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The Importance of Parent Involvement

 

We hear it all the time - parents are their children's first and most important teachers. That role seems more clear cut when they are very young and need help with just about everything - from practicing how to tie their shoes to looking both ways before crossing a street. But once a child enters school, other adults assume the teacher role, leaving many parents wondering what they can do to support and encourage learning... in school and out.

One thing is certain: for children to learn their lessons well and remain curious about the many new and interesting parts of their world, they still need their parents' help and daily encouragement. Research repeatedly shows that children are better, more successful learners when their parents are actively involved in their learning, both at home and at school.

Helping your youngster learn

Before you rush to the store for a pack of flash cards consider this: When it comes to helping children grow as learners, many of the things that parents do each day are what really matter most. For example:

Create a home where learning is encouraged

This includes setting aside a consistent time each day when children will complete their homework. It also means encouraging children to read and write for pleasure and setting limits on television, computer and video game usage. (FYI: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that school-age children spend no more than one to two hours a day watching TV and playing computer games - and that children not watch TV while doing homework).

Set high expectations for learning

Parents know better than anyone else what their children are interested in and what their talents are. Take the time to encourage your children's strengths and find ways to support them when they struggle. This sends the message that you are ready to help them succeed. For example, offer to help younger children sound out words as they read to you. Play math games as you drive in the car. Meet with the teacher to discuss how you can work together to help your child master a difficult subject.

Encourage exploration and discovery

Just because the school day is over doesn't mean that learning has to end. If your child is learning about different types of communities, a family trip to a local farm can provide an interesting lesson on rural community life. Try turning an interest in cooking into an international theme dinner. If you have a skateboarding enthusiast in your family, subscribe to a magazine on his/her favorite topic. The point is to make learning fun. Libraries, museums, local historical sites and the Internet are all wonderful resources to help you nurture your child's interests while spending quality time together.

Build a strong home-school partnership

Open house at the beginning of the year is a great time to get to know your children's teachers and learn about ways you can support the year's learning at home. Parent-teacher conferences are a good time to talk about the areas where your child may need extra help or ways you can expand upon classroom lessons. Volunteering in the classroom, attending school events and sending notes or e-mail messages are great ways to keep in touch with teachers throughout the year and stay informed about what your children are learning.

Parent involvement pays off

Decades of research show that when parents are involved in their children's education, students have:

  • Higher grades, test scores and graduation rates

  • Better school attendance

  • Increased motivation and better self-esteem

  • Lower rates of suspension

  • Decreased drug and alcohol use

  • Fewer instances of violent behavior

  • A greater chance of going on to college and other secondary education

Source: National PTA (www.pta.org/parentinvolvement)