If education serves the purpose of preparing children to be responsible adults then I believe parents have a significant role. Such an education can not practically be the sole responsibility of schools.
Many parents I know, myself included, are interested in what their children are doing and learning. There can be issues that range from language, time constraints and ability levels to just sheer inability of some children to articulate what is going on in a way that parents can connect with. This article from the UK Guardian, Parents struggle to help with homework, have some salient points.
Even anecdotally, I know that Maths is a subject most parents are reluctant to help with. Prior to becoming a maths teacher, I can list a few reasons why: (1) changes in terminology, (2) changes in methods, and (3) what teachers say take precedence over what parents say. There may be a seed of truth in the Guardian article mentioning that parents can do more harm than good. I remember a time when a Year 7 parent asked why her daughter has not been taught the “multiplicative inverse in the division of fractions”. Seriously, in year 7! For the record, it was taught but without the snazzy words. Apropos, the term we now use – reciprocal – is not necessarily more meaningful.
One of the things I’ve done to empower parents is to create a class website on Weebly. If nothing else, I hope to tell parents a little bit about the terms and methods discussed in class, e.g. I never used pronumerals when learning Algebra, ditto many parents, for sure. How I was taught maths is not how I’m teaching it (see previous post).
I don’t aim it to be a maths website replicating a myriad of resources but rather a portal into my class with pre-selected resources actually used in class and accessible from home. This does not replace the website we have in the school portal which contains far more detail, especially at the operational lesson-level. This also does not replace the usual channels of communication: phone, email and Parent/Teacher interviews.
Serendipitous to the day I read the Guardian article, I’ve had some discussions with more experienced teachers about the website’s sustainability and value. I have no qualms saying that it is sustainable enough given my vision for it; also, I find Weebly easy enough to use (I recommend it) . I am less sure about the site’s value. What can I say? It is like leading a horse to the water with no guarantee that it will drink. I did have one parent email me to say that he appreciates having it. That is enough, for now. That and the fact that, as a parent, I see its value as well. A bit of context: parents have limited access to the school portal hence the push for an external web.
Parents can be partners in teaching. Mostly, they want to be. As teachers, here is an untapped resource that, with a bit of help and communication, can help achieve better outcomes for our students. By the way, I am all for parents – and teachers – modelling how to handle being stumped and making mistakes. Perhaps naively, I don’t agree that parents helping can do more harm than good.