Parents are their children’s most important educators and shape the attitudes, values and behavior of their children. They are not the “support staff” in the education of children, rather they have the primary responsibility for such a great task. Christopher Perrin, in his booklet An Introduction to Classical Education: A Guide for Parents, outlines parent partnership in classical education. The following excerpt is from the booklet.
Partnership with Parents
Classical schools work with and for parents. Since we believe that it is the parent’s responsibility (not the state’s) to educate their children, it cannot be otherwise. Our authority over children is delegated to us from parents who have enlisted us to help them in their educational task. We see ourselves as in loco parentis—in the place of parents. This does not mean that they dictate the curriculum or pedagogy; it does mean that teachers serve the parents, listen carefully to their feedback about child and curricula, and seek to forge true relationships with parents in order to best understand and educate their children. It usually means that parents are welcome in the classroom; it means that parents take their responsibility seriously by reviewing and helping with homework, encouraging their child to be disciplined and diligent and generally supporting the teachers and staff of the school.
T.S. Eliot Warns Parents
When a parent abdicates their responsibility to educate their children, it is inevitable that some other institution will step in to take over. T.S. Eliot warned that as parents become passive, the schools would increasingly replace parental roles and responsibilities:
Instead of congratulating ourselves on our progress, whenever the school assumes another responsibility hitherto left to parents, we might do better to admit that we have arrived at a stage of civilization at which the family is irresponsible, or incompetent, or helpless; at which parents cannot be expected to train their children properly; at which many parents cannot afford to feed them properly, and would not know how, even if they had the means; and that Education must step in and make the best of a bad job.
Parents Choosing Classical Education
Parents at classical schools do not assume that education is the school’s responsibility. They understand that the school is assisting them to fulfill their responsibility. Many choose to classically educate their children at home; these parents are certainly taking their education responsibility to heart. However, most have themselves not been classically educated. We are, after all, recovering something that has been neglected for at least two generations. So they are learning along with their children.
Many a parent at our school is studying Latin along with his or her third grader; many are finally learning English grammar, or studying logic. As you can imagine, this kind of collaboration and commitment among parents, teachers and students involves a good bit of hard work.
Many a parent at our school is studying Latin along with his or her third grader; many are finally learning English grammar, or studying logic.
Parents in our schools think this labor is worth the prize, not only for their children but for themselves. To varying degrees, we are all trying to get the education we were not given.
Parents Support Roles in Education
On any given night, parents are encouraging children as they do homework. They are checking homework, reading notes from teachers, writing or calling teachers, helping students stay organized and ready for what lies ahead. Beyond this, they are reading to their children, praying with them, instructing them in a myriad of ways around the house and the dinner table, discussing books, field trips and the experience of the day, counseling and exhorting them regarding peer relationships, school work, homework, chores and play. They are parenting. The school helps them parent, but does not become the parent. Parents come onto campus and into classes as they wish; they assist in classes, substitute, come on field trips, help serve lunch, coach a team. Many teachers are parents with their own children in school; board members are parents, administrators are parents. Parenting and educating, in such a school, are not easily distinguished.
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