Getting Involved: How Families Can Improve Their Children’s Academic Success

Published August 27, 2013

family-studyingEveryone knows that a good education is one of the most important factors in a child’s future success. Families all want their children to do well in school, but too few family members actually get involved in the educational process. Common barriers include too little time, insufficient understanding of what children should be learning at different stages, little to no relationship with teachers and other school faculty, or the simple belief that education is the responsibility of schools. Fortunately, there are simple yet meaningful actions that parents can take to help their children succeed.

The Role of Television in Education
Research has shown that TV can be both good and bad for the educational process. Children who routinely watch more than two hours of television per day score lower than average on math, reading and language skills by the third grade. Those who watch several hours of TV per day between the ages of 5 and 11 are less likely than their peers to graduate from college. However, some major studies (Henderson and Berla, 1994; U.S. Department of Education, 1994) uncovered that when parents watched TV with their children and engaged in dialogue about the programs, TV viewing became a positive factor impacting learning and test scores. Even better was when kids watched educational TV, with or without parental involvement.

What does this mean for families? Parents should restrict the amount of time and the types of programs that children watch. This may be easier said than done, considering that an estimated 70% of children in the U.S. have a TV set in their room. Nevertheless, the rewards are substantial enough to make monitoring the TV a priority for families serious about the academic success of their children.

Parental Involvement in Schools

Families need to establish a structured approach for interfacing with teachers and other school faculty. Twice-per-year parent/teacher conferences and once-per-quarter initialing of report cards are insufficient. When children fall behind, they have a difficult time catching up. Identifying problems early on allows parents and teachers to work together to help students succeed. Conversely, identifying academic strengths opens the door for students to take on greater challenges that will keep them interested and engaged.

The Role of Homework
Families should not treat homework as a passive activity. Children need structure, so establishing a certain time each day to do homework ensures that it will actually get done. When parents take education seriously, children do as well. Seeing that parents are interested in their learning motivates kids to work harder. Even on days when there is no homework, families should discuss the school day, if only briefly, so that the homework schedule maintains its integrity. As much as children want to shed the academic responsibilities of the day and get to their fun and games, it is the parent’s role to insist upon education before playtime.

The education of children is a shared success, as is expressed in this famous quote about the importance of family: “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” – Michael J. Fox

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