Parents can help kids by being involved at school

Many of our community’s schools are fortunate to enjoy strong parent involvement. The comments of several third-graders at Black Mountain Elementary, which encourages many opportunities for families to become involved in the education experience, indicate that in many cases, at least in the elementary ages, students love having their parents involved at their school.

“It’s cool when my mom comes to school, and it makes the day more fun for me. And she gets to see what my class is like,” said Lilly Lewis. Katherine Hensley gets excited when she sees her mother at school.

So does Ava Banzhoff. “I like for my mom to get to see what I am working on in my class when she comes to volunteer,” she said.

If you are a school parent group leader or volunteer, chances are you already know that your involvement is good for your child’s education. But you might not realize just how good it is for her education.

Researchers have been studying the effects that parent attitudes and actions have on their children’s academic success. They report consistently that children with parents involved in their education and schools earn better grades and score higher on tests. They have better school attendance and are more likely to graduate and pursue higher education.

What’s more, involved parents have better access to information about opportunities for students, allowing them to be stronger advocates for their children. Very importantly, research shows that parent involvement makes a difference across all socioeconomic levels and cultural backgrounds. Compelling research also cites that parent involvement is more important to a child’s academic performance than the qualities of the school itself.

“The reasons that parent involvement increases student success are many,” Elizabeth Leaver writes in “Make the Case for Parent Involvement,” an article on PTO Today’s website. “Simply letting a child know you care and are invested enough to be involved in his day-to-day school life sends a clear message about the value of school and education.”

Not only is parent involvement good for the student and the school, it can also be a very valuable experience for the parent. Joyce Schwarz, parent of three students in the Owen district schools, enjoys being involved as a parent because she connects more deeply with teachers, staff and other students.

“I am always grateful to spend educational time with one of my boys and to see the workings of their school life,” she said. She sees a clear “need for parent involvement in our public schools in order to enhance the school environment with fundraising, events and teacher and staff support.”

For another parent of three in the Owen schools, April Roy, the opportunity to become involved is very satisfying. A teacher herself, Roy how many roles teachers assume in their classrooms. “I am motivated by the friendly, happy children that I meet and get to know, and I enjoy the positive atmosphere provided by the teachers and staff,” she said. “My involvement has given me the satisfaction of knowing that I can lighten the load a little.”

If you would like to become more involved in your child’s education experience, connect with your teacher via email. Or visit the teacher’s home page about class assignments and activities. Sign up to receive school emails about what’s coming up and where volunteers are needed.

Contact a teacher directly to find out what help is needed in the classroom or to offer areas of help that you feel are a good fit for your skills and interests. Read any newsletters or handouts about volunteer needs. Activities such as open house or family science night are good resources for opportunities that exist at schools.

And don’t be afraid to reach out for help. If your student is struggling in an area, teachers can be wonderful resources for other avenues to pursue. Don’t hesitate to request a conference with your child’s teacher, even if it’s not report card time (just like you want to advocate for your student, so does the teacher). Communication is a great place to get started in supporting your child.

Parent involvement comes in different forms, such as helping kids at home with schoolwork and projects or attending school events, which helps foster a connection between home and school. It could include fundraising to support school needs or scheduling conferences with your child’s teacher.

Talking with your child about his or her day or about her concerns is a simple way that any parent or guardian can be involved in their child's educational experience.