Research has shown that parent involvement in their kids' education has a significant, positive impact on their academic and developmental goals.
But parent involvement does not mean standing over your kids while they do math problems or write a book report - supervising homework has not been shown to have a positive effect.
That’s according to Carl Corter, a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, who has researched parent involvement. “A major research review showed parents’ involvement in children’s homework had ‘negligible to non-existent’ effects,” he says. So policing due dates of assignments, editing class submissions and 'helping' your child with the origami project really don't help.
So what can parents do to help their kids be successful in school?
What Matters Most
Studies have shown positive impacts on student achievement with the following kinds of parent involvement:
- Having high expectations for your children (this has the most significant impact);
- Talking with your kids about school;
- Helping to develop positive attitudes and work habits;
- Reading to and with your kids.
“When parents communicate that they expect their children to succeed, children and youth do better (in school),” Corter says.
- Let your kids know that you think it's important that they do well in school;
- Tell your kids you believe in their potential;
- Encourage them in their dreams.
For very young children, Janette Pelletier a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto, says parents should remember that even little kids are competent and able to consider ideas and share opinions.
"Children have a natural curiosity that can and should be nurtured," she says. "Expose your child to (a range of new experiences) then ask your child about those experiences, bringing in new vocabulary here and there." Expect more of your younger child by broadening his or her horizons, she says.
Talking About School
Talking to your child about what happened at school has a greater impact on academic achievement than being home for your kids after school or limiting the time they spend watching TV.
Meanwhile, according to the EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office) student survey (2012/2013), only 53 percent of Grade 3 and Grade 6 students in Ontario reported that they talk to their parents about their school activities every day or almost every day.
Asking your child to tell you about his or her day is a good place to start, says Pelletier. "(Asking your child) what happened next, etc. helps children to reflect on their day and to organize their thoughts sequentially. It also gives parents a sense of how the day unfolds for their child."
- What was your favourite part of the day?
- What good things happened today?
- Did anything upsetting happen?
- Can you show me what you're working on in school?
“Parents’ critical influence on school success is found in how they shape their children’s attitudes, sense of personal competence and work habits,” and not through ‘teaching’ their kids, Corter says.
The goal is to help children become increasingly independent and able to plan and be responsible for their own homework, says Pelletier. "But this requires gentle encouragement and modelling of good work habits," she says. "Parents can talk to children about their own responsibilities and how they plan to meet them. (For instance, tell them) 'I have a meeting tomorrow at work and I need to do some reading for that. Why don't you do your schoolwork while I do mine?'"
Reading With Your Child
Only 28 percent of Ontario Grade 3 students reported they read with a parent or guardian everyday, according to the EQAO (2013). Another 21 percent say they never read with their parents and 25 percent say they only read together once or twice a month.
Meanwhile, an OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) study based on teenagers in 14 developed countries found reading to kids early in their lives was a significant trigger for developing children's reading skills that would carry through until they were teenagers. On average, teens who had been read to when they were young were six months ahead in reading levels at age 15.
Parents can read in any language and don't have to be particularly well-educated themselves for the impact to be achieved, the study says.
What was important was that parents read books regularly (several times a week) and that they talked about what they were reading together.
Involvement At School
Parents who volunteer for school trips and committees also have a positive impact on their kids’ education, Corter says.
But this kind of involvement does not have as much impact as the "what matters most" tips above: having high expectations, talking about school, developing positive attitudes and work habits, and reading to and with your kids.