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I had asked the wrong question – again!

I was carrying out research for the BCTF by asking groups of parents how the school could help them help their child learn.  I wanted to write a pamphlet that could be shared with all schools so that they could help parents help their kids.

But the parents didn’t want to know what the school could do to help them. They wanted to know what they could do to help their children.

So I talked about parental involvement in their child’s schooling and how important it was to their child’s success in school.

Parental involvement: going to school meetings, volunteering at Sports Day, fundraising, being part of the Parent Advisory Council, helping with homework, reading to your child.  All the things that teachers were told parents were supposed to do.

When I asked for questions they came thick and furiously.  Parents spoke of their concern and asked for advice about what to do.  I had to switch from being a ‘sage on the stage’ to being a ‘guide on the side’.  I had to use my knowledge of how kids learned and translate it into how parents could help.

At the end of these meetings (and there were many) I was exhausted but happy.  I had given parents advice on helping their kids even if my chat about parental involvement hadn’t gone down well.

It took me a while to understand why my chats weren’t well received.

The focus was wrong.

Schools were asking parents to support the work being done in school. Parents wanted to know how they could support their child.

As simple as that.

What parents wanted was information and advice about how to be engaged in their child’s learning, what they could do to help their child with his or her specific learning issues.  They were happy to support the school when they could but they would much rather support their child’s learning life.

So, NO to parental involvement- to supporting the work of the school, and YES to parental engagement – supporting the work of their child.

Even though I had started out asking the wrong question I ended up with good answers.

Parents wanted to know how they could get engaged with their child’s learning. They wanted to know why their bright child was struggling to learn. And they wanted to know what they could do to help their child succeed in school.

By talking to them I was able to understand how parents could help their kids learn.

It is not what I expected.

It is a new way of thinking about what parents could do.

This is what I learned.

  1. Parents need to know how their child learns so they can provide support that matches their child’s preferred way of learning.

Being engaged in your child’s education means knowing how your child learns best so you can provide your child with strategies that use his or her learning preferences to make the work as easy and enjoyable as possible.

Check here for a list of the ways children learn.

 Parents often ask me why their child doesn’t listen to them or do what they ask when they are helping with homework.

In most cases it is because the mother is Word Smart – likes to learn by talking, explaining, writing – and the child is Picture Smart – learns best by looking, drawing, watching.

The mother explains what the child should do but the child wants to be shown what to do.

The mother gets frustrated because she doesn’t understand why the child isn’t listening, the child gets confused because he doesn’t fully understand what she is telling him.

Neither of them is happy.

The solution is simple.  The mother needs to switch to showing her child what to do while she is telling him what to do.

There are other parent/child mismatches that lead to frustration and confusion and even anger.  And that is a shame because it is easy to find solutions to these mismatches and to make learning easier.


Discover how your child learns best and how to adapt the support you offer to meet your child’s needs.

If you want access to a full on-line diagnostic learning preferences assessment contact me to discuss possibilities.

  1. Parents need to know what is stopping their child reaching his or her full learning potential.

About 50% of students are underachievers, students who never reach their full learning potential.  This waste of talent breaks my heart.

It means that students never get into the college of their choice or get the job of their dreams.  It means that many of life’s opportunities pass them by.

Why do children underachieve? Because they do not have (or do not use) the skills that lead to learning.

Students need physical, emotional and cognitive learning skills to succeed in school.

Check here for a list of the skills children need.

 When a child is missing one or more of these skills learning becomes a struggle and he or she never reaches their full learning potential.

These are the bright students who ‘could do better’ with the right kind of support.

These are the ‘grey area’ students who work hard but rarely get eh grades they are capable of getting.

These are the students who never get the extra help they need in school because others are seen as needing more support.

All because they haven’t developed one or more of the skills that are the foundation to all learning.

When parents know which skills their child needs to develop, and how to help their child develop them, magic happens.

I have seen students grow two inches (5 cms?) when they understood why they were struggling to learn and that the situation could be ‘fixed’ easily.

You may already know what skills your child needs to develop. If not, you may be interested in my unique on-line skills assessment tool.   Contact me for more information.

You don’t have to stop being involved in your child’s schooling.  Schools need all the support they can get.

But you do need to start getting engaged in your child’s learning. Parents make a difference. Your child needs you.

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