By Dr. Bruce Machiafava
Parent involvement is an essential element in education today. Whether your child attends a public or private school, principals, teachers, and administrators devote much time and energy to involving parents in their children’s schools. A strong partnership between parents and the school leads to a higher rate of student success.
What makes parent engagement so crucial to student success? As Sunny P. Chico, the author of the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher 3-book set explains, "Over 92 percent of a child's life from birth to age 18 is spent at home or doing parent-approved activities. Only 8 percent of a child's life in the same time period is spent at school." With so much of a child's life influenced by parental decisions, our children will learn from our actions.
This learning begins at birth and continues right up to kindergarten. During these years children acquire an amazing amount of knowledge. They learn to walk, run, and play games and sports. They acquire a language (sometimes two), they learn to read, and they develop social skills. They explore their world, starting with what they see in their cribs and continuing through their home and neighborhood.
This is quite a curriculum. It can be very challenging for many parents. Unfortunately, most schools don’t become involved with these children until they are officially enrolled in school. So parents need to seek help in being the first teachers from social agencies, formal and informal groups of parents, family members and whatever help books and videos they can find.
Once the child enters school, the parent is largely relieved of the responsibility for formal education; the professional teachers take over. The parent’s role shifts to two major responsibilities: supporting the child in learning what is taught at school and advocating for the child with the school.
Supporting learning at home involves such activities as:
Insuring good health, seeing that the child eats properly and sleeps enough, making sure the backpack has the required books, pencils, assignments due, etc.
An Environment for Learning
This environment can be a room or a desk in a corner or the kitchen table. It must be free from TV, music, phones, and other distractions. Multitasking rarely works for studying.
Parents should guide and supervise a child’s homework but not do it. Know the assignment and the due date and check to see what grade the teacher gives.
Speak with the teacher on a regular basis, not just when there’s a problem. Advocating for one’s child may require intervening when grades are suffering or if a behavior problem has occurred. This doesn’t mean a confrontation with the teacher or the principal. Most issues can be resolved if the parent and the teacher or principal work together.
When parents partner with the school to continue classroom learning at home, students benefit. Reach out to your child's principal and teachers today to see how you can help at home.