Teachers are the cornerstone of the schooling experience. They are with our children five days a week, providing them with a first-rate education. However, despite their primary role in a child’s education, recent studies show that those in a parent role may have an even greater impact on younger children’s success at school. In fact, children without the support and encouragement of their parents in setting high expectations are generally less likely to succeed in school.

Whether a child is doing in-person or virtual schooling, their teacher likely has up to thirty children in a classroom for which they must provide instruction and attention. At home, a child is generally only in competition with their siblings, allowing a parent to provide them with more individualized attention.

While good teachers play a critical role in a child’s academic progress, research shows that the “home effect” can account for up to sixty percent of an average student’s achievement. This should be a wake-up call to parents. Be involved in your child’s academic activities to set them up for success!

The Early Childhood Years

Learning experiences in the early childhood years can be pivotal, and parent involvement in a child’s education for the first four years is essential. This time is particularly critical to a child’s brain development and vocabulary-building skills.

Drs. Todd Risley and Betty Hart have worked with families of all different income levels to study how preschool learning experiences in the home affected a child’s academic capabilities. Using the recordings of communications between children and parents, the doctors focused primarily on the number of words spoken to and heard by a child in their first four years of life.

Their studies yielded a discovery that, although younger children in lower income families tended to score lower on intelligence tests than their more affluent counterparts, it was not a reflection on their intelligence. The discrepancy is explained because these children were at a disadvantage due to having a smaller vocabulary bank.

In addition, their study showed:

  • Families living in poverty had children who heard an average of just over six hundred words per hour.
  • Working class families had children who heard an average of more than twelve hundred words per hour.
  • Children of professional families heard roughly twenty-one hundred words per hour.

If you multiply these numbers to account for how many words each of these children would hear during the course of a year, the difference in words heard by children in the three groups is staggering.

The takeaway from this study is not to point fingers, but to empower parents to grow their child’s vocabulary, which can translate into greater opportunity and success when it comes to their child’s adolescent education.

One of the steps parents can immediately take is to read, and to read often, to their children. This may include reading from children’s books, magazines, or other age-appropriate materials. It is equally important for children to see materials with writing on them around the home, because it shows that the adults living there place value on written words. Make reading a fun adventure by planning a field trip to the local library.

As a parent, by reading to your child as little as twenty minutes a day, you are growing your child’s vocabulary and empowering them to succeed.

The Kindergarten Through High School Years

Although research shows that the first four years of a child’s life are critically formative, it does not negate the importance of the learning our children experience from kindergarten all the way through high school. A parent’s involvement during these years is also key to laying a foundation of educational success.

Parents should note, especially at these ages, that a child’s educational success does not rest solely on the shoulders of a teacher. Teachers are responsible for providing children with an education, but a parent’s role should be to expand that education at home by:

  • Letting your child know that the kind of education they get can have an effect beyond the classroom. Make sure your child knows you think education is important and that you have confidence in them.
  • Showing your child examples of how hard work can pave the way for success. Remind them that giving their best throughout their years of education can pay big dividends when it is time to get a job, and that the difference between the annual salary of a job with and without a high school diploma can be thousands of dollars.
  • Letting them catch you reading. Whether it is a book, newspaper, or magazine, show your child that reading is an important part of your life also. It is not something you are asking them to do, without doing it first yourself.
  • Insisting their homework be completed. Children may benefit from a designated space for doing homework, such as the kitchen table, where they can get help from an adult if needed.
  • Getting involved. Show your child you care about their school experience by getting involved in volunteering or signing up for the PTA/PTO. How you volunteer matters less than the fact that you care enough to do it.
  • Keeping the lines of communication open with their teacher. If you aren’t sure where to start, consider arranging a conference with the teacher to learn more about what you can do at home to support your child.

When you invest time with your child, you are empowering them to take control of their future and strive for success in all that they do. This gift of unconditional love yields enormous benefits at school and at home, so get involved today!

Dr G

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