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How to help your child with school without overdoing it

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

Halt the helicopter

It's extremely beneficial for parents to be involved in their child's education, as long as they don't overdo it. We have several suggestions to help you reign in your helicopter tendencies and stick with parenting strategies that work!

Parent lecturing daughter about school work

Halt the helicopter

It's extremely beneficial for parents to be involved in their child's education, as long as they don't overdo it. We have several suggestions to help you reign in your helicopter tendencies and stick with parenting strategies that work!

The case for parental involvement in education

Parents hear ostensibly conflicting messages from the media about the role of parenting in education. On one hand, helicopter parenting is much-derided as a method for raising entitled and dependent children. But on the other hand, parental involvement in education is praised as one of the greatest indicators for student success in school. So what's a parent to think?

Let's start with the facts. According to the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, students of all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds benefit greatly when their parents are involved in their education. In fact, students with involved parents are more likely to:

  • Earn higher test scores and higher grades, and enroll in more advanced classes
  • Pass classes and promote to the next grade level
  • Attend school regularly
  • Adapt well to school, use better social skills and behave properly in school
  • Graduate and go to college or post-secondary school

Obviously, parental involvement in child education is vital for promoting a love of learning and student success. There are two basic ways for parents to get involved in their child's education — through the school and through individual interactions with their child.

How to get involved in school

Involving yourself in your child's school life is probably easier than you think, and it doesn't have to turn into a full-time volunteer position. The National Education Association recommends the following easy steps for involvement in school:

  • Get to know your child's teacher by going to Open House night and attending parent-teacher conferences.
  • Check in with your child about homework and make sure that he is completing his assignments on time.
  • Volunteer at your child's school. You could be a class reader, a tutor, a career day speaker or a class parent (if you have a little bit of extra time).
  • Discuss school safety issues openly with your child to ensure that he doesn't have any concerns for his safety (like bullying or school violence) that are impeding his learning.

It's that simple. You don't need to volunteer every week or visit the classroom to check in on Junior's learning all the time. But showing up and showing interest, even for just a couple of hours per year, helps your child understand that you're interested in his education and that you want to bridge the gap from school to home.

How to get involved individually

As you've probably surmised, education isn't something that just happens in the classrooms of your child's school. Children are constantly learning from their parents and the world around them. PBS Kids recommends the following techniques to involve yourself in your child's education in a healthy way:

  • Live out a love of learning: Your child watches you, and if you love to learn new things, it's more likely that she will love learning too.
  • Speak your child's learning language: Children and adults learn in different ways, depending on their preferences. Support your child's learning style.
  • Practice without drilling: While some components of education, like multiplication tables and spelling, may require drills and flashcards, try to stay away from painful memorization exercises.
  • Read together: Simply reading a chapter of a book every night — even if you have an older child — is great for bonding and for building vocabulary.
  • Connect education to the real world: When possible, connect your child's curriculum to the things he or she interacts with every day. For instance, is your kid working on fractions? Use the knowledge while baking together.
  • Avoid external rewards: Stay away from cash rewards for good grades. You want to build a love of learning from internal rewards. Encourage your child to feel proud of the things she has learned and how she uses her knowledge, rather than paying her for it.
  • Don't over-schedule: Allow learning to happen during down-time from extracurricular activities. It's important not to squash your child's ability to just absorb the world around him.
  • Turn off the TV: The television can be fun, but it also runs on an agenda outside of your child's interests. Encourage her to play with toys and friends instead, in order to feed her imagination.

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