As parents, we want the best for our children. All of us want our children to be successful in school. We often ask ourselves what can we do to help our children have a positive school experience? Classrooms are very different places than when we were in school with interactive whiteboards, tablets, digital microscopes and an emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving instead of memorizing facts. Sometimes we think we don’t have the skills to help them and might do or say the wrong thing. We want to help our kids but are not sure what is best. It turns out that the skills and background information are not as important to our children’s’ success in school as the quality of interactions with them.
PISA Program for International Student Assessment which measures student success in over 70 countries throughout the world has found that better reading performance is associated with day-to-day parent involvement. For younger children reading books with your child every day, or almost every day, talking about what you have done during the day and telling stories is important. As they get older, engage in discussions on books you have read or movies and TV shows you have watched. Discussions with adolescents can focus on social and political issues. I’ve heard of one family where everyone has the opportunity to share the best and worst thing that happened that day. Overall, children whose parents interacted with them by discussing how school was going, eating meals together around the table, and spending time talking to their children did better in school. Ontario’s People for Education also support the notion that parent involvement makes a difference. They provide many tip sheets in many languages on a variety of topics for parents including helping with homework, parent teacher interviews and EQAO testing, but one of particular interest is about parent involvement in education. They recommend four key steps to take to ensure children’s success in school:
- Have high expectations for your children by letting them know you think it is important they do well in school.
- Talk with your children about what is going on at school. Find out what they are learning and the different activities that are taking place.
- Help your children develop a positive attitude toward learning and good work habits. Continue to display your own positive attitude toward school and provide encouragement as they demonstrate effort and persistence.
- Read together every day with your children. Read and talk about stories, making sure it is fun and enjoyable. Keep this special time separate from their practice in learning to read.
As quoted by People for Education: “ The evidence is clear. Parents make a difference. And the way they contribute most to their children’s education is through what they do at home. Being a parent can be challenging, but the good news is that you don’t have to be ‘volunteer of the year’ or an expert on the war of 1812 to help your child succeed at school.”
So don’t worry about your math skills (or lack of). Just be prepared to spend some quality time reading books, engaging in conversation, and letting your children know that school is important. Most importantly let your children know that you are there to support them when things get difficult. In this way you continue to be "your child's first and most important teacher!"