What prevents parents from getting involved in their children’s education? Most of us would list a range of reasons including poor literacy and numeracy skills, negative personal experiences of school as a child and parents who simply don’t value education at all.
In this blog post however, I want to write about something else we are encountering when we go into schools. We are finding that parents who have enjoyed school and have left with good qualifications seem to be even more fearful of ‘the system’ than the traditionally hard to reach groups.
We have recently been working with parents from a range of backgrounds. What we have noticed is that the more educated the parent is, the more they seem to fear that they will damage their children by teaching them incorrect strategies. This is, of course, a huge generalisation but it seems that, unless a parent has actual experience of working in education that a little bit of knowledge of what goes on in a classroom actually seems to prevent them from supporting their children with their work.
One age old anxiety that every parent seems to quote is the fear of new strategies for doing calculations. Intelligent parents are finding out that their children are using strategies that are different to the ones they learnt at school and this is making them shy away from offering any support at all. One parent recently said to me “I’d rather do nothing than do harm.”
Is there such a thing as an incorrect strategy in Maths? As long as the strategy works and the child understands how it works then how can it be harmful? When the child encounters a different strategy in school this simply means that they will have multiple ways to cross check their answer.
By avoiding helping their children with work, parents are unintentionally sending out messages that education is not important and worthy of their time. In my opinion this is far more damaging than learning ‘how to add the old fashioned way’.
So what does this mean for our schools? Keeping parents totally in the dark about the way the modern classroom works is clearly not a solution. Do we educate them in the full range of strategies and approaches used by schools today? This would pose a rather huge challenge, although many schools are doing their best to achieve just this. Maybe we should simply give parents the confidence to support their children using any method that works, whilst sending out the message that education is something that should be enjoyed, valued and shared.
Oh and by the way, the parent I quoted above is no longer harming his child by doing nothing…