I have worked with parents who are making school choices for their children for many years. They are always surprised when I talk to them about the importance of the connection between home and the school. They are very focused on how their child will fit in to the school’s social community and what the academic curriculum has to offer, but rarely do parents think about how the community will feel to them as a whole family.

Why is this so important?

Research shows that children thrive when they feel capable, stimulated, and supported. We know that achievement is often more about a person’s perception of their ability to succeed than their actual innate ability. Especially in the early years of school, a child who has a positive sense of him or herself as a student is going to be more ready to take on new challenges and learn to master new skills. One of the qualities that has a big impact on that positive view of oneself is the sense of belonging. That is where a close connection between home and school can make a big difference.

When parents invest their time and energy into making connections with teachers, staff, and other families, it makes it easier for children to make the same connections. During the elementary school years children still appreciate their parents’ involvement in their school activities and friendships. Knowing that their parents are engaged with their teachers and their friends’ parents helps children feel secure and enables them to spread their wings and try new things. As children become pre-teens and teens, they separate from their parents and become more influenced by their peers. However, when parents set the precedent of staying in touch with what is happening in school, pre-teens and teens remain more open and more likely to stay engaged as students despite distractions. Parents should allow their children to become more independent as they grow, but also make sure children know that they care about how school is going, and not just about the grades that come home.

As you evaluate the school options you have, think about this connection between your home and the school community. Even during these unsettled pandemic times, public and private schools have developed ways to bring families together virtually and safely in person with the professional staff to communicate and build community together. Talk to other parents at the school and see if you can imagine becoming friends. When you find a school with a welcoming and engaging community, not only will your child thrive and grow into the best student and person they can be, but you may develop relationships that will enhance your personal family life for many years! This is my wish for you!

Stephanie Agnew is the Assistant Director of Parents Place in The Center for Children and Youth. She is available for individual consultations about school choices and many other areas of parenting. To book a consultation email [email protected].

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