So, it’s pretty easy to gripe about the way public schools are currently being run. Griping is always easy. Done a bit myself! But what do we do as parents to make sure our kids are really getting the best out of their school experience? I’ve mentioned home schooling in the past but that’s not an option for everyone, nor is it the desirable option for everyone. So today we’re going to focus making the best out of public K-12. This is going to be a United States centric post for obvious reasons. Also, this post is mostly aimed at schools where there is a mix of good and bad instructors and a decent chance the school will do right by your children. Some of you might have children in schools that are notoriously bad and that will be a different subject that deserves its own post.
I think for most of us the thought of having to interact with the K-12 environment again—especially for parents that haven’t been out of it that long in the first place—is way down on the list of things we’d like to do. We’re busy with adult concerns after all, and that same K-12 education left us ill prepared for many of them, hell, even a 4-year does. Why did you have children in the first place though? I can’t imagine having someone else raise them and teach them their values while you do all the hard work was high on that list. It may take the better part of ten minutes, but it’s important to talk to your kids about what they’re learning, get a feel for their instructor as a person and what they’re teaching style is, and on that note…
Ask your children what they’re learning, how they’re doing, follow-up with the instructor. It is important to know what their weak and strong areas are in the curriculum so that extra help can be more targeted. It’s also a good way to learn if their instructor takes any notice of them at all. On that note, do not use electronic communication for these questions, make sure they are done live so that you can catch signs that your children’s instructor doesn’t even know who they are or what they’re doing. It may take a year or two, but you will eventually learn to quickly spot good and bad instructors by how they talk about your children.
Go to Open House/Orientation
This is a good chance to ask those questions and identify any problems before they begin. It’s a good way to get a feel for the students and instructors outside of your child’s class. This is helpful for identifying the culture of the school. What’s the culture of the school? Are off campus field trips common? How much emphasis is put on physical activity? What are the opportunities to engage in the arts? You’ll find the school culture in the place where the attention to these areas is the most obvious. Well kept and maintained playground equipment is a sign that outdoors time is a major focus. Talk to the music instructor if they have one. If they have passion for what they’re doing it will show. They will show you any awards they’ve won or memorable moments made possible by the students. There will be pictures of past classes in any school remotely concerned with the legacy they leave. Go check out the school, the walls themselves will tell you about it.
Volunteer if you Can
If you are in a position to volunteer, do so. Not only is this a great way to show the children that this is more than a daycare service to you, it’s a way to get instructor’s conversing in unguarded moments. You’d be surprised what you can learn here. Just remember, the students aren’t the only ones engaged in heated gossip and you should confirm anything you hear before you act on it. If you know your neighbors well and are in good standing you might want to share your experiences with them too.
Look at Homework Regularly
Even a glance will do in a pinch. Here, you are mostly checking if the content is in line with your expectations. I’ve had homework come home that was clearly targeted at much younger children and I’ve had to follow up on that. I’ve had homework come home that was factually wrong in the first place. I’ve had homework come home with obvious ideological agendas that run counter to how I’d like my children raised—that was an internal conversation with the family, I know better than to think I’m going to win the ‘not everyone is special’ war with a public school. On that note, not every difference you have with the curriculum needs to end up as some busy body Facebook post, just make sure your kids know when the school is teaching them opinion presented as fact.
That’s the major ones really. Another thing you’ll have to come to terms with is that while your guidance and help is definitely preferred, most of this is up to your child. Until next time.