In an effort to prepare children to be successful in school, parents tend to follow the school’s curriculum. Schools function as they do in most cases because they are bound by certain constraints. They are constrained by a building, a classroom setting, a teacher with many children, and a specified curriculum which must be covered on a pre-determined schedule. Parents are not bound in this way, and should use their greater freedom to enrich their children’s lives in ways impossible for the school to match.
I have never been able to understand why parents imitate schools when, theoretically, the sky is the limit. Instead of introducing a child to the world outside of the school building, many parents buy another workbook from the drugstore so that their child will do even more of what schools are doing. At the very least this shows a lack of creativity on the part of the parent. At worst, it indicates how brainwashed parents have been to feel that schools are the only place where children learn and teachers are the only ones responsible for and capable of developing the minds of their children.
Let us start with the purpose and problem of homework. To my mind, one important purpose of homework is to develop responsibility in the child. In actual fact, the person who feels most responsible is the parent. When a child does not do his homework, teachers tend to call up the parent and complain. I believe this is a problem between the child and the teacher, not the parent. As a result, a parents’ involvement in his child’s education usually is an extension of the school’s involvement. Homework is really school work done at home. The only way parents should get involved with this endeavor is if
homework is truly homework, i.e. something that can only be done at home or outside of school. Several examples are: a visit to a museum, a study of birds in your backyard, or a survey of the various occupations of parents, relatives and neighbors. Parents interactions with children at home can be much more creative than the school work their children bring home. Instead of making thethe home a battlefield, true homework should have the potential for bringing the family together and foster communication.
Parents can also help their children by fostering the development of verbal and communication skills. Encourage communication by including the entire family in discussions or language games. Take children shopping and point out names and categories. Try to avoid yes/no responses when talking to children. Instead of “Did you have fun in school today?” say, “What did you enjoy most about school today?” Recite nursery rhymes together. Make speech enjoyable by talking about things children like, not about their difficulties. You and your children could create an on-going story. Make conversation around the dinner table interesting and give everyone a chance to participate. Read poems at home to each other. All of these activities have the potential to make children more successful at school.
One of the greatest threats to learning and communication in the home is television. It saps children of their creative energy. They become passive learners. Since learning is not a passive activity , many children come to school at a disadvantage because they expect to be entertained. Teachers can only present the material. The students must take an active part in learning it. As a matter of fact, we talk about needing word attack skills in order to learn to read. The student must do the attacking. Many parents, however, use television as a babysitter and as a means of avoiding conflict in the family by limiting interactions. Until parents find a solution to this dilemma, their efforts to help their children be successful in school will be less and less effective.