WHEELING - If you wait until high school to teach your children the value of money, hard work and personal responsibility, it's probably too late. That's just one snippet of advice offered by Wheeling resident Debbie Joseph, who with her husband Dan, a local dentist, has raised four children - including triplets.
The Joseph family had all four of their children - Kristen, Craig, Annie and David - in different colleges across the country at one time. And while logistics alone created for some anxiety, Joseph said it was easier knowing that she and her husband did all they could to provide solid footing for their children to be on their own, away from home. They were involved in their children's school lives from the beginning.
"You can't wait until three months before they go off to college. You have to provide them wings way, way before that," Joseph said.
Parents preparing their children for college need to have “the talk” about handling money, sex and alcohol before they step onto a campus. Here, students at Wheeling Jesuit University chat between classes.
As youngsters, Joseph said her children learned to do laundry and how to make a pan of macaroni and cheese. And if they wanted something more costly than their allowance or what their parents had budgeted, she would work out a system of added chores they could do to pay off the balance of what they owed their parents.
"They learned the value of a dollar and if one of them wanted an expensive pair of basketball shoes or baseball cards, they had to pay the amount above what I was willing to pay," she said.
Joseph said some topics may be more difficult to talk about with your children, but it's absolutely necessary to discuss drinking, drugs and even sex.
"As for drinking, most all kids are going to drink in college but you have to emphasize moderation. Kids have to learn by example, and that does not include having alcohol parties in your home," Joseph said.
When packing for college, Joseph said experience dictates that students "take the least amount of stuff" because you can always fill in the smaller items at stores when they get to their college.
It is a good idea to make copies of all the items in a student's wallet, especially credit card numbers, student identification numbers and other information in the event the wallet is lost or stolen. Have extra keys made for vehicles and apartments that students can leave with a friend at school in the event he or she becomes locked out or loses a key.
While going to college is an exciting time for students, it's also a difficult time for many parents.
"I asked a wise older friend one time, 'When do you stop worrying about your kids?'" Joseph said. "She paused and then said, 'I'll let you know.'"
Education leaders throughout the country agree that preparing for a positive college experience begins in middle school. And by seventh and eighth grades, a student should be working with a guidance counselor to plan their high school courses. Research indicates students who complete algebra and geometry by the end of the ninth grade are more likely to go to college than those who do not. By taking these courses early, students are then prepared to take geometry, trigonometry, calculus and science courses in high school.
Colleges and universities today are seeking students who have taken challenging courses of math or foreign languages while in high school. College courses, more than ever, require a student to master their computer skills to further their education.
High schoolers should be encouraged to take Advanced Placement courses and exams as their schedule allows. Students who take AP courses are more prepared for the academic challenges they encounter in college and they can receive college credits for passing AP classes in high school.
Preparing for a technical school or community college also requires some extra effort to succeed. Professionals suggest high school students talk with a professor or guidance personnel at the community college or technical school to better familiarize themselves with the schools' expectations and entry requirements.
Educators agree children need parental involvement from the time they enter preschool to their college years. Reading to children during their early years is a key component to a child's educational process. As they get older, children should be encouraged to read to their parents.