Podcast Whole Child Podcast

Partnerships Between Home and School: The Real Missing Link?

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Families are a central source of children's learning and development, and their influence cannot be ignored. Engaging with families can inform, complement, reinforce, and accelerate educators' efforts to educate the whole child. Without strategic and continual connections between families and educators, we cannot ensure that students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

In this episode of the Whole Child Podcast, we examine research that overwhelmingly reinforces the need for family engagement, practices that create and sustain meaningful involvement, policies that can bring about systemic change, and barriers that we must overcome to achieve this vision. You'll hear from

  • Heidi Rosenberg, research analyst at the Harvard Family Research Project, whose research projects address family involvement in education, complementary learning systems, and evaluation strategies.
  • Sheila Jackson, director of the Department of School Improvement and the Comer School Development Program Office and Regional Training Center for Prince George's County (Md.) Public Schools, who consults nationally on school reform, community development, child and adolescent growth and development, parental engagement, and more.
  • Trise Moore, Family and Community Partnership Director for Federal Way Public Schools in Washington State, where she has built a team of parents and staff leaders that helped the district gain recognition by the National PTA and the Harvard Family Research Project as one of six exemplary family engagement frameworks in the United States.

What do you think is the most powerful way a family can be engaged in the education process?

Comments (10)

Darlene Fraher

September 9, 2011

In my childhood (1960s), the connection between home and school was our family’s church community. Our friends had parents that were active members of various faiths representing a variety of denominations. We learned to care for others beyond our family in our church community; to trust and be accountable to higher authorities, and to believe we were loved and cared for by others… than our parents. As a child, I felt secure in our church community. We were taught to believe in grace and have hope in times of struggle. We had opportunity to watch our parents practice these same values, and our friends’ parents do the same. We carried this sense of connection to others when we went to our schools. Sunday School gave us a chance to practice social skills through fellowship, and we carried what we learned to the classroom. Our parents encouraged us to join Scouting and 4-H, more community-oriented organizations. These organizations and the activities we shared with others reinforced the requirements of getting oriented to school environments, new classrooms, and developing a sense of “get-along-ability” that supported our academic learning.

Linda Booth

September 9, 2011

In the beginning, merely showing an interest in and support of your child’s school experiences will have a very positive influence on your child’s success in school.  This may be done by simply discussing daily what happened in school.  When your child answers “nothing” (which they will)  help them remember by breaking down their day bit by bit from walking into the classroom to getting on the bus in the evening.

Marian de Jong

September 17, 2011

My suggestion is the family meal.  Simple routines at home that can provide an opportunity to be together as a family, regardless of family structure, give families the opportunity to show an interest, and hear each other’s views. Eating dinner together -as much as possible, remains one of the most effective ways to stay engaged with your child,because it provides an opportunity, and sharing food is the timeless way of humankind. Not easy to accomplish for many families these days. This can be the mainstay of a child feeling supported. Today many families no longer have the seemingly more protected and supported child-rearing environments of 40 and 50 years ago. Mixed in with students in our public schools who come from supportive families, with their varying advantages and solid resources, are also students with lesser supports and opportunities, lives that are more chaotic, and which often include poverty.  Despite the variety and/or disparity between family backgrounds, the family and their child benefits - and it shows at school.

Sandra Hansen

September 22, 2011

I suggest that families need to turn the television and electronics off. It is unfortunate that todays families are communicating through their cell phones and or are engaging through wei games or other electronic game events. These are good opportunities for family time, however, not necessarily engaging in what students need to know in getting them prepared for school.  They are not speaking the language of school-they are speaking the language of electronic games. Families need to realize that in order to bridge the educational gap is that parents need to take an active interest in what is going on in schools and actively engaging children in their learning.

Scott Thayer

September 24, 2011

One of my son’s high school teacher’s created a project for teens around self-discovery and life planning, called Get totally Real! Parents, like me, became so impressed in the changes in our children in many critical ways like motivation for learning, that we asked how we could be involved. She created a Parent Companion book so parents could authentically engage in actively coaching their children into adulthood successfully.
It changed my entire family, made me a better parent, brought me much closer to my son’s education in a way that truly matters AND improved all our understanding of each other.
As a culture we focus a lot of attention on parenting our small children and then we disconnect…we cannot do that and expect our teens to figure out their futures in this ever changing complex world!
Check out the project: http://www.getreallearning.com

Trise Moore

September 25, 2011

Mr. Thayer, I applaud you and your son’s high
school teacher for engaging in a way that while it may
have stretched all parties, will ultimately
prove to be in the best interest of your son. I am confident
that there are several parents that would be willing
to participate in this kind of partnership with their
high school son or daughter. I hope your teacher’s innovative
idea catches on.
Research tells us that when parents promote, affirm and encourage their student’s long-term education goals, it has as direct a connection to their educational success as anything else they do. It
can help reduce drop out levels and reinforce the actions and thinking needed to help student’s succeed in college.

Sean Slade: Relationships Matter | Education

November 23, 2011

[...] Well that may be for another blog article but for now have a listen to these podcasts: • Partnerships Between Home and School: The Real Missing Link? • The Whole Child Needs a Whole Teacher • School Climate: Developing the Quality and Character [...]


January 29, 2012

I work in an Inuit community where there is a mistrust from the community towards the school.  That mistrust is not there for no reason.  A history with residential schools and whalers, etc. has created these wounds. 

Does anyone have any suggestions for specific ways to invite parents into the school and make them feel comfortable?

Klea @ ASCD

January 30, 2012

Hi Melissa—Great questions! I’ve shared them over at the Whole Child page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/wholechild).

Bill Matheson

January 30, 2012

Storytelling ... for me many studies, especially in history, heritage and literature but also science, math, etc., began with storytelling.  Personal, family stories that were developed at home within the family, or favourite family traditional tales that were then told orally in the class.  Simple tales that gave everyone ownership and pride in the learnings that grew out of them.  Many conversations and relationships with parents began and were sustained because we honoured their stories.  There are endless ways to expand and enrich the process but I have always found storytelling a powerful experience.

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