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To   educate  the   child without   educating  and  involving   the  parents   and   the   entire   family   can   be   compared  to   heating   the  house   while   leaving  the   window   open. 

-Mordecai Kaplan






        As a public school teacher, I am pleased when parents have faith in my ability to educate their children. Is it reasonable, however, for parents to expect that teachers alone will do this tremendous job?

        Parents: you are your child's first, most important, and most consistent teacher. When the school year is completed each summer, the classroom teacher's work is done temporarily, but yours continues.

        The three sections below underscore the premise of this book. I hope that the information will motivate you to maximize your participation in your child's education.

 1. Let's do some math together

        What percentage of your child's waking hours does she spend in school? Let's analyze the time a typical first-grader spends in formal classroom learning. You may be surprised. Your child's hours may vary, depending on where he goes to school and how much he sleeps.  

The school year in California has 180 days

Each school day   360 minutes (6hrs)  
lunch -50 minutes
recess -20 minutes
transitions*  -30 minutes
Remaining Time 260 Minutes
*entering class in the morning, going to and coming from lunch and recess, dismissal
Our six hours (360 minutes) of school has now been decreased to 260 minutes. 

Multiply that by 180 school days and you get 46,800 minutes, or 780 hours per year.

Total hours per year    8,760 hours 
Subtract hours spent sleeping (9.5 hrs/night) 3,467.5 hours 
Remaining hours per year 5,292.5 hours
The 780 hours of school are 14.73% of your child's waking hours during a year. Let's round that off to 15%.  

Did you think that your child spent more than 15% of her waking hours in school? If her teacher(s) are responsible only for that small portion of time, who is taking care of the other 85%? This is you - the parents! 

If a store were advertising that it was having a sale, with 15% off its usual prices, would you be impressed by the savings? Probably not, because you know how small 15% really is.

2. Encourage lifelong learning

        What skills will your child need in order to be successful in the future? It is not possible to anticipate what the world will be like by the time today's children enter the workforce. Take a backward look to your own aspirations when you were in elementary school.  What did you want to be when you grew up?

        Did your current job exist when you were a child? If it did, were you aware of it? Look at some job titles on a small stack of business cards I have in front of me: senior systems analyst, worldwide change manager, bureau chief, director of product management, humor consultant, membership account executive, principal player, group benefits specialist, and facilitator/support coordinator. How did the people in these jobs train for them if the jobs didn't exist when they were children? My point is this: we can't teach the specific skills that will be necessary  because we do not know the jobs of the future. But we can teach our children the joy, wonder, and adventure that comes from learning - that there are fascinating and wonderful things to discover and to know. We can encourage the development of curiosity. We can show, by our own example, what it is like always to be willing and eager to learn and try something new. Furthermore, we can demonstrate that if we make a mistake, we can learn from it and move forward with a positive attitude to our next challenge. If we teach our children always to be curious about learning new things and to be willing to make mistakes while they are doing so, then we are teaching them how to prepare for their future.  


3. Funding for education

        How many rolls of wrapping paper, boxes of chocolate, and magazine subscriptions have you purchased or sold in the name of fundraising for your child's school? How many silent auctions, book sales, bake sales, and rummage sales have you attended or helped to organize? Your participation in these events sends a strong message to your children that you are an active supporter of your school and your child's education, which is a good thing.

        The media pays a lot of attention to each state's per-pupil spending. States are compared and ranked. Parents in states with higher spending are deceiving themselves into a false sense of security if they think that they, therefore, don't have anything to worry about. Parents in states with lower spending feel hopeless and powerless.  

        There is something that no amount of fundraising, grant-writing, or taxes can pay for. That is the time that parents spend with their children. The only kind of spending that counts is the amount of time that parents spend with their children!