Does parental volunteering create a strong school culture?
One writer examines whether American parents should get involved at their kids’ schools or focus their efforts elsewhere.
American parents spend a lot of time volunteering at their kids’ schools.
Nearly nine out of 10 attended at least one PTA or other school meeting in the 2011-12 school year, according to data released last week by the Education Department's National Household Education Surveys Program, reports Slate. Six out of 10 participated in at least one school fundraiser.
Slate writer Amanda Ripley took a look at how parents get involved in their kids’ education in several countries. She concluded that in other countries, parents are indeed involved with their kids’ education but are not caught up in bake sales, joining the PTA or attending after-school sporting events like many American parents. Instead, these international parents focused their time and energy on learning activities at home, such as routinely reading to young children or discussing movies and news with their teenagers.
In a 2009 study of parenting in 13 countries and regions, parents who volunteered at their kids’ schools had children who performed worse at reading than parents who did not volunteer. In only two countries, Denmark and New Zealand, did parental volunteering have a positive effect.
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Still, many American parents believe that whether a parent is involved with their kids' education in the classroom or at home, it helps build a foundation for a better-educated child. It also sends a message to your children that education is important.
“When I was home full time I volunteered a lot – once a week or so in the classroom, either with the kids, working on projects, reading or field trips, or doing work to help the teachers – bulletin board, laminating, photocopying,” says Libby Seiter Nelson of Phoenix. “I was also the room mom every year and worked on PTO as our school's volunteer coordinator.”
Now that Nelson’s kids are older and she’s working outside the home, she’s scaled back to a few times a month, helping with parties, etc. “I love seeing the kids in action and also building a closer relationship with the teachers,” she says. “When I was home full time, I felt like I was making a ‘time deposit’ for the self I am now and for the other working moms who wished they could be there.”
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Gina Cohen of Issaquah, Wash., typically volunteers once a month in her son's classroom and at one school party or event per year. “I like being able to interact with the kids that he talks about every day, to see my son in his learning environment and how he acts at school, and frankly, just to show that I care about him,” she says.
Do you think volunteering at your kids’ school has an effect on how much they learn?
Read the complete story in Slate here.
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That sure is a loaded question! The answer depends greatly on the parent and the child. I used to volunteer at school when my kids were in elementary school. Most of the time I worked in the library or in a different room than my kids. I would eat lunch with my children and they were happy to see me. I generally think parents should not be in their own child's classroom, with the possible exception of a special needs child.
When my son was in Elementary school I did a lot with him and his classes. I let the teachers know that I was going to be involved in my child's education. I seen 6 little kids graduate from kindergarten, and I seen the same 6 young adults graduate together from high school. Funny thing about this was that all of these fine students were in the top 50 students of their graduating class. By chance my son and one of the young ladies started that high school the same year. (My son was home schooled 5 - 8th grade and this other student came from another school.)
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