Family-School Partnerships

parent teacher convos 3 001There are numerous resources focused on how educators can work with parents but what supports are out there for parents wanting to connect with schools? How are parents supported in building relationships with teachers and administrators? And how can parents support learning at home? The articles I’ve written on parent-teacher communications have been among the most popularly viewed posts. Check out the related articles below, an assessment tool for parents who are examining new schools and a list of other organizations and sites that offer helpful resources for parents.



Parent-Teacher Conversations

Productive collaborations between family and school, therefore,
will demand that parents and teachers recognize the critical importance of each other’s participation in the life of the child.
– Sara Lawrence Lightfoot

Teachers gain plenty of experience over time having difficult conversations about students with parents. However if you are parent, you may only experience difficult conversations with teachers a few times in your children’s educational careers. It’s conceivable that your child may come home with issues or concerns that merit your initiation of a conversation with a teacher. With only your child’s words to inform you, you need more information and the help of her teacher to really understand the problem. “Will I sound like I am accusing the teacher or another student or parent?” “Will the teacher penalize my daughter or like her less because of our conversation?” and “Will my discussion with the teacher lead to tensions between our family and that teacher and possibly other teachers in the future?” These are all valid questions that are raised in the minds of parents before they proceed with a conversation. Last weekend as I attended a once a year lunch date with my college friends, mothers of children from preschool through high school, this common dilemma was a feature of our conversation. Read full article.

Parent-Teacher Conferences

       …no school can work well for children if parents and teachers do not act in partnership on behalf of the children’s best interests. Parents have every right to understand what is        happening to their children at school, and teachers have the responsibility to share that information without prejudicial judgment…. Such communication, which can only be in a child’s interest, is not possible without mutual trust between parent and teacher.

Parent Teacher Conferences 2 Illustration by Jennifer Miller– Dorothy H. Cohen

Parent-teacher conferences are upon us. Though we go into them with great hope for a productive dialogue about how our child is doing in school, sometimes we come away feeling like we didn’t get the information we wanted or don’t know exactly what our next steps should be. Perhaps later we begin to worry about his learning challenges but missed the opportunity to ask more about it. The conference for my son next week is scheduled for ten minutes in length. That’s enough time for a check in only. So I know that I am going to need to be in communication with his teacher at other times if I am really to understand how I can support his learning goals. With so little time together, it helps to enter the conversation in the right frame of mind. And also coming with a plan and questions at the ready can assist you in ensuring you are satisfied with the interchange. Read full article.


Setting Up for Homework Success

“I am not doing my homework. No way!” said E. If you have school-age children, certainly a similar refrain has been asserted in your household – possibly on numerous Setting up for homework success by Jennifer Milleroccasions and maybe even every night after school. Education Week recently highlighted a study by the National Center on Families Learning who found that 60% of American families surveyed struggled to help their children with their homework. Additionally, more than 25 percent admit the reason is that they are too busy, up from just over 20 percent in 2013. Parents also identified not understanding the subject matter (33.5 percent) and pushback from their kids (41 percent) as reasons for having trouble with homework help. Read the full article.

Homework Attitude — Promoting Autonomy and Competence to Inspire Hard Work

When it comes to homework, attitude can make all of the difference. Children can bring worries or beliefs to their homework that we, as parents, may or may not be aware of. “The other kids all know this already but I just don’t understand it. How will I catch up?”
“I’m just not good at science.” “What if I’ll never be able to figure this out?” Anxiety in a child can fuel them to either walk away from a challenge, or to dig in and work harder to meet their struggles. And we can have a significant influence on how our children approach those challenges through our own words and attitudes. Read the full article.  


Helping Your Child’s School Create a Caring Community; Lessons from a Parent Volunteer

This week I interviewed a regular reader and responder to Confident Parents, Confident Kids, Jeanne Osgood. Jeanne is someone who has significantly influenced her home school district as a parent over the past fourteen years and I’ve been eager to learn more about her story. Though her two children have graduated and moved on, she continues to educate and advocate for social and emotional learning in Community Consolidated District 181 in Hinsdale, Illinois, a K-8 district with 9 schools and nearly 4,000 students. Prior to having children, she worked for the Art Institute of Chicago as a Museum Educator. In addition to being a long-time volunteer with the schools, she wrote her own job description as a “Communications Consultant” and created systems for communicating with parents about the district’s focus on social and emotional learning. As a result, the District moved from fragmented efforts in character education and a strong focus on academic achievement to a coordinated district-wide integration of social and emotional skill development. They did this as part of their academic curriculum with parents as partners in the process. They regularly communicate with parents through a website and newsletter along with periodic learning opportunities. Read full article.


Arguably, one of the most significant ways parents can contribute daily to school performance is by ensuring that children get enough sleep at night. Check out these supportive tips on a smooth bedtime routine.

The Opportunity of Bedtime, Part One

“One of my happy thoughts was having peace and quiet in the house today to work,” I said.
“Oh yeah. Mom, could you give me peace and quiet while I am going to sleep? I always hear you doing the dishes in the kitchen and it keeps me up,” said E in earnest. “I’ll try,” I responded.

Two hours after I whispered “Good night.” I walked down the hallway and heard “Momma, I can’t sleep.” Who knows why? It could be thinking too much about worrisome thoughts, not getting enough fresh air or exercise during the day or an intent desire to stay up. Children’s bedtime can present significant challenges to parents. “Why do I have to go to bed?” may be a whine you hear often when it’s time to say goodnight. And perhaps at times you are too tired to fight the bedtime battle. With homework, sports practice and dinner after school, there is not much time for play and relaxation. However research confirms we are not doing ourselves or our children any favors by allowing a later bedtime. A lack of sleep can contribute to poor grades and more challenging behaviors. But how much sleep do children need and what are the consequences if they are not getting enough? Read the full article.

The Opportunity of Bedtime, Part Two – Troubleshooting Bedtime Challenges

This week two readers share their challenges with bedtime. Perhaps these problems are similar to yours? One feels the bedtime routine stretches longer and longer while she is tired and wants to move through it more quickly. The other receives calls after the “Good nights” have been said. Fears of the dark, a desperate thirst and most likely, a need for further attention keep her jumping up and down, returning to her daughter’s bedroom when she’s trying to have her own time at the end of a long day. Read on and see if some of the responses might assist you as you try to create a bedtime routine that is a positive experience for the whole family. Read full article.


The Heart and Head School Report Card

If you have the luxury of choosing a school (whether its preschool, elementary or high), be certain to visit, tour and spend time in a classroom to get a feel for the culture of the school. Print out “The Heart and Head School Report Card” as your own checklist and use while on the visit or complete when you return home. See if the school meets your desires and criteria for educating the whole child.


Harvard Family Research Project

This project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education conducts research on the best ways of increasing school-home and school-community collaboration. This site offers research papers on the topic, links to other organizations and links to many partnership models.

Getting Smart; Smart Parents
Articles, blogs, videos and more are included to help parents become involved in their children’s education.

National Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
Tips, fact sheets and articles, useful to both parents and teachers, are included on a wide range of topics related to parenting and school-home collaboration.

New Mexico School Communities
Tips and tools are included to help teachers and parents promote positive parenting and how to help encourage children to become better learners in school and at home.

Educator’s Reference Desk
An umbrella site that provides links to organizations, online communities, and other websites for a wide range of topics in education, including school-home collaboration, diversity in the classroom, background information on various ethnic cultures, parenting, and homework.


Parents and Teachers Working Together by Carol Davis and Alice Yang – This is an easy-to-read and use book that contains tools and supports for both teachers and parents to connect with one another on student learning.

Beyond the Bake Sale; The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships by Anne T. Henderson, Karen L. Mapp, Vivian R. Johnson, and Don Davies. (2007) – This is an easy, practical guide to creating authentic partnerships between caregivers and school staff. It offers many examples and helps readers think through barriers to collaboration as well as culturally responsive ways to connect.

Building Powerful Learning Environments from Schools to Communities by Arina Bokas (2017). – Bokas makes a solid case for the kind of education required to prepare global citizens and develop children physically, socially, emotionally and academically. She uncovers beliefs and assumptions that are now outdated and do not serve our children but still remain drivers of policy and practice. And she offers practical suggestions for deepening trust between families, communities, and schools.

© Copyright, 2021, Jennifer Smith Miller. All rights reserved.

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