Bridging the Gap through Home Visits

Adapted from the book: I Hear You Knocking, but You Can’t Come In by Eric Davis

Family engagement is so much more than just getting parents to attend their child’s school program.  Years of research give evidence that when parents are engaged in their child’s learning; they begin to see a difference in their child’s academic progress, improved attendance in school, better behavior and a more positive attitude about school as a whole.  So why is it still a struggle for school districts to engage all families in school programs? Could it be a relationship problem?  Are families feeling welcomed, respected and included in the school’s learning community?

It is important to step back and take a look at our school culture and environment to see if our school is a place that parents and families want to be a part of.  A welcoming environment is the most important step to making families feel that you genuinely care about them.  When you welcome their participation, ideas, and listen to their needs, parents begin to associate more opening and willingly to their child’s principal and teachers.  This relationship grows even deeper when a home visitation program is included in the school culture of building relationships.

Home visitation programs are not a new idea, as it has been used by Head Start Programs for years as a requirement for student enrollment and family engagement.  But research is finding that home visitation programs can bridge the gap between the home and school and have lasting impacts on student achievement.  Home visits give teachers a way to learn more about their students and get parents more involved in their child’s education.  More importantly, the relationship building has a strong impact on families feeling that their child’s teacher really cares about them outside of school.  This impact leads to positive results for more engaged families.

Here are a few tips when starting a new home visitation program that may help to smooth the transition for teachers and parents:

1.       The home visit should last between 20 and 40 minutes.  Plan ahead of time with the family to schedule the visit when if best suits them.

2.      Bring something to leave with the family that will support their student’s success.  (some schools have made gift bags with school supplies to help with homework projects)

3.      When you enter the home, don’t look nervous or uncomfortable.  Your actions during the first five minutes will make or break the visit.  Start the visit by finding something positive to say about the home.

4.      State the purpose of the visit ensuring the parent that you are here to build a relationship with the family and support the success of their child.

5.      Ask the parent if they have any questions about the school or what their child is learning.

6.      Close the visit by letting the parent know that he/she can contact you if there are issues or concerns relating to their child.  Give contact information on a printed card or paper with suggested time to best reach you.

7.      Thank the parent for opening their home to you and let them know you are looking forward to partnering with them to support their child’s success.

8.      After the visit, send a handwritten thank you note to the parent via US mail.  This further demonstrates your commitment to the partnership and completes the process.

By including the home visits’ program in your school, teachers are getting to know their students and families more closely.  This enables the parents to become powerful advocates in their child’s education.  The positive results will show an increased connection with students and families through a collaborative partnership among educators.  This also leads to an increased trust and communication with families and their children will gain confidence and academic success.