By Dr. Leon Barrett
PRIDE Education Commentator
In the commentary, “Planning And Involvement Of Parents In Children’s Education Start Before Their Birth” (Pride News, January 16, 2018), I noted some of the ways the Ontario Ministry of Education, in its curriculum documents, indicated parents can be involved in their children’s education. I also suggested some other ways parents can be involved.
In the continuing discussion, it is important for parents to constantly bear in mind that their involvement in their children’s education is not a sprint that is over in a wink. It does not end when the children grow up and leave home, if they do leave home. Like education, involvement is not a destination but a journey.
So what are some other ways parents can and should be involved?
Parents can and should continue to teach the children their traditions, including their religious and other beliefs. Teach them the positive values. One of the institutions that has been playing a positive role in this regard is the religious organizations. For many of us, our religious organizations are an important part of our lives.
Given the influence of the leadership in these religious organizations, they have an important role to be a real extension of the family. Reinforce the values and beliefs that parents are trying to inculcate in the children. These values will act as moral compasses to guide them through life. If we inculcate in the children strong moral values, as they grow up they will not depart from them. Even if they do for a while, most of them will usually return to them.
Continue to teach the children appropriate behaviour. Yes, train up the children in ways to make them into good citizen. Positive behaviours are more likely to improve their life chances than negative ones.
In terms of academic excellence, where parents can, help the children with their academic work. At some point though this may become a challenge as some children start giving “attitude” especially in cases where the teachers’ methods may be different from that of the parents. For some children at a certain age the teachers are always “right”.
Get to know from the teachers what they are and will be teaching the children so that the children can work ahead. If as parents you do not feel confident to get this information from the teachers, you can have others act on your behalf.
Get the assistance of a relative, your religious or community leaders and take them with you to parent-teacher meeting. Teachers have a duty and responsibility to work in a positive way with parents. Think about it, without the children they would have to find another source of employment. It is not for school personnel to lord it over parents as some try to do.
For parents living in Ontario, you can also get information about what the children are supposed to be learning at all grade levels and in all subjects by going to the Ontario Ministry of Education website and click on curriculum. There you will find both the elementary and secondary school curricula. You can download these documents.
Now, there comes a time when parents may not be able to help the children with their academic work but they should continue to encourage them to do well. Encourage them to read as much as possible. The more they read is the more they will know. And the more they know is the further they are likely to go.
Encourage the children to focus on their studies. At school their first order of business is to try to master, to be good at, their academic studies. There will be challenges but there are many ways to get around, under, through or over the hurdles. For those children who might need a little extra help, there are many individuals and organizations who offer help and for free. All you have to do is just ask.
In terms of careers, parents need to expose the children to as many as possible and set career goals for them. In my opinion, it is not good enough to say to the children that they can be anything they want to be. In a sense that is true. But point them in the direction of something specific – pilot, doctor, engineer, carpenter, plumber, welder, teacher, accountant, machinist, entrepreneur, and so on. They may not settle with what you suggest. The point of this exercise is to help them to set career/occupational goals so that they can work towards and eventually achieve something.
Also, feed the children with positive ideas as children learn what they live and live what they learn. From as early as possible constantly remind them that they are smart and there is no limit to the positive things their brain can do. Encourage them in habits that are becoming of a good citizen. As they grow, teach them the value of good study and work habits.
For the present youth, even at the risk of being called a nag or sounding like a broken record, encourage them to stay in school for reasons I will talk about later. Encourage them to focus on goals that will take them to a better place. Encourage them to get involved in positive activities. Where the activities do not exist, they can create them. Use community resources — human and others — to help build character.
For those who drop out of school, they are still our children. We can’t ignore, neglect or give up on them. We need to encourage them by any means necessary to fall back into the formal education system whether high school, night school, college, university or apprenticeship. It is never too late in life to do so. Preparation for tomorrow always starts today.
Sometimes in life our children might find themselves in situations where they have to upgrade their education or change careers. This might involve the outlay of large amounts of money to finance this new education. They might not have the resources to do so. As parents we can give a helping hand in a number of ways.
We can provide accommodation. We can provide childcare assistance. We can assist them in sourcing funding. And we can assist them with funding from our own resources.
If as parents we fail to carry out our responsibilities this will leave a gap in the children’s education. And before we realize it, something or someone is going to take our place and we might not like the outcome. We cannot afford to let this happen.
At the educational institutions, parental involvement in their children’s education may not go as smoothly as desired (Parental Involvement In The Education Of Their Children Could Become A Test Of Will”, Pride News, August 17, 2017). In a future commentary I will address how to navigate or use the education bureaucracy and other processes to get the best outcomes for the children.
Dr. Barrett is a retired Peel Region District Board teacher and educator. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.