The art of parenting has received considerable attention during the past few years. Some of the activities offered to parents range from “teach-your-toddler” sessions to help in local communities to special TV programs on teaching children to read. Publishers have stocked the bookstores with a selection of guides on early childhood education.
Many of these new books focus on the important role of parents during their child’s first three years, which are regarded by many experts as the vital years for learning. But what should be done when a child “graduates” from these prime learning years and begins school? Is it the duty of the school to take over his education? What role should parents play in promoting learning during the kindergarten to high school years?
Similar questions are dealt with by many experts. They refute the passive attitude that, since they aren’t trained to be teachers, parents should stay away from actively influencing the education of their children.
As the father of four sons and former U.S. Secretary of Education, Dr. Terrel Bell draws on considerable experience in analyzing the total home-child-school relationship. He advocates loving and active involvement by all parents in their child’s education at home, at school, and in the community. He considers this “a neglected but essential factor in the equation for success in childhood learning.” The many plans for action which he outlines do not necessarily mean spending more time with the children, but rather making the best educational use of this time.
For example, parents can convert many routine, every day experiences into opportunities for learning. This is what Dr. Bell calls “incidental teaching” free of any pressure or formal learning atmosphere. These teaching moments are part of a “home curriculum” which he says should include such broad objectives as developing fundamental study skills, fostering democracy as a way of life, vocational and career education, and teaching religious concepts and adherence to high spiritual ideals.
If this sounds too much of an assignment, note Dr. Bell’s reminder that parents should not feel burdened or overwhelmed by all the ideas presented in the book. In fact, he suggests selecting one or two areas at a time that you would like to work on with your child and then use the PIER (plan, implement, evaluate and revise) cycle.
Parents will find herein the assurance that they can indeed make learning a central part of their parent-child relationship.