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Your Child's Education: How You Can Help

Education Expert Advice from Barbara Callaghan

Q: What are some things I can do to motivate families to help with their child's education? For example, how can I encourage them to be active in what their child is doing in my class?

A: Talk to your students' parents! Some teachers send home a brief weekly newsletter that includes one-sentence overviews of what the class will cover in each subject during the coming week. For example, "we will be discussing the settlement in Jamestown this week in social studies," "paper lunch-size bags will be needed for an art project soon, " or " does anyone have pictures of Plymouth Rock we could share around Thanksgiving time?" For some teachers, a monthly newsletter is more convenient. You could even include a place in the newsletter for parents to make comments.

Another way to involve parents is inviting them to volunteer in the classroom. Interested parents can be invited to do special projects, such as sharing slides about a place they have visited, reading a story, playing a guitar, or singing with the children. This is a good way to involve parents who may be unable to commit to multiple visits.

Volunteers can also listen to children read, drill on basic math facts, edit stories children have written, or do any number of helpful things. The main requirement for these volunteers is that they have flexible schedules and are already interested in what their child is doing in school.

Some schools have a Family Math Night or a Family Science Night. These are wonderful opportunities for children and families to come to school at night and do activities together. It's an opportunity for families to engage in learning-centered, interactive games.

Another option is to invite parents to school on a Saturday morning to help you prepare materials for upcoming lessons. Parents could help assemble materials for games and in-class activities. As parents work, you could fill them in on your plan for teaching the material. They might have some insights and suggestions for you!

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After teaching in California for nearly ten years, Barbara Callaghan moved to New Hampshire in 1985 and became a principal. After 10 years as a principal, she returned to teaching, her first love and true vocation.


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