By Mary Westervelt, director of marketing, and Maya Sussman, director of product
Last weekend I broke into my son’s school. Well, the gate was unlocked and ajar, but as I snuck down the steps and peeked through that tiny door window, I felt like an intruder. It’s been a long time since I felt like I belonged there.
It had been 18 months since I’d seen his classroom in person. The desk where he sits. The spot where he puts his lunchbox every morning. The hook that holds the pile of sweatshirts he forgets to bring home at the end of the day. I was desperate to see what his other world looks like— the place I send him everyday to learn and grow.
We’re a full quarter into the school year and I have yet to meet his third grade teacher in person. I never met his second grade teacher. And never said goodbye to his first grade teacher, who moved across the country during the pandemic, finishing the school year from another time zone. There were no annual STEAM nights. No volunteer library hours or fall festivals. No field trips. No music performances. And even now, drop off and pick up are done on the fringe of the school, no teachers in sight. Even loitering on the playground — a favorite way to meet other parents and see your kids play at the end of the day, is off limits.
Parents like me are struggling to stay connected to the school. And based on the messages I get from the school, they’re struggling to stay connected with me, too.
As an educator, you want families to be connected to your school. As we’ve said hundreds of times, research shows that when families are a part of the learning team, students thrive. So I asked my colleague, Maya, to take a look at the the survey results of parents in elementary grades with these question in mind: what do elementary families say they want and need to maintain their role as learning partners? What’s working and what could we all do to provide more support?
We hope these insights will help you provide the support your elementary families are looking for right now.
1. Insights into Learning
In our latest survey, parents shared that understanding what their children are learning in school was important to them. They want to know what to expect based on their child’s grade level. Parents shared that having this knowledge gave them a confidence boost because it made it easier to understand how to support their children’s learning.
As you know if you’ve heard us talk about the Fact/Tip/Growth model, once families understand the benchmarks, they can easily apply at-home learning activities to their everyday routines.
We found that 90% of elementary school parents said that Ready4K messages have increased their confidence in their ability to support their child’s learning. In addition, 95% of elementary school parents reported that Ready4K has helped them make learning a part of every day.
By incorporating age-appropriate learning moments at home, families are able to support and reinforce what children are working on in school.
% of Elementary parents who say Ready4K has helped them make learning a part of every day
% of Elementary parents who say Ready4K has increased their confidence in their ability to support their child’s learning.
What Parents Say
“Bringing up age appropriate topics with [my children] for discussion is helpful. They responded very well to the topics. My favorite was the advice about asking my fourth grader creative thought provoking questions! He loved them.” (California parent of a 2nd grader and a 4th grader)
“It makes me more confident because I better understand my children and what they might be going through in their grade level that I don’t see.” (Tennessee parent of a 2nd grader)
2. Connections Help Problem Solving
Families expressed a desire to have a deeper connection with their children. This includes being able to help their children solve problems on their own.
Many schools are currently focusing on social-emotional skills because they are a necessary foundation for learning. And because we take a whole child approach in all of our curricula, SEL skills are part of our programs, too. As we looked at the kinds of activities parents value, we noticed SEL skills were commonly cited. Families also reported that Ready4K helps them communicate with their children, helping them feel more equipped to handle challenging situations as they emerge.
In our latest survey, 92% of elementary school parents said that Ready4K activities have helped them communicate with their child. Parents also appreciated the reminders to slow down and listen, and the tips for encouraging children to express their thoughts and feelings.
What Parents Say
“El constante recordatorio de hacer tiempo para hacer ‘check-in’ con mi hija. Entre tanto que hacer y mandado de el trabajo y la casa es fácil olvidar hacer conversaciones pequeñas con ella de su día, sus metas y sus gustos. Gracias.”
[I appreciate] the constant reminder to make time to check-in with my daughter. Between so much to do and errands for work and home, it’s easy to forget to have small conversations with her about her day, her goals, and her interests. Thanks.” (Oregon parent of a 4th grader)
3. Tools for the Tough Times
Parents also expressed that they need tips to build better communication and strategies to help their children overcome challenges. Entering a new school year, moving to a new home, and other transitions can be difficult.
Families seek out information on how to make these transitions easier. This is a core element of our digital text messaging program. In fact, 95% of elementary school parents shared that Ready4K has helped them solve parenting problems, like difficult transitions or challenging behaviors.
What Parents Say
“The activities have helped my children use their critical thinking skills to figure out problems, but also to open up more about what they are thinking and feeling and how they are processing various things.” (Ohio parent of a 4th grader)
Through this pandemic, I depend on the messages to routinely remind me to teach age appropriately. I have gone from frustration to freedom many times. (North Carolina parent of a 3rd grader)
Keeping the Gate Open
For families of elementary school students like me, the relationships we have with our school are invaluable. Parents and caretakers are still very much involved in the day-to-day of our kids’ lives. We want to know that we are doing the right things to get our kids on the best path to success. So at the end of the day (or the school year), the ultimate test for the ParentPowered team is a family’s desire to continue receiving Ready4K messages. Parents can opt out of Ready4K at any point. But if the support we’re providing matches their needs, they’ll stick with it.
And year after year, parents do stick with it. For example, of the over 200,000 elementary-aged Tennessee families were enrolled in Ready4K earlier this year, more than 80% have chosen to remain in the program. They will continue receiving texts for their child’s new grade level. And chances are, they’re in it for the long haul.
One parent who first started getting Ready4K messages when her daughter was just four years old. let us know that she still look forward to the messages every week. “We love the texts and always have fun talking about the ideas the messages include. I really appreciate that we still get messages even now as my daughter starts the 4th grade. Thank you!”