How to be an education parent

We want parents to support kids’ learning, but what do we want them to do specifically? asks Bill Jackson of Great Schools in an e-mail discussion. He envisions a campaign of public service announcements tied to a GreatKids mobile app:

1. Read to your child for 30 minutes a day.
2. Have conversations with your child every day. Use questions, not commands.
3. Teach your child the alphabet before kindergarten.
4. Teach your child to count to 20.
5. Limit TV time to 30 minutes a day.

An iPad app could let parents “give their kids a quick test to see how they are doing in acquiring vocabulary,” Jackson adds. “The idea here is to  . .  make it a ‘club’ of parents doing the right things and getting positive feedback.”

I think some parents need to be shown how to read a book with a child and how to have a conversation.

Guest-blogging for Rick Hess, Jackson asks parents to list their aspirations for their children at age 18. “When you launch them at age 18, what knowledge, skills, character traits, and other qualities do you want them to have?” His list for his daughters:

1. Be passionate about some activities or commitments
2. Love to read; read for pleasure
3. Know a lot about the world (for their age) and want to know more
4. Have strong analytical and mathematical skills
5. Know a lot (for their age) about at least one area of science (biology, physics, etc)
6. Write well
7. Have skills in at least one visual, fine or performing art discipline (piano, theater, etc.)
8. Have at least one manual skill (sewing, cooking, fixing car, etc.)
9. Have at least basic computer programming skills
10. Be able to draw reasonably well
11. Have friends (fewer closer or more less close both OK)
12. Be active in serving people in need and/or advocating for ideas larger than themselves
13. Be kind to everyone they interact with
14. Have demonstrated resiliency through failure
15. Be physically active
16. Be optimistic

Whether a particular school is good for a child depends on the parent’s aspirations, Jackson writes.

My expectations for my daughter’s schools were modest. I wanted school to teach her reading, writing, ‘rithmetic, history and science — especially math and science, which I wasn’t teaching at home. I didn’t expect her to be skilled in a performing art or in drawing — and I was right. (She took  a programming class in college, but I don’t think it’s a critical skill.) Kindness, friendliness, resiliency, problem solving, cooking . . . Kids learn that at home or not at all.

About Joanne


  1. I hope Jackson realizes that most of his hopes depend on him, not the school he sends his children to. He can hold out for for good instruction and that good character traits are reinforced; he can hope that art and music haven’t been pushed out. Expecting to find a school that will make all that happen for his children is not realistic.

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      Children who are talented musicans or artists rarely get their instruction from public schools. Private lessons and/or parents who are themselves musicans or artists provide the necessary background. Schools pick-up on those already developed/developing talents and use them in their own programs.

  2. Florida resident says:

    When our son was at …. Institute of ……,
    I insisted that he took the class, for which he
    barely got B- (1st semester) and C (2nd semester.)
    As a result, he did not get “Cum Laude” diploma,
    and it is OK.
    I consider it to be important — to know,
    that there are some subjects, which are above one’s ability.
    I definitely know there are things above my ability.

    It makes one value more _those_subjects_,
    which are _at_ one’s ability level.

    Father of 3 kids, F.r.

  3. When my 3 daughters were preschoolers I was listening to a radio program about this very subject. When the program was over I sat down and wrote objectives in all the domains,then posted them on the refrigerator. At my oldest daughter’s high school graduation I leaned over to my sister and whispered, “It worked!” They have completed college and are doing well professionally and personally. EB is right, “most of his hopes depend on him.” No other person or institution is going to see that your child achieves your objectives.

  4. Jim Trelease has been advising parents to read to their kids for 30 years. The advice is nothing new.

  5. The app will likely be preaching to the choir. My parents didn’t care about education and they wouldn’t suddenly begin to because of an app or ad council commercials.