reflections, strategies, and checklists in Smart Parents that you can use right now (and well into the future). And if you aren’t jealous of the possibilities open to your/our kids in the schools of today/tomorrow, then, I’m sorry, you didn’t read the book all the way through. We all need a game plan ( ← See that? Yet another sportsball reference! Keeping track?). Smart Parents offers you the inspiration and foundation you need to develop yours.

I am motivated (usually by fact that I live with a six and nine year-old who act like a cross between grumpy old men and surly teenagers when it comes to getting ready for school in the morning and doing their homework at night). And now I/we have a resource to help me/us #smartnup.

(Won’t the boys be thrilled?)

This blog is part of our Smart Parents blog series and book, Smart Parents: Parenting for Powerful Learning in partnership with The Nellie Mae Education Foundation. For more information, please see our Smart Parents: Parenting for Powerful Learning page. To learn more, see:

Jonathan Oglesby is a Strategist with imaginED. Follow Jonathan on Twitter, @oglesbyj.

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