Research says that children are more successful in school when their parents are involved in their education. And who doesn’t want children to be successful in school?
So, parents try to get involved in their child’s schooling. They attend parent/teacher conferences, read the notices that get sent home, ask their child what they did in school that day and, if they have the time, volunteer to help out with school activities. Most parents try to help their child do their homework, and some become members of parent associations.
Teachers, understanding that parental involvement leads to success, encourage parents to do these things. Good teachers might also have something like a home/school book which can be used as a communication tool between parent and teacher. Most teachers of young children will have a home reading program where children take a book home to read to their parents, or for their parents to read to them.
All these are good ways for parents to get involved in their child’s education, they are the ways that most schools support and encourage, and many parents think these are the most important ways that they can support their child’s schooling.
But not all ways are created equal. Here is a true story about a parent getting involved in a ‘not so good way’.
Andrew was about ten years old and he was a ‘tearaway’. He didn’t like school, he didn’t like teachers, and he was not going to do anything I wanted him to do. He was quite small for his age and very agile. He could squirm his way out of all kinds of situations. He had great energy and spirit and, despite his defiance and lack of cooperation, I had a soft spot for him in my heart.
One day he had to have an operation, one of his testicles had not descended and the doctors were going to fix it. Well, Andrew did not want to have anything to do with the doctors, and when they were getting him ready for surgery he started yelling and screaming and getting out of bed. He put up such a fuss that the nurses didn’t know what to do. They asked his mother if she could help to calm him down, if she would be involved in getting him ready for surgery.
She knew exactly what to do. She started hitting Andrew with her handbag and yelling at him to ‘behave or he would be in trouble!’ The nurses had to call security to get her to stop. Fortunately no one was hurt.
It was Andrew’s mother who told me the story. She didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. The nurses had asked her to help and she helped in the only way she knew!
Andrew did eventually get his surgery, but I pitied the nurses and doctors who had to deal with him.
This is a somewhat extreme example of how NOT to get involved with helping a child but, when I started to write this article, I was reminded of Andrew, and how his mother got involved.
You may be thinking that all the ways you get involved with your child’s education are good, they are going to help your child succeed in school. And you are right. Whatever involvement you have in your child’s education is bound to help them become a better learner.
Are you sure that the ways you are involved in your child’s education are the most effective ways? Are you ‘hitting your child with your handbag’ rather than doing what works best?
What does the research say? It says that the things you do AT HOME have a much bigger influence on your child’s learning than the things you do that are school related.
It is very good of you to help teachers by volunteering, going to meetings, helping with homework, asking about schoolwork. There are more effective ways that you can get involved in your child’s education, ways that may even be easier and less time consuming than the things you are already doing.
So, don’t make the mistake of thinking that getting involved in your child’s education means helping with homework and going to meetings. There are other, better ways, that you can help your child succeed in school.
First, make sure that you ‘set the scene’ for learning, that you give your child the ability to benefit from their schooling. Almost as soon as your child enters a classroom the teacher can tell if your child is ready to learn. Children who are ready to learn are confident, listen well, get on with the other children in class, know how to handle books and pencils, and can ask questions. They are ready to learn.
When you have ‘set the scene’ for learning and given your child the skills he or she needs to be able to benefit from what the teacher does you need to work with your child’s school to make sure that your child is getting the education they deserve. You must become your child’s advocate. Schools will always try to do their best for the children in their care but they do not know your child as well as you do. By working with your child’s school you can make sure that your child is progressing well and the school will benefit from your input.
The third thing parents can do to help their children learn is to provide extra support when a child needs it. Unfortunately this is often the first thing parents try to do, before exploring the other two options. Yes, many children need extra help at some time in their school career, but giving them ‘more schooling’ might not be the answer.
If you want to help your child succeed in school you need to stop ‘hitting your child with your handbag’ and take a step back to find out exactly what type of help your child needs.
You will be happier and your child will learn more. Isn’t that what you want in the end?