LIVE@CoSN2024: Exclusive Coverage

Here’s how to grow an authentic two-way relationship between schools and families

Moving from “the” school to “their” school

Here’s how to grow an authentic two-way relationship between schools and families

Connected students and families don’t attend and partner with “the” school–they do so with “their” school. They aren’t guests who meet, exceed, or fall short of someone else’s expectations, but rather, architects of environments that reflect what is important to them.

When our students and their families consider the connections they have with their school, what do they see? If the answer doesn’t include an abundance of their voice, input, and influence, then we are missing an essential opportunity.

Relationships that are one-way are not productive for students, families, or ultimately, any school or organization. We don’t stay engaged in relationships that don’t allow us to contribute to them in meaningful ways. So how can administrators, teachers, school staff, students, and families get to that place?

Start ensuring a two-way relationship by broadening the lens. Even the most time-tested data points have their limitations. Let’s trust our eyes and allow ourselves to see the strengths students bring to the table. Watch them play. Step back. Do they collaborate, create, adjudicate, advocate, and resolve?

Next, limber up. Explore flexibility in anything—seating, grouping, and even where learning takes place. Conduct a lesson outdoors and reflect on the difference it makes when a child is writing with their back against a maple tree, as opposed to a plastic chair. 

Lastly, we cannot have a conversation about strong home-school connections without broaching homework, the place where those relationships can sometimes be the most strained.  The good news is that doesn’t have to be the case.

Homework assignments can indulge a child’s curiosity, celebrate the values and expertise held by parents and caregivers, and allow each child to self-scaffold as they grow. It’s not only possible, but the Let Grow Project provides the blueprint.

Let Grow Projects encourage children to see themselves as contributors to their homes and communities.

Depending on a range of factors and considerations that students and their families make together, a Let Grow Project can be anything that engages a child’s curiosity, while also giving families a chance to trust their child. This is game-changing for adults and children alike.

When children are able to build lemonade stands, meet new friends, take on responsibilities, help neighbors, and so much more, they are different kids before and after the experience. How many other homework assignments can make that claim?

When the child reflects on the experience, they nearly always express feeling empowered, entrusted, and ready for more! Pair that with the school celebrating the values and judgment of each child and family, and you have a two-way relationship growing stronger with each project.

If we’ve broadened our lens, limbered up, and used homework as an avenue to build relationships and allow families to contribute meaningfully, we are undoubtedly better prepared to reach and teach the whole child.

When “the” school not only values, but unearths and celebrates student strengths, families begin to trust “their” school. They see themselves as essential partners, not just folks we call when behaviors need addressing or assignments aren’t up to date. “Their” school builds up their whole child.

In June 2019, in a cafeteria-turned-gallery of Let Grow Projects, a panel of parents presented their feelings about the Let Grow experience to a group of teachers interested in fostering two-way relationships. They expressed surprise at all their children were capable of, gratitude for allowing parents to share their expertise with their children as part of a school project, and joy at their children engaging with their physical communities. The last parent was thoughtful as he paused with the microphone in his hand and looked out at dozens of teachers and administrators. Looking over at this daughter, he spoke briefly into the microphone before handing it to the interpreter, who shared his closing thought, “Thank you for loving my daughter like I love her.”

Sign up for our K-12 newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at

eSchool News uses cookies to improve your experience. Visit our Privacy Policy for more information.