Family Involvement vs Family Engagement

We all know that family involvement in children’s education is important.

What you may or may not know is that research is now telling us that there is a difference between family involvement as we typically define it (e.g.-volunteering in the classroom, attending a parent/teacher conference) and family engagement.

Family engagement has a bigger impact on school success than does typical family involvement activities.

What is the difference between family involvement and family engagement?

Let’s think of it as the difference between dating and becoming engaged…

Family involvement is a lot like dating…

  • In a dating relationship, usually one person issues an invitation to a joint activity and the other accepts or rejects
  • Time spent just getting to know someone

Family engagement requires more commitment!

  • In an engagement, there is more joint decision making
  • Planning for the future together.  You begin to have similar goals

The big difference between dating and engagement is the level of commitment.

What this might look like in the everyday world:

Your child’s early childhood program invites you on a “date” (e.g., to come to a family reading night or to bring cupcakes for a class party). Because you are just “dating” versus being fully committed, you have the option to say yes or no.  It may not be a big priority for you.

Imagine that your child’s early childhood program “proposes” by asking you to join in a serious partnership where both of you are committed to working together to promote your child’s learning, growth and development.

One of the key differences between family involvement and family engagement is the notion of “partnership”.  When you become “engaged” you make a decision that your child and his/her success in school is a priority AND you choose to work as partners with your child’s early childhood program or school.