Every school year is a period of change, growth and reaching new milestones. This school year will have a little more change than usual, as children will be learning in all sorts of different ways. Whether you’ve chosen in-person or virtual school, there is lots parents can do at home to make sure children’s learning needs are being met.
As their child’s very first teacher, parents play a critical role in children’s learning. Busy schedules might make it difficult to find the time for meaningful parent-child interactions, but they are essential for positive learning outcomes. When parents work to be more involved, they can effectively help to:
- Develop the necessary skills and knowledge for school readiness;
- Foster positive associations with learning; and
- Improve academic performance
Early childhood is the period during which children gain the majority of their foundational skills and abilities that will be used throughout their lives. Over 50 research studies agree that one of the best predictors of academic success is parent involvement; some research even argues that parent involvement is more important to academic success than socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity or educational background! With school on the horizon, it’s finally time for children to get back into learning mode — and parents can help!
In a 2006 report, Statistics Canada discussed parent involvement as a key factor in school readiness (Read the definition of school readiness here.) This is because parents can help develop language and communication, self-regulation, self-control and independence, all of which promote positive learning outcomes. This report found that the amount and quality of parent-child interactions strongly correlate with school readiness. More specifically, it found that children with the most parent involvement had the greatest receptive vocabulary and number knowledge, and demonstrated better communication and cooperation. We see here that parent involvement is very important during these preschool years!
Older children also benefit from parent involvement. A study from 2011 from the Journal of Child Development found that when parent involvement increases, 6-10 year old children’s reading, math and vocabulary skills all increase too. Clearly, parents need to get more involved to maximize children’s learning. When parents put effort into being engaged in their children’s learning, they can:
- Provide young children with the skills they need to later thrive in school;
- Advance cognitive, language and social skills at all stages of child development; and
- Improve academic success at all ages!
Learning does not stop when the school day is over; it is a continuous journey! Parent-child interactions help extend learning beyond the classroom. By playing a more active role, parents can better support their child’s learning. They are more aware of the goals and expectations set by teachers, and can therefore reinforce them through activities at home. Parents will also have a stronger sense of their child’s learning strengths and weaknesses, and can effectively accommodate them.
When parents encourage learning at home, children are given more opportunities to practice and expand their learnings. A 2016 study from the International Journal of Early Years Education found that completing literacy and numeracy activities at home increases children’s achievement in these subjects at school. A second study had comparable conclusions: children whose parents regularly read to them in preschool and kindergarten later had the greatest reading achievement in eighth grade. Yes, you read that correctly — parent involvement during early childhood is still benefiting the children several years later!
Parent involvement also provides children with motivation in their learning. This is because parents can help to emphasize the value of education. As a result, rather than extrinsic motivations like praise, children are intrinsically motivated to learn — they learn out of enjoyment and personal importance, and what could be better than that?
While in-person school offers many wonderful benefits of its own, it’s so exciting to see how much parents can help from home. Extending learning from school into the home is something many parents will be focusing on during the upcoming school year. By doing so, parents can:
- Improve academic success in all subjects;
- Raise children to have a positive attitude about learning; and
- Encourage children to put effort and dedication into their schoolwork.