The P&F meetings, the fete days, the cake stalls, the calls for volunteers for school excursions, discos and athletic carnivals. Some weeks, it seems the extra pressures on parents never end. But if you can’t make it to every call out (or don’t really feel up to baking cupcakes at midnight for the cake stall), is it negatively impacting your children? According to the experts, definitely not!
ENGAGEMENT AT SCHOOL
Well-known comedian Meshel Laurie recently shared her thoughts on the request for ‘over’ active involvement in her children’s education. She starts with the familiar note found in the bottom of her child’s school bag: ‘Dear Parent’, it starts, then goes on about a meeting they think will be a great opportunity for me to be more involved with my children’s education.”
Like many parents, Meshel reads the note, puts it aside and forgets about it. As she explains, “There’s the disconnect – and I can’t say this plainly enough: I have no interest in becoming more involved in my children’s education. “I have no interest in becoming more involved in my father’s dialysis or in my dog’s vaccinations, either. I’m more than happy to defer to the experts on these matters and stay out of their way until they (the kids) need a ride home. That’s where my responsibility kicks in.”
In reading this we can appreciate a good comedian’s tools of trade – a blowtorch to heat up a contentious issue and the sledgehammer blow for a little added impact. The interesting thing is that Meshel is half right, and half wrong.
ENGAGEMENT AT HOME
Australian researcher John Hattie has recognised a significant link between a parent’s engagement in their child’s learning and the child’s learning success. But the research is a bit more specific about what makes a difference. A parent’s involvement in volunteering at their school and helping out with activities and fundraising (fetes worse than death!) can be very important and welcome in the life of the school and the wider school community. But, in itself, it doesn’t make a great deal of difference to their child’s learning.
The real kicker? It’s what happens at home that makes a difference. As Meshel says, it’s at home where a parent’s responsibility comes in.
EDUCATING AT HOME
Learning doesn’t stop when school ends. Children are constantly soaking up lessons from what we do at home. Taking on a healthy approach to diet and exercise, limiting screen time, establishing good sleep patterns, hygiene, good manners, even learning to tie shoelaces, can make a huge difference to what happens at school.
A family that sits and talks together and tells stories is important too. A family enmeshed with personal screens is a family that loses the capacity to talk and communicate, and these are the most basic of survival skills in modern society. And most of us will be surprised by the amount of practical maths we can teach children in the supermarket, kitchen, home workshop or car. How much for three of those? How much is 200 grams? Or, How long is that piece of timber? How far to the next town? Teaching these skills is a natural part of parenting. And this is where Meshel is half wrong – she is already actively engaged in her children’s education, despite her claims to the contrary.
Don’t ever believe that what you do at home doesn’t make a huge difference to your child’s achievements at school and in life. It does. Even if you don’t have time to bake cupcakes.
Andrew McKenzie is the Manager – Governance and Engagement at Cairns Catholic Education