One of the most important things that parents can do to help their child succeed in school is to become involved in their education. Decades of research shows that parent involvement has a positive influence on students’ school performance and social emotional well being in school. This is the fifth installment of a series of blogs on things that parents can do to help their child succeed in school. Previous installments have discussed the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise, helping your child get enough sleep, a supportive relationship with your child, and encouraging successful study habits. In this blog I will discuss some things you can do right now to get involved in your child’s education.
When you hear the words “parent involvement”, people usually think about joining the PTA, volunteering in the classroom, or chaperoning field trips. These are great and important forms of parent involvement, but they are not the only ways you can be involved in your child’s education. Especially when you are working full time, it can be very challenging to find time to volunteer at your child’s school, or to even get time off work to do so. Luckily there are other ways you can be involved that are equally beneficial for your child’s education and success in school, many of which you can do at home.
Asking your child about what she learned in school shows her that you care about her education, even if she may not be very willing to share, or brush you off when you ask. It helps to ask more specific, rather than general questions, like: “How was your math test today?” or “What did you learn in Science today?” instead of: “How was your day at school?” Sharing your own stories about what your experience was in school, and how your education has benefitted your life, will help your child understand the value of education and the importance of working hard in school.
Beyond helping your child with homework, which is an important way to contribute to your child’s education, you can plan fun activities with your child that have educational value. You can watch a documentary together, visit a museum on the weekend, and read books with your child every day. Even when your child has already learned how to read, continuing to read to your child is beneficial, because it will expose your child to more sophisticated vocabulary. With older children and adolescents you can watch the news together or read newspaper articles together and discuss current events in politics and in the world. This will help your child learn about how our democracy works, and will help your child become aware of what is going on in the world. When you have discussions with your child, encourage your child to think critically about the arguments he uses to support his position. These are some examples of how you can expose your child to experiences in every day life that have educational value.
Finally, you can be involved in your child’s education by communicating with the teacher. Usually teachers will send home newsletters in your child’s backpack, or post assignments on the class webpage. Many teachers will have voicemail or email you can use to communicate with them. Unfortunately in many cases parents and teachers only communicate when there is a cause of concern for the child. However, there are also teachers who put in an effort to check in with parents regularly to let parents know how their child is doing. As a parent, you can check in with your child’s teacher too, and let him or her know how your child is doing at home. Teachers are also happy to help parents with ideas for how to help with homework, or provide your child with educational experiences at home. When schools and families work together as a team, children greatly benefit.