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Thursday, December 04, 2014

How Do We Best Support Families When it Comes to Students' Academic Success?

How can we help parents help their children succeed academically?

As educators we see the way that many families meet academic requirements. Some hire tutors, others host study sessions at their kitchen table every night, and still more bring their children to extra academic programs. Then there are those that leave all the home study up to the child, and others that help as they can.

There's tremendous variation when it comes to academic support from family members, and there's great variation when it comes to the amount of academic support students require.  Sometimes a parent will say, "She doesn't need me," and I'll respond, "She doesn't need any of us, she could run the school," and other times a parent will say, "I just don't have the time to help and when she comes home from school, she's exhausted." Then, I'll respond, "Let's try to make some priorities and look for ways to make this a successful year for your daughter."

This is not a "one size fits all" situation.

So how can we help?

First, we need to encourage families to speak up and ask questions. Many parents speak up all the time, and it's rare that children of parents who speak up respectfully don't get what they need. We should send the message that no question is too small, and we'll do everything we can to help.

Next, we need to regularly let parents know explicitly what students need to succeed, and if families can't supply the needed resources or help, we need to look for ways to supply that help at school. This aspect of academic support depends on context. In every school, there will be different responses with regard to helping families help their children. This means it needs to come from the collective learning team including community members, families, students, educators, and leaders in a school, school system, or district.

In today's world of multiple resources, there's no reason why any child should not be meeting with success in school. It's likely that the specific success will look different from child to child, but what will be the same is steady growth in positive, empowering, and engaging ways.

When we work with families with strength, regularity, and directness, everyone benefits and the child has a greater chance of academic success, happiness, and confidence.

I want to think more about this topic in the days ahead. In the meantime, if you've had some great success in this area, please share.

I also believe that thoughtful orientations create a bright start for students and families.