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Three Ways Parents Can Help Eliminate the Educational Divide

New opportunities to help shape your children's educational futures

Education played a significant role in last year’s election, most notably in how researchers, media and others used level of education as a proxy for how certain voters would cast their votes. College-educated. Less educated. Some college. No college. When you’re trying to report on an election that is so clearly divided, these categories attempt to offer a seemingly logical way to make sense of how someone might vote based on how much education they’ve had.

But as parents, don’t we want to provide all of our children with the opportunity to unlock their learning potential—regardless of their background or where they grow up?

The good news is, we can. As parents, now more than ever, we can play a more active role in shaping our children’s educational futures, from encouraging them to be more critical thinkers, to demanding more from the technologies they use at school—and at home. Here are a few ideas that can help you along the way:

  • Discover new opportunities to become an active participant in your child’s learning. You don’t have to become a classroom volunteer to actively impact your child’s learning potential (although that is a fantastic thing to do if you can swing it). Talk about what they found challenging or easy on last night’s math homework, and more importantly, ask why. Read a bedtime story and dig deeper into how the main character is feeling at different points in the narrative to help build up social and emotional learning. Suggest some ways you can volunteer as a family in your community in a way that is particularly meaningful to your kids. For example, if your family enjoys hiking on the weekends, volunteering to do trail cleanup might be a great way to incorporate your favorite pastime with community service.
  • Look beyond “right answers” to better understand the strategies kids are using to solve problems. This is easier said than done, as it’s often tempting to focus more on kids reaching the right answer versus understanding the path they took to get to that answer. Encourage them to think critically—and creatively—when it comes to solving word problems in math. If your kids are writing or journaling, resist the urge to correct their spelling, especially if they’re just beginning to appreciate the joy of the written word.
  • Identify ways to align learning at school with learning at home. It’s likely that your kids are learning exactly what you did in school—but in an entirely different way. Set up an impromptu parent/teacher conference to better understand how your child’s teacher is approaching different concepts, so you can have a better idea of how to help your kids with homework. And, if technology is a part of their classroom experience, ask if students can access the same digital technologies at home or on a tablet. You can then actively encourage your kids to use their “screen time” as learning time wherever your busy schedules take you.

Influencing and transforming how our kids learn can be impacted by parents and how we choose to actively participate in how our kids think about the world and others around them. We owe it to ourselves and our kids to be as active as we can in identifying and participating in learning opportunities. Our future depends on it.

Jennifer Agustin