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Family involvement makes a difference in a child development. Family is inside the microsystem and is close setting for a child, so child will get direct influence and experience from the family. For the sake of the healthy and holistic development of children, educator need to understand the importance, benefits, challenges and ways to get family involvement.
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According to Epstein (1995), there are six types of parent involvement, which are parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making and collaborating with community. Parent involvement not just means that parent only have one way to interact with the school such as collect the report, school need to provide various activities for the parent to be involve in children’s learning process. For the parenting, teacher can help the parent to learn about child development and what is developmentally appropriate practice for children (Epstein, 1988). For example, parent can learn the four types of parenting styles, included authoritarian, authoritative, indulgent and uninvolved parenting style and the impact on children from the aspect of autonomy granting, acceptance and involvement and control. When school provide this type parent involvement, it actually helps school to have a deeper understanding about the environment, practice and culture of that family. Communicating is also important parent involvement, it helps to develop an effective communication between school and home about children’s progress and school activities or policy (Epstein, 1988). Besides that, volunteering provide opportunity for parent to participate in the school activities such as fund-raising, provide car pools service and teach topic related to their professional (Epstein, 1988). Policy of the school and convenient of both side need to be considered to prevent unexpected event to happen such as parent prepare peanut butter cake that are not allow in school food safety policy. Learning at home give chances for parent and children to engage in educational activities at home together (Epstein, 1988) , for instance, complete the collage with the adult guidance, take picture of holiday time for show and tell session and prepare a traditional food to bring for the family night. In addition, parent also can be involved in decision making activities (Epstein, 1988). Parents are not just the people that pay the fee, they are also valued member to give comment to and develop school policy such as curriculum planning, teacher hiring standard and chose teaching materials. The last type is collaborating with the community, it means that school support parent to provide services to the community (Epstein, 1988). For instance, raise fund for charity organisation, clean the housing area and donate reading materials to the public library.
Why the parent involvement is importance for the children’s development? Firstly, most of the children spend more time in home with parent than in school, the attitude of parent has greater influence on children than teacher. For instance, when parent care about the school activities so much, willing to participate as much as they can and show the initiative towards it, their children will indirectly know that because of school is important, that is why parents spend so much time on it. Children will have better attendance and done the homework in time with the adult guidance. Secondly, when parent get involved in school activities, they will have deeper understanding about the way school teach their child, the school policy and they may change their perception or belief about child development. Through this, children can obtain better nourishment from parent that are knowledgeable and responsive toward the children’s learning experience in school and try to link it to the home environment. Thirdly, emotion wellbeing of the children can be enhance if the parent involvement is sustained, not just a few times in one year or limited to greeting each other and pay fee only. Some children do not like to go to school and want to stay at home is because they do not see the relationship between the school and home, they think these two are separated, they feel insecure and anxious when they leave house and parent. So, when parent get participate in the school activities, children will know that relationship of school and parent is well established and feel comfortable and proud when they saw parent show the care for their learning and school is view their parent as valued members to cooperate with.
Children gain lots of benefits from the family involvement in early childhood centre. They gain the sense of self-worth in school because they really feel secure and acknowledged that school is the place for them to learn and spread their wings safely, without any negative emotion. Consistent responses between parent and school also help children to develop self-worth, self-confident and positive engagement with adult, classmates and learning process (Carol, 2010). When parent and teacher have effective communication, they will talk about how to enhance children’s development and how to provide enrichment for children, children know adult are care for them, not just dumping then in school alone. Parents also increase the confidence and level of self-esteem on themselves and school provided education through the activities such as child-rearing skills class, field trips and policy making process (Carol, 2010). Besides that, parents also know school is supportive and will not feel lost when bring up young children, especially young, first time to be a parent. When they acquired the skill to help their child better, they tend to support the learning at home more, in consistent, authoritative and developmentally appropriate way. Furthermore, not only children and parent gain benefit from parent involvement, teacher gain too. When parent are involved in the learning process of children, teacher will gain insight into that family’s culture, background, sensitive issue and practice. Every parent have different expectation for their own child too (Carol, 2010).This will help teacher to plan more suitable, appropriate learning experience and activities for children and their family members. Teacher morale can be improve too (Carol, 2010), when teacher know that parent are willing to collaborate with them, their energy and positive mind set will be increase, thus they will have strong competence in the profession and advancement. Quality of teaching also improved because obtain the assistance and support from parent such as teaching aids or resources, parent talk about their professional and volunteer as replacement teacher (Carol, 2010).
There are some challenges of parental involvement, including time management problem, personal problems, language or culture differences, attitude of teacher and lack of understanding and trust (Carol, 2010). Nowadays, working parents are very common, they are very busy and not always available. If the school did not take this into consideration, the parent involvement will be reducing because parents are not free to attend the activities. This will cause the lacking in direct, face to face interaction between teacher and the ineffective delivery of message. Teacher also have time problem, they are busy all the time and fail to maintain a regular communication with families. Parents will feel fear and reluctant to approach the teacher (Carol, 2010). Every person has different personality, some are introvert, timid and some are out going and open. When the parent or teacher have difficulties and do not dare to tell each other about their needs, both of them will lost the opportunity to help and this will influences the child. For example, teacher lacking teaching material and parents do not have transportation for the child. For the people with low self-esteem and confidence, they think that they do not have the ability to help each other or they feel shy and shame because of their low socio-economic group. Parent with old, traditional parent involvement concept also cause the challenge for family involvement in school (Carol, 2010), they think that it is unnecessary, waste time and not willing to contribute their effort to the learning activities of their children. Other than time and personal problem, language or culture differences is another factor that build the challenge of involve parent in school (Carol, 2010). Culturally and linguistically diverse parents always have the problem in interaction with school, they have different ethnic background like Malay, Chinese, Indian, different culture, they speak different language such as Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin, English, Tamil, and even speak in different dialect, for instance, families that speak in Mandarin also use Cantonese or Hakka as their daily language, especially for old people like grandparent. If the school did not care for need of these culturally and linguistically diverse parents, misunderstanding, miscommunication and ineffective message deliver will occur. Parent who do not know English will unable to read the notice written in English, parent are not willing to work with teacher or other parent that with different races because of the stereotype and when children display difficulties in learning, school and parent are unable to discuss the problem and solve it because they speak in different language and do not understand the language that use by each other. Besides that, attitude of teacher is also a challenge for parent involvement (Carol, 2010). Some teachers show excessive professionalism towards parent, parent will not active to involve because they feel fear, unhappy and difficult to approach the teacher when they want to express the need and contribute their effort (Carol, 2010). There are also pessimist teacher that only report negative information to parent (Carol, 2010). They only focus on bad things and neglect contribution and achievement of children and parent. For instances, teacher always talk about disruptive behaviour of the child in school and often make assumption that parent did not try to manage and improve the behaviour. But sometimes, disruptive behaviour cannot be change within a short period even with lots of effort contribute by parent in home. Parent also will feel stress, annoyed and hopeless because of the pessimism of teacher. Frequently, teacher have the problem of power struggle (Carol, 2010), they feel that they are the only one have power in classroom and do not want to share it with parents. They are not eager to find the ways for parents to feel secure, equality and comfortable (Carol, 2010). So, parent involvement need to be rejected from their point of view. Teachers that lack of self-confident are reluctant to admit help (Carol, 2010) because they feel their professional will be disappear and reduced if they ask for help from parents for example if they need cooperation in replacement of teacher, getting the teaching material and planning learning experience about certain area of knowledge which that teacher are not familiar than parents. When the school is not able provide appropriate physical setting, space problem will be arising (Carol, 2010). Parent need facility such as discussion room and car park area to participate in the school activities, if the room or area is not provided, how the parent are going to park the transport vehicles, sit down, and communicate with the teacher? Also, lack of understanding and trust will lead the parent involvement to become limited and powerless (Carol, 2010). Parent and teacher both feel that each other are lack of ability to enhance children’s learning and development. For example, parent feel that they know best about their child so whatever practice on child is definitely appropriate and correct, teacher will feel that parent are not knowledgeable than them because of the lower education level and different professional area. The suggestions from each party are not accepted. Because of these feelings, miscommunication often occurs, which make the process of parent involvement even problematic. Past negative experiences of parent also the root of lacking trust on teacher, for instances, teacher did not take care of child with special need, caused the child injured in school and teacher did not provide appropriate solution and any suggestion that help to prevent the accident to happen again. For sure, parent of the child will feel disappointed and do not believe the teacher have the competence and skill to improve the development of their child. Who want to work together with the teacher when there is no faith and hope?
There are different type of activities that can enable parent to assist children development using their abilities, time and energy (Carol, 2010). First type is school-wide activities, it included workshops, family night, parent education class, adult training program and support services such as car pools and babysitting for younger children (Carol, 2010). This is where the all parents and teachers come together and work collaborative to participate in school wide program. They use this chance to interact, share information and discuss the issues related to school. Through this activity, all parent and teacher are capable to develop warm and positive relationship with each other. Second type is communication activities, school can engage parent in activities through the use of phone calls, newsletter and email to give the reminder and notification to parent (Carol, 2010). Technology is very advance nowadays and it is also the tools to enhance communication, school need to use it wisely and appropriately. Not only through phone call and email, school can organise chat group on social media such as Facebook and Whatapps for discussion with parent to run more efficient. For example, discussion group for family night, parents and teacher can give comment and suggestion like person in charge of beverage, food and performances. Any changes and reminder can be sent to each other faster than compose an email. Educational activities is the third type of activity, parent are encourage to participate in the activities occur in classroom or school and help the class to run more smoothly such as fund raising, volunteer for manage classroom, work as photographer during children’s performance, design webpages if the some parent have the knowledge and skill about it, beautify the environment of classroom by cleaning unwanted stuff and create wall painting (Carol, 2010). This kind of activities enable parent and school work together to set up better learning environment for children and children can see the parent’s contribution, know that parent are really involved in the school when they saw the wall painting and their parent helping in classroom, not just talking through phone and come to school for meeting. For the parent with special need child, they are invited to develop the individualised educational plan for the child too (Carol, 2010). Fourth type is service activities, this included childcare service, parent support group, resources libraries, material centre and exchange of service (Carol, 2010). Parent can obtain the resources and service from the community and school to lighten the burden, reduce the stress and improve the quality of living. Parent can borrow story book and teaching aid to guide children’s learning at home, seek for school’s counsellor when face the problem that will influence the child’s development and welfare and support other parent when they need any help. During this activities, both of the school and parent are the contributor and receiver at the same time, it help both party to realise the importance of provide helping hand to others that need help and give them the opportunity to serve the community. The last type is decision activities (Carol, 2010), it allow parent to make decision about school, not just let the parent to be the fee payer only. Parents are given “power” to decide what will happening in the school such as the standard of hiring teacher, what is included in the policy, review and design the educational program (Carol, 2010). When parent are involved in the program planning, they will gain the knowledge about the requirement of quality program and authentic developmentally appropriate practice. Only after they know about what the program is about and how it is implementing, they will be support the program (Carol, 2010). Thus, they will not question about teacher’s professionalism and let the teacher have the negative feelings because the effort is not appreciated by parent and fear to communicate with parent.
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In conclusion, working with parent and families is a continuing process. Even though with the best way and approach to involve the families in the educational activities, this process will not be successful if parent and teacher are not capable to solve the problem and challenges between them. Therefore, teacher need to take the initiative to approaching the parent, help them to overcome the barrier, explain the importance and benefit of parent involvement in school to them and finally develop best way to invite them to the school activities. When teacher showed the enthusiastic, parent need to be responsive too because in order to develop positive relationship between school and families, both party need work cooperative to contribute effort to the process, not just rely on particular one party.
Epstein, J.L., Coates, L., Salinas, K.C., Sanders, M.G., & Simon, B.S. (1997). School, Family, and Community Partnerships: Your Handbook for Action. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Carol, G. (2010). Home, school and community relation. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
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