BC's Family Day falls near the mid point of the school year, and provides a great opportunity to look at the topic of the partnership that needs to exist between school and home. Parents are a child's first teachers, and the influence they have on their children's learning remains powerful from that first day of kindergarten right through to a student's last day of classes. Finding better ways for home and school to work together is therefore in the best interests of everyone .
In The Home-School Team: An Emphasis on Parent Involvement Edutopia points out that "students thrive when their parents become part of the classroom". The article points out that "children learn best when the significant adults in their lives -- parents, teachers, and other family and community members -- work together to encourage and support them". It further suggests that such partnerships should be a guiding principle when considering how schools should be organized and how children should be taught. Parental input is vital through out a student's school career. Despite years of training, good intentions and a well developed curriculum, teaching cannot, in and of itself, fully address all of a child's needs. The meaningful involvement of parents and community support are essential too.
But parents are sometimes wary of the role schools expect them to play. At our monthly SUP-PAC meetings, I frequently hear from parents who want to have a supportive role in their students' education, but are sometimes fearful that changes to the curriculum or structure of schools will lead to them having to take on too much of a role, or actively teach at home subjects and materials that they prefer to trust to the professional teachers. In turn teachers can also have concerns about the home/school partnership. As Rick Lavoie suggests in his article The Teachers Role in Home School Communication finding the right balance can be "be challenging, time consuming and frustrating… but well worth the effort.". Lavoie points out that the relationship needs to be based on an understanding of shared responsibility, and mutual care for the success of the students. As Lavoie puts it " Before parents will care about what teachers know - they have to know that teachers care".
Parent and Child Magazine summarizes the home school partnership very well, identifying how successful learning at school is often supported by what parents do at home. A student's education is impacted in no small part by the instruction they receive, the effort they put in, and the relationships they and their parents establish with their teachers. Schools building effective relationships with students AND their parents are instrumental in improving the quality of the educational experience for everyone. A relationship built upon mutual respect, clear communication and authentic opportunities to share, listen and help can guarantee that education matters to all.