When Kostadinka “Kay” Papeskov picks up her daughters from Bester Elementary School she asks them how their school day went.
Then she often asks them more specific questions about school.
“If you just ask ‘How was your day at school?’ then you’re probably not going to get a good answer,” said Papeskov, of Hagerstown. So she asks what they wrote about, what they did in math, and gets them to talk about their favorite part of the day.
Going beyond the general question about their school day — to what was the best thing they did, the most important thing they learned, or what they did in science, English or math — lets children know that parents think school is important and reinforces their learning, said Clyde Harrell, director for curriculum and instruction for Washington County Public Schools.
The term “parental involvement” can be vague when noted during discussions or critiques about how individual schools or school systems are doing.
Papeskov, however, gets down to specifics.
At home she and her daughters go over the school work they bring home. She writes notes to her daughters’ teachers if she has a question about class work. She reinforces her children’s learning through conversations, educational games, activity books and reading together.
“Even if they don’t have homework, we want students to be reading a lot. (It’s) fundamental to learning at every level,” Harrell said.
Parents can volunteer to help small groups of children with reading and math in the classroom, support teachers by preparing material for class, help in the office with tasks that don’t involve confidential information such as answering phones and copying materials, said Jill Burkhart, director for elementary education.
They can help with parent organizations, such as PTAs and booster clubs, and serve on school-based committees, school system officials said.
Parents also are great classroom resources for career and college information, Burkhart said.
Papeskov volunteers at Bester, where one of the things she has assisted with is having students read their homework to her. She said she has seen the difference it makes when students’ parents are involved in their children’s education, in a healthy way.
Papeskov said she’s noticed children who do their own homework are better readers and understand sentence structure better than those whose homework is done by an older sibling or parent.
The purpose of homework is to reinforce what’s taught, to give children the opportunity to practice what they’re learning, Burkhart said.
“It’s not supposed to be an opportunity for the parent to do the homework for the child,” Burkhart said. Sometimes children didn’t grasp the concept in class and need additional support. Parents might need to review the concept with their child and do one or two problems with the child until he or she understands and can then practice on his or her own, Burkhart said.