(Photo by Natasha Hall on Unsplash)

By Maxine Johnson Wood, Ed.D.

Before and during the pandemic there have been limited formal proposals that support a direct, renewed focus on the significant role that parents play as their children’s initial teachers in the home. Enhancing this could positively improve student learning. Interest and investment in promoting, encouraging and identifying children’s learning, beginning in the home and continuing, should receive broad attention.

Mutually supportive responsibilities among parents and teachers were weak before the pandemic. Instruction and curriculum for students moved from the classroom to the home via distance/virtual learning. I have observed a general decline in valuing the involvement of parents as their children’s first teachers. Parent functions in teaching foundational behaviors, traditions, “how to’s” and other activities important to their children’s development as family and community members seem to be diminishing. The pandemic gave new prominence to the formal expectations that teachers are the primary deliverers of curriculum and instruction for students in the classroom, and virtually when necessary. Parents can be instrumental in fostering and encouraging a dialogue between home and school, so each can support the other.

Here, then, is a worthy opportunity for educators to include parents in discussions and problem-solving activities, reflecting an awareness of the essential role they can play in partnership with teachers. Parents, while not delivering instruction and curriculum themselves, can be encouraged to acknowledge teachers, and understand, support and value their own
influence in the learning process. Additionally, having participated in virtual/distance learning, educators can see parents as partners in learning, and can more readily recognize their importance as their children’s teachers at home. Formal, defined opportunities for collaboration can be developed to train and assist parents in becoming confident and comfortable in fulfilling
these vital functions. Such training and preparation need to be ongoing and recognized as credible, accepted extensions and complements to the learning process.

My most inspiring experiences in education involved assisting, advising and encouraging parents to support their children’s learning. While working with parents, I created and utilized a mantra, “When parents are involved in the education of children, everyone learns!” When children are not in school or unable to succeed in it, bad things can happen. Media reports, editorials and articles reflect the increase in local crimes involving school-aged children,
resulting in questions and proposals for solutions. One such suggestion includes varied police initiatives, expanded recreational activities, and more youth employment opportunities. Missing from this list is greater support for active parent involvement in their children’s learning.

Increased destabilizing events in communities throughout the nation warrant renewed consideration of the Ghanaian proverb, “The ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people.”

Clearly, the pandemic has provided unfiltered, eye-opening opportunities for parents to better understand the multiple aspects of teacher-led distance/virtual instruction. It has also allowed educators unprecedented awareness of their students’ home environment and more opportunities for direct communication with parents. I believe that the pandemic has created a
positive, favorable climate for a more collaborative, cooperative parent/teacher relationship that nurtures respectively distinct and supportive roles. This could become the foundation needed to revive the long-ago accepted and honored position of parents as their children’s first teachers.
That is their “homework.”

There is a critical impetus to change perceptions regarding the importance of
“homework” — the work of parents and families—to teach their children basic information, early expectations, family traditions, goals and “how to’s.” Again, articulating the significance of supporting parents as their children’s first teachers elevates this valuable tradition, and promotes it as a resource for encouraging and supporting students’ success.

Life skills and values learned in the home extend to such broad settings as the classroom, the school and the community. Focusing again on the significant roles of parenting adults will have long-term practical and positive impacts on children, parents, families and society as a whole.

Our continued development as a nation requires us to give renewed attention, resources, and support, valuing the work needed in our homes to help children learn as they grow.

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