Study Up: 6 Ways Parent Involvement in a Child’s Education Can Pay off
Would you get an A for participation? Here’s how even busy moms and dads can make the grade
Parents: It’s homework time again. How much help are you giving your kids — and how much do you really know about how well they’re doing in school?
A new study from NBC News and Pearson Education reveals nearly half of the 800 parents surveyed wished they could be more involved in their child’s education. The reason they aren’t? They’re too busy.
But participating in your child’s academic success doesn’t require huge chunks of time. Kimberly O’Malley, PhD, senior vice president for research and development at Pearson Education and mom of two boys, and other experts offer these tips for connecting with your student and playing a bigger role in his or her education.
1. Don’t skip those parent-teacher conferences. O’Malley stresses the importance of making a connection with your child’s teachers. According to one study, 90 percent of elementary school parents attend the meetings, but only 60 percent of high school parents do.
Make the most of your time with the teacher, as they likely have dozens of other parents to speak with. Ask your child ahead of time how he thinks he’s doing in class and if he has any concerns. Ask the teacher how your child performs in comparison to her peers and if there are any subjects in particular where he struggles or excels. ParentToolkit.com has a checklist for parents with more tips on what to ask the teacher at each grade level.
2. Make technology your ally. “Technology offers exciting ways to connect parents and teachers, including websites, discussion boards and texting,” O’Malley says. Pearson Education recommends getting the teacher’s email address, checking the school website often and asking if the teacher sets up a class website. Find out what the teacher’s communication preference is. Free apps like BuzzMob, Collaborize Classroom and Remind 101 can also help parents and teachers stay in touch, O’Malley adds, so consider asking the teacher if the school uses such an app.
Pearson is experimenting with virtual parent-teacher conferences on Skype, Facetime and Google Hangouts to see if this will improve parent participation.
3. Get involved with homework. KidsHealth.org suggests setting up a specific homework area that’s well lit, free of distractions and has supplies (paper, pencils) within reach. Pick a regular study time, whether it’s after school or after dinner, and make that the routine. If kids have a heavy homework load, have them take 15-minute breaks every hour, KidsHealth says. While you should be involved as a motivator and mentor (and checking their work), don’t do the work for them.
O’Malley suggests keeping an open dialogue with your child about homework. Especially with math, ask your child questions: What is the problem? How are we solving it? Discuss homework while grocery shopping, driving to school or having breakfast, O’Malley says. Early engagement with the material means “if you find out your child is struggling, you can intervene very quickly,” she says.
4. Abandon your math anxiety. Not a math whiz? Don’t let that stand in the way of helping your child with math homework. Technology can help. Search online for math homework help websites, suggests the education nonprofit GreatSchools. One is math.com.
“An exciting thing happening in mathematics is the concept of the flipped classroom,” O’Malley says. In this learning model, the teacher will share a video of the content the night before she teaches it. Students can watch the 5- to 7-minute video that introduces a concept. “It gets the student’s brain going so the next day in class, the student is ready for the concept,” O’Malley explains. “We as parents can watch and learn along with our children. That brings more value than just the student learning the concept,” she adds.
Technology aside, even if you’re feeling less than confident, keep a positive attitude, GreatSchools says. Be the role model, show an interest in math and point out how math affects your everyday life.
5. Know the benchmarks your child should hit. It’s not just about educational benchmarks. Research has shown people with higher emotional intelligence have fewer learning problems, so your child’s emotional and social well-being are important for academic success, as well.
How do you know what those benchmarks are? ParentToolkit.com has a grade-by-grade guide to help you and your children track and measure their progress.
6. Don’t obsess about standardized tests. “It’s just one indicator of children’s performance,” O’Malley says. She sees the tests as a confirmation of what she should already know as a parent about her kids’ learning. She suggests parents look at grades, homework and how your child interacts with the teacher to get a complete picture of a child’s academic performance.
The bottom line? It’s not rocket science. “Connect with [your child]. Pay attention to the homework, participate in their education, show excitement and engage with their teachers so you have that parent-teacher connection,” O’Malley says.
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