There’s one concept that most parents can agree upon, no matter their political leanings. We want our children to succeed academically. Research shows that parental involvement directly and positively impacts academic success. What has not been clearly defined is what does this parental involvement look like and how much is enough or too much?
Parental involvement can take many forms depending upon a wide range of variables. What is, I believe, non-negotiable is the need for parents to give their children the message that school and learning are important and that we, as parents, care about what happens at school and care about what our children are learning. We need to give that message to our children and to their school(s).
Volunteering in your child’s classroom or school is one way to be involved, but it is not the only way. Attending PTA/PTSA meetings, parent conferences, school plays, sporting events and chaperoning field trips are all visible ways to be involved as well. However, even more effective than those visible means of involvement is spending time, once a day or even once a week, with your child, talking about his or her school day, homework, friends, things they found funny, things that were hard, things they need or needed help with, things they were proud of. These consistent and on-going conversations give your child the message that you care about him or her as a person and as a learner.
When I asked my now grown children the “how school went today” question, the response was always “fine.” My follow-up question, “What did you learn today?” didn’t elicit more than the standard “nothing” reply. Okay, this line of conversation wasn’t getting either of us anywhere, so I altered my line of questions to some of the following and they turned out to be conversation starters instead of stoppers:
- What made you laugh today?
- Which subject did you dislike most today?
- If you could change your homework assignment in _____, what would you change it to? How come?
- Which subject did you learn the most in today? What did you learn?
- When did you have fun today?
- Which of your friends annoyed you today?
- Did you learn something today that you think I don’t know?
- Brag to me about something that happened today.
In addition to talking about school and learning, remember to read with your child on a regular basis. It doesn’t really matter what you read, but read together and talk about it, even as your children move beyond elementary school. Making connections and staying engaged really has a positive impact on your child’s achievement.