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What’s A Parent’s Role In Education?

We’ve all watched education struggle the last few months under enormous pressure to respond to change caused by school closures. The system is not designed for fast, or even big, change. If you are like me, the lack of innovation and nimbleness has been painful to watch.

Parents have become the primary teachers in the majority of homes for elementary and middle school children. (High school students are a different story altogether.) For me, keeping up with the content or navigating online platforms wasn’t the hardest part. In the last few weeks, I’ve realized something much more ominous—I don’t have control over the long-term quality of my child’s education.

I wonder if I’m not the only one. As a nation, the vast majority of parents have abdicated our responsibility to educate our children to the “system,” mostly because of necessity. School provides a beneficial place for our children to grow and learn while we work and go about our lives during the day. Win-win.

As a leader of an organization providing solutions to schools, I have been watching closely. There will be massive paradigm shifts coming for the system overall, and all of the stakeholders associated. I think that includes us parents. Already the general public is hearing about hybrid models of school next year where students can be in the classroom sometimes, and the rest of the time study from home remotely. This means that working parents will need to figure out how to work, be a tutor and provide childcare at the same time. And even more than us, our children will receive less instruction and coaching from their already over-worked teachers.

Many parent friends of mine have been struggling with students who truly hate “doing school.” Parents feel a sense of duty to force their young ones to just get it done in the midst of tears and full-fledged identity breakdowns. But, maybe we should take a step back from this scenario and ask: Why in the world do we need to force our children to learn and memorize and finish worksheets? Isn’t learning and growing supposed to be fun? What happened to their curiosity and passion to explore new things purely for learning’s sake?

Which begs me to ask the question that I’ve been waiting anxiously for someone else to ask. What is the purpose of K-12 education?

It seems to me that if we get the purpose of education straight, and we collaborate by creating new and stronger ecosystems of stakeholders, then maybe the “how” will become clearer. But we must also consider what this requires of us as parents:

  • Can we choose to see the responsibility of teaching, forming and developing our children (yes, that includes academically) as our parental responsibility?
  • Will we advocate, support and even create student-centered solutions that encourage curiosity and wonder so that our children are free to become who they were meant to be?

Perhaps there’s a paradigm shift in here for us, too. And a place for us to help determine what’s next.

by Tricia Halsey, Executive Director