As I write this article, we have just completed our 100th day of school. If you are a parent of a school aged child, when you read this article, you will have just had the opportunity to meet with his or her teacher at parent/teacher conferences to discuss your child’s progress. It is often during these points in the school year that parents reflect and ask themselves, “What can I do to help my child in school?” Every parent wants the best for their child and wants to be engaged in their education to support their learning and achievement. The challenge for many parents is figuring out what they can do and how they can get involved. Parents have busy schedules, including full time jobs and many activities, so finding time is also an issue. Involvement becomes different for every family, and doesn’t have to be limited to attending meetings or participating at school.
Parental involvement is one of the biggest factors in a child’s academic success. When parents are supportive and involved in their child’s education, children are more likely to do better in school, be better behaved, have more positive attitudes towards school, and grow up to be more successful in life. Involvement takes time and commitment, and how to accomplish that in a practical sense isn’t always easy. It goes beyond volunteering at school or helping with class parties.
Begin by establishing a routine that includes time for homework to get in the habit of making learning a priority. Take time to sit with your child while they do their homework, as they will find it easier to concentrate. Make sure that reading nightly is a part of the routine. Reading twenty minutes a day improves vocabulary, reading skills, and general knowledge. If your child is younger, read to them or take turns reading. If your child is older, have family reading time. Currently, Mexico Middle School’s Twitter challenge is encouraging middle school students to read thirty minutes a night. Parents can Tweet out or Facebook their child reading, using the hashtags #GetYour30In and #MakingMindsStronger. There may be occasions when you and your child learn together. As children get older, the strategies they learn change, and parents may not be familiar with them or know the answers. Don’t let that stop you from helping! Show them how to learn as you do it together. Or, let your child teach you. One of the best ways for them to reinforce their learning is to teach others; and how empowering to teach your mom or dad what you know!
Communication is key for involvement in your child’s education; with your child, the teacher and the school. How often do you hear “Nothing,” or “Not much,” when you ask your child what they learned or did at school that day? This leaves parents feeling frustrated or out of the loop. You can be a partner in your child’s learning by checking their backpack nightly and showing an interest in their schoolwork. You also partner with your child’s teacher to support them in their learning. It’s important to develop a relationship with the teacher and keep in touch with her or him often. You are your child’s best advocate. Be a voice for your child to ensure they have access to opportunities that will enable them to reach their full potential. All of our schools have an open-door policy. We want you to feel free to come visit your child’s class, eat lunch with us, or talk to us to share concerns and questions.
A fun way to be involved in your child’s learning is to make daily activities educational. Busy families spend a lot of time in the car, so take that opportunity to have your child read out loud to you, or play audio books with which they can follow along. Let your child help you cook by following a recipe and measuring the ingredients. Dictate a shopping list to your child and have them write down the items. Go to a sporting event and use the numbers on the scoreboard for math problems. Play games like Scrabble, Monopoly, Yahtzee, or Pictionary. There are also many educational websites and apps that making learning fun for children. These are just a few ideas for ways you can be actively involved in your child’s learning.
The most significant type of parent involvement is what families do at home. The work that is done at home and is connected to what kids are doing at school has the biggest impact on your child’s learning. By making learning a priority, communicating with your child and the teacher, and supporting learning with every day activities, you are helping ensure that your child has every opportunity for success.