ERIC Identifier: ED308988
Publication Date: 1989-00-00
Author: Brown, Patricia Clark
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Elementary and Early Childhood Education Urbana IL.
Involving Parents in the Education of Their Children. ERIC
When parents are involved in their children's education, both children and
parents are likely to benefit. Researchers report that parent participation in
their children's schooling frequently:
* enhances children's self-esteem
* improves children's academic achievement
* improves parent-child relationships
* helps parents develop positive attitudes towards school
and a better understanding of the schooling process.
Despite these advantages, it is not always easy for parents to find time and
energy to become involved or to coordinate with schedules for school events. For
some parents, a visit to school is perceived as an uncomfortable experience,
perhaps a holdover from their own school days. Others may have their hands full
with a job and other children. The availability and cost of babysitters are
other factors. Recently, teachers and other school staff have made special
efforts to increase communication with parents and encourage involvement in
children's learning experiences.
WAYS TO INVOLVE PARENTS
One kind of parental involvement is
school-based and includes participating in parent-teacher conferences and
functions, and receiving and responding to written communications from the
teacher. Parents can also serve as school volunteers for the library or
lunchroom, or as classroom aides. In one survey, almost all teachers reported
talking with children's parents-- either in person, by phone, or on open school
nights--and sending notices home (Becker & Epstein, 1982). These methods,
along with requests for parents to review and sign homework, were most
frequently used to involve parents.
Parents can participate in their children's schools by joining Parent Teacher
Associations (PTAs) or Parent Teacher Organizations (PTOs) and getting involved
in decision-making about the educational services their children receive. Almost
all schools have a PTA or PTO, but often only a small number of parents are
active in these groups.
Another kind of involvement is home-based and focuses on activities that
parents can do with their children at home or on the teacher's visits to the
child's home. However, few teachers involve parents through home-based
activities, partly because of the amount of time involved in developing
activities or visiting and partly because of the difficulty of coordinating
parents' and teachers' schedules.
WAYS TO REACH PARENTS
Some programs aim to reach parents
who do not usually participate in their children's education. Such programs
provide flexible scheduling for school events and parent-teacher conferences,
inform parents about what their children are learning, and help parents create a
supportive environment for children's learning at home.
Many schools have responded to the needs of working parents by scheduling
conferences in the evening as well as during the day, and by scheduling school
events at different times of the day throughout the year.
It is important for teachers to keep the lines of communication open. This
involves not only sending regular newsletters and notes, but also obtaining
information from parents. Phone calls are a greatly under-used technique for
keeping in touch. A teacher usually calls a parent to report a child's
inappropriate behavior or academic failure. But teachers can use phone calls to
let parents know about positive behavior and to get input. Parents justifiably
become defensive if they think that every phone call will bring a bad report. If
teachers accustom parents to receiving regular calls just for keeping in touch,
it is easier to discuss problems when they occur.
Teachers need to consider families' lifestyles and cultural backgrounds when
planning home activities. However, some activities can be adapted to almost any
home situation. These are activities that parents or children engage in on a
day-to-day basis. Teachers can encourage parents and children to do these
activities together, and can focus on the opportunities that the activities
provide for learning. For example, although television viewing is a pastime for
most children and adults, they do not often watch shows together. Teachers can
suggest appropriate programs and send home questions for families to discuss.
This discussion can be carried over into class.
Busy parents can include children in such everyday activities as preparing a
meal or grocery shopping. Teachers can also suggest that parents set aside a
time each day to talk with their children about school. Parents may find this
difficult if they have little idea of what occurs in school. Notes on what the
children have been working on are helpful. Parents and children can discuss
current events using teacher-provided questions. Teachers often suggest the
activity of reading aloud to children. Reading to children is an important
factor in increasing their interest and ability in reading. Teachers can also
encourage children to read to parents. In areas where children may not have many
books, schools can lend books, and teachers can provide questions for parents
and children to discuss.
Home activities allow parents flexibility in scheduling, provide
opportunities for parents and children to spend time together, and offer a
relaxed setting. To be most beneficial, home activities should be interesting
and meaningful--not trivial tasks that parents and children have to "get
through." When teachers plan home activities, they often think in terms of
worksheets or homework that will reinforce skills learned in school. But parents
often grow tired of the endless stream of papers to be checked and the time
spent on "busywork." Another danger of promoting home activities is the
possibility that there may arise an unclear distinction of roles, with teachers
expecting parents to "teach" at home. Teachers and parents need to understand
that their roles are different, and that their activities with children should
DIFFICULTIES IN INVOLVING PARENTS
All teachers experience
the frustration of trying to involve parents and getting little response.
Teachers complain that parents do not come to conferences or school open houses,
check homework, or answer notes. This leads some teachers to conclude that
parents do not care about their children's education. While it is true that the
emotional problems of a few parents may be so great as to prevent them from
becoming involved with their children's education, most parents do care a great
deal. This caring is not, however, always evidenced by parent attendance at
school events. There are a number of reasons why these parents may not become
involved, and teachers need to consider these before dismissing parents as
For many parents, a major impediment to becoming involved is lack of time.
Working parents are often unable to attend school events during the day. In
addition, evenings are the only time these parents have to spend with their
children, and they may choose to spend time with their family rather than attend
meetings at school.
For many apparently uninvolved parents school was not a positive experience
and they feel inadequate in a school setting. Parents may also feel uneasy if
their cultural style or socioeconomic level differ from those of teachers
(Greenberg, 1989). Some parents who are uninvolved in school may not understand
the importance of parent involvement or may think they do not have the skills to
be able to help. Even parents who are confident and willing to help may hesitate
to become involved for fear of overstepping their bounds. It is the
responsibility of teachers and administrators to encourage such parents to
The suggestions offered in this digest can help
teachers involve parents who might not otherwise be involved. While it is
possible for a teacher to implement such a parent involvement program alone, it
is much easier if the school as a whole is committed to the program.
Administrative staff can relieve some of the burden of implementing a
comprehensive parent involvement program, and can offer help and support to
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Becher, R. (1987). PARENT INVOLVEMENT:
A REVIEW OF RESEARCH AND PRINCIPLES OF SUCCESSFUL PRACTICE. ED 247 032.
Becker, H. J. & Epstein, J. L. (1982). "Parent Involvement: A Survey of
Teacher Practices." ELEMENTARY SCHOOL JOURNAL, 83, 2, 85-102.
DeKanter, A., Ginsburg, A., & Milne, A. (1986). PARENT INVOLVEMENT STRATEGIES: A NEW EMPHASIS ON TRADITIONAL PARENT ROLES. ED 293 919.
Greenberg, P. (1989). "Parents As Partners in Young Children's Development
and Education: A New American Fad? Why Does It Matter?" YOUNG CHILDREN, 44, 4,
McLaughlin, M. & Shields, P. (1986). INVOLVING PARENTS IN THE SCHOOLS:
LESSONS FOR POLICY. ED 293 920.
Stevenson, D. & Baker, D. (1987). "The Family-School Relation and the
Child's School Performance." CHILD DEVELOPMENT, 58, 5, 1348-57.