Dr. Linda Albert
National PTA and JCPenney
Your involvement in education increases your children's chances for success in school. Studies show that children whose parents are involved in education are more motivated in school. Motivated students are more likely to participate in class, more likely to complete homework, and more likely to achieve academically. In short, motivated children become students with good chances for bright futures.
When you participate in your children's education, say hello to the warm feeling of satisfaction you get when you know that you've helped your children. The easy and effective tips that follow will show you how to get involved even if you are a busy parent with little time to spare from your work at home or at your place of employment.
Throughout these pages, brought to you through the combined efforts of the National PTA and JCPenney, you'll find many ideas for getting involved with your children, getting involved with your children's teachers, and getting involved with the school community. Start first with the ideas that appeal to you most and will easily fit into your schedule, and then add others as time permits. The good news is that no matter how little time you have, you will find a number of things in these pages that you can do to help your children.
The important thing to remember is this: Involved parents do make a difference.
Getting Involved With Your Children
Put on a happy face
At the end of a busy day your feet may hurt and your head may pound, but when your youngsters come running to you full of enthusiasm about something at school, put on a smile and match their excitement. When you put them off with "Later, later," their joy in the accomplishment disappears.
Talk about what your children are learning in school while at the table eating supper. After the meal is finished, pass around any papers they've brought home for everyone to discuss and admire.
Don't stow it, show it!
Instead of stowing school papers and artwork in a forgotten drawer, show it off. Use a wall, the refrigerator door, or a bulletin board for the display. Take a minute now and then to look at the changing displays with each child and talk about how proud you are of the work that's exhibited. When papers are taken down from the bulletin board, preserve in a special folder for periodic review.
Change "Whatdja get?" to "Whatdja learn?"
When tests and reports come home, take the emphasis off the grades and focus instead on the information and skills they learned by doing the work. Give children a chance to show what they know by asking simple questions about the subject. Increase your children's knowledge by sharing anything you know about the topic, or by looking it up in an encyclopedia.
Ask your youngsters to read their textbooks to you while you fix dinner, sort laundry, or drive the car. Any text will do—a reader, a social studies book, even a math book. When they finish a section, discuss any questions the book presents in order to expand their comprehension of the ideas in the text.
Children who get home before their parents can record descriptions of the school day on cassette tape, while events are still fresh in their minds. These Classroom Chronicles don't replace the time you spend with your children, but rather serve as springboards for discussion when you listen to them with your kids later in the evening.
When you ask "What happened in school today," and get the answer, "Nothin' much," it's time to hop on the Family Merry-Go-Round. Start a sentence that each person in the family must complete in turn. "The most surprising thing I learned today was . . ." "One of the things I did well today was . . " The sentence merrily goes 'round till everyone has shared their experiences.
"I can" cans
Give each child an empty juice can covered with contact paper and labeled "My 'I CAN' Can." Whenever your children learn a new skill, be it academic, artistic, or athletic, write it on a piece of paper and stuff it in the can. Review the contents of the cans periodically, and watch your children's self-esteem soar.
Make mistakes okay
When children can learn from their mistakes, instead of feeling discouraged by them, they are on the road to success. Make mistakes okay by talking about your own errors: "One mistake I made today was . . ." Encourage your youngsters to describe mistakes that they made, and then talk about solutions: "One way I can keep from making this mistake again is . . ."
Getting Involved With the Teachers
Keep a small pad of brightly colored paper handy, and use it to write a brief note of thanks to the teacher whenever your children demonstrate new skills or express excitement about something that happened in school. The short time you spend on this happygram will greatly enrich your parent-teacher partnership.
To keep in touch with teachers between formal conferences, use the telephone for occasional 5-10 minute "catch-up" conversations. Ask teachers before hand for good times to call.
Take a "no fault" approach when your children experience difficulties in school. Blaming teachers or classmates only strains relationships. Join forces with teachers to reach a common goal: helping your children overcome difficulties and find success.
Ask for advice
Teachers like sharing their specialized knowledge with concerned parents, so don't hesitate to ask for advice. Teachers can assist you with behavior problems, homework hassles, and how to reinforce at home what's learned at school.
Lend a hand
Even busy parents can pitch in when teachers call for help with school projects. Let the teacher know how much time you have and what talents you could offer. No matter how small, your contribution will be a help to the teacher and noticed by your child.
Respond to report cards
When report cards come home, take time to thank the teachers in a quick note. Teachers usually spend their own evening and weekend hours to write these reports, and your thanks will help them feel appreciated. If you're pleased with your children's progress, say so. If any of the grades or comments disappoint you, ask what you can do to help your child improve.
Beat the clock
Punctuality counts. When a teacher sets a specific time for a conference, make every effort to be there on time. Teachers often schedule many conferences back to back, and one late parent can throw everyone off schedule.
Bring a list of questions to parent-teacher conferences. Prepared questions help the conference stay focused and keep you from rambling into overtime. The National PTA has an excellent pamphlet entitled "Making Parent-Teacher Conferences WORK for Your Child." This pamphlet tells you how to prepare for conferences and what questions to ask.
Be sure to give teachers any information about changes in home circumstances that may affect your children's behavior or performance. A death in the family, an extended sickness, a separation or divorce—even the loss of a pet can put a strain on children that spills over into the classroom.
Getting Involved With the School Community
PTA at the school
Today's PTA has kept up with the changing times. Recognizing that in many families both mothers and fathers work outside the home, the PTA often schedules meetings at night. PTA meetings are still the best way to keep informed about, and involved with, the school community.
PTA at the office
You can form a PTA unit at your workplace. Though the parents involved would have children in different schools, a monthly brown bag luncheon with planned programs can help everyone stay abreast of the latest educational trends and family issues. Programs can feature speakers from local schools or focus on the various topics addressed in publications, kits and other materials developed by the National PTA.
Next time back-to-school night or parent programs roll around, don't make excuses for not going. Your attendance clearly demonstrates to your children how much you care about their education. To make it easier to get out of the house, freeze leftovers or casseroles with "save for back-to-school night" labels.
Know the neighborhood news
Be sure to read school newsletters to keep informed of the latest developments. If these newsletters tend to get overlooked during hectic evenings and weekends, take them with you so you can read the newsletters while eating lunch at work or on the train or bus. Check your daily newspaper for reports on neighborhood schools and school board proceedings.
Know the national news
Read Our Children magazine, What's Happening in Washington (both available by subscription through the National PTA), and education related articles in parent magazines to keep abreast of the latest national developments affecting education and families.
Do your bit
Busy parents who want to volunteer at school but can't usually be present for long periods of time during the day can still contribute their talents. Call the PTA president or the volunteer coordinator and offer to write an article for the newsletter, speak about your career at a student assembly, coordinate a student site—visit at your workplace, or call other parents as part of a telephone tree.
Become a more informed parent
It isn't easy to raise children with drugs, gangs, and peer pressure against you. If you're doing the job alone, or in a stepfamily, you have even more to consider. Learn what works with today's youngsters by joining one of the many parent education programs that more and more schools and PTAs are offering. When you have effective parenting skills at your fingertips, the time you took to become a more knowledgeable parent will be well repaid.
Tips To Motivate Your Children To Do Well In School
- Take the time to read with your children daily.
- Provide enrichment material, including children's books and magazines, and educational toys.
- Provide quiet, private work spaces where children can study undisturbed.
- Keep your children's work spaces well-stocked with all the supplies they need to complete their assignments.
- Take time to sit down with your children and help them schedule homework into their daily routine.
- Reward good grades with recognition and praise, and avoid the temptation to use money as a bribe for good performance.
- Take advantage of educational events in your community as often as possible.
- Value your children's uniqueness, and avoid comparing them to others.
- Limit the amount of television children watch to one hour on school days and two hours on weekend days.
- Encourage creative thinking by asking your youngsters for help solving problems.
- Encourage your children to practice school skills in real life situations.
About the Author
Parent, educator, and syndicated columnist, Dr. Linda Albert travels around the country helping parents and teachers. Her engaging style and lively presentations have made her workshops and seminars popular with thousands of parents, teachers, and professionals in all fields. Linda is the author of Coping with Kid, Coping with Kids and School, Strengthening Your Stepfamily*, Quality Parenting*, and A Teacher's Guide to Cooperative Discipline. Dr. Albert also writes a weekly column for Gannett newspapers and is featured monthly in Working Mother Magazine. Linda, a mother of three, lives in Tampa, Florida.
Reprinted with permission from the National PTA.