There's more to being involved in your child's education than going to parent-teacher conferences and checking on homework -- though that's certainly a great start. Joyce Epstein, sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University, created a framework for parental involvement in education which involves not only educators and parents, but also the wider community beyond the schoolyard. This kind of joint effort contributes to educational success that carries over into adulthood, according to Epstein.
Getting involved starts with creating a positive home environment that is conducive to your child's education. The National Network of Partnership Schools highlights several basic parental responsibilities: providing nutrition, clothing, housing and safety; ensuring that adults parent skillfully; and providing information that will help schools understand families and children. If you fall short in any of these aspects, talk with the educators at your child's school. They might be able to help bridge the gap in a variety of ways. Educators can connect you to important resources, including parenting classes and food co-ops, and educators can also hold meetings with you to help better understand your needs and the needs of your little one.
Communication between school and home is vital. According to Anchorage School District, it's important for both home-to-school communication and school-to-home communication to be clear and effective. Your child's school should be in touch with you regularly through progress reports and newsletters. It's important for you to stay in contact with the school to share ideas about how to improve its communications with you, if necessary. Prioritize in-person meetings with educators, not only to stay informed about the latest school developments, but also to present any and every question you might have about them.
Another way to get involved is to volunteer. There are countless ways for parents to help out: through chaperoning a school trip, doing surveys to gauge the skills of other parents who want to volunteer, and creating informal "parent patrols" to preserve and maintain school safety. According to NNPS, volunteering doesn't just include activities that happen during the day -- it includes any way that parents get involved at school. Even attending a school talent night or student play is a form of volunteering.
Learning at Home
Not only do parents have a responsibility to create a home environment that is conducive to learning, but they are also responsible for getting directly involved in their children's education after the school day ends. Although you should help your child with her homework, NNPS notes that this only means that you should encourage and guide your child -- not do it for her or become overly involved. Besides tutoring and assisting with assignments, parents can also facilitate learning at home by staying informed about homework policies and deadlines.
You can also be an important part of the decision-making process at your child's school. According to the Alan Shaw Feinstein Middle School, this can involve becoming a member of the school's Parent-Teacher Association. You might even choose to be a leader in the PTA or serve on another committee. Join an independent advisory group outside of the school, working for school reform and improvements. This will help connect you to other families in the school and allow you to have an impact on policies which affect your child's education.
Collaborating with the Community
In the same way that you can provide a home environment that encourages your child's learning, you can also work with others in the community to create an environment that supports the school's goals -- that is, to provide the best possible education for your child. Together with other families, you can seek out resources such as guided tours of local businesses for a career day event, or summer camp opportunities for students at a youth center. According to NNPS, this is an effective way to contribute to your community, and you will become much more knowledgeable about local resources as well.
- National Network of Partnership Schools: Epstein's Six Types of Involvement
- Anchorage School District: Epstein's Six Types of Parent Involvement
- Alan Shaw Feinstein Middle School of Coventry: About Parent Involvement
- National Network of Partnership Schools: Dr. Joyce L. Epstein
- National Network of Partnership Schools: Collaborating with the Community
- National Network of Partnership Schools: Parenting
- National Network of Partnership Schools: Volunteering
- National Network of Partnership Schools: Learning at Home
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