ParentNet is a unique school program, created by parents for parents. Recent theory and research in social learning by Etienne Wenger would define ParentNet as a "community of practice." On the surface, it is a simple concept: Bring parents of students in the same grade level together to discuss parenting issues and learn from one another. But how is this different from any other type of parent support group and why involve the school?
For many years, research has confirmed that parent involvement is one of the cornerstones of a successful school. But parent involvement goes far beyond bake sales, chaperoning, and fund raising events. Schools with high involvement have fully-engaged parents, those that are good communicators, active listeners, problem solvers, and strategists. When parents are involved at this level, they help their children succeed in both school and in life. Read our article, "Developing the Fully-Engaged Parent: A Model for Understanding Parent Involvement in Education."
ParentNet evolved from this thinking. During the eleven years that ParentNet was developed, we worked with more than thirty public, private, and religious schools to explore how we could help parents become more fully engaged in helping their children succeed. Our program drew an impressive 30 percent participation from families and created many more parent leaders within a school. We learned ways to increase parent involvement in low-income schools and determined factors that make the program succeed. What you find on this website is the result of our work – a wealth of free materials and resources to start ParentNet at any school and maintain the program for many years.
How ParentNet Works
- ParentNet meetings bring together parents whose children are in the same grade level two to three times a year to formally discuss topics of interest. Parents choose the topics.
- Meetings are structured and moderated to ensure parents receive the advice, reassurance, and moral support they need to help their kids succeed.
- Meetings are held at the school and typically last 2 hours.
- ParentNet facilitators (parents at the school who have received ParentNet training) lead discussions to keep them on track.
- A "parent contract" is in place to keep the discussion productive and positive.
- A faculty liaison, who also has received ParentNet training, attends each meeting and looks for avenues to encourage partnership between parents and school.
- After each meeting, an optional "feedback loop" provides discussion summaries to parents and appropriate teachers and school administrators.
All of the information needed to understand ParentNet and decide if it is a fit for your school is outlined in the first 15-pages of our publication "ParentNet At Your School: A Guide for Parent Leaders, Educators, and Trainers." The full publication, including how to organize and get started with ParentNet is included in printed format in the Starter Kit, available from the ParentNet Store.
Before you decide to launch ParentNet, you will need to recruit a volunteer or paid professional who has experience in human relations training. We offer a complete ParentNet Training Manual that parent educators and other experienced trainers will find easy to use. The ParentNet Volunteer Handbook is a resource for each parent facilitator. Both of these resources are included in the Starter Kit and can be purchased from our Online Store.
As a grassroots organization of volunteers, we cannot offer free support to help you implement ParentNet. However, we do attempt to answer all email inquires and we can often arrange a phone consultation with a paid professional who has ParentNet experience. You can also find professional trainers and consultants who have indicated their interest in working with schools who wish to implement ParentNet.
Using ParentNet Outside of Schools
We have purposefully developed and piloted ParentNet in schools to fulfill an unmet need: to help parents and educators collaborate about raising healthy children. We often hear comments like, “Why could’t we use an alternative form of ParentNet in churches, community groups, home-schooling organizations, etc?” The simple answer is "you probably can." If you would like to adapt our work for use in other types of parent groups, please see our Use Policy. If you have any question regarding permission to use or adapt our work, please contact us.