School Involvement that Counts
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By Karen and Tom Buchanan
A child’s greatest support is often found in their family. Yet finding the time and knowing how to participate in a child’s education is frequently a challenge for busy parents. Researchers in the area of family–school engagement have found that there are attitudes and actions parents can take to have a meaningful impact on their child’s school success. The good news is that the kinds of involvement that count don’t depend on parents being available during school hours. The kinds of involvement that make a difference in children’s learning and academic success are doable for all families. Below we share some attitudes and actions that all families can embrace to enhance their child’s learning.
- Claim your role as your child’s first teacher. Your home has been your child’s first classroom and you have valuable knowledge about who your child is and how they learn and interact with the world.
- Claim your role as a partner in your child’s education. As children step into formal schooling, it does not change the important position the family holds in their child’s healthy development. Begin to form a relationship with your child’s teacher so that, on behalf of your child, you can be an effective part of this new team.
- Express your hopes, beliefs, and expectations to your child. It is powerful for children to hear their parents speak about their sincere belief in their child’s ability to be successful at school. Telling your child about the hopes and expectations you have for them encourages them and helps them believe in their own ability to be successful.
- Create a learning space at home. Your home is already a place where your child learns. As children enter formal schooling, create space in your home where your child can do homework and read for fun without distraction.
- Express Interest in your child’s learning at school. Your interest in the learning that happens at school gives school learning value. Ask your child specific questions like, “What story did you read in school today?” or “What game did you play in math today?” Your interest is extremely motivating to children.
Communication with your child’s teacher is key. Take initiative and communicate with your child’s teacher about the following:
- Acknowledge your appreciation for the home–school partnership you are developing to help your child grow and thrive;
- Freely share your hopes and dreams for your child with the teacher; Share the knowledge you’ve gained about who your child is and how they learn;
- Let your child’s teacher know that you have a strong desire to know how to support your child’s at-school learning at home.
Family support and involvement in a child’s education make a difference. Choosing to invest in these attitudes and actions holds promise to make a difference in your child’s success at school.
Dr. Karen Buchanan is the Chair of the Doctor of Educational Leadership program at George Fox University, in Newberg, Oregon. Dr. Tom Buchanan teaches in the Master’s of Arts in Teaching Program at George Fox University. Tom and Karen share a research passion around family engagement in early childhood settings.