Parents and Schools: Joining Forces

Hello! Greatly neglected blogiverse!!! Well, actually… I’ve been busy over at Mrs. M’s Musing… you know, Teacher School and all that… but I can’t help but feel like I’ve been a little out of touch with this little blog for WAY too long.

There are definitely some great things coming up for us Irvine’s (can anyone say “The-Fam-Jam-Is-Going-To-Europe?”… yes we ARE!!!), and I will be sure to get some Travel Diary posts going on that front very soon. BUT, for now, I am finishing up this semester, and I have some learning to share with you. As part of an independent project, I have been considering this question:

How can we encourage parents and families to be appropriately involved in middle years education to enhance student learning?

As so many of you, like me, are parents just hoping to stay connected with their littles as these crazy middle school years come throttling towards us and almost crush us into tiny little pieces (that was a bit too dramatic, I think), I know that being actively involved in their education is important to you. But you probably wonder sometimes (like me), how is the best way to do that?? Especially when schools often feel a bit like they don’t really want me. At all. It’s a bit disheartening, really. Well, never fear! You matter (like, more than anything else, actually), and schools know you matter! They want you there!! They just don’t know how to do it sometimes.

So! This is our chance… to be leaders in our kids (and our own!) lives. To be proactive, problem-solving parents and find a meaningful way to make a difference where it counts. Here are a few tips I have picked up along the way in this journey to discover how parents can be involved in education:

  • Stay with them! Your kiddos might push you away and they might even say they don’t NEED your help EVER. AGAIN. But, stick with it dear friend. Ask about the homework. Ask to see the assignments. Check the Powerschool. Check the classroom website. READ WITH YOUR KIDS (yes, even the older ones!). Do whatever it takes to know what is going on in that classroom and show that you care. Even if you can’t help them with that crazy algebra question… believe me, it matters that you act like it matters!!!
  • Provide structure and routines in your house to help your kids develop good work habits, good study habits, and take ownership of their learning. Should you do it for them? NO! NEVER! Should you help them to be successful in completing it on their own? YES! ALWAYS!
  • This might seem totally obvious, but I think it’s that important that I will spell it out. Know your kids. Know your kids’ friends. Know who they are and what they do. What do they like? Where do they go? How do they get there? Although your kids don’t want you to hover over them (nor should you!), and be “all up their business!!” they do need to know that you see them. You hear them. You are there for them. Whatever is going on… know about it, and be interested! Believe it or not, this kind of interest and focus on knowing your kids and their friends can do more to improve their chances at succeeding academically and socially than even the best tutors could ever provide. It’s that important.

So, that’s it… enough stuff for you to think about and maybe even try to implement one or two ideas in your home this week. If you are interested in getting more involved in your kids’ school, I have compiled a few great resources to get you started:

  • Parental Involvement Resource created as a result of this independent project showcasing peer-reviewed literature for parents interested in getting involved in their schools, as well as the results of a survey of local teachers and middle school students concerning this issue.
  • Section 22 of The Alberta School Act provides a legislated basis for parental involvement in education and indicates that parents should be actively involved in education to support and enhance student learning.
  • The Alberta School Councils’ Association (ASCA) is a provincial advocacy group that provides support and resources, knowledge and skill development, and consultation and workshops to enhance meaningful parent contribution and participation in school councils across the province.
  • Reading Rockets is an online resource for parents and teachers that provides various informational articles on topics related to literacy. They have published an informational article on the importance of parental involvement highlighting the following topics:

Of course, you can also always comment on this blog for more information (I have spared you the 25 pages of literature reviewed that influenced this blog post… you’re welcome!).

If you are a teacher, and would like more specific recommendation concerning how you can actively engage the parents in your learning community, please pop over to Mrs. M’s Musing for a blog post written just for you!

And that’s all I’ve got for now folks… 9 days from now, I will be writing the first of 5 final exams… yeah, I’ve gotta go.

Bye Bye Baby

A terrible thing has happened. It all started when I blinked. Never do that around your kids. I blinked, and when I opened my eyes, my oldest kiddo had turned into a fully fledged adolescent.

As some of you know, our life has taken a dramatic left turn this month anyways because I (THE MOM) have gone back to university. That’s when the blinking happened. I have been feeling a little wobbly since the beginning of September, but chalked it up to all the life “stuff” going on right now. That seemed a reasonable explanation. But then, just this week, it all became clear because I opened my eyes… and there, coming towards me, with arms full of binders, schedules, team practice times, fundraisers, and a trumpet, with stories of new friends, HILARIOUS jokes (sarcasm friends, deep sarcasm), and an appetite that could rival an elephant, was a young man.

Cole - First day of middle school
First day of middle school

I thought I recognized him. Isn’t that the boy who used to sit quietly in my lap while I read countless stories and sang songs we both loved? Isn’t that the one who gazed past me wishing to play with a group of kids but not sure how to ask? That boy… he used to lean on me. A lot. And I held him up. And you know what I realized as I watched that young man confidently walking towards me? He held me up a bit too. In my planning, my sense of purpose, my belonging.

That topsy-turvy feeling I’ve had of late? Well, I get it now. The floor has shifted beneath me just a little. My reality looks different. Only just slightly, but enough that I noticed. I am not in control of that little life as I once was.

So here’s what I have to say to you grown ups with Middle Schoolers in your house. Be brave. You are not alone. I’m here too… trying to sort out my own journey while anxiously watching over his (with just a little more distance). I am still “mama” (but they don’t call me that much anymore). I am still fiercely tender, devoted, and involved because like many of you mothering is not something I do, it’s something I am. But, as they grow, these beautiful gifts entrusted to me, I’ll need to find other ways to plug-in as “MOM.” And that’s different. A bit scary. But we can do it. Together.

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” – proverbs 22:6