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The Most Important Thing about Parental Involvement

March 06, 2017
By Michael Rowe, LW Parent and Board of Trustees Member

When the founders of Lorien Wood thought about parental involvement and first crafted our distinctive, they believed that the most important thing about PI is that it is a visible investment by parents which ascribes value to the education experience. Sadly, many schools today do not want parents involved in the life of the school. We hear stories of parents pitted against faculty, of administrators failing to support their teachers, of angst, frustration, and a lack of harmony within the learning community. At Lorien Wood, we believe that parents are primarily, that is first and foremost, responsible for the education of their children. A key component in partnering with Lorien Wood to educate our children is our parental involvement.

First, PI is a visible investment. Our long-form definition states that we, parents, model lifelong learning by reading and exploring God’s world alongside our children. Modeling alongside means that we are present, visible, and active participants in the learning process. We are not only engaged physically — chaperoning field trips, working in the office, doing drop off and pick up duty, shepherding lunch and recess—but intellectually, relationally, and spiritually, as well.

Our intellectual participation, for some of us, includes assisting in the classroom by helping with Seminar, supporting math and reading assessments, or preparing a special presentation of a personal interest or experience. For others, it is serving on a committee, such as admissions, curriculum development, or the Board of Trustees. For all of us, it includes interacting with fellow parents and faculty at Town Meetings, parent desserts, and conferences, and engaging with our children at home by reciting vocabulary words, practicing math facts, fostering dinner-time discussions, and reading to our children at night. Perhaps, like me, you have even found yourself digging into the books your child is reading in class for your own personal enrichment, filling in the gaps of your own education while allowing you to engage more deeply with your child.

Our visible involvement is relational as we interact with students, made in the image of our Creator, and as we help them work through challenges with their peers, teaching them how to forgive and be forgiven. They watch as we care for one another with words of encouragement. They witness us covering for another parent who cannot make their PI duty. They see us encounter and resolve our own relational challenges that happen naturally through the course of serving within a community.

Our visible engagement is spiritual as we pray with our children for their teachers and friends, for the Head of School and the Board of Trustees, and for the families in the community. It is spiritual as we attend Openings, and School Blessings, and Lessons & Carols. It is spiritual as we help our children see how all that they are learning is under the dominion of the sovereign Lord; that all truth is God’s truth.

Second, PI is an investment. It is costly in terms of time, talents, and emotional energy. We are required to make real sacrifices — to say “no” to otherwise good activities — in order to be present and part of the school community. We invest days, weeks, and months assimilating into the community, so that we can know and be known, and so that we can find places to give of our gifts, talents, and interests. Investing in the lives of others takes real emotional energy.

It communicates to our children, and to our teachers, that we value education, we value their learning, we value them as creatures made by God.

Finally, our involvement as parents ascribes value to the education experience of our children. It communicates that we, parents, recognize that we are still on a journey of learning ourselves, being shaped, molded, and sanctified. It communicates to our children, and to our teachers, that we value education, we value their learning, we value them as creatures made by God. It shows a mutual respect for one another, and a humble reliance on others; educating is a task that we cannot accomplish alone, but take on within the community of learners. Graduates and parents of graduates often relate that Lorien Wood students are confident, well-spoken, and able to engage with adults — teachers, other parents — in a way that their peers are not. This is a product of years of engagement, encouragement, admonishment, and even correction, not just by their own parents, but by other adults as well.

What’s most important about parental involvement at Lorien Wood? Your visible investment has real value, which is otherwise lost if you are not present, modeling lifelong learning. Its value extends past your own child’s benefit to benefit the children, the parents, and the teachers of the whole Lorien Wood community. Yes, it’s harder, more time consuming, and can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Sometimes it requires more of you than you are able to give. However, as most things go in God’s economy, it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). In giving of ourselves, we are, each of us, an integral part of this learning community, of each student’s education, even of our own ongoing education; and we are richly blessed.