Staying Involved in Your Child's Education

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I am so grateful to live in a place where we really do have a range of great schooling options for our kids. As you’ve probably already noted during our series this month, our writers run the gamut of schooling options. But, I think that we would all agree that ultimately, we all need to homeschool our children. Wait. Are you wondering if you read that right? Didn’t I just say that we run the gamut of schooling options? Yes. Yes, I did. And, in the very next breath, I also said that we should all homeschool our children. Even though my own kids both go to public schools. Let me explain.

No matter where your child learns his ABCs or who teaches her the times tables, YOU are responsible for your child’s development. In their book Going Public: Your Child Can Thrive in Public School, David and Kelli Pritchard state it this way: “We view ourselves as the primary instructors, and the classroom teacher as our deputy. The ultimate outcome [for our children’s education] rests squarely on our shoulders.”

I love that concept – I am a primary instructor and the teachers are my deputies. As such, they bring incredible expertise and knowledge to that role. By calling them deputies, I’m not belittling their job at all. My kids have had the pleasure of being under some really talented teachers. But, in the final analysis, Rick and I are responsible to oversee our kids’ development in every way – spiritually, physically, morally, relationally and academically. I don’t abdicate that responsibility to ANYONE else – even our church or a Christian school. However, I might employ others (coaches, teachers, youth group leaders, music or dance instructors, etc.) in that process.

When Rick & I decided to enroll our kids in the public schools, we purposed to maintain that value in two ways: (1) To make sure a Biblical worldview permeated our home and didn’t just become a Sunday thing; and (2) To stay involved in our school district. Both of us are involved in different ways in the kids' academic growth but since I’ve always either been a full-time homemaker or been employed from home, I have been the one who has kept a pulse on the atmosphere and life of the school.

Of course, sometimes getting involved is easier said than done. How do you get involved? Where? When? Is it possible to be over-involved?

Here are some of my suggestions to help ease that angst:

  • Just ask. This might seem obvious but your principal and teachers know where parent help is most needed. Don't let your own preconceived ideas leave you trying to force a square peg into a round hole. That will just frustrate everyone.
  • Offer face to face. Let your teacher know that you'd be happy help in her specific classroom. Ask her to think of ways she could use an extra set of hands. Give her a sense of your schedule and some of your skills.
  • Follow-up with a note. Lots of people offer to help in a vague sense but teachers don't always know how to translate that into the classroom.
  • Be willing to serve even if it's not directly in your child's classroom. Whether in the PTO or in the library or with something as simple as Picture Day. These are all opportunities to communicate that you care about the school, not just YOUR kid. They're also great windows into the life of the school.
  • Go on field trips. If there is an opportunity to chaperone, always take it! Spending the day traispsing around the zoo with your child's second grade is a great way to get a feel for the teacher and the kids. It will also give you a healthy respect for your teacher because you'll be exhausted by the end of it!!
  • Assume the best. It's very popular in many circles right now to assume the worst about the public school agenda. While there ARE some educators who don't respect parental rights, many actually do prize the parent-child relationship. We have found our principal and teachers very reponsive whenever we've had a concern - whether about our own children in specific or about a policy or curriculum in general.
  • Don't just show up when you have a concern or complaint. Make sure you're actively encouraging the good things that are happening at your school. Let the teachers and staff hear "thank-you" from you AND your kids. Take coffee and scones in for the whole building one morning. Bring popsicles for your child's class on a hot day. Drop off a mum in the teacher's lounge with a note of thanks.
  • Know the staff in your building - from the principal to the janitor. Each of them play a part in your child's education and deserve your kindness. When you stop to say "hello" and know them by name, you communicate value. The teachers in our school have become friends to me and I really genuinely enjoy seeing them - even when my children no longer have them.
  • Be in the building on a semi-regular basis - even for 10 minutes. This will give you a sense for the atmosphere and philosophy there.
  • Read the newsletters from the school and from the district. You need to know what is going on - on both the micro and the macro level.
  • Ask your kids about their days. Go through their folder. Help with homework. Make time to communicate with them daily about their education. Talk through the things they're learning and help them learn to filter information through the grid of Scripture. For example, it's OK for them to learn to respectfully disagree with a teacher about a point of history. But, you have to coach them through that process. If you don't know what they're learning, you can't do that.
  • Know your kids' friends and their families. When you walk down the hall, you should know lots of names and faces. Sometimes, what they learn on recess is almost as critical as what they learn in the classroom!
  • IF you find yourself in an adverse situation or environment, take action. Do not leave your child in a situation where his faith is being assaulted by a teacher or she is being bullied by another child. Know your rights and be ready to advocate for your child when needed. Sadly, some schools HAVE gotten off track - whether private or public. In those cases, the best course might be removing your child.

As you can see, being responsible for your child's education takes time - whether you home educate or send them to a school building. You might not be able to do ALL of these but make sure you identify some that you CAN do. No matter how you get involved, I hope you'll enjoy the opportunity to take part in your child's education. They need your direction and involvement even if they're not with you all day. And, in the process, you just might find yourself with some great opportunities to serve the people around you in profound ways.

Blessings,

Shannon

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Today's post is part of our Back to School series!