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

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

Feel the Difference, Share the Experience, Imagine the Future


Relationships between families and schools begin long before a child enters school in September. How does a school put their best foot forward as they begin to build relationships with potential students, help families make transitions from one setting to another, or orient families to what they have to offer as a school community? Increasingly, schools are building a presence in their communities through word of mouth as well as through service opportunities that reflect their goals and values within the larger context of the world. Messages families hear in and out of school inform the decisions they make about where to register their child, ultimately at the school they feel best suits the strengths, needs, and interests of their child and family. Continue reading

A New Year’s Resolutions: Tips for Attaining Family-School Engagement Goals

week 1The start of a new year (regardless of whether it is a calendar year or an academic year) is a fresh opportunity, a clean palette, and a time to go exploring. It is a perfect time to establish new routines and try new strategies that will bring family and school closer together. It is a time to take a close look at what we do well, what we need to work on, and perhaps what we need to start or even stop doing. Families and schools need to engage in collaborative goal-setting in order to move forward in mutually respectful ways. Continue reading

Engaging Families, Engaging Schools: The Year in Review

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As we near the end of 2014, it is a good time to look backward and forward. Looking backward allows us to celebrate the many successes we’ve experienced over the year, particularly as they are reflected in the connections between families and schools. Looking forward, I know that 2015 will be even better. Join me as we take a quick meander through the highlights of 2014. 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

Partnership, Engagement, Involvement: Is It Really Just Semantics?


Whether we are members of the school, community, or family, the goal is always the same – for families and schools to engage with children in a meaningful partnership, regardless of the descriptive term. When defining what is understood by engagement, involvement, or partnership, there must first be “a profound recognition that parents are the first teachers and that education begins before formal schooling and is deeply rooted in the values, traditions, and norms of family and culture” (Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot). Further, both schools and families must be clear on each other’s expectations for involvement and engagement in order to avoid misperception or misunderstanding. But what does it really mean to be partners in children’s learning? Continue reading

Learning to Do School. . . This Time as Parent


Children and families arrive at the school doors, full of possibility. As children learn to do school, parents and families learn to do school all over again, this time with a much different purpose.

The role of parents and families is discussed at length in research publications, curriculum and policy documents, even the media where families are charged, as consumers, with providing just the right school supplies, clothing, even snacks to help their children fit in, belong, and be successful.

There are so many decisions to make, so many bits of advice, and so many ways of being in school and society. Where do we begin? Continue reading