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Sonoma Valley educator on the value of home visits

Educating kids in today’s world is a challenge. Home lives have never been busier with many families having two working parents who are working, at a minimum, two jobs – sometimes more – plus a full range of extra-curricular, church, social and volunteer activities. How much time, then, do parents have to volunteer at their child’s school or help them with homework or call the teacher or attend a parent conference or otherwise be involved in their child’s class experience? And what is the cost to a child’s education when parents are not involved in the school or known to a child’s teaching team?

Last year I ran a parent survey asking parents if they are as involved as they would like to be in their child’s educational life – and, if not, why? Overwhelmingly, parents responded that they would like more involvement in their child’s school life but work schedules, financial pressures necessitating increased workloads and other competing interests prevented that from happening. What this translates to is that parents spend less time at their child’s school than they have in the past. So what are we to do in order to bring parents in closer and have them feel part of their child’s educational world?

Research has long shown that there is a direct correlation between a parent’s involvement in their child’s education and a child’s educational success. When the child feels the parent’s investment in their school life, they too become more invested, which leads to engagement and learning. Waldorf education has long fostered that ever-important partnership between home and school and one of the ways that we do so is via home visits.

Home visits consist of the primary class teacher going to meet the family in their own surroundings as a way to better understand who the child is, what their home life is like and to begin a critically important relationship with the family. Our teachers typically spend an hour or less in the home and urge parents not to clean the house or make an elaborate dinner, but allow us to see the family as they typically are. The children love inviting their teacher into their homes and introduce the family pet or show the teacher their favorite toy or book.

We as educators gain important information about the family dynamics, who lives in the home with the child, what a child’s support system is like to help us better understand and work with the cultural, socioeconomic and other variables unique to each child – which certainly impact the way a child functions in the classroom.

At Woodland Star all incoming kindergarten students receive a home visit from their child’s teacher usually within the first month of school starting. For transfer students, we also offer this option recognizing the importance of having new families feel part of the community and to establish the relationship with their child’s class teacher.

These visits establish strong, trusting relationships between school and home, and the ability of the parents to feel more connected and to more readily access the school with questions regarding a student’s homework or grades. The biggest win, per teacher report, is increased student engagement and learning.

Home visits are simple, cost-effective measures that have gained national attention. The National Education Association and Edutopia both tout the importance of home visits and urge schools to take this step in establishing a supportive relationship between home and school.

Research has been done demonstrating the positive outcomes of home visits which can include decreased truancy and tardies, increased homework and classwork completion and better attendance at parent conferences and other school events.

In this age of electronic communication where face-to-face communication is becoming a rarity, it is imperative to carve out time to connect the adults who will engage in perhaps the most important task involved in raising children – educating them.

For more information regarding Woodland Star Charter School visit our website at woodlandstarschool.org or call 996-3849.