Omaira Alam –
“You’re in education. What do you think?”
I look on silently, expectantly, because I know what’s coming.
“My son is almost three years old, what do you think we should do? We thought about public school, but then Islamic school seems like a good option, and oh, we definitely couldn’t homeschool. We’re not teachers or anything…”
And then their voice trails off, waiting for me to guide them and their child through the maze that is education and schooling.
This scenario plays out for many educators when confronted by well-meaning friends and family who only want the best for their child. And it makes sense: seek out the professional who knows education.
But what about the parent who knows their child?
Let me introduce you to the parent-educator. No matter what schooling option you’ve chosen for your child – public school, Islamic school, homeschooling or some combination in between – there will always be moments where you will be determining the education for your child. Unless you give zero thought to this, and simply send them off to school – any school – then you are a parent-educator.
“ME?!” you say. “How can I possibly be an educator? I’m anything, but that. You’re the teacher.”
So as the teacher, I’m telling you that more than you realized, you are a parent-educator.
While a professional can tell you the options available in your area about great schools and districts and what programs to look out for, only you can look at your child and say with the utmost confidence, you know what’s best for them; you know what interests them, what makes their eyes wide with excitement, and what they are still nervous to try out. As the parent-educator, you know a lot about how your child learns, and you need to trust that when looking at formal education.
With that said, how do you become an effective parent-educator?
Consider the philosophy, mission and vision of you and your family. What educational approach will enhance this mission and vision? If you do not have a vision for your family and the education of its members, then take a step back and work to develop one.
Consider your child. What makes them special? What makes them frustrated? What makes your child unique, and what do you do every day to enhance their strengths and improve their weaknesses? This means that the learning environment you choose for your child, needs to augment their learning and create opportunities for growth.
Consider the educational options available in your area: public schools, charter schools, Islamic schools, homeschool co-ops, etc. Spend some time seeing their approach to education: are you looking for something that is academically rigorous or something that considers play-based learning? Are you looking for a hands-on nature approach or one that uses technology to manipulate the world around us? Whatever you choose, you know what approach will resonate best with your child and that’s the one you need to consider.
Consider extracurricular options. What else besides “school” will you need to really address the interests of your child? Is your child an artist, an athlete, a scientist or a combination of all of them? See what is available in your area that your child can participate in.
As parents we do these steps without really thinking about them. As a parent-educator, take these proactive steps at the beginning of each school year to help you prepare your child’s education in a way that is relevant to them and recognizes their interests and needs as they grow.