While I college, I researched a paper on parental involvement in school. What I found was not all together shocking. Many parents complain they want to be involved in their child's schooling process but find that many schools make it hard. At the complete opposite end of the spectrum were the school administrators and teachers saying, "We want parents to be involved - but we just don't have parents who want to take the time to be a part of what we're doing in the public school". Like anything in life, when we find something to be important, we take the time to make it a priority. Numerous studies have shown that when parents are involved in their child's schooling, it not only helps your child succeed academically, but socially and emotionally as well. When parents take the time to be involved in their child's school - it brings great benefit not only to the child, but to the parent, the teachers, the school, and ultimately the community.
Click here to read one of leading articles on the benefits of parental involvement in their child's schooling: http://www.education.com/reference/article/benefits-parent-involvement-research/
As I Mom, I know you are busy! That's pretty much the definition of being a Mother. When I dropped my daughter off for Kindergarten on her first day of school, I don't think I had ever been through a more frightening experience. Here I was, handing her over to people I didn't really know, to people she didn't really know, for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week - what was I doing?!? Everything about that moment made me want to take her by the hand, put her back in the car, and head home like it never happened and there was no such thing as school. Fast forward three seconds later, I reminded myself it's a rite of passage most every child goes through and I could either let her swim the waters while I watched from a far, or do everything I could to make sure she knew I was there waiting in the wings if she ever needed me. I also wanted her school to know, she had a parent who (even though I worked full time and had 3 other kids to keep watch over) wanted to be involved in my child's education. Even though I didn't have the time to join the PTA and wasn't able to be at every school event, I found a few specific ways to be directly involved in my child's school experience:
1. Pack Them Lunch and Include a Special NoteI don't know if you have every visited your child's cafeteria during lunch, but each time I've been to my daughter's, I watch tray after tray full of food being dumped into the trash. God bless all you school cafeteria workers - I wish they gave you better food to work with! The kids pick at the main course, wolf down the syrupy fruit cocktail while drinking their carton of chocolate milk, and that's about it. I love packing my daughter's lunch, not only because she's getting to eat a little something from home each day - but I know it's healthy, and I know she's going to eat it! Each day when I pack her lunch, I always include a special note. Even when she couldn't put words together to read yet - I'd draw pictures of smiley faces, and hearts, and a simple "I (heart) U!" It was just the thing she needed. It was that middle-of-the-day pick-me-up that reminded her I was thinking about her, even when she was at school.
2. Volunteer To Be A ReaderMy daughter's school has a "read aloud" program as an added way of showing the students the joys of reading. Parents or volunteers spend just 15 to 30 minutes, one day a week, reading out loud to a classroom of students. Each week, I see the ladies and administrators in the office when I sign in. I get to chat with them for a few minutes and encourage them in their day. They know my name and my face and they see my desire to be a part of my daughter's schooling. I can say with confidence that should there ever arise a problem at school, they would feel comfortable talking with me directly about it because I have developed a relationship with them. As I"m sure you've guessed, my daughter loves Thursdays. Every Thursday when she's getting ready for school, she skips around the house knowing, "Today's the day Mom is coming to my class". Her peers have also come to look forward to my visits and each and every reading day I'm greeted with toothless grins and a ocean full of hands waving back and forth as I walk through the door. I've also gotten to know my daughter's teacher. Every Thursday when I walk into her classroom I see that look of relief on her face. Perhaps it's just because she is no longer the only adult in a room full of energized 1st graders, or perhaps it's because she can turn them over to me for 15 minutes while she sits quietly at her desk grading papers or planning for her next teaching, but I can tell it means just as much to her that I'm there as it does to the rest of the kids in the class - probably even just a bit more. Maybe, as a parent, you can't go every week, but you could make it once a month? Don't have a read aloud program in your school? Take a moment to talk to one of your administrators about starting one up. The key word here is "volunteer". Find a way to have presence and make an impact in your child's school - even if its just a simple one.
To learn more about the National Read Aloud Program visit: http://www.readaloud.org/
3. Check Their BackpacksIt seems like such a simple thing, but many parents are so busy, or just to exhausted at the end of the day, that they simply forget, or don't take the time to check the information that has been sent home from their teacher. As parents, we all have those days. I try to make it a habit of checking my children's backpacks right away when they get home. With dinner to cook, toys to pick up, lunches to pack for the next day, and bedtime quickly approaching, if I don't get it done before the evening kicks into high gear, I find it easy to simply forget. There are so many reasons why checking your child's backpack is vital to being involved in their education. With both of my girls, who are now in school, we check their backpacks together. By checking their backpacks, I know what homework they have (and THEY know I know what homework they have). I can see if their teacher has corresponded with me through a note about anything that might have happened that particular day. I'm able to see test and quiz scores to know if my child is struggling in any area. And most importantly I am able to see pictures they have drawn in art class, or a math test they got a 94% on, and I'm able to give them praise. Sure, they want to impress their teacher, and themselves with their accomplishments, but to impress you, their parent, means so much more.
If you are a busy Mom, like I am, you might not be able to accomplish every one of these things each week. I encourage you to embrace a little bit of the Southern way of simple living, to slow down, even just for a moment, and find a small way of making a positive impact in your child's schooling.
What are some ways you like to be involved in your child's school experience?