Back to school with your kids: 5 ways to get involved

Photo credit: Aaron Burden, Unsplash

Photo credit: Aaron Burden, Unsplash

Last year, I quit my full-time job to become a homeschooling mom, and it has been a rewarding experience so far. I was a teacher for nearly 20 years, and, now, I get to teach my most favorite student ever. It has also given me an opportunity to remember that parents are the most important teachers in a child’s life, even if children are not homeschooled.

We just went “back to school” this week like other Maine families, and it feels good to be back to school. My son and I have learned important things about working together: I’ve truly learned how he learns, something highly important and difficult to achieve in traditional academic settings where teachers have many students in their classrooms, and my son has learned that learning can be work but can also be a lot of fun.

But while homeschooling has taught me so much about my son, it has emphasized some really important lessons that I have learned as an educator. While it’s certainly difficult to find any kind of work-life balance these days when most people are working full time and then some, it’s important to remember that, as parents, you, not your child’s teacher, have the greatest influence on their education.

Research shows the most accurate predictor of a child’s success in school is how much the family is invested in and encouraging of learning. So, while I know parents are swamped, over-worked, and over-tired, there are some little things we can do to make a big difference. You don’t have to quit your job and become a homeschooling mom to really get involved and make a difference.

With this in mind, my post this week is about how you can bring a little homeschool into your home and connect with what’s going on with your child at school.

1.     Read. Read just 20 minutes per day. I mentioned this in my earlier post on keeping your children engaged in learning throughout the summer, and I will keep writing about because it’s one of the easiest and most important things you can do for your child’s education.

Our habit is to read bedtime stories every night. Our son is seven, so we are really getting into chapter books, but even on the busiest of nights, we can still squeeze in a favorite picture book.

In my experience as a professor, I found that students who liked reading just did better in their classes across the board. Just read. Every day.

2.     Find out about “themes” or big projects your child is working on at school and support them. It’s absolutely ideal if you can reinforce important lessons from school at home. If your child is working studying basic geometry, you can help bring it to life by studying and measuring shapes in your home or yard. If you know that your child is studying a particular moment in history, head to the library to find some additional books or look online for educational videos or movies.

Making these kinds of connections between learning at school and learning at home will not only reinforce the learning (and the teacher will thank you), but it will also send a big message to your kiddo that what they’re learning is important stuff.

3.     Question homework. This research seems to be catching on, but I’m here to tell you that education is usually slow to change. If your kiddo is getting a lot of homework, especially in elementary school but even in junior high, I encourage you to speak to the teachers.

There’s some clear research now showing that homework for young children is most likely detrimental, and even junior high students don’t really benefit from homework. Research shows some benefit to high school students, but it’s only when the homework is moderate.

4.     Take advantage of some great online learning resources and games. Let’s face it. There’s a good chance your child likes video games, and though it’s certainly important to be careful of too much screen time, especially at night, there are some clear benefits to educational games. And there’s research to support it! Research in education shows that games can help improve enjoyment in learning, which can lead to deeper learning.

5.     Get involved in the school in some way, as much as you can, if you can. I’m an introvert, so I’ll never tell you that you should become president of your school district’s PTO. But even working parents and introverts (I was both when my oldest was in school) can find ways to help out.

When my oldest was in elementary school, I was able to volunteer in his classroom one day a week for just a couple of hours, and it was an eye-opening experience for me. Many parents do not have a flexible enough schedule to help out in a classroom during the day, but, if you do, I highly recommend it. It’s good to know what your child’s experience at school looks and feels like, and having extra help in the classroom can often really help a teacher build a stronger classroom.

You should be aware that not all teachers want volunteers in the classroom, so please be sure to check before assuming your child’s teacher wants classroom volunteer help.

And if you can’t make it to the classroom, just make sure you stay connected with your child’s teacher and do what you can to be a part of special events or the like.

In the end, while there’s a big homeschooling movement right now, most children are going to public schools for their educations. But I think it’s important to remember that parents play the biggest role in their child’s education.

Keep it simple, but get involved. Show your child just how important this learning stuff is. The benefits are many, and if you have ideas or questions or would just like some links to some great online resources, such as the amazing Khan Academy, please post a message below. I would love to hear form you!

Crystal Sands

About Crystal Sands

I am a former academic and award winning writing teacher turned hobby farmer/homeschooling mom/freelancer. In 2015, after too many years of working too many hours, I decided to change my life. This blog shares my stories related to making the change and simplifying my life–a process that began when we finally got our first chickens. In this blog, I will share my experiences learning how to hobby farm on a small place in Maine, become more self-sufficient, live frugally, live peacefully, and have more time for love. I hope you will join me on this journey by following my blog and following me on Twitter @CrystalDSands.