Parents: be involved with your children

Thursday, July 21st, 2005
There are many studies that show the benefits of different modes of education, including home education, government schools, parochial schools, and private schools. It is not uncommon for a discussion of these to quickly, , turn into a discussion of which is better: home education vs government schools, or which provides a more socialized child, or any of a number of other aspects of the educational experience. I know; I have these discussions often with parents of school-age children - regardless of where they choose to educate their children.  Recently, a blog entry led to some interesting discussion in follow-up emails and comments.

I do not believe that the debate should be between public government vs home education. I can come up with strong arguments for both points of view - I've even debated many of these in public settings.  Both options offer opportunities and benefits to our children. I think there is a more important discussion that needs to occur in every home: the importance of parental involvement in the training and education of their children.

Ask any teacher and they will tell you that one of the most important factors that influence the outcome of a child's education is parental involvement. This is important, because teachers will only be involved for a brief period of time in the life of our children. Even the finest teachers in the finest schools only have but a few hours a day to influence their class. From that, subtract time for distractions, (breaks, disciplinary interruptions, lunch, assemblies. etc.) Divide the remaining time by the number of students in the class, and you will realize just how little time that is really available in each day for the education of each individual student.

Theoretically speaking, even if a school were operating at 100% efficiency - educating the full time that our children were in attendance - they would only have the students for what, 6 hours a day? What parents do with their children for the remaining 18 hours a day will largely determine the effectiveness of their child's education.

While I'm thankful that our government provides educational opportunities for children, the government cannot - and should not - be responsible to provide the total education of our children. It's not their job. That's my job and Kathy's job as parents. If you're a parent, it's your job, too. Parents, you must be involved, not only in selecting the format and venue for their child's education, but in every aspect of encouragement and reinforcement that goes on until your child leaves home as an adult.  

For parents that choose to educate their children at home, as we do, or for parents that choose to send their children to a government school, parochial school, or even the finest private school, I say: BE INVOLVED. Be involved and stay involved, all the way through high-school and college graduation. That's a big responsibility. Far more important than career or work or recreation.

Outside of our spiritual responsibility to our children, I believe it's the most important responsibility that we as parents have.

Discussion/Comments (4):

Parents: be involved with your children

A big old Amen to that!

The sooner you start the better. I just started reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to my two year old daughter. Hopefully this will develop a love for reading and books.

Posted at 7/22/2005 7:18:05 AM by Kevin


Parents: be involved with your children

Well said.

BTW, as you may recall, I flirted with the idea of home schooling my older daughter last year. We decided instead to give the public high school a chance to succeed, and so far it seems to be working out. We remain vigilant, however, and yes... we do stay involved. (In fact, I have a draft letter on my PC right now which I am working on to express my concerns about the "constructivist" math curriculum that our district has adopted. I'm just waiting until a little closer to the start of the next school year to send it off, as I think it will be more likely to be lost if I send it in the middle of the summer.)

And now, another topic: You may notice that I said "public school", not "government school". That's deliberate. I do not like that latter term as a matter of principle. I understand the reason why many people -- libertarians and home school advoctates in particular -- began to use the term "government school", but I consider it to be an inaccurate or at least incomplete characterization, and I believe that the phrase was originally coined as a deliberate use of language to appeal to emotional rather than reasoned response. That rubs me the wrong way, as I think that there's nothing more important than education and that there's nothing beneficial about allowing emotion to cloud reason in discussions about it. (Nothing personal about this. I don't infer anything specifically negative from the fact that you used the term.)

School systems are, in almost all jurisdictions, run by school boards that are independent of government. They are political bodies, but they operate outside of -- in parallel to -- government. They rely on tax money, but they do not themselves have the powers of taxation, legislation or law enforcement. Without those powers, and without the power to require those who have those powers to use them for specific purposes, school boards cannot properly be considered part of government. They fall under the jurisdiction of laws created by the government and are subject to regulation enforced by government, but so are all other forms of schooling -- even home schooling. Public school teachers and administrators are not government appointees or employees, and can not be hired, fired or individually disciplined by anyone other than the local board.

You may respond that I am splitting hairs on this, and I will not deny it. What it really comes down to is recognizing the difference between that which is political, and that which is governmental, and on an intellectual level I consider that to be an important enough hair that it is worth splitting.

-rich

Posted at 7/22/2005 9:30:57 AM by Richard Schwartz


Govt vs Public School

Rich,

You bring up a reasonable point about the term "government" school. I don't think you're splitting hairs - at least not now that you've explained your perspective.

I only recently started using the term, having previously used "public school." I heard the term government school recently at an education conference. No doubt, the speaker intended it to create a specific picture and to stir up emotion. It did; at least for me. For me, that resonated - at least from the point that the government (even though it should be more accurately called the "school board') sets the tone of what will be taught and how it will be taught. This includes not only the important academic subjects but also the subjects that are often considered more controversial: History (new or revised, U.S. or World), origins, values, sex education and diversity, citizenship, and not only how these subjects are taught but how they are approached as a worldview through other academic subjects. This brings me back to the purpose of my post - that regardless of the educational opportunity parents select (and they do choose) for their children, they must remain actively involved in the process all the way through.

You've accurately pointed out that public schools are not government schools - at least in the sense that decisions about administration, hiring, subject and method of instruction are usually maintained locally. At the same time, in many districts across the country, the process of influencing these decisions is so difficult and unwieldy and often met with obstacles that the schools might as well be THE government - at least from the perspective of a parent that wants to be more deeply involved in the education of their child. Sadly, it would appear (at least from the media) that many parents that choose to be involved do so either by pulling their kids from the schools or by bringing their issues to the courts. As a result, school administrators and teachers become defensive, frustrated and complacent. I'm not sure I blame them, but I don't want someone with that attitude teaching my kids, either. I won't go into great detail because the "local" (how's that for a neutral term) schools in our region are fraught with the very problems I describe. You'd be amazed at what I observed just as a robotics mentor, working in these schools.

I know that there are outstanding teachers in the school systems. I also know that the unwieldy administration in many schools and the fact that many parents choose to be uninvolved make it difficult for those that do want to see change - at least while their children are still in school and might benefit from the changes - to remain optimistic. Thus, at least in my experience, the term that I chose to describe the school system.

Thank you for your thoughtful comment on my blog. I respect your comments, Rich, and your point of view. I'm not sure how I'll describe schools in the future; however, as a result of your comment, I'll certainly think it over before I do.

It was a delight to meet you in Boston. I wish you and your daughter the best of success as you work together to help her complete her High School education.

Best regards,

Eric

Posted at 7/22/2005 11:42:11 AM by Eric Mack


Excellent points!

Excellent points, Eric, and I'm very glad that you took my comments exactly as intended. I'm going to file away "... so difficult and unwieldy and often met with obstacles that the schools might as well be THE government" as something to bear in mind and to give some serious thought to. There's absolutely a great deal of truth to it, and not just on the local scale. The "education establishment" of academics, unions and boards at various levels may even be LESS responsive to constituents than the government. I'm learning as much as I can about the controversy that is brewing in mathematics education, which pits professional mathematicians and concerned parents against education theorists, and I'm not really looking forwared to getting involved... but I have deep concern that the so-called "constructivist" methods that much of the educational establishment favors is exacerbating the long-standing problem of higher levels math anxiety in girls than boys, and as the mathematically-inclined father of two girls this is not something that I can just keep quiet about. I expect to run into a great deal of "we know best" resistance and a lack of actual data. Entries about it will appear on my blog at some point.

-rich

Posted at 7/22/2005 1:50:55 PM by Richard Schwartz



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