Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Engage Families for Anywhere, Anytime Learning: As We Reimagine Learning to Keep Pace with More Exacting Demands for Education and Citizenship, We Must Look to How We Engage Families, Schools, and Community Organizations, Especially Those in Lower-Income Situations

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Engage Families for Anywhere, Anytime Learning: As We Reimagine Learning to Keep Pace with More Exacting Demands for Education and Citizenship, We Must Look to How We Engage Families, Schools, and Community Organizations, Especially Those in Lower-Income Situations

Article excerpt

A common and mistakenly held view is that learning happens only in schools. Consider that U.S. students spend only 6.6 hours at school on each school day, leaving them with ample waking time to explore their interests and enhance their knowledge and skills in out-of-school settings (NCES, 2009). These out-of-school settings are growing and changing so rapidly that communities, including virtual ones, are morphing into the new classroom. As society expects children and youth today to explore content-area topics in depth and to develop critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills, out-of-school spaces are becoming increasingly important to individual learning.

Libraries and museums are reinventing themselves into inviting hubs of youth-generated creativity. After-school programs are expanding their offerings beyond homework assistance to develop resources that draw youth, especially those in middle and high school, to pursue a wide variety of science, technology, and arts interests, civic engagement activities, and college preparatory experiences. Digital media appeal to youth because of the almost unlimited possibilities they offer for producing new forms of creative expression, for acting on social issues, and for connecting and collaborating with others. To remain in touch with their children's activities, parents are engaging in a variety ofpreviously unexplored pursuits, such as making digital books and joining family-friendly hacker spaces--online community spaces where people interested in computers, technology, digital art, etc. meet and create new works out of existing products.

These shifts mean that our views of family engagement to promote children's learning and development have to keep pace with a changing environment. It is no longer appropriate or fruitful to focus family engagement solely on what happens in school; we must reimagine this concept within the many opportunities available for anywhere, anytime learning (Lopez & Caspe, 2014; Patton & Caspe, 2014).

A large body of research confirms the positive relationship between family engagement and student outcomes. The Harvard Family Research Project compiles an annual bibliography of peer-reviewed journal articles, doctoral dissertations, and reports about family engagement. Since this compilation launched in 1999, numerous entries describe the benefits of family involvement for children's academic, social and emotional, and character development (Harvard Family Research Project, n.d.). Among key contributions parents make are emphasizing a "growth mindset" among children by encouraging them to focus on effort and to learn from failure (Dweck, 2006). Parents also nurture character traits such as grit and self-control, attributes associated with strong academic performance (Duckworth et al., 2007).

All families want their children to succeed, but learning opportunities in the home, the school, and the community are not equitable among families. Families with high incomes spend nearly seven times more money on out-of-school enrichment activities--ranging from music lessons to summer camps and travel--than families from low-income homes (Duncan & Murnane, 2011). This can be explained by fewer financial resources to pay for these activities and a dearth of stable programs in the community that families can access. The stresses of poverty and long and unpredictable work hours also make it hard for many families to actively participate in their children's learning and development. From even the earliest stages of their children's lives, families that suffer from economic adversity spend less time with their children in places like zoos, museums, and libraries than families that are economically stable. By the time they reach 6th grade, middle-class students have spent 00 more hours in learning activities outside school than students born into poverty (TASC, 2013).

Organizations serving youth in poor neighborhoods can play a unique role in brokering educational resources for their residents, ranging from field trips to free museum passes. …

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