No matter what your child’s age or your economic status, parent involvement in education is key. Researcher Joyce Epstein from the Partnership Center for the Social Organization of Schools identified six key ways that parents can get involved in their child’s education.
1. Parent Well:
The more you understand how to parent your child well, the more you can help your child succeed. Kids go through a lot of different developmental phases, and when you know how to work with those changes, you can help your child succeed.
2. Communicate Well:
Talk about what your child is experiencing at school every day. Go beyond the conversation of “How was school?” and the typical response of “Fine” or “Boring” or “Whatever.” Ask specific questions: “What was the most interesting thing you learned in school today?” “What did you like best about your day?” “What did you like least?” “What homework do you have?” “How can I help you with homework?”
3. Volunteer Well
Schools and classrooms are always looking for parent volunteers. You don’t need to volunteer much. In fact, many parents volunteer one or two hours during the entire school years. More active parent volunteers come into the classroom once a week. Talk with your child’s teacher for parent volunteer activities. Maybe you can read aloud to the class, help out with a class party, or assist the teacher in creating a bulletin board.
4. Help with Homework Well
Too many parents assume that they need to be content experts in order to help their kids with their homework. Not true. Most kids need a parent to help them get their homework organized, to make time and space to do homework, and to follow through with getting their homework done. Many teachers now have web sites where you can get information about homework and tips on how to help your child succeed.
5. Participate in Decision Making Well
Many schools have a Parent Teacher Association (PTA), Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), a Parent Student Teacher Organization (PTSO), or a parent advisory council or committee. These organizations and committees get parents involved in the decision-making aspect of the school. By getting involved in your child’s education in this way, you can feel more ownership of your child’s school and education.
6. Collaborate with Community Well
Many more schools are emphasizing partnerships and collaborations with businesses and community members. They’re discovered that the more the school is part of the community, the more the school and kids can succeed. Many parents have become involved in their child’s education in this way. Some parents are volunteers while others are business leaders.
Helping your child succeed in school does not mean that you’re required to do all six of these types of involvement. In fact, you can make a lot of impact on your child’s education by choosing one or two types of involvement. As a parent, I focus most of my involvement on 1. Parenting well, 2. Communicating well, and 4. Helping with homework well. I’ve been involved in both of my kids’ educations through the other three types of involvement, but those types of involvement aren’t daily like numbers 1, 2, and 4 are.
When I’m involved in my kids’ education on a daily basis, my kids quickly pick up that education matters in our family. In fact, they see their dad working on a graduate degree in the evening, and they also see me reading a lot and learning about new topics and strengthening my skills. As a family, we talk a lot about what’s going on in our community, our state, our country, and our world. All this makes them much more interested in learning and doing well in school. They see that everything is connected. When you act on your curiosity (and also encourage your kids to do so), your kids discover there’s so much to learn that’s fascinating.
1. School Success, ParentFurther.
2. Peter C. Scales and Nancy Leffert, Developmental Assets: A Synthesis of the Scientific Research on Adolescent Development (Minneapolis: Search Institute, 1999), 34-36.
3. Image via English106 on Flick’r.