Parents Involvement Helps In Child's Education

A parent involvement can truly improve a child's education. Research and common sense both indicate that increased parental involvement in school has a positive impact on student achievement.

"The home is the first and most important school your child will ever have." You may have heard this before, perhaps as part of a sales pitch for encyclopedias. It is, however, more than a statement intended to make a sale; it is also a truth supported by both research and common sense. And that truth is, parental involvement in school is important to academic success.

Practically any teacher will verify this. Teachers will tell you that their most successful students come from a home where the parents provide structure, support, and guidance. They will tell you from their own experiences that students who have parents who really care about their education are usually more successful than students who do not.

Research supports such observations, indicating that increased parental involvement in school enables students to achieve higher grades and test scores, improves student attendance, improves student conduct and attitude, and increases the chances of a child going on to higher education. The research also says that students who have parents who are more involved are less likely to be discipline problems at school.

Parental involvement might also be referred to as "family involvement," because the help and support can come from older siblings, grandparents, or any number of other influential adults. But whether we call it parental involvement, or family involvement, the results are the same. It helps.

The idea that parents can positively influence their children's education is common sense. Children spend more time at home than they do at school, and parents have the opportunity for a number of interactions with their children in one-on-one situations. In addition, the home environment provides for more "teachable moments" between parent and child.

There are three areas in which parents can have enormous control over a child's success in school: (1) controlling student absenteeism, (2) keeping a wide variety of reading materials available in the home, and (3) controlling the amount of time the television is on. Research says that when these three factors alone are controlled, it accounts for nearly 90 percent of the difference in test scores.

What else can parents do? For one, they can provide structure at home. Studies show that successful students have parents who establish a daily routine for doing homework, completing chores, and having a family meal together. These routines are important in making life predictable, and in establishing a framework in which the child has security and a better chance of academic success.

One practical way of helping build structure in a child's life is providing him or her with a quiet place to study. Arranging to have a small table or desk in a bedroom will help build in your child the idea that he has a place that is his own, for the sole purpose of doing well in school. Your child's own study area should have sufficient lighting, be away from family traffic, free of distractions, and have the necessary school supplies handy.

Parents can also help students by regularly monitoring progress, and that means checking regularly with teachers, even more often than report card time. In many cases, if the child is having trouble, a parent cannot afford to wait for the school to tell them about it. The parent should take the initial step in contacting the school. In addition, parents can ask that their son or daughter be provided more challenging work when necessary. Students who are never challenged are more likely to lose interest, or become discipline problems, or both.

The attitude of the parent is also crucial to student achievement. If a parent has a positive attitude toward the school, and towards learning in general, the child will tend to have the same positive outlook. If any parent has concerns about the school or a specific teacher, it is recommended that the parent be very careful how those concerns are voiced in the child's presence. If a child picks up on a negative attitude and adopts that attitude as his or her own, it can have consequences for all those involved. Negative attitudes or apathetic attitudes are at the root of a large portion of discipline problems in school. In addition, a parent who questions a teacher's methods or intentions in front of a student will undermine the teacher's authority, which can, in the long run, interfere with the child's learning in that particular classroom.

Research also tells of the importance of parents giving education a high priority. It is easy for children to become involved in too many outside activities that detract from the educational mission of the school. Even positive experiences such as those provided by sports, scouting, or music lessons can sometimes harm academics if the child's time is spread too thin. It is up to the parent to be consistent and firm when establishing education as a priority, and to guard against a child having so many irons in the fire that it harms academic performance.

And finally, parents should respond appropriately to how their children do in school. How parents react to grades can make a big difference in how well their children do in the future. Some parents ignore bad grades; some rant and yell about bad grades. Neither has been shown to be very effective. Some parents reward or punish their children extrinsically, by using car keys, curfews, restrictions, etc. to get the desired results on the report card. Research, however, shows that this often does more harm than good. What is most helpful, studies say, is when parents provide positive feedback and encouragement at the right times. Students who get better grades tend to have parents who praise, encourage, and offer help.

What should schools do differently? In short, they should encourage the parents to be involved. Teachers should plan their lessons with parental involvement in mind. Some assignments can require parent-child collaboration. Some can solicit parental observations. Schools should also keep the parents informed. The school's public relations program should seek ideas and feedback from parents and community members, and should always strife to have policies that encourage family involvement, rather than discourage it.

The school should set a tone that makes itself inviting, always looks for ways to involve parents, and helps parents feel they are partners with them in education. Specific ways of meeting these goals include: developing an information packet to send home to parents, creating a newsletter that has family enrichment activities, establishing a homework hotline, requiring teachers to make personal contacts with parents through phone calls or letters, and having parent workshops.

The research merely confirms what we already knew: parents who care enough to be involved in their children's lives and in their education, tend to have children achieve at a higher level.

(For those who want to read further on the subject, there is lots of information available. Two recommended sources are A New Generation of Evidence: The Family is Critical to Student Achievement, edited by Anne T. Henderson and Nancy Berla; and Strong Families, Strong Schools, by Jennifer Ballen and Oliver Moles).

© High Speed Ventures 2011