One of the toughest days for parents is their child’s first day of school. The event is especially difficult for mom. Let’s face it, there is something unsettling about handing your child over to a group of strangers who take her behind locked doors where you are not free to follow. Whew! The first day of school leaves more than a few moms feeling, well, is guilty the word I’m looking for here? One begins to wonder while driving away from the school, just what is the parents’ place in education.
To be realistic, though, there is not much more most of us can do. Blessed are those parents who are equipped to home school their child. The rest of us—nearly all of us—have to find a school to which we can entrust our child. That is why finding the right school is so important. Finding a school that reinforces what your child is learning at home and at church is crucial to her long term mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
But what if there were a way to do both? What if there were schools that would allow, even invite parents to participate in their child’s education? I am happy to report that such schools do exist. There really are schools that will allow you to participate in your child’s education in a meaningful way. You just have to do a little research. Ask these questions of the schools you are considering for your child:
Can I help my child with her school work?
One complaint I hear again and again in my interviews with parents is that they can’t help with their child’s school work. Much school work today is completed at school on computers—there are few books—and neither computer nor books can go home. Look for a school that uses a curriculum that is accessible to parents, one that the average adult can comprehend and one that students are allowed to bring home. Ask if teachers are able and willing to meet with parents and equip them to help their children at home. A school that doesn’t pass those tests may be one that frustrates you and your child if she struggles and needs a little extra help.
May I participate in field trips and class projects?
When I was a child, my parents and grandparents chaperoned school field trips. In the (gulp) decades since I was a child in school, however, parents have been increasingly left out of such activities. Safety is probably the biggest reason for this shift. No school can vet many hundreds or even thousands of parent and grandparent volunteers well enough to guarantee safety. A small school has a distinct advantage here because it can not only vet but personally know those chaperones. Besides that, a small school will welcome the extra hands and value the experience of parent and grandparent volunteers. Look for a school that is small enough to need its parents and trusts them enough to want their involvement.
May I observe classes?
Again, safety, and even government restrictions, are probably the main reason so many schools have to lock parents out of the classroom. If you are locked out, though, how can you know for certain what is happening in your child’s class? Is the curriculum being taught? Is class time being used wisely? Are your child’s needs being met in the classroom? Look for a school that welcomes you into the classroom, not only as a volunteer, but also as an observer, a learner, a helper to your child. Most parents don’t have an abundance of time to spend at school, but look for a school that welcomes you in when you do have time. It is the best way to know for sure what is happening behind those locked doors and to be in a position to really help your child with her education.
As a parent, your place in education is right in the thick of it, helping your child every step of the way. You don’t have to hand her over to people you don’t know and then stand helplessly outside of locked doors. Do your homework to find a school that lets you take your rightful place in your child’s education. Such schools really do exist and are closer than you may think.