If you are like most people today, you don't make many, if any, decisions without at least a wee bit of research first. It stands to reason that if you are considering private school for your child, much research and then school visits and interviews will ensue.
What many parents are surprised to find out is that most private schools, both faith-based and secular, require parents to serve or work a minimum numbers of hours per week at the school. And, if you're like me and most parents, your time is already stretched pretty thin. Additionally, adding private school tuition to the mix can stretch your budget thin as well. Therefore, I'd like to take the opportunity to explain a few of the many benefits parents reap when they serve at their child's school. It's been my experience that the best private schools require the most parent involvement. I'll even venture to say that your involvement in your child's school is crucial to your child getting the best education possible.
1. Fosters Community
One great reason to serve with other parents of children who your child goes to school with is that it fosters community. I'll never forget my first discussion about schools for my kids with my father. My husband and I were stationed in New Jersey at the time and the boys were 3 and 4. I told him New Jersey public schools were some of the best in the country. All the children seemed to score very well on standardized tests. My dad replied, "I'm sure the kids are smart, but what about the parents? What kind of people are they?" I had never thought that much about it, until that moment. What about the parents? If you are required to volunteer at your child's private school, you'll get to know most of the parents, and almost all of the kids. Many private schools require parents to agree to a theory of education or a common worldview. Some schools require parents to take a parenting class. Faith-based schools often insist parents sign a statement of faith and commit to raise their children in the church. All of these requirements lend themselves to you knowing, "What are the parents like?" It can be comforting knowing the adults your children interact with on a daily basis share a common core of values towards educating and raising children. That's what community is: Folks with shared values, working towards a common goal.
2. Creates A Community That Communicates
To further expand on the concept of a "community" education, most everyone is in contact with and knows everyone else. The similarity in the words "community" and "communication" is obvious and important. In a community, that community communicates what is happening at school, and the community shares ideas about educating, parenting, and the events and experiences of each child. One example comes to mind: When my eldest son was in Kindergarten at a private school in Missouri, he had a particularly hard time in the lunch room. He didn't want to try new foods and wouldn't eat things he thought he wouldn't like. I feared he was not eating at all and that he was suffering from a little anxiety at having to pretend to eat. I have boys, only boys, and my experience is that boys are not "overly expressive." Our daily general discussion would be, "How was school today?" Both boys' invariable response: "Fine." The conversation would continue with me asking questions and receiving either one word answers or the oft-expressed, "I don't remember." Imagine how pleased I was when during a planning meeting for one of the school's annual fundraisers, a mother of a girl in my son's class said, "You know my daughter sits with your son at lunch, and she gives me a daily run down of everything your son eats each day." Hallelujah! A member of our community provided me a window into what was going on at lunch with my child. I experienced a similar situation when I would chaperone field trips. After the field trip, when I would chat with other parents, I could share tidbits of the trip, and how sweet their child reacted, learned and behaved. My fellow parents were grateful to hear details about their child's educational experience, and this shared experience reinforced and enhanced our community.
3. Keeps Tuition Affordable
Another reason private schools require parents to work a parent job is because many of these schools refrain from taking, or are ineligible for, state and federal funds. Government funds come with government rules and mandates that may not fit with a school's mission and purpose. This arrangement means if private schools want to keep tuition low, they must ask parents to do jobs that would otherwise come from the school's budget. Parents can be a part of the smooth running of their school and have the privilege to serve and be mentors to students. One example is lunchroom monitoring. Most private schools require parents to monitor lunchroom time and recess; rather than have paid staff monitoring these activities.
4. Kids Thrive When Parents Get Involved
This last benefit I'll mention about serving at your child's school comes straight from my personal experience. Children get an excellent education when their parents are involved in their school. As a retired military officer, my family moved quite a bit during my military service and after. My boys attended many different schools, to include secular private in Missouri, public in Illinois, Arizona and Texas, Catholic school in Illinois and Christian in California. The private schools with required parent service time are where my children and I did the best. Volunteering ensures getting involved and meeting people. Volunteering fosters communication and sharing of ideas. These conditions are accentuated by the fact that most private schools are smaller, with substantially smaller class sizes.
I feel passionate about this topic because I know from experience it is true. I hope that my readers are, like me, inclined to seek peer-reviewed studies and relevant statistics. I encourage you to do your own research. For example, check out this study. Another study covers how simply showing up at a school function or attending a parent-teacher meeting improves children's performance. If such little involvement can yield results, imagine the benefit your children will reap from you running games at the fundraiser, being a door greeter in the morning or sharing your parenting and leadership skills by monitoring recess. Get involved -- your children deserve it!