What Matters Most in Family-School Engagement?

Today’s families, schools, and communities often feel pulled in many different directions for many different purposes. Societal norms, curricular expectations, self-imposed and peer pressures, even media portrayals of what is right and wrong leave many of us wondering, What matters most? If we look both inward and outward, backward and forward, we know that that the answer to this question can often be summarized in a single statement: What matters most is that I was important in the life of another…  Continue reading

Homework or Inspired Family-School Practice?

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Homework is a topic worthy of discussion for families, schools, even researchers. Families often struggle to complete the work assigned by school amidst their family practices and commitments, and may as a result feel guilty about not supporting the school.  Some families feel unable to support their children with schoolwork (particularly as it increases in complexity with each academic year), leaving them feeling less than adequate on the landscape of school. Children often feel less than successful, particularly as family members get frustrated, questioning, “Didn’t you learn this at school?” Schools and Ministries do their absolute best to support families with regard to traditional homework completion: they host curriculum evenings designed to demystify the curriculum, they post lists of to-dos (e.g., how to set up a routine, how to support, how to change your language), and they try to be as explicit as possible about the homework. And all of this occurs within a culture of research that suggests that while homework is an educational staple, it’s unclear as to what types of homework make a long-term difference (see Homework: New Research Suggests or Finding the Right Balance). Continue reading

Engaged or Not? That is Often the Question

communityRegardless of whether we are school or family, there are times when we need to step back and ask ourselves whether we are authentically engaged or not, how we are engaged, or how we might engage more fully. This might apply to homework, communication with children, communication with family or  school, involvement at school, engagement in community events, or invitations for engagement. What is clear is that we all require an understanding of the diverse forms of engagement, and we must be aware that what may appear as lack of engagement to one may be something completely different to another. It is in these times that we need to exercise deep listening to explore, understand, and appreciate from as many different perspectives as possible. Continue reading

A Warm and Safe Welcome

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First impressions are often lasting impressions, especially at a time when schools, in order to keep students safe, are required to lock their doors, often leaving families feeling like they are out in the cold. But that was never the intent as indicated by Dalton McGuinty, former premier of Ontario: When parents send their kids off to school they are putting their trust in us, and we have to get it right. That’s why our government is committed to providing safe, welcoming places to learn for all our kids. It’s up to us to take all reasonable steps available to us to protect our kids. Locking school doors is a reasonable step.  Continue reading

Habits of Flourishing School Community Councils

School community council members demonstrate a steadfast commitment to support schools. They work hard on behalf of families to plan events, enhance communication between families and school, support home-school-community-faith partnerships, contribute to fundraising efforts, and promote student well-being and achievement. Councils are not without their struggles though, most commonly how to increase membership and involvement. Continue reading