While the education delivered in school is important, it's not the only time children learn and grow. As parents, we need to become more involved in the education process. We rely on teachers to provide our kids with skills and knowledge, but it's up to us to help them retain that information, apply it at home, and support their success in school and beyond.
We all want to be involved, but sometimes there are outside factors that can limit the amount of time parents are able to spend on education. Here are some concrete ideas to help support your child, even on a limited time budget:
- Ask questions: Talk to your kids about their day at school. Ask them what they learned or what their favorite part of the day was. Not only will this let your kids recap their day, but let's you know what they're learning.
- Talk to their teachers: Get involved with your child's teacher and ask about how they're progressing. Find out some the subjects they'll be learning about throughout the year.
- Set goals: Give your kids achievable goals throughout the school year. For instance, take their most recent report card and reward them for getting a better grade on their next one.
- Check homework: Use homework as a time to have your child teach you. Find out how they're synthesizing the day's lesson. After they're finished, go through their work and make sure it's correct.
- Cut down on idle time: Limit the amount of time your children watch television or play video games. Encourage them to take up a hobby like reading , writing, or drawing. Keep their brains engaged by having them help you cook dinner and figure out the fractions in a recipe.
- Extend learning beyond the classroom: Do some research to find out if a high-performing after school program is available for your child. Often, these can be a simple and potentially free activity.
- Don't let the weekend go to waste: Weekends can present excellent opportunities for enriched learning experiences that can be fun and interactive. Taking part in a community service project or visiting a local museum will encourage social interaction and inspiration.
At BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), we strive to make parental involvement a top priority. Once a child -- whom we call a "scholar" -- is enrolled in our summer learning and after school programs, parents become more involved. The BELL team helps parents understand their child's educational needs and progress, engage in weekly reading activities, and learn how to best support their child's education. We run workshops on topics such as school choice; connect parents with other community-based resources to help with college planning, healthcare access, and affordable housing; and create multiple opportunities for parents to be involved in volunteer activities in their school community, to name a few. The sense of satisfaction BELL parents enjoy after the completion of the program speaks for itself: 85 percent of those surveyed at the end of the BELL Summer program reported feeling more engaged in their child's education and 95 percent would recommend the program to other parents.
Our nation's teachers are stretched to their limits, yet we parents continue to ask more of them. Now, more than ever, we need to play a role in the education of our children to help them realize their full potential. Engaging them in learning over the summer, after school, and on weekends can be a free and critically important element to their education.