Getting Into School: How Parents Can Be Best Involved in Their Kids’ Education
By Leah Kackley
“Education is not the means of showing people how to get what they want. Education is an exercise by means of which enough men, it is hoped, will learn to want what is worth having.” These words spoken by Ronald Reagan, obviously intended for the entirety of the human race, beautifully sum up the loftiest goals of a good education. Parents have an immensely important role in the pursuit of that high-quality education for their children. However, figuring out their proper place in a child’s school life can be confusing. Three encouraging local educators helped break down the swirling details into some focused facts.
First, Family Life matters. When kids see that their participation in school matters to their parents, they will naturally equate that with the idea that school is important. Amy Young, M.Ed. is a Special Education teacher at Highland Bluff Elementary in the Rankin County. She says that “throughout my years as a classroom teacher (1st-8th grades), one on one communication between parents and children made a huge difference in kids’ academic success. Their outlook on their grades, whether good or bad, improved because they knew without a doubt their parents care.” Ask about the kids’ day. Check on paperwork, assignments, and upcoming projects. Just ask questions.
Let family life include chores for the kids. They must be taught to be responsible, and having chores is one good way to do that. Jennifer Dryden, a counselor at First Presbyterian Day School, says “when children have things they are responsible for, it teaches them that they are capable, gives them a sense of cooperation and achievement. It also helps them understand they have a role in their family and that behavior and choices impact others.”
Kids don’t need to lead their own way, yet. Parents should continue to guide and direct them. Even as kids reach the teen years, Young says they “need guidance, whether they ask for it or not.” No, parents can’t do their work for them. But they can check in on homework progress, thereby communicating its importance. But do this with a mind to encourage responsibility. Dryden reminds parents to “shepherd children as they stumble and fail, so that when life is difficult, they will have developed positive coping skills to handle these times.” It’s also crucial that parents make sure that they do NOT compare their kids to each other or to others in their class. Amber Binkley is a K3 teacher at Hartfield Academy. She says “every child learns differently. Focus on YOUR child’s achievements. Encourage him or her when things are difficult. Parents and educators need to be builders and not bulldozers. Building up a child can do wonders for developing self-confidence.” Young reminds parents “we all want to feel smart – and that starts at home.”
Regulating digital time is another place where parents lead the way, good or bad, and young students simply have to be told to put their devices down when it’s time to be outside playing or inside studying. However, those little hand-held computers, when used properly, can also be a game-changing tool for a child’s education. This access to information can greatly enhance a child’s overall education and is not governed by geography, opportunities, or income. Parents can further develop what their kids learn at school by just providing extra richness through the digital resources that are everywhere.
Parents’ responsibility to encourage a healthy academic life only increases as kids start going to school. One of the greatest mistakes a parent can make is to assume that they don’t have a direct impact on how far and high their kid can go. As Binkley wisely reminds parents, “the days are long, but the years are short.” Invest time now, and the reward of watching the kids reap benefits later in life will be immeasurable.
Leah Kackley lives and works and homeschools in the Rez/Fannin area with her husband, Jason, and their three kids. She believes that well-rounded education is within every parent’s reach. Many thanks to Amy, Amber, and Jennifer for providing an abundance of good advice, much of which couldn’t be squeezed into the space!