You are your child’s first and best teacher. He has already learned so much from you. He’s learned how to smile because you smiled at him. He learned how to talk because you talked to him.

For better and for worse, he learns from you every day. He can lead an excellent life because you led one first. And he can learn that education is important because you value it.

Do you remember show-and-tell in grade school? Children come to class with their treasures cupped in their hands and can’t wait to show their classmates. Likewise in the home, kids aren’t interested in what you have to say; they are much more interested in what you have to show.

What you believe must be lived out, not just spoken. If you say their education is important but never get involved, this inaction speaks the truth.

Choosing schools

All parents must wrestle with making a school choice. It’s not as easy as it used to be. When I was growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, parents took a more passive role in their children’s schooling. They were usually seen but not often heard. Now we must be advocates for our children, and that responsibility begins with choosing their school.

"I just want to be able to send my kid to our neighbourhood school and hope everything is going to be OK," said Kelly, mother of two elementary-age children in North Carolina. "School choice just makes things more complicated."

Some parents contract out children’s schooling in the form of a public, private or charter school. Others retain control and choose to home-school. No matter what option you choose, the key concept to remember is that your child’s schooling is your responsibility.

Staying involved

Once you’ve made that important choice, it’s equally important to stay involved. We can’t just send our kids off and hope everything will be OK. Often it isn’t. Parents who take an active role in their child’s education are more likely to spot little problems before they grow into big ones.

Teachers love the involved parent, but they cringe at the over-involved one. Learn to walk this fine line, and you will create a setting that is optimal for your child and his teachers.

At my son’s large high school, the way I make an inroad is to focus my attention on one or two of his teachers. I can walk into his chorus or English classroom and talk freely and openly with those teachers. They see me; they hear from me; they know me.

As busy as you may be, you won’t regret spending some time following up with teachers, keeping track of your child’s grades, helping them with homework, guiding them through a long-term project and asking specific questions like, "Are you still working on fractions in math?" The idea is to be aware, accessible and visible.

Teachers should recognize your face and be happy to see or hear from you. After all, you have the inside scoop about your child, their student. You know what makes your child tick, and that’s valuable information to a teacher.

Walk-away parents

However, there is another kind of parent who worries teachers. The "walk-away parent" is just too busy to bother. This parent can’t be reached, doesn’t return phone calls or e-mails, doesn’t show up to school functions and forgets to sign important school documents. And the child notices.

As a teacher, I’ve never met the parents of my most troubled students. I’ve left plenty of messages, hoping that someday they will touch base with me so I could gain some insight into how to enable their child to learn. Make sure you’re not a silent partner in your child’s education.

The bottom line is that regardless of your own schooling, you are your child’s best teacher. Look for ways to check in with your kids and their teachers instead of checking out. Your kids need to see how you stand up for them, so that someday, they can stand up for themselves.

Vicki Caruana was a teacher in Florida at the time of publication and is the mother of two teenage boys.

© 2007 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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