In the United States, parents have the right to care for and act on the behalf of their children as they see fit.
While some recent decisions of the Supreme Court, such as the 2000 case Troxel v. Granville, have inserted more government control into this traditional right, the Supreme Court still maintains that “the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children…is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court. In light of this extensive precedent, it cannot now be doubted that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.”
It is natural for parents to act with the best interest of their child in mind. Biologically, parents are wired to pass on personal values to their children and raise strong, healthy, educated adults. As long as children are not being neglected or otherwise abused, parents should (and still do) have the ultimate say in their children’s lives.
When it comes to education, parents have the right and the responsibility to be the primary educator of their child. No one else has a greater personal stake in the child’s success, a larger opportunity for emotional connection, or a bigger influence on the values that a child learns in their formative years.
In another decision involving parental rights, the Michigan State Legislature found, “It is the natural, fundamental right of parents and legal guardians to determine and direct the care, teaching, and education of their children. The public schools of this state serve the needs of the pupils by cooperating with the pupil’s parents and legal guardians to develop the pupil’s intellectual capabilities and vocational skills in a safe and positive environment.”
Curious if you have what it takes to be a primary educator of your child? It’s not as hard as you might think. Here are five ways that you as a parent can take the lead in ensuring that your child has access to a well-rounded education:
1. Choose their school wisely.
As a parent, you have the right to choose your child’s school…but how do you know what kind of education to pick? Public, private, homeschool? The answer will depend on a multitude of factors, including how involved you want to be, how your child learns best, your financial options, and the number of school choices in your geographic area. If your child’s involvement in speech and debate is important to you, you might look for a school with a strong debate team and a focus on verbal skills and question-based learning. Perhaps you want them to have access to a music program, a certain sport, or a particular model of learning like the Montessori method. Maybe they thrive best with the one-on-one instruction available through homeschooling. Think about your child and their needs. Often, this will tell you what kind of school you should consider.
2. Reinforce school learning at home.
Wherever your child goes to school, you can support their learning when they are home. Talk positively about education and how exciting it is to learn about life. Model learning for your child by investing in your own education, whether through reading, watching instructional YouTube videos, listening to podcasts, or trying out a new hobby. Ask your child to bring home a “learning souvenir” each day to explain to you. A learning souvenir can be anything interesting they learned that day that they want to share. By expressing interest and participating in their school day, you are reinforcing the idea that education is a special and important part of life.
3. Stimulate curiosity and learning.
In addition to supporting your child’s school learning, your home environment should encourage them toward consistent curiosity. There are hundreds of things you can teach your child at home or ways to help them develop learning skills. Here are just a few:
- Read with them daily. (Even older children can enjoy a read-aloud!)
- Encourage them to read by offering prizes or outings in exchange for completed books.
- Provide a variety of engaging reading material with bookstore or library visits.
- Give them an allowance (or chore money) and demonstrate how to save and spend wisely.
- Help them open a bank account and watch their money grow
- Listen to audiobooks with them during car rides
- Ask them questions about how things work to help them develop critical thinking.
- Encourage them to ask questions about anything! Curiosity is everything.
- Find toys or games that develop creativity, imagination, attention to detail, and the ability to follow instructions. (Legos, engineering or architectural models, geometric blocks, drawing books, word puzzles, etc.)
One of the most impactful ways to stimulate your child’s curiosity is to invite them to participate in whatever you are doing. Explain how you pay for bills and let them help you write a check. Narrate the steps you’re following as you cook a meal and ask them to be the chef’s helper. Whatever you do, take a few extra moments to include them. As they get older, you will be amazed at what they pick up from your daily conversations!
4. Provide educational opportunities away from home.
Whether you have a lot of financial resources or just enough to scrape by, you can find ways to enhance your child’s education outside your home. Research your community’s activities to find free events that provide new experiences. Museums, livestock shows, sports, science fairs, nonprofit events, and musical performances are all great learning opportunities. Often museums, nonprofit organizations, and government offices will offer free workshops for children if you just do a little research to find them!
5. Advocate for your child.
Parenting takes a lot of energy, and it’s okay if you can’t do all these things all the time. The most important thing is for you to be your child’s educational advocate. Whenever you can, get involved with their schooling. Get to know your local school board and teachers, ask questions, and don’t let other people intimidate you. As the parent, you know your child best and are uniquely positioned to campaign for their needs.
Are you concerned about the direction of your local school system? The Noah Webster Educational Foundation seeks to help parents bring solutions and improvements to their schools. We hope you’ll take the time to learn more and help make the change we’re all looking for. Learn more today.