Millions of kids are back in school. For some it will be the start of a long educational journey, while others have already been in the system and are moving up to the next grade. Parents expect their children’s teachers to educate their kids, supervise their safety and keep them abreast of any changes or concerns they may see in their child’s behavior. Fair enough.
But what obligations should a parent have to their child’s education and school life? Many send their kids off to school and that’s that. Studies have shown and common sense tells you that the more involved a parent is with a child’s education at home and in school; the better a child learns and progresses.
Research has shown that children of involved parents are absent less frequently, behave better, make better grades from pre-school through high school and go farther in school.
They are often more socially mature and have a better sense of who they are.
The benefits don’t stop at school. A home environment that encourages learning is more important than parents' income, education level, or cultural background. By actively participating in their child's education at home and in school, parents send some critical messages to their child; they're demonstrating their interest in his/her activities and reinforcing the idea that school is valuable.
Not every parent has a lot of time they can spend with their child. The reality is that there are many single parent families. There are children who are being raised by a relative and children who are in foster care. Some schools are working on developing and implementing more flexible schedules that offer working parents options to spend extra time with their kids.
The National Education Association recommends some specific ways for parents to become more involved in their child's education.
- Read to your child. Reading aloud is the most important activity that parents can do to increase their child's chance of reading success
- Discuss the books and stories you read to your child
- Help your child organize his/her time
- Limit television viewing on school nights
- Talk to your child regularly about what's going on in school
- Check homework every night
Other tips for helping your child succeed in school come from teachers themselves.
- Teach your child to be prepared. No more excuses for late or not turned in homework
- Reinforce the importance of your child’s education. Whether you have a college degree, a high school education or dropped out let your child know that they are expected to complete school and continue with their education by either going to college or a trade school.
- Discuss newsworthy current events, and what is going on in your neighborhood, religious institution or pop culture. Listen to your child’s opinions with an open mind. Share your daily experiences in age appropriate language. The earlier a child feels an integral part of the family, the more they learn to value family, friends and others. Education includes a social awareness.
- Go directly to the teacher of you have questions about your child’s progress or lack their of in school. Establish a good relationship with all your child’s teachers. Know their names and what they expect form your child. Let them know what you expect of them.
- Don’t try to get your child out of detention. Allow your child to accept the consequences of their behavior. Too many parents make excuses for their children’s bad behavior instead of facing it head on. Bailing your child out takes away their ability to learn responsibility. It can become an ugly habit and deprive your child of the maturity he or she will need to handle difficult situations. We all know there will be plenty of difficult times in everybody's lives.
- Implement a consistent homework routine that focuses on relearning the day’s lessons.
- Respond to your school’s email and phone calls. Your child’s teacher is busy also and they wouldn’t be contacting you unless it was important. If you have concerns don’t wait to be contacted, be the one to reach out first.
- Volunteer. If at all possible volunteer to help with school or sports events. Showing your child that you are invested in them is the best way to teach them about unconditional love and sacrifice. Just knowing you care enough to give up some of your own precious time for them teaches them the true meaning of “I’ll always be there for you.”
When parents contribute effort and time, they have the opportunity to interact with teachers, administrators, and other parents. They can learn first-hand about the daily activities and the social culture of the school, both of which help them understand what their child's life is like.
Not every parent can be available for every school meeting or event. If you can’t make it, see if another family member or a close friend can be there in your place. For the 9 to 10 months that a child is in school – that is their world. Be a part of it, you’ll be glad you did and even if you get a little push back from your child, they’ll remember how much you cared when they're older and have kids of their own.
Sources: Anita Gurian PhD, http://www.aboutourkids.org/articles/involved_parents_hidden_resource_in_their_children039s_education
Pete Mason, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pete-mason/advice-from-teachers-to-p_b_3819530.html