The largest ever conference on parental engagement in education was held recently in Melbourne. More than 600 people heard from experts around the world talk on the topic and came away with a wealth of information about how they can adapt their practice to support parents to engage with their children’s learning.
Many parents would think that parent engagement at school means doing time on the P&C, volunteering at school fetes, helping at the canteen or perhaps with occasional reading support in the classroom. But while these things are really valuable, parent engagement in their child’s learning is about much so much more. It means getting involved in what your child is learning about and supporting them throughout their educational journey.
Understandably, having the confidence to engage with your child’s learning is not easy for everyone, especially for those parents who may not feel confident about their own skills, or whose educational experiences left them feeling ill-equipped to support their children.
But the good news is that parents don’t need to possess specific ‘teaching’ skills to make a real difference for their child. Here are seven ways you can be ‘engaged’ and all will benefit your child across their early school years.
7 ways to be an ‘engaged’ school parent
1. Stay up to date with what your child is learning
Create a strong link and continuity between what is happening at school and at home by keeping up with what your child is learning. Get to know your child’s teachers, as well as other significant people who your child is coming into regular contact with, like specialist subject teachers, the principal or deputy, counsellor or advisor. Let them know you’re available and are keen to keep informed of your child’s progress, and to learn how best to give any extra support they may need.
2. Make time to read together daily
Foster a love of reading by carrying a book when you go out, taking your child to the library for story times or to borrow a book. Read stories and then talk about them. What was that story about? Did you like that character? Why? Helping your child to develop a love of reading will help them in all their school subjects.
3. Make learning about numeracy as important as reading
Math is a foundation skill for participation in society – everyone needs it for budgeting, taking medication and employment. Many things we take for granted are new concepts for children, so take every opportunity to talk to your child about numbers, patterns and shapes. At the shopping centre, in the car, along the way to the park. How many cans of soup? What are the numbers on the signs. Count the steps up the slippery dip.
4. Share words, rhyme and stories anytime, anywhere
There’s no need to put pressure on yourself to follow the perfect format – just incorporate reading and storytelling into your day through things as simple as reading signs as you drive or at the supermarket. What other words rhyme with car? What does ‘exit’ mean? What does the red sign say?
5. Encourage your child to use their imagination and solve problems
Do you think Superman has a family? Tell me about them. What do they do on weekends? If your child is trying a tricky or new task, guide them through it in a way which fosters independence and problem solving. What do we do first? If that doesn’t work, what could we try next? Tell them if they don’t know, and guide them through it so they can feel proud they’ve solved small challenges themselves.
6. Head outdoors for practical learning opportunities
Some numerical concepts are quite visual and harder for children to grasp. Take it outdoors to give it real life relevance for your child. In the playground or park, play with height, length, distance, shapes. Which is the tallest tree? The widest trunk? How many paces from the swing to the slide?
7. Take opportunities to discuss money
If appropriate, let them pay and receive change at the shops. For the younger kids, keep to rounded dollars. Add in the cents when they’re a bit more advanced in their counting skills. If you have $10 and you buy something for $5, what do you have left? How many cents in a dollar? How many of these could we buy with $10?
Simply showing your interest in learning means your child will learn to be interested too. Show them that you connect with their teacher because you value keeping informed of what they’re learning at school.
Bringing learning into everyday life, for you and your child, is a way of making it relevant and fun. The public library is a great source of learning resources such as books, DVDs, play equipment to borrow, and free child-friendly learning events. There you’ll also meet other parents and together you can share what you’ve learned on how to be engaged with your child’s educational journey.
Parental engagement in their child’s education doesn’t have to be an expensive exercise. The only cost to you, is to make time to bring it into your family’s life using these simple and practical tips.
The Bub Hub is proud to support The Smith Family
Parent engagement is central to The Smith Family’s work supporting the education of disadvantaged children. To find out more or to donate to The Smith Family’s annual Winter Appeal visit thesmithfamily.com.au.