Want to emphasize the value of school to your kids? Here are 6 surprising ways to teach the value and importance of school.
Parental involvement with your child’s school is overrated.
At least that’s what one professor of sociology claims in a recent article I came across. Keith Robinson found that kids whose parents participated in school functions were no further ahead than those whose parents didn’t. Things like volunteering on field trips, attending PTA meetings and reviewing homework.
And while parental involvement communicates the value of school, it’s by no means the only way to do so.
The article encourages those who aren’t able or even keen on spending extra hours on school not to feel bad. There’s no need to feel guilty because you aren’t as involved as your fellow parents.
A lack of involvement doesn’t deter a child from understanding the importance of school.
I assumed I’d be the parent who’d be “up in their face” when it came to my kids’ school. I thought I would take a day off each month to volunteer at my child’s preschool, or sit and observe his classroom.
Instead, I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t take time off to volunteer, much less to check-in or observe my child in class.
Still, I do enjoy looking through his weekly work, and every night he and I complete one page in his workbooks. And when the school asks us for help (Halloween goodies and Valentine cards), I obliged.
That’s pretty much been the extent of my involvement. We don’t insist on parent-teacher nights (his school doesn’t make them mandatory).
At most, we’ve addressed a few issues with the teachers when we felt the need to, but not on a daily basis. We’re somewhere between hyper involved and completely absent.
How to show the value of school to your kids
If you’re not able to be as involved, consider other methods of showing the importance of school:
1. Fill your home with books
Homes filled with books extend a child’s educational level by an average of 3.2 years.
And visiting the library isn’t enough, although that’s an activity you should still do. Prioritizing books enough to make space for them in your home have helped kids excel and enjoy school.
2. Make school a priority
How do you talk to kids about school? Weekends are fun, for sure, because we get to hang out with one another all day. But do your kids hear you say, “Yay, no school tomorrow!”?
Do you take them out of school for the day just because? Reconsider how often you let them ditch a day of school for no valid reason. Not only does a missed day make it harder for your kids to catch up, doing so also makes school seem less important.
Do you drop them off on time and given them a healthy breakfast so they’re alert? These little actions show that you work your lives around school, not the other way around.
3. Continue to learn during school breaks
My son’s preschool is open year-round except for one week during the summer. Rather than forgo his rhythm, I brought workbooks he’d likely have done at school. I do a modified version when he’s out sick as well.
I didn’t want a strict schedule—we’re not school, after all. But I still want him to get in the habit of learning despite having a break from school.
Once he goes into regular school, breaks will be much longer. Weeks and months when he’ll need to relearn everything if he doesn’t maintain his work.
Granted, kids are amazing—they’re always learning, from play to reading to enjoying some downtime. Still, I remember many summers of mine watching soap operas in the afternoons. Whittling my time away when I could have been more productive and enriched.
In his book Outliers: The Story of Success (affiliate link), author Malcolm Gladwell argues that the educational gap between wealthy and poor children is the time they spend away from school. He writes:
Virtually all of the advantage that wealthy students have over poor students is the result of the differences in the way privileged kids learn while they are not in school. … For its poorest students, America doesn’t have a school problem. It has a summer vacation problem…
4. Establish rules and routines in the home about school
Do you think twice about brushing your teeth? Probably not. Neither does my four-year-old, who has it in his head to brush his teeth every morning and night. And to wash his hands the minute he comes home from school.
Your home likely hums along thanks to similar routines and rules. The same is true about rules for school and learning. Your older child benefits from an after school routine of a snack before ten minutes of homework.
Or make sure they keep their desks and learning areas clutter-free. Does your child wear a uniform? Hold her responsible for putting them away once she gets home.
These rules and routines make your daily life conducive for learning and for school. You set the expectation that school is important. Not because she has to go but because you value its presence in your child’s life.
5. Expect them to attend college
“When I go to college, can I still show you my weekly work?” my preschooler asked me the other day.
He was talking of course about our Friday review of the worksheets he did during preschool. He assumed he’d be doing this with me well into his college years.
Aside from the cuteness of this scenario, what pleased me most was his assumption of going to college. There was no question—after high school, he wanted to go to college.
I know folks who grew up without that expectation and felt that getting themselves into and through college was difficult. They had to navigate through the enrollment process alone. Their parents didn’t understand why they needed a degree.
Not everyone who goes to college finds success, just as not everyone who doesn’t go to college are struggling. But higher education boosts your income and lessens your chances of unemployment. Not to mention how enriching college is. An environment dedicated to the love of knowledge and forge lifelong friendships.
It’s not a bad place to be.
Here’s a tip: Next time you take a trip near a university, take a few hours to visit its campus. Make it a habit to include college visits during your vacations. Many offer campus tours.
Do you live near a college? Take advantage of your proximity and bring your kids for a visit. Explain where you are and expose them early on to college life.
6. Show how their learning will impact the future
People sometimes scoff at school assignments. They wonder how sentence syntax and the Pythagorean theorem would help them in adulthood.
Sometimes they do. To this day I still use many of the math applications I learned in elementary school to find percentages. Decades later the multiplication tables have helped me in daily life. And I’m not even a math major.
For many of us, they don’t help directly. The details we learn in history and the homework assignments we pored through will do little. And especially once we hone a specialty and focus on a career path (Don’t even ask me about geography.)
That’s why I like to stress the benefits of learning and going to school: The ability to think critically, to observe, to question. Learning how to infer, to argue, and to research. To gather delight in having learned something new.
And most importantly, opportunity. Our kids will have more opportunities that might not be there had they not gone to school or done well. The more they value school, the more chances and choices they can make into adulthood.
If kids see the opportunities because of school, they’re more likely to see it as a benefit, not another obstacles to get through.
Introduce your child to different careers. Do you have a bring-your-kid-to-work-day? Invite them along to see where you and your colleagues work. Maybe your friends and family are in interesting careers. Ask them to speak to your kids about what they do and how they got there. They probably had to go through years of school.
As a working mom, my days are devoted to work, not volunteering at my son’s school. I don’t schedule parent-teacher meetings and I only know one other parent in his class. (And she’s my friend, so I don’t even think that counts.)
Does my absence in school deter him from doing well or valuing school? I’d like to think not. Instead, I stress the value of school through daily routines, conversation, and sharing my own love for knowledge and learning with him.
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Was education and school a positive experience in your childhood? Were you raised with the expectation to attend college? How can parents further communicate the value of school? Share your thoughts in the comments.