Maximizing the Home-School Connection

Research clearly shows that students whose parents are actively involved with their children’s schools are more likely to stay in school, to exhibit better performance on standardized assessments of basic skills and knowledge, and to attend and graduate from college.

But striking a balance between the needs of students, teachers, and parents has been historically challenging, especially in public education.

The pendulum swings in all directions. For some teachers, it’s a struggle to get parents on board, to earn their trust, or to gain their interest in the education of their children. For others, the demands of uber-involved “helicopter parents” can be overwhelming at best, and overbearing at worst. Some students want their parents to be as active a part of their school lives as possible. Others cringe at the thought of mom or pop showing up to staple bulletin boards, stuff envelopes, deliver baked goods, or worse, attend the dreaded parent-teacher conference.

Still, we know that students learn best in a community that involves their families on a healthy level. Parents who understand the expectations in the school setting are more likely to reinforce those expectations at home. Overworked teachers, especially in today’s underfunded schools, legitimately need the support, and sometimes the elbow grease, of parents who are willing to volunteer their time, efforts, and money to help make projects, access to first rate materials, and a sense of school pride a reality.

Check out this video:

The bottom line is that “good communication between parents and teachers has many benefits. When parents and teachers share information, children learn more and parents and teachers feel more supported. Good communication can help create positive feelings between teachers and parents” (Kreider, Mayer, & Vaughan, 1999).

The good news is that today’s tools, specifically technology tools, can help make the home-school connection a reality, with less cost and effort for all involved, than ever before.

“Innovative technologies such as cell phones, e-mail, and websites provide schools with new tools for reaching middle school parents and keeping them informed about their children. Traditional methods of communication such as face-to-face meetings have been found to be effective (Decker & Decker, 2003); however, these methods require time that both working parents and teachers may lack” (Rogers & Wright).

The days of the class newsletter being sufficient are over. “Educators are often very good at mass communications via newsletters, calendars, letters, and handbooks, but mass communications are not effective in shaping or changing attitudes” (Rogers & Wright). What we need to see more of isn’t a folder stuffed with impersonal, though informative, letters home. What we need to see is communication from school to home and home to school moving at the speed of communication in most other areas of our lives.

When my friend in Rhode Island applied for a new job, I knew about it within minutes, thanks to social networking. When my boss needs something and I’m not in the office, well, an email gets the message to me and enables me to deliver the results the boss needs, on the fly. In fact, I can access documents on the major projects of most of my colleagues from anywhere in the world, thanks to Google Docs. So why, as a parent, shouldn’t I be able to access my child’s curriculum? Of course I should. And technology makes that possible.

The school website can be a key component of creating a legitimate, instantaneous home-school connection. “Electronic communication formats such as websites give families access to homework information and requires little time or effort to access” (Decker & Decker, 2003). Use of school websites to provide this type of information is on the rise. And in true Web 2.0 spirit, teachers and administrators aren’t the only ones generating content for school websites.

“Increasingly, school Web sites are used to convey a broad range of school information. Students often become involved with both the technology and the content of the Web site and may work together with teachers to create and maintain the site” (Graham-Clay).

At the end of the day, most educators and parents both have at least reasonable access to a wealth of tools which can help to support the development of a speedy, open dialogue and the rapid and broad sharing of important information.

With the amazing tools available today, the old-school notes home just aren’t cutting it anymore.

For some great ideas, check out these links on bringing the home-school connection into the 21st century:

21st Century Home-School Connection

Tips for Teachers: Using Technology to Connect with Parents



Connecting Home and (2010, August 29). Retrieved from YouTube:

Dwyer, L. (2010, March 19). Connecting the Schoolhouse to Your House. Retrieved September 20, 2011, from Good Education:

Graham-Clay, S. (n.d.). Communicating with Parents: Strategies for Teachers. Retrieved September 20, 2011, from The School Community Journal:

Kreider, H., Mayer, E., & Vaughan, P. (1999, May). Helping Parents Communicate Better with Schools. Retrieved September 20, 2011, from Harvard Family Research Project:

MED 7305. (2011, January). Using Technology to Communicate with Parents. Retrieved September 20, 2011, from Parent Communication Project:

Rogers, R., & Wright, V. (n.d.). Assessing Technology’s Role in Communication between Parents and Middle Schools. Retrieved September 20, 2011, from Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education, Vol. 7:




9 thoughts on “Maximizing the Home-School Connection”

  1. This post brings up a lot of good points. Especially the idea of expecting the same level involvement in your childs school as you would find in your business or personal life. The increasing role of technology should help make the connection gap smaller and allow parents to be more informed and involved. This may also help the teachers when it comes to the more overbearing parents by giving them a digital forum to visit creating some distance.

  2. Parents getting involved in their kids schooling allows them to be reached on a different level when they are outside of school. Technology offers an accessible way to supplement education at home and even if it’s not something the school offers, it’s something that parents can provide for their children. In this article taken from Jeff Galinovsky describes 5 ways to integrate technology into a child’s education This is a simple process for parents that can create a huge impact for their child. Technology will help even more as it becomes more widely available in schools.

  3. First let me say KUDOS on the great site. Your site is probably the best I have seen so far… including my own. It is professional but friendly and has warm and inviting colors. Also, you are the first to use the “open in a new window” checkbox on your link from blackboard. This makes it open in a new tab rather than trying to compress your site into a small frame within blackboard. I know it seems like a trivial thing, but its attention to those little details that make your site stand out. Great job.

    A question that comes up while reading your post is about the instructors time resources. If the teacher is already bogged down with too much work or not enough time (or both), how can they dedicate enough time to keeping these communications channels open? I see this problem crop up all the time at work. People want to know where their projects are and what the updates are. The technicians get frustrated because updating the wiki takes time, which pulls them away from actually doing the work. Where is the balance?

  4. I agree that teachers mainly use mass communications to get information out to parents in a timely fashion. I think that by having a site like your site, parents and teachers can openly communicate. I teach first grade, so there is a big jump from a lot of parent and teacher facilitated activities in Kindergarten, to more child facilitated learning activities in first grade. Many parents feel less connected to the classroom, so having a site where posts and discussions can take place will help parents understand what is going on in their child’s classroom.
    I found an interesting article on Home School Connections that discussed how to communicate with Generation X parents. The article discussed tips on how to help include these parents (who have different needs than prior generations) in your classroom. The link is:

  5. Elyse,

    I really appreciate what you said about the transition from “parent and teacher facilitated activities in Kindergarten, to more child facilitated learning activities in first grade.”

    As both an educator and a parent, I am challenged to find the balance between using everything I know to help improve my child’s learning experiences, and stepping back a little and allowing her to find her own.

    I have so much more to say about the possibilities for a solid and positive home-school connection, so I’m hoping to post more blogs about this topic soon!

  6. Your post is very good. You bring up some great points and the one I like the most is about the communication between school and parents. As you know I teach in the city and we have a great communication with our parents. We even have a phone messaging service that will tell you when certain events are happening. We even send out emails to parents as well. Now I like in a suburban town and we still get letters sent home and have to go in all the time for meeting on this and that, which as you said can be difficult for working parents. Great post and I’ll be visiting this site often.

  7. I love that this is your first post…just in time for the first few weeks of school! I have been teaching for over ten years, and have had just about every type of parent you can imagine-from the “oh my gosh they do exist” to the “helicopter” parents you mentioned. I admit during my first few years I was very cynical and judgmental, but over the years I have learned there is a big difference between parents who can’t and won’t be directly involved. Now that I am a working parent myself, I can empathize even more.

    I think too often teachers see only one version of involvement-the typical room parent who graces us with their presence at least once a week, returns every phone call and note home with happy faces and promises that, of course, they keep ever time. Sorry, I know I sound sarcastic and snarky, but I hear so many of my coworkers complain about parents who “don’t care” and I know that is so rarely the truth. Thankfully, technology can help bridge the gap between school and home. With email and texts, busy parents can communicate with teachers at their convenience, and with websites, blogs, and wikis they can keep up to date on whats happening in the classroom they so desperately wish they could visit.
    Kudos to you for shedding some light on ways to keep those lines open!
    Here’s a link to a great article that talks about using technology to foster communication in middle school:

  8. Natalie,

    I love your blog and the hints that it gives for keeping the lines of communication open between parents and teachers. Several years ago, the principal at my elementary school “required” us to begin sending home weekly newsletters to parents. I had no idea how to design the newsletter nor did I have any concept of what I wanted it to look like. I researched several websites that contained free templates for teacher newsletters so that I could see what types of newsletters other teachers were using.

    The other teachers at my grade level and I selected one that we thought would fit our needs. The template that we chose was very “user friendly,” and other teachers in the school asked if they might use our template and make it their own for their specific grade level. It really is a good template because it is easily adaptable for different grade levels.

    This is has been one of the most successful communication tools at our school. I am including a link to the newsletter template: in hopes that it will help someone who is looking for a creative way to keep parents informed. At our school, we began by sending home hard copies in the students’ folders each Friday, and progressed to uploading it to our teacher websites. So now we have “paperless” newsletters posted each week. If a parent/family wishes to receive a hard copy, we gladly make copies to send home to those who would like them.


  9. Natalie:

    I agree with and appreciate your blog. I wish all the teachers my sons have would post syllabus’ class room and homework assignments on a web page. It would make keeping the ‘on track’ and on task so much easier with a lot less frustration. Don’t misunderstand; some teachers do have webpages or send out blast emails. I just wish it was a teacher requirement. I have asked some of my kid’s teachers if they have a site or if assignments can be posted on line “somewhere” their reply is usually something like “I don’t have the time for that.” I found a website that might offer some solutions for teachers who might be technology challenged. Check it out:

    I think your blog and /or web page should be forwarded to ALL BOE’s Administrators.


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