Source: Search Institute

It’s a downward trend. As children start kindergarten, parents are quite involved with their education. We attend parent-teacher conferences, cheer on our children at school concerts and events, and hang up schoolwork in the family kitchen gallery: the refrigerator.

As children become older, parents grow farther away from school. Kids seem to be doing well without our involvement. They’re supposed to be independent. Right?

Yes, but not by a parental retreat. Kids need their parents to stay actively involved in their education throughout middle and high school. Parents can easily stay involved in small ways that will make a big difference. For example:

  • Maintain ongoing communication with your child’s teacher(s). Call to check in every other month. Call before trouble appears.
  • Join a parent-teacher organization. If you can’t volunteer a lot of time, say so.
  • Volunteer to help out in small ways. Check with the teacher or the school’s volunteer coordinator.
  • Attend all conferences. If you can’t make it on the designated date, arrange to meet at another time.
  • Talk with your child about her or his homework – focus more on the issues and topics that specific assignments.

The Challenge
Most youth don’t have parents who are active in their schooling. Only 29% of young people experience this asset. And involvement drops dramatically across the middle and high school years, from 44% of 6th graders having this asset to only 17% of 12th graders.

Time Together: Three ways to get more involved with your child’s education:

  1. Encourage your child’s teacher to meet with both you and your child so that everyone can have a say in expectations and goals.
  2. Go to a museum to look at exhibits that are related to your child’s class.
  3. Together create a thank-you note or small gift for your child to give to the teacher.

The School Climate Thermometer
How can you pinpoint what’s causing a chilly or warm climate?

The most important factor in a warm climate is a positive learning environment in which all students feel challenged and supported to succeed, and develop caring relationships with teachers. The Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation identified eight other factors. Check which ones your school has:

  • Social and thinking skills instruction
  • Parents as partners
  • Community involvement (other than parents)
  • Learning through service
  • A drug-free approach to living
  • Positive peer groups
  • A celebration of and respect for diversity
  • Support for school staff

Raising School Spirit
On way for students to feel proud of their school is to help deal with issues or problems. Some schools have groups of parents and students that work together to identify and address concerns like graffiti on the building, violence, or high dropout rates.

Raising school spirit isn’t always serious business though. Some fun ideas include:

  • Creating a school slogan.
  • Writing a new school song or cheer.
  • Decorating hallway bulletin boards and walls with school spirit decor.
  • Having each classroom or homeroom design its own banner.
  • Designing a school logo and putting it on T-shirts.

Reprinted with permission from Ideas for Parents, Newsletter #8 , Copyright 1997 by Search Institute, Minneapolis, MN, 1-800-888-7828. All rights reserved.