Getting your child ready for the school year is difficult. Helping him acclimate to a new environment, learn the expectations of a new teacher and navigate the other challenges accompanying the change require a lot of prep time.
After the initial settling-in period, however, you still play a major role in your child’s school year. You must continue to develop relationships with faculty and stay actively involved in school life to ensure your child receives the educational experience he deserves.
Why involvement matters
The research is clear: Children whose parents take an interest in their education perform better in school than those whose parents do not.
A Harvard meta-analysis of 77 studies showed that — across all demographics and using a variety of measurements including grades, test scores and teacher ratings — students with involved parents achieve more academic success than others. Specifically, these students perform about half of a standard deviation better than their peers, indicating a strong correlation between parental involvement and success in school.
A University of New Hampshire study showed students with actively involved parents receive benefits equivalent to more than $1,000 in per-pupil spending. If a school of 2,000 students went from no parental involvement to universal parental involvement, the results would be equivalent to the school receiving more than $2 million in additional funding that year.
You might worry sometimes whether your efforts really make a difference in your child’s learning. Fear not: As the numbers show, an involved parent makes a world of difference.
Tips to help your child succeed year round:
1. Attend everything
Open houses, parent-teacher conferences, individualized education programs and 504 plan meetings — everything. The more you attend, the more you know and the better you can answer questions your child might have. If you can’t go, send a trusted friend in your place, so you can still get the information.
2. Review homework
Go over your child’s assignments with him as often as you can. Look for strengths and weaknesses and stay in contact with the teacher to keep feedback consistent between home and school.
3. Chaperone events
If you know of any field trips or other activities approaching, reach out to see whether you can be a chaperone. This gives you the opportunity to observe your child in an educational setting and lets you talk to teachers and other staff members more informally.
4. Be present
You don’t have to wait for a field trip to show up. Many teachers need class moms and dads on a regular basis. Talk to the teacher to find out whether you can make life easier by helping with classroom organization, setting up activities and making copies of assignments.
5. Ask questions
Don’t hesitate to voice your concerns or queries to your child’s teacher. Special education teachers in particular welcome parental feedback. Don’t try to boss the teacher around, but maintain an open dialogue and build a good relationship so you and the teacher can work together to give your child the best experience.
6. Bring education home
Learning shouldn’t end with the school day. Spend a few minutes throughout the evening — before dinner, around bath time or before bed — talking to your child about classroom subjects, and identify real-world examples of topics your child studies in school. If you have a nonverbal child, take pictures of what she likes and dislikes and provide the pictures to the school. For a more structured experience, take advantage of one of the many online learning aids.
Making sure your child gets the best education possible isn’t a sprint — it’s a marathon. Through constant communication with the school and active participation at home, you can give your child the best educational experience and set the groundwork for confidence and success later in life.