Say goodbye to the guilt: dealing with the visibility factor in family engagement

Below is a guest post from Jenni Brasington, Director of Consultative Services for Scholastic FACE. Click here to read more from Jenni on edu@scholastic, our blog about education and learning.

I feel guilty when I don’t return my shopping cart to the cart return area, when I don’t buy Girl Scout cookies from every sweet girl who rings my doorbell, and when I don’t finish my book club selection each month. So it will probably come as no surprise that I sometimes feel super guilty when I am not able to volunteer at my son’s school

I feel guilty because, sadly, most of us seem to measure family engagement by the amount of time families spend at the school, and celebrate only the visible acts of family engagement. It is what I call the “visibility factor.” As a busy working mom—and family engagement is my job!—with a chaotic travel schedule, getting to the school during regular hours is a challenge for me.

While being visible at the school is a piece of family engagement, it is not the only component, nor is it the element most closely linked to higher student outcomes. What we do at home matters and in fact, according to the research matters a great deal. In A New Wave of Evidence Henderson and Mapp indicated that family involvement at home appears to have the greatest effect on student achievement.

Let’s make a promise: As of today, we stop feeling guilty for not being as visible as we would like at our children’s school, and instead we celebrate what we do at home to promote positive learning outcomes.

Here are some ideas:

  • Ask your child about their day (learn how)

  • Check your child’s backpack daily

  • Review completed assignments

  • Wake your child up and get them out the door to school on time (in my house this should earn me an award!)

  • Assist with homework

  • Check grades online

  • Create study areas and keep them well stocked with supplies

  • Create consistent schedules for homework and studying

  • Develop family routines

  • Limit hours for TV and gaming

  • Read with or along with children

  • Engage in lively discussions over breakfast, dinner or lunch

All of the above activities contribute to a child’s academic success and need to be recognized and celebrated as family engagement. When administrators, educators and yes, families understand and acknowledge this, the visibility factor will become much less important and the above activities will take center stage in promoting positive student learning outcomes.

Cheers to a wonderful 2017-2018 school year!

Earlier this month, Jenni wrote about how to get the most out of family-teacher conferences

 

Photo via Joe Wolf