Play the Part: Parents are a child’s best teacherPosted: September 21, 2012
Folks, it’s Friday, and I usually keep it light. I like ending the week on a little note that’s short and sweet, so that I can spend most of the day preparing for the weekend. But something happened yesterday that really touched my heart, and I need to share it with all of you.
Now I realize that I can get a bit preachy at times, especially when it comes to a parent’s responsibility to their children. So I need you to bear with me and understand three things:
- I write about parenting and children, because I care about the kids. My kids. Your kids. Kids that I see in public. Kids that I hear about in articles or on the news. Kids that I have never heard of. If I were to be defined my one “passion,” it would be all about the children.
- These are just my thoughts and opinions, but I do read a lot of research-based articles that help me form these opinions, along with the collaborative thoughts, comments, and observations that I witness in parents that I see all around me (including my husband and myself).
- I am not a perfect parent. I mess up as a parent all. the. time. I get frustrated when my son has asked me the same question five times, when I have answered at least four of those times with the same response, leading me to believe that he is simply not listening to me. So I might lose my patience and snap, “Son! If you would LISTEN to me after you ask the question, you would only need to ask it ONCE!” I have been known to give him a sugary snack right before bedtime (during last year’s football season, we had a tradition of Sunday Night Sundaes… Mmm… I think I might bring that tradition back…) My husband and I will argue about the best way to parent. I usually think I’m right. He usually thinks he’s right. But we try our best to meet each other in the middle.
What I strive for on this blog is to reach others while I am simultaneously reaching myself. To keep all of us parents on the right track.
Now that we’re all in the same boat, I have to get back to sharing what happened yesterday. Yesterday was my first PTO meeting. And it got me a bit fired up about our job as parents when it comes to our children’s education. In our small school of just over 400 students, I think I counted four or five parents that attended this meeting that were not also part of the school’s faculty or staff. That’s it? Yes. That was it. And that was including myself. It was my first PTO meeting, and I didn’t know what to expect, but I was completely shock by lack of turn-out from parents. I’m sure this is not always the case, and I know that we can’t do everything that we would like as parents. We are moms and dads, not Wonder Woman and Superman.
But as I listened throughout the meeting… Fundraising goals falling short. Need more volunteers. Help us raise more money. And it’s not about raising money for luxury items. They need the money for tables to accommodate the students. They need grants to help support the children that come from low-income families (we are one of those families). And it’s not just about the money.
The majority of the PTO meeting was spent listening to the principal and teacher reports. Reporting on how the school year is going so far. Reporting on what is going on in the classroom. And the one common request… plea… that I heard from every teacher, reading coach, math coach, etc?
“We need parents to help their children work on this at home.”
“Parents, we need you to practice this at home.”
“Parents can go online to find out about the data that we are using, the core curriculums that we are striving to meet…”
“We need parents to read to the kids or let them read to you every day.”
The fifth grade teacher had several students that still were struggling with addition and subtraction. My son’s Kindergarten teacher has one child that only knows four letters of the alphabet. There are some children who begin school that don’t even know their full name, just the name that they go by.
Parents, our teachers are struggling, and they need our help. Most likely, if you’re a follower of this blog, you are already involved in your child’s education. And that is wonderful. Some children get homework sent home every night. Some parents make sure that their children complete their homework before dinner. I think that the responsibility of a child’s education needs to fall mostly onto that child’s own shoulders. I’m not suggesting that we as parents need to force our children to sit down and study for hours. But we absolutely need to be involved in their education. We need to set aside a time each day for homework, math or reading practice, or other areas of interest to our children. It doesn’t need to be all worksheets and flash cards either. I am a huge advocate of learning through play, so make it fun! If you make sitting down to work on these skills seem like a chore, then that is how your children will see it, and it will be a struggle. But you can play with Lego blocks and sort them by size, shape, color. Add them together. Subtract them. Sort them into three groups of five, and use multiplication to come up with the answer. Set out twenty pieces and challenge your child to divide them into equal groups (two groups of ten, four groups of five, five groups of four, etc.) Let them play, and they will amaze you with the imaginative and creative ways that they come up with all while working on basic math skills. Go outside with a stick and some dirt, and practice writing sight words in the dirt. There are tons of resources out there that provide parents with thousands of examples on how to help your child’s education at home, and I will link up a few of those at the bottom of this post.
Something we need to keep in mind is that we are our child’s constant teacher and role model. They will learn more from us than they will from any one teacher that they have. Sure, I had several teachers that touched my life and had a great, positive influence on my education. But if you ask me who my biggest role model is? My mom. Hands down. I may not have turned out to be just like her, but she is without a doubt the biggest influence on my life. My son informed me this morning that there are 153 days in his school year (keep in mind that we don’t go to school on Mondays!), which leaves 203 days that they are with us. What we do at home with our children can make such a huge impact on their learning abilities. Also keep in mind that your child’s teacher has twenty or more children whose education is equally important. That’s a big task, especially when you have one child who doesn’t know how to write his own name, and you have other children reading at a first-grade level. How many children’s education are we concerned with? One or two? Four? Six?
Another topic they talked about in the PTO meeting was that teachers and schools are bumping up their standards. The state of Missouri got a waiver on the “No Child Left Behind” act, and what was once considered second-grade material is now being taught in first-grade, etc. Our teachers have high expectations of our children. Shouldn’t we? Some parents take on the attitude of “Well that’s why I send him to school!” or “That’s what I pay his preschool to do!” I’m telling you that it isn’t enough. From the time that children are born, they look to their parents to teach them. Teachers can only accomplish so much in the time that they have the children. It’s up to us to do the rest. And if your child is doing well in school, does that mean that we’re off the hook at home? Absolutely not. Chances are, the reason that they are doing well is because of our past involvement in their education, and we need to maintain the attitude that we can always learn more. Find fun ways to challenge your child. Or if they have the math skills down, give them some paint and a big piece of paper and let them express their creativity instead. If they already know all of their sight words, encourage them come up with a story and write it down on paper. Bind the pages together and help them create their first, original book.
On a side note that was only indirectly addressed at the PTO meeting, we also need to keep in mind that learning starts at birth. Parents As Teachers is a wonderful organization that gets your child on track right from the beginning. I love this quote that they have on the website in reference to a child being prepared for school: “This study says those states that wait to start early childhood education until age 4 are making a huge mistake…by starting at birth, Parents as Teachers starts at just the right time.” –Dr. Edward Zigler If you have a child that is under the age of five, please visit their website and use their “Program Locator” to find the program in your area.
I’m sure that most of you are already involved in your child’s education and their school. I know it has always been important to me. But I also know that I can always do better, and that sometimes I slack. I am challenging myself to step it up a notch. To really be there for my son, for his fellow classmates, for the school, for the community.
How do you stay involved in your child’s education?
Parenting Resources: (homework help, fun learning activities at home, how to get involved in school, and much more!)
- http://www.corestandards.org/ -Find out your child’s core standards according to state. Most states are now using common core standards. It’s important for parents and teachers to have the same expectation on what our children are learning!