Getting Involved in Education

Help your child succeed in school.

Study after study has shown that when parents get involved in their children's schooling, kids receive better grades, teacher morale improves, and parents gain confidence in their child-rearing abilities. But what exactly do experts mean by "parent involvement?" And, how can you maintain involvement considering your jam-packed schedule?

Being an involved parent doesn’t mean you have to become the PTA president or the teacher's assistant on class trips, although both roles are great. Involvement in school also includes simple things like quizzing your child on spelling words and taking the family to the school carnival. Here are five easy ways to remain involved in your child's education, no matter how crowded the calendar.

1. Start a conversation.

Perhaps the easiest way to be involved in your child's schooling is to talk about educational experiences with your child and his teacher. You can make such conversations more productive with a little planning.

When talking with your child, remember that broad questions like "How was school today?" usually generate vague answers. The more specific your questions, the more information your child tends to provide in response. Experts recommend asking questions about the school environment or a certain part of the day. If your child isn't responding to "What did you learn today?" encourage him to talk about his science project or the class pet.

Don't wait until conference time, or a bad report card, to talk to your child's teacher. Find out whether the teacher prefers to keep in touch through e-mail or another method, and let the teacher know when your child needs extra help in learning course material. Avoid criticizing or blaming the teacher if your child's performance is lackluster. Instead, focus your communication on how the two of you can work together to help your son or daughter succeed. One method of doing this is to share insight that may aid the teacher in working with your child. For instance, let the teacher know if your child struggles with math, is extremely shy or reads above his grade level and gets bored with routine assignments.

Tell the teacher if your child has a severe allergy, a serious health issue or any condition that may affect his behavior or concentration. It's also a wise idea to tell the teacher about any conflicts at home that could influence your child's behavior, such as a divorce or a death in the family.

2. Go to school.

According to one study, when parents are regularly seen at school, children come to view home and school as connected, perceiving education as an important part of family life. If you’re just entering the building for open houses and teacher conferences, try going to school a few more times this semester.

If your schedule permits, consider volunteering in a classroom for a few hours, planning a class party, making photocopies for teachers or answering phones in the school's office. Don't feel guilty if you can't get there during school hours. Most schools have several free or low-cost evening events where you can grab a bite to eat and get to know other families from the area. Regardless of whether these events have an educational focus, by merely being there you show your child that school is important.

3. Hang out with your kids.

When it comes down to it, parent involvement is all about the kids. If you like working with children, you can pitch in at school by painting faces at the school fair, chaperoning field trips or dances, leading games on field day or speaking at career day. Even if they don't show it, the students will be grateful that you made time for them. Plus, you'll have a chance to learn more about the people with whom your child spends most of his time.

At home, involvement means reading a book with your child, to assisting him with difficult homework assignments. The key is to support your child but not do the work for him. Though it's fine to brainstorm a science project with your son, don't complete the entire project solo.

4. Use your skills.

Another great way to get involved at school is to draw upon your hobbies or special skills. If you're a computer whiz, assist with a software upgrade in the computer lab. If you're into photography, offer to teach a workshop or take pictures for the school newsletter.

Find out about afterschool activities and clubs at your child's school. Such programming serves as a great way to share a personal hobby with students, whether you enjoy building model airplanes, knitting scarves or playing chess.

5. Join your child's school parent group.

If you want to become more involved yet you aren't sure how, check out the school parent group. Joining the group allows parents to stay informed, get to know other parents and find ways to volunteer.

Let the group know how much time you have to give, and reveal which volunteer tasks interest you. Most parent groups have volunteer tasks that working parents can do at home, such as updating a Web site or making phone calls.

No matter how busy you are, look for a few new ways to get involved in your child's education this year. Involvement is easy and the benefits are significant for your child, your family and the entire school community.