Parents are busy. We have jobs, homes to run, and children to take care of.
It can be quite overwhelming to manage everything, and so it is quite natural to welcome any and all help that is offered. Either by a family member, a friend, or an organization.
In early childhood education, there is lots of help available for parents.
In Head Start Programs in the US, preschools are free for parents. These programs take a two-generation approach which educates the child while nurturing the well-being of the parent. Greater parental involvement in these programs has proven to increase cognitive stimulation in early learners.
There are also home-based options where visitors come once a week to the home to support parents and kids and co-develop strategies to help the child learn.
There are also parent training programs that are designed to reduce family stress. They provide instruction in areas such as discipline strategies, positive involvement in a child’s life, skill encouragement, and problem solving. Basically, the programs aim to cover everything that a parent should know as they raise and educate their young children.
The Canadian Child Care Federation provides high quality resources for early learning and child care. They promote the children’s emotional, social, cognitive, ethical and creative development. They offer tips on parenting, such as strategies for dealing with challenging behaviors, enhancing self-esteem and strengthening communication skills.
Indeed, there are many facets to learning at a young age, and greater parent involvement ensures that the whole child is being supported. Sprig Learning takes a holistic approach to learning that focuses on the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual development of the child.
In this article, Sprig Learning covers four significant ways parents can become involved in their child’s education.
Parental Involvement or Family Engagement?
There is a difference between parental involvement and family engagement.
There is no doubt that school districts, organizations and education companies are trying to do their part in what is called family engagement.
Start Early, an early childhood research organization, defines family engagement as “partnering with families to build mutually respectful, goal-oriented relationships that support strong parent-child relationships, family well-being and ongoing learning and development for both parents and children.” This definition is from the perspective of institutions and how they can enhance engagement.
Parental involvement on the other hand, is defined as the “active participation of a parent or caregiver in the education of the child.” This perspective focuses on the parent initiating engagement—a regular and ongoing commitment of the parent to their children and to their school.
Help from educational institutions like daycares, preschools or school programs is available for a good reason. They help to reinforce the practice of positive parental involvement. They also create a support system for learning with facilitators and other parents.
In addition to the support from schools and other organizations, there are some absolute necessities of parental involvement, which the more parents know sooner, the better.
If the following four categories of parental involvement are practiced in advance, then any family engagement received will bear results faster.
When family engagement from schools meets parental involvement halfway, the most impactful early learning occurs.
The 4 Categories of Parental Involvement
Based on our research, we discovered there are four categories of activities parents can engage in to better support their child’s education. Here they are along with some practical examples.
Parents should attend school events, whenever possible. During the pandemic, many schoolevents were either cancelled or held virtually. While text, email and other social networks can be good tools for initial communication, there is nothing like building a partnership with the school or an educator in person.
These events can be in school, or in the community.
Examples: Attend parent-teacher meetings, conferences or briefings. Attend other school activities such as plays, tournaments, class presentations, chaperone school field trips.
Visiting signifies taking the initiative to take your child somewhere, rather than just attending what someone else has organized. It’s a crucial part of home learning, where the child uses their inquisitive nature to learn about the world around them.
Examples: Plan educational trips such as to the library, museum, or neighborhood park.
Do Things At Home
“Doing” is the other half of home learning that can happen indoors, at the comfort of one’s own residence. Rather than going to a place, the parent can partake in any number of educational activities with their child inside the home.
Sprig Learning developed Sprig Home so parents can access teacher-created activities to do at home. It helps parents to teach their kids while also familiarizing themselves with the school curriculum. It’s an app that can be downloaded and used to educate children independently of any schools as well.
During the formative years, learning never truly stops, it just takes on many forms such as play-based learning or active learning. So it’s important to extend learning outside the classroom.
It’s really important to show interest in an early learner’s school work. Whether it’s sharing excitement over successes or providing encouragement during a difficult phase in learning, being involved by doing is essential.
Examples: Do teacher-recommended activities at home. Reading with children, or reading storybooks to children, are perhaps the most famous examples to illustrate this category.
Communicate with Educators
Communicating refers to actively corresponding with educators on what help they might need or receiving advice on how to best support the child’s needs at home. Educators have an extremely demanding job, especially when it contains administrative duties as well on top of teaching.
When parents pitch in to help relieve the workload from educators, it allows teachers more time to personalize the education for the children in their classes.
Examples: Monitor homework. Discuss school days and events. Volunteer to help in school with time or resources.
Benefits of Parental Involvement
Teacher-initiated interventions lead to improved attendance, better grade-level reading proficiency and reduced behavioral problems. The same is true for parental involvement.
Greater parental involvement, by itself, or by way of greater parental engagement can lead to all of the following:
Improved Academic Achievement
A review of 41 documents showed a significant increase in student achievement when parents were more involved.
In particular, active forms of parental involvement, asking how the school day was, had a stronger effect on student achievement versus passive forms, such as waiting for an issue to arise. Active parental involvement is also known as parental engagement.
Especially meaningful for early learning, it was found that the earlier on the involvement started, the more likely was the possibility of higher student achievement.
Improved Teacher Performance
Greater parental involvement has shown to increase performance amongst teachers. Through greater communication with the parents, educators are better able to differentiate instruction for students.
Apart from higher school attendance, higher grades and higher scores, student behavior is also improved by greater parental involvement. Classroom conduct, self-esteem and motivation are all factors that increase with more parental involvement.
Although socio-economic background is a key part when it comes to looking at data on education inequity, it has been shown that more involvement from parents in the child’s education increases the child’s likelihood to succeed in school with fewer behavioral problems, regardless of income or background.
Positive Parental Involvement—The Right Way
The benefits listed above clearly demonstrate that parents are an important part of the early childhood learning process. That’s why Sprig considers it essential that parents are consulted when students are being assessed about their current learning situation.
An important reminder that, when talking about parental involvement, it is positive involvement that is the focus. At the other end of the spectrum, there is such a thing as too much involvement where kids become too reliant on parents. Taking these four categories into account should help achieve an effective balance for educators, parents, and, most importantly, students.