Education is a team effort. You and your child's teacher can work together to support your child's learning success.
Students are better capable of flourishing in school when they have the support and encouragement of their parents. There are many ways that parents can be involved to help their children be engaged and positive with their learning.
Start at home.
Children are sponges! Learning is a constant process for them. They are always watching and listening, so there are plenty of opportunities to teach them new things. Even simple tasks may give you a chance to introduce new concepts. For example, your child may see you pulling out the checkbook, and wonder what you are doing. That everyday chore is a chance to provide an early lesson in how paying for goods and services works. If you are out raking leaves, explain how the seasons change, and why raking is a task you must complete each Fall.
Paying attention to the lessons your child is learning at school can help you to connect to your child’s life at home. My son is learning how to read a clock at school. He only has a digital clock in his room, so his interest has turned toward our analog kitchen clock. Instead of relying on reading the numbers off of his digital clock, he now runs to the kitchen when anyone says, “What time is it?” He’s proud of what he learned in school, and loves applying it to his life at home.
Engage with your child's educator.
Parents should feel empowered to reach out and regularly communicate with their child’s teachers, specialists, and therapists. Certainly teachers are very busy. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to hear from you. In fact, the opposite is true. Teachers appreciate parents who want to be involved in making the school year a successful one.
Parent-Teacher conferences are just one way to connect with your child’s teachers. Parents can contact their children’s teachers early and often. While it can be difficult for parents to come into the school due to work commitments and safety guidelines, there are other options to keep the dialogue going. Parents can reach out via phone and email. Some teachers find texting convenient. Your query does not need to be complicated. Simply saying something like, “I’d like to discuss my child’s progress at school,” is more than enough to get the conversation going. Even if things are going pretty well, you can take that extra initiative to say, “What else can I be doing to support my child’s learning?” Meetings can be arranged through online platforms such as Zoom or FaceTime. Schools often have these mechanisms already set up, so feel free to ask!
A great way to connect home learning with school learning is to be an active participant during homework time. This does not mean doing the child’s homework for them! Instead, review the assignment to get a better idea of the concepts your child is learning. See how your child approaches the assignment. If they seem unsure of how to proceed with a question, you can talk it out with them and help them get to the right answer. This is a great time to notice where your child thrives, where they might need help, or other learning difficulties they might be facing. You can take note of these tendencies, and share them with your child’s teacher or learning therapist. You can find out if the school staff is noticing the same patterns that you are. Then, together, you can make a plan to encourage or improve upon them as appropriate. Check in with your child’s teachers throughout the year, so you can all be on top of all of the ways your child is changing and developing.
When a child starts school, they are taking a big step forward in independence. But you don’t have to step back! If you start their educational career by being an active supporter, your child will know they can come to you for help navigating all of the challenges at school they will face from preschool all the way through high school graduation.
Neetika Prabhakar, MPP, is a mom of two and freelance writer based in New York. She holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Duke University and is a certified Vinyasa and Children’s Yoga teacher. She covers parenting and child development, health and wellness, and domestic policy issues. This article originally appeared on pbs.org/parents.