Being more fully engaged in my son’s education was one of the greatest decisions I ever made. When he was younger, I thought that simply ensuring he did his homework, was not getting bullied and kept his grades up would be enough. Then, as part of my research activities, I started reading about how parental involvement and out-of-school activities were essential for building creative, independent and confident kids. This was a life-changing moment for my family.
Research on learning outcomes will tell you that family background explains most of the gaps in student achievement. Education begins at home and never stops.
New findings show that parental involvement in education is pivotal for the success of children throughout their school years and beyond. Why?
– Because, despite their best efforts, schools do not cater for all students’ needs. No matter how adorable you think your kid is, no school or teacher will repeatedly go out of their way to develop the specific skills you value.
– Because schools do not necessarily prioritize the same things that you may.
– Because schooling and education are two separate things and you can’t keep holding schools and teachers responsible for the education of your kids. Dancy’s book “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher” perfectly explains how the simplest activities parents share with their kids at home can help them develop cognitive, social and emotional skills.
Kids spend approximately 25 per cent of their time in school and the rest away from school.
- So how do you get more involved in your kids’ education, no matter how much you have on your plate?
- How do you strike a balance between working and spending time with your kids?
Research has shown that a few forms of parental involvement are particularly beneficial to children and involve relatively little time. Here are five evidence-backed ways in which you can get involved:
1. Read to your kids.
Researchers in education and education philosophers such as Steiner (Waldorf schools) place storytelling at the centre of learning. Reading awakens curiosity, imagination and critical thinking skills and instils a sense of enjoyment of reading in children.
Regularly reading to your kids aloud improves their reading performance even beyond their childhood years.
You can read from books with or without pictures, make up your own stories, or use creative story cards or board games.
Can’t find the time to read or tell stories?
- Talk to your kids.
- Tell them about your day.
- Tell them about things you’re reading.
- Sing songs.
- Read signs and labels aloud.
- Just read!
2. Encourage your kids to read
Encouraging your kids to read helps them develop a reading culture well beyond their childhood years. Display books on shelves. Books that they don’t see are bound to get forgotten. If possible, place them next to the objects they’re about. Offer books as presents. Visit libraries. Ask your kids what they’re reading at school. Encourage them to share their thoughts.
3. Be a reader yourself.
You want your kids to enjoy reading? Read. Really, it’s that simple. By valuing reading, you show your kids that reading is an essential part of life. Many parents overlook the fact that kids and even adolescents learn by example.
If you want your children to enjoy reading in childhood and beyond, set a good example by reading yourself. Show them that reading is enjoyable. If you don’t like reading books or don’t have time, read magazines, read newspapers, read poetry. And don’t forget to share what you’re reading with your kids or partner.
4. Talk to your kids about the world around them.
Talking to your kids about the social, political and cultural environment around them has been shown to improve their critical-thinking skills. Many parents believe that some things are better left alone but if your kids are asking about it, then it needs to be explained.
Watch your words with young children. Use stories if you need to.
Talking negatively about your own learning experiences can lead to negative learning attitudes among children. Some education philosophies, such as the Reggio Emilia approach which has been adopted in many institutions around the world, place great emphasis on how kids relate with the outside environment.
Children determine their place in the world depending on how they interact with others. Encourage open and honest discussions with adolescents. Talk to them about politics, social and cultural issues, films, what you do at work… this can be done even in the car or over dinner.
5. Get involved in your kids’ school activities
Participating in your kids’ activities shows them that you value education. Don’t wait until they begin to struggle before you get involved. Discuss your kids’ progress with their teachers, even when they’re doing well; participate in organized activities; volunteer at your kids’ school if you can but only if you want to. Showing teachers you care about your children’s education might also prompt them to pay more attention to your children.