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Why is it important for parents to participate in their children’s school life?

By Juliana Travassos, Carolina Almeida and Lí­via Murazawa

“It takes a village to raise a child” – an African proverb.

Although the importance of parents in their children’s school life seems obvious, this is a subject that deserves reflection. In addition, the “how to participate” generates several doubts and insecurities. After all, what would this importance be and what are the possible ways to participate?

Parenting has always been a challenging task for people – for some less, for others more. However, being with a child puts an adult in front of several questions: how can someone so familiar be so different at the same time? What should I do in this situation? How can I help if I don’t understand what he/she is going through?

Being a father and mother, contrary to what many believe, is not instinctive. The relationship between parents and children is a constant learning process, full of challenges.

Nowadays, however, this task seems to raise very particular questions. After all, faced with cultural changes and new forms of family organizations – with smaller families, for example – we have people who, many times, will only come into contact with a child when their child is born.

Currently, there is a large amount of information and techniques on how to raise a child, which seems very interesting as a reference of what to do. However, with so many options, it can be difficult to feel confident about what you do.

Unlike a manual on what to do to be a “good father and mother”, this article is intended to show the importance of the uniqueness of what each of you does for the development of your children. We want to show how this is evident in their school life, making it unjustifiable to draw up an exact recipe for what each family should do to contribute to the academic life of children or adolescents.

We wish you an excellent reflection on the roles of family and school in the lives of apprentices!

The construction of learning

It is not news that the family is the first great reference of the child. From this primordial relationship will come the model through which he/she will use as a reference to relate to the other people in his/her life. If we think about the baby, he/she doesn’t know who he/she is or what he/she feels: it’s the family that first interprets his/her wants and discomforts so that someday he/she starts to say what he wants or doesn’t want.

In childhood, even though the child already has his/her own will and greater knowledge of who he/she is, parents are taken as references of what may or may not be interesting, what to be afraid of or not, how to deal with different situations. 

Naturally, educators and the school environment end up inheriting some of this relationship. Thus, academic development takes place through a process that goes far beyond the mere acquisition of knowledge and skills training. 

Learning is completely linked to emotional development, to how relationships with others are established, and how each one relates to him/herself. For example, to write, it is necessary to understand the importance of communication, the bond with the other, and what we have to say. In this way, all relationships, whether within the family or with others, significantly impact this process.

School and family in the daily life of the learner

It is worth noting that school life does not just happen at school through lectures and content. It also happens like this: 

  • after school with the family; 
  • in the bond with the educator and in the connections that children make when they get home; 
  • the importance of exchanges with peers and family; 
  • in the resilience learned to deal with the challenges of this process;
  • in the bet that we can always learn more

Taking an interest in what children have been doing at school – attending presentations, talking at home, going to meetings, maintaining relationships with teachers, working in partnership with children – makes learners see the school experience in a different optics, and with more sense. After all, no matter how many challenges arise, there will be adults interested in giving meaning to those experiences simply by listening to them. 

The moments when children have the opportunity to share what happens at school are important – whether it’s going to a presentation where they will share what they have learned, or talking to them about it.

The family can ask how the child felt, what he/she liked best, what he/she learned, among other things he/she wants to share. There will be no ideal number of times for these moments to happen: what will be relevant for children is knowing that they are being heard and welcomed by the family.

The consequences of genuine involvement with children

It is not about how much time is spent to participate in the school life of the children or to demand good academic results, but the quality of the presence, with the interest at the moment they are.

Therefore, this participation is much greater than helping with homework, for example; it has to do with interest and listening to what is learned and the connection that is established between what happens at school and what happens at home – a connection between parents and educators.

With this involvement and partnership, children can feel more secure about the educational process, as they will have the opportunity to use these experiences to connect with their family, as well as connect the content learned at school with their family life.

By feeling heard, children can develop greater confidence that they can communicate what they think at school with their educators and peers. Their social skills can develop as their self-esteem grows for what they learn and can share. 

In this way, we can reflect that the importance of participating in the school life of children is great. But, with different forms of participation, each family will be able to find their way of being present at that moment.

At the end of the day, everyone will find their way of participating in their children’s school life. The important thing is that family and school are connected and aligned, so that experiences in the school environment – academic, social, and emotional – have more meaning and we are all more present in their daily lives.

In international schools that use an IB curriculum, such as St. Nicholas, family and learners are continually encouraged to get closer.

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