Home and School: Where Do we Draw The Line?

 In Educational Leadership

Schools usually expect parents to be active in support of their child’s learning and to engage in school initiatives – with regard to homework, committees, working bees, fundraising and social events. You could say it’s the norm.

In a similar way, schools are extending their role and attempting to do more than teach. They involve themselves in coaching and counselling students, supervising international travel, and addressing wellbeing issues – including sexuality, mental health and family violence – to name just a few.

In both cases, parents and teachers find themselves in the unenviable position of dealing with scope creep.

Among the many responsibilities, important issues might remain unexamined.

The use of mobile phones provides a good illustration. Undoubtedly they are valuable tools, but many schools and most families have embraced their widespread use and availability without first addressing two fundamental questions:

  • How might mobile phones benefit or restrict learning and teaching, and current behavioural practices?
  • How will schools and families ensure they are used in a balanced way, and why is it reasonable for everyone to expect this?

Perhaps the impact of such a premature blanket philosophical change has resulted in an epidemic of disengagement, inappropriate behaviour and lack of regard for discipline – at home and at school.

During the 1960s, Diana Baumrind’s groundbreaking work identified 4 key parenting styles and their impact on children.

  • Authoritative: Firm, but not harsh, and open to negotiation.

           General child characteristics: happy and successful, sensible

  • Authoritarian: Dictatorial, with the use of punishment.

           General child characteristics: low in self-esteem, feeling opinions are not valued

  • Permissive: Setting no boundaries, and giving power to the child.

           General child characteristics: struggling academically, with behavioural problems,  lacking in appreciation for authority and rules, low in self-esteem, sad.

  • Uninvolved: Expecting children to raise themselves.

           General child characteristics: low in self-esteem, with poor school performance and frequent behavioural problems, sad, obese.

Is it possible these parenting styles have influenced philosophies at the school level, creating similar effects en masse?

Consider, for example, the difference between these situations:

  • an authoritarian classroom, where the teacher leads and students passively look, listen and respond, and
  • a self-directed learning environment, where students become architects of their own learning and teachers facilitate the process.

Studies consistently show authoritative parenting to be the approach with the most benefits – not only for the parent and child involved, but also for the next generation. Roles and responsibilities are clearly articulated and carried out in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

Can the same be said for teaching, and for the school environment?

No school can control what takes place in the home, and the home cannot control what happens in school. However, school can have a clearly articulated and agreed philosophy, agreed acceptable standards of behaviour and a high regard for appropriate discipline – all of which are agreed to by the home.

Without a clear separation of roles and responsibilities and without drawing a clear line between home and school, we are in danger of generating dual dysfunctional environments.

Copyright © Cheryl Lacey 2019

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