One of the ways to encourage families participate in school culture is to have days where you specifically invite parents to participate in events. Music Monday is a great day to do this and our school staff was clever to combine our Music Monday parade with a volunteer appreciation tea. We live in the days of double income families, with both parents often working full time here in Vancouver. This makes it hard for parents to come to events during school time, but if they know ahead of time which days they are invited to the school they might be able to take time off work to come and hang out. Other parents like my partner and I who work part-time and/or are self-employed can participate on these days when it fits into our schedule and so can parents who stay at home full time with younger siblings. I think these are important occasions to create a link family culture to school culture.
Our school librarian has lead a Peace Choir at our school for a few years now and today the choir lead us around the school singing the Music Monday Song. Some students and parents wore bright colours and crazy hats. The clouds were spitting down on us, but we marched and sang. Then the students went back to their classes and the parents stayed for a lovely tea with garden bouquets and bright colourful banners each class made for the occasion.
My son's class writes a Friday Journal at school telling parents what's on their mind at the time they sit down to write. Once you read the journal entry you are invited to write a letter back replying to your child. How Victorian! I love it! This morning I read the journal entry U. had written about the three dimensional paper flowers his class made for their banner. Later today I was able to see the finished product with its lovely origami blossoms. The Friday Journal is a good way to hear about things that would otherwise be passed over or forgotten once the student has left the building. The teacher does not correct spelling errors, but just lets the student get his or her thoughts and feelings on paper. This writing process is another good way to link the art activity to family life. The lesson I learned here is that anything you can send home to engage a conversation between the parent and the child is a valuable tool to strengthen community engagement in arts education.