Challenge 1: Supporting parenting
We are not born to be parents. There are several knowledge areas and skills to develop to be what we are expected to be: the best possible educators of our children. Education or upbringing is the main job of every parents and we all want to do the best for our children. Research shows that up to age 11-12 parents have the most important impact on their children, their attitude towards learning and school, their educational success and motivation. Not even the best school or kindergarten will have a larger impact. This leading role is taken over by the peer group in early teenage years, but parents still play an important role. Thus the basis of educational success is education at home, from birth.
- Child development stages – understanding how children develop and what we can expect from them in different stages
- Understanding learning – in order to best support our own learning as well as our children’s you need to be aware of the ways people learn and also to explore the best learning methods for your children and yourself
- Parenting styles – an important factor depending on our personality, but something that can be consciously adapted to the best interest of our children once you understand the effect of different parenting styles
- Family diversity – another important factor with a great effect on the future educational success of our children
- Rights and duties of parents – the legal framework giving us duties and obligations, but also obliging the states to support parents
- Rights of the child – one of the most import aspect to be taken into consideration when upbringing our children
- The national education system – the most important support system that offers families services complementing our parental job and helping parents as educators
Challenge 2: Learning together
Learning is one of the most important activities parents and children do together. Until the moment they first have to sit down with their children to help with homework, parents often do not realise how much their children are learning from them, but it is even more difficult to realise how much parents learn from their children. All parents should be aware that it was them who managed to help their children learn the mother tongue, learn to dress, to eat with a knife and fork, say hello, or ride a bike. To consciously support learning, parents need to be aware of a few important issues related to the learning of their children as well as their own learning.
- Motivation for learning – we need to be aware of motivational factors, but also believes, not only for learning in childhood, but also for becoming lifelong learners, including delicate issues, like talent, but also taking into account the effect of learning environments
- Learning at home with school-age children – with special focus on school assignments and homework, dealing with the topic of responsibility for and effectiveness of homework, but also taking into account the physical space provided for it at home
- Learning informally – an often neglected, but extremely important field of learning, offering wide possibilities for learning from each other, ensuring the right to play, supporting innovation and fostering creativity, and also to experiment with digital technologies
- Critical approach to today’s school – to encourage posing the right questions, while all parents have the feeling that something is fundamentally wrong with general schooling today, we need to consider what schooling is for
- Home-schooling – and un-schooling are initiatives that are getting momentum these days, as a result of the above mentioned critical approach
Challenge 3: Communication
Good communication, the exchange of messages, information between school and parents, but also between parents and children, as well as reacting on these the right way, are key to living together smoothly, to collaboration and also educational success. Teachers often complain that some parents are difficult to reach, but at the same time have difficulties with highly demanding parents, while parents often feel they are not listened to, being talked down on and not considered equal partners. More often than not this all results from bad organisation and a lack of basic communication skills. For an effective home-school communication we need to explore the process itself
- Communication channels between home and school – in order to make communication effective all partners (parents and teachers, but also the students) need to be aware of the possible communication channels, to explore ones possibly not used before, but there is also a need to assess which channels are preferred and suitable for different users and messages
- Communication styles - is another area that needs to be explored for successful relationships between home and school, so there is a need to be aware of different communication styles, to access one’s own style and be aware of it, and within this category also be able to measure one’s level of involvement in school
- Living together in school – having good communication gives a good basis for smooth living together, but there is a need to explore its possibilities, so it is important to widen your knowledge of this area, as well as assessing what the school is offering in this field and what the parents can do to promote and strengthen this aspect of collaboration within the school building and beyond, especially the home and in the immediate environment of the school
Challenge 4: Volunteering
Parents volunteering in the school context is a form of involvement typical in most countries, making it possible to engage more in the day-to-day life of schools, but also supporting individualised learning by offering free assistance or per se teaching without extra staff cost for the school. Volunteering can take many forms and there are large differences in time, skills and resources devoted by individuals, but also there is a wide range of acknowledgement from praise to near ban. In general parents volunteering in schools not only contribute to the learning of their own children, but also to a wider group of learners, teachers among them. We need to explore volunteering from two main aspects, the viewpoint of the volunteer and that of the organisation. The latter is very important, and a long-standing demand of parents’ organisations from all over Europe that parents as volunteers need to be acknowledged by schools, but also by governments by offering benefits for volunteers, especially in the form of paid leave.
- Me as a volunteer – needs to be explored from three angels: what are the motivations for my wish to volunteer, when can I do it, how does it fit my schedule, and what does volunteering mean with regards to my rights and duties, my contribution to eg. the life of school and my own benefits from volunteering, especially my own lifelong learning
- Volunteering in a parents’ organisation – a more systemic approach to organised parental involvement, namely assessing different kinds of volunteers, their motivations and ways of motivating them, the room parents’ organisations have in the life of a school and the potential in it, and the mutual benefits from volunteering, with exploring ways to solve the problem resulting from a lack of time
Challenge 5: Participating and Collaborating with the CommunityParents and parents’ organisations are working in a wider local community context, not only in the context of family and school. One of the main educational goals parents need to meet in present European societies is to educate active and responsible citizens. This learning is best taking place in the ultimate safe environment of the family and later the school. Parents need to be active citizens themselves in order to be a role model, and this need an understanding of the forms, possibilities and challenges of active citizenship.
- Citizenship itself – what models are there for citizenship and what forms it takes, in what ways and how deeply you can be involved, what makes and active citizen
- Diversity of people – to be able to analyse the needs of people depending on their age or cultural background are necessary to adjust to these differences, but from a parents’ point of view it is equally important to understand and encourage the participation of children and young people from a very young age, and engage them in formulating their own lives and immediate environment
- Environment – is an important factor, partly predestining the lives of citizens, and partly flexible, but to explore the limits and flexibility you need to be aware of possibilities of networking within a wider local community context and of the resources the community have, be them financial, intellectual or human resources
- Parents’ organisations – are an important means of active citizenship, so parents need to know about different models of parents’ representation from school level to national level and beyond, different leadership models and challenges around setting up and operating such an organisation