Hart Street School first-grade teacher Cheri Mahlknecht doesn't exhort parents to help their children with homework any more.
Mahlknecht has come up with her own answer to the question of how to involve parents in their children's schooling: Each month she holds an after-school math class for kindergartners and first-graders, with one stipulation--parents are required to attend.
The classes, held in the auditorium of the Canoga Park elementary campus, have proven so popular that school officials want to expand it to the kindergarten through third-grade levels next year.
Mahlknecht said she began in September teaching groups of about a dozen parents and children, all crowded together on cafeteria benches with blocks and math assignments spread before them. Today, the classes range from 40 to 60, and Mahlknecht has altered the course work so families can work more on their own, allowing her time to supervise.
Requiring at least one parent to attend the class "does a lot of things," Mahlknecht said. "It brings the parents in, and makes them less afraid about math. . . . If you send a sheet home with instructions, one, it won't make it home; two, the parents aren't sure how to do it, or three, they'll do it but do it wrong."
By teaching parents and children together, Mahlknecht said, she can ensure that what's taught at school is consistent with what parents teach when they help their child with homework.
Maria Navarro said she doesn't work and could help her 6-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son at home, but said the children like to come to the class sessions more than they like to work at home.
"They are learning and they are having fun," she said.