By Cheryl Gochnauer
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The new school year is right over the horizon. One benefit of being a stay-at-home parent is having the flexibility to become more involved in our children's classrooms. But like any other endeavor, it's important to scope out the situation and see where we can be most effective.

I remember thinking that, in order to be a good homeroom parent, I needed to be able to bake elaborate cut-out cookies and fashion presentation-quality table decorations from doilies, glue and glitter. Since I hate to bake and have no artsy-crafty skills whatsoever, I began to dread the periodic calls for volunteers.

That is, until I learned a fundamental rule of parent participation: There's only one teacher, and 20-plus sets of parents. The teacher doesn't have time to discover our hidden talents. It's up to us to let the teacher know where we'd best fit in.

I'm a communicator, so instead of me bringing in some burnt-around-the-edges cookies or some donuts I bought at the grocery store, I should volunteer as a story-teller. Or a whip-'em-into-a-frenzy game coordinator.

However, I know a mom who can put together four loaves of the best banana bread you ever tasted in no time, and present it with a garnish. She loves to cook - and she should let the teacher know it. There's the cookie lady!

Then there's the woman who used to work at Hallmark, who can do amazing things with construction paper, scissors and a glue stick. She's a perfect candidate for the bulletin board or party decoration committee.

Find your niche, then jump right in. Your child and their teacher will love you for it. And be sure to volunteer for the daytime openings first, giving working moms a chance to help out with evening activities.

If a call for volunteers comes at a bad time, be gentle yet straightforward - you won't be able to help out this time. But keep a copy of the upcoming events schedule handy so you can say something like, "Christmas is really busy for me. But go ahead and put me down for the Valentine's party."

There are lots of ways a parent can participate in their child's classroom activities. Explore the various opportunities available to you. Volunteering is fun, once you find where you fit.

Copyright© 2000 Cheryl Gochnauer

Have you taken a look at Cheryl's book, "So You Want to Be a Stay-at-Home Mom?" Don't be fooled by the title - this inspirational book encourages working moms who want to come home someday, but ALSO helps parents already enjoying (or struggling with!) their at-home lifestyle. Request a copy at your local library, favorite bookstore, or online at

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