The Director's Corner: On Family Involvement

At The Magnolia School, we do expect a lot of family involvement. And it is not just economic involvement, in the sense that our budget does rely on tuition and on parents' help for maintenance jobs and projects. We will never be able to thank enough those dedicated families who generously donate their time, talents and resources to maintain and beautify the campus. Even more importantly, we are talking about educational involvement. As stated often in this column, we strive to be a Community of Learners that includes students and teachers, of course, but also parents. There is no stronger motivator, especially for our younger students, than a parent truly involved in their education; and early involvement helps older students accept, if not welcome, continued involvement. Family involvement covers being aware of what is going on at school, by attending our Educational Night and Community Meeting at the beginning of the year, by checking posted signs, classroom bulletin boards, parent pockets, emails, and the newsletter in digital or paper form, and, if still in doubt, contacting teachers or directors; we do devote a lot of efforts communicating with families, but are aware that not all modes of communication fit individual situations and are always willing to try new avenues.

The more aware you are of what is going on at school, the better you can offer supporting activities to your child outside of school, be it a trip to a museum or to the library, or a choice of documentary on the weekend, and the better you can support your child with homework too; we do not assign much, but learning to keep track and complete homework is very important to develop executive skills such as organization and prioritization, as well as to develop a sense of responsibility; be aware that children are not born with mature executive skills and that teachers at school and parents at home need to lend the child their own executive skills until the child's skills are mature enough.

Involvement also covers making oneself available for student/parents/teacher conferences. These only come around three times a year and constitute our way to directly communicate with families about student progress, possible concerns and suggested plans of action. We have recently implemented a more unified system of conference forms to provide families with written feedback, but please understand that these are meant to support, not replace, the live conferences. Hearing your and your student's feedback and suggestions at conferences is irreplaceable.

Family involvement also covers participating as much as possible in school events such as theme dinners or fairs (where students work is often showcased), and family camping trips. Volunteering in the classrooms is another way to contribute to your child's education: even if you help or make a presentation in a classroom other than your child's, your child knows you are around and care about the school.

And PTO meetings, of course, are another venue to be part of the school community year round. Families are also encouraged to participate in or make suggestions related to guilds and themes and/or to submit an article for publication in this Magnolia School Community newsletter.

Are we asking too much? Actually, apart from suggesting family participation in camping trips and welcoming family members inside the classroom at any time, we are not asking anything different from other schools, whether private or public. Every teacher in the country is hoping for parent involvement. Every study points to the importance of family involvement in education. And everyone is aware how busy parents are. We are just trying to spell out and facilitate what family involvement is.

As you read our Theme News and discover we are expecting students to complete a "family project" in the course of our new Transportation theme, please do not panic. Due date is seven weeks away, a list of suggested projects will be coming your way soon, and of course you and your child can come up with your own project. This is going to be a great opportunity for you to sit in front of a calendar with your child and make a plan: choosing a topic by such date, getting materials by such other date, building a prototype, if applicable, by still another date and completing the project by a date ahead of the due date (just in case). This is supposed to be exciting and fun. Organizing and planning will help both you and your child feel in control and have fun together. If you are panicking nevertheless, please contact one of us, we will figure out how to support your family through the process.