A Parent’s Roadmap to Family Engagement
This week we’re seeing quite a few organizations promoting November as family engagement month. And while I’m not sure how “official” this might be, I think we’d all agree that a little extra love between our school leaders, teachers, students, parents, and board members is just what our school communities need right now.
We blog quite a bit about family engagement in our monthly newsletter for school leaders. We emphasize that family engagement is a two-way street. Schools can’t simply push a family engagement plan to parents. For their plan to be successful, parents have to be open (and accessible) to receiving the information, participating in the discussions and supporting the initiatives.
With many schools following Dr. Joyce Epstein’s 6 Types of Parent Involvement model, we thought we’d put a parenting spin on her framework. We’ve created a roadmap for parents, so they can better understand their role in these programs.
Engagement does require input from everyone involved, and we recognize how protective parents are of their free time (is there really such a thing?!). However, even the smallest gestures can help jump-start a conversation with your child’s teachers and show them how much you value their education.
A Parent’s Roadmap to Family Engagement
The following 6 steps are outlined in Epstein’s Six Types of Parent Involvement. The descriptions and supporting statements for each type have been modified by our team to specifically assist parents in knowing how to best support their school’s family engagement program.
Provide a home environment which shows you value education and supports your children as students.
Ensure your child has the necessary resources to accomplish school work at home
Understand the importance of health and nutrition and its impact on a child’s mental health and learning outcomes
Be open to home visits (if supported at your school) to build positive relationships with the educators in your child’s life
Understand expectations regarding how school information, classroom updates and student progress is shared with your family.
Participate in parent/teacher conferences. Request virtual meetings or phone calls if you are unable to join in-person
Report excused absences to your child’s school
Create a list of your child’s teachers - their names, classes and contact information so you can easily reach out if you have questions or concerns
Make an edtech product list - know the products your school uses (and your login information!) to publish grades, assignment information, class updates, emergency notifications, lunch menus, sports schedules and other important notices. We do recognize how overwhelming this list can be, however having it all in one location can help minimize anxiety and frustration in the future
Print a copy of your school calendar and hang it in a place your child can see to avoid any last minute confusion around teacher in-service days, early dismissal days or other schedule changes
Know where to find and how to participate in school volunteer opportunities
Create a realistic goal for volunteering at your child’s school. Don’t feel pressured to be the superstar parent volunteer. Even a little bit each month is helpful and teachers appreciate having a diverse group of parent volunteers to rely on throughout the year
Let your child’s teacher know if you are available for in-person opportunities or if you prefer to help with projects at home. Are you available for projects on short notice?
Do you have a specific skill you can share with your child’s class or perhaps the school community at large? Many schools love having guest speakers to showcase how various learning skills are applied in business or their local community
4. Learning at Home
Understand how you can best support your child’s learning at home.
Seek input from your child’s teachers. What are their expectations for your child this year?
Encourage daily reading time with your child, even as little as 15 minutes a day has its benefits
Understand the assessments given at school and how to interpret the results
Ask if you don’t know. Check in with your teacher (most times a short email will suffice) if you are concerned whether or not your child is on track. What additional support does your teacher feel is necessary?
Learn how to advocate for your child and the other children in your school community.
Get involved with your school’s parent groups such as the PTO/PTA
Understand the function of your school accountability committee
Identify educational initiatives your family is passionate about and seek out school committees, district programs or community groups to connect with. Some of these initiatives might include special education services, gifted and talented programs, after school clubs, school choice, health and nutrition services, music and art programs, and much more
6. Collaborating with Community
Education isn’t limited to one school building. You will find many schools have created extensive partnerships with organizations in their community to provide services and resources to the families at their school. Explore these resources with your child.
Join the Discussion
We hear time and again that raising a child “takes a village.” And this has never been more apparent than in our education system today.
The pandemic has sent many of our school communities into a tailspin. Enrollment numbers have dropped, directly impacting school budgets. Staff retention numbers have decreased, putting a strain on sub lists. And parents are demanding more transparency regarding covid policies, mandates and curriculum decisions.
As we look ahead, we hope our communities can align themselves behind a shared mission of student success and create meaningful partnerships with the school leaders, teachers and families in our schools.
Want to give your school a shout out? We love to share good news!
About Joyce Epstein
Dr. Joyce Epstein of Johns Hopkins University has developed a framework for defining six different types of parent involvement. Her model is focused on assisting educators in developing school and family partnership programs. You can learn more about her program at the Johns Hopkins University National Network of Partnership Schools.
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About the Author
Jennifer Larson is the founder and CEO of Hive Digital Minds, mother to four children, and passionate about finding innovative ways to engage parents in their child’s learning journey. Her company’s flagship product SchoolBzz is the culmination of Jennifer’s 17 years in education – working with thousands of parents and educators on their school marketing and engagement strategies. Before founding Hive Digital Minds, Jennifer led the efforts of two successful charter public school initiatives in Douglas County, Colorado. These schools have been recognized nationally for their educational programs and currently serve over 1,800 students in grades PK-12. Jennifer has a degree in mathematics from the University of California, Santa Barbara and also received her MBA from the University of Denver, Daniels College of Business. She enjoys speaking on the topics of school marketing, family engagement, entrepreneurship, and the future of work and frequently guest lectures at the University of Denver and several high schools in her local community. Jennifer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.