In most parts of the United States, “School’s out for summer!” Commercials on television and radio have started advertising waterparks and other nearby amusements, repeating promises for “keeping your kids from getting bored this summer.” And while outdoor physical activity is important, the summer recess is the perfect time to dive head-first into parent-centric education.
It’s easy for busy parents to get caught up during the school year with their child’s extracurricular activities and the myriad errands that come with them. Strangely, evaluating the quality of a child’s education often gets thrown onto the back burner while school is in session, and even if a parent does determine his or her child is not getting the educational support necessary, as so many parents across the country have found out the hard way in recent years, it’s difficult to evaluate the available educational options in the midst of everything else going on during the busy school year and even harder to pull a child out of one school to enroll in another.
Before you write these concerns off as something that doesn’t affect your family or community, consider that, despite massive taxpayer infusions of cash, most American public schools are struggling or underperforming compared to the progress made throughout the rest of the industrialized world.
“Since World War II, inflation-adjusted spending per-student in American public schools has increased by 663 percent,” the American Enterprise Institute’s Gerard Robinson wrote in September 2016, noting a chunk of that increased spending went toward paying thousands more teachers and school administrators.
“This decades-long staffing surge in American public schools has been tremendously expensive for taxpayers, yet it has not led to significant changes in student achievement,” Robinson said. “For example, public school national math scores have been flat (and national reading scores declined slightly) for 17-year-olds since 1992. In addition, public high school graduation rates experienced a long and slow decline between 1970 and 2000. Today, graduation rates are slightly above where they were in 1970.”
Then there’s the Obama-era School Improvement Grants program. The New York Post reported in January, “The Obama administration spent billions to fix the country’s worst public schools — and accomplished virtually nothing, according to a government analysis of the program.… Test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment were no different in schools that received big bucks through the School Improvement Grants program than in schools that did not.”
Public schools are not doing a good job educating your child, and it’s not because schools are “underfunded” or lacking teachers or resources. Bureaucracy, politically correct nonsense, corruption, and teachers unions have all contributed to the demise of government schools and academic achievement across the country, but at the root of all these stymies is the elevation of a non-parent to the parental role.
Authors Glenn Olsen and Mary Lou Fuller wrote in the 2008 edition of Home and School Relations: Working Successfully with Parents and Families that research shows, “The most accurate predictor of a student’s achievement in school is not income or social status but the extent to which that student’s family is able to create a home environment that encourages learning, express high (but not unrealistic) expectations for their children’s achievement and future careers, [and] become involved in their children’s education at school and in the community.”
Not much has changed in the past nine years. New data released in April by the organization that conducts an assessment of 15-year-olds from across the world, the Programme for International Student Assessment, revealed, “Across 72 countries, students whose parents reported ‘spending time just talking to my child’, ‘eating the main meal with my child around a table’, or ‘discussing how well my child is doing at school’ every week were between 22 percent and 62 percent more likely to report higher levels of life satisfaction, reporting a 9 or 10 out of a scale of one to 10, compared to those students whose families did those things less frequently,” Quartz Media reported.
Being an involved parent not only makes a huge impact on your child’s academic performance, it also makes your child happier. There’s no time like the present to take charge of your child’s education, and certainly no time like the summer — when days are long and the kids are at home — to establish the habits that will make your family an involved, intellectually lively one.
Children, including myself when I was 10 years old, might balk at a regimented home summer school, but continual learning doesn’t have to be arduous. As clichéd as it sounds, learning can be fun. Try taking a walk in the local park or to a nature center and identifying as many trees, birds, and insects as you can. Make it a competition. Read a book together at night or on a rainy day. Learn the history of tennis while you learn to play it. Get in the habit of infusing everything with the who, when, where, and why questions that lead to lasting knowledge, but beware: You’ll probably end up asking “why” about your local public school.