A few weeks ago I was at the Year 11 Parent Teacher Interviews at my school and I had a great chat with the parents of a student in my form group. They’d heard me give a talk at the school where their son attends and they were very interested in just what parents can do to assist their children in achieving success at school. We chatted so much about these things that we barely talked about their daughter at all!

They told me about an interesting remark a friend of theirs had made, and it is a comment that seems to be increasingly common. This friend said:

“With all the money we spend on this school we shouldn’t be expected to do anything at home. I don’t want to help my child with homework or assignments, this is what the teachers are paid for.”

The other day I was browsing through my Facebook feed and I love reading the questions that parents ask School Mum and the accompanying replies from parents from all around Australia. On this particular day a parent had asked a question about her five year old son. The boy’s teacher had informed his mother that there seemed to be some developmental delay and that his progress was a bit behind what it should be. The advice she’d sought from a behavioural optometrist suggested, among other things, that she needed to include more play based learning at home. At last viewing, over 400 mums had commented with advice, and the comments with the most “likes” have this as their main message:

“Education begins at home – if you expect schools to teach your child what they need to know then your child will be left behind.”

I did a bit of a googling this morning about this and came across a very recent opinion piece written for The New York Times by two sociologists. They’ve done some research (which I haven’t viewed) which seems to suggest that parental involvement in education is rarely useful and sometimes harmful.

The article is definitely worth a read, as are the comments.

What, if anything, did their research find is useful for parents to engage in?

“As it turns out, the list of what generally works is short: expecting your child to go to college, discussing activities children engage in at school …, and requesting a particular teacher for your child.”

Once again the topic of parental expectations appears at the forefront. Here’s what one commenter said:

“I work with children every day in school. The ones who make the most progress and are able to benefit from instruction are the ones whose parents

1) are physically present in their children’s lives;

2) set clear rules and limits for children, for example a set bedtime;

3) provide a place, a time, and an expectation for homework to be completed;

4) make sure their child gets to school every day, on time; and

5) discuss the impact of their current learning on their future education and career.

I have seen every one of these principles broken by parents and the effect on the children is difficult to witness. It’s hard to see a child who longs for his absent father; another comes to school chaotic and exhausted because there are no set rules at home; another child is motivated to succeed but never, ever returns his homework; and still another missed two weeks of school to take part in a wedding in Mexico and lost weeks of instruction as she re-adjusted to school.

That’s what parental involvement is – and it makes one heck of a difference for kids. I don’t need a scientific study to prove it – it’s proved every day in every school.”

So I’m leaving this open to you. What do you think? What are your own personal experiences? Should you as a parent be actively involved in your child’s education? And if you are, is it because it enhances your child’s education or because you need to fill in the gaps?

Photo credit: familymwr / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)