Epstein (1995) describes the overlapping spheres of school, family, and community that directly affect student learning and development. This concept is illustrated in daily interactions between teachers, students, and parents. Students sometimes forget they are talking to their teacher and call her "Mom." At home, parents may say, "I make sure my daughter finishes homework before doing other things." A child may even raise his hand to talk at the dinner table! These examples illustrate how students receive consistent messages about the importance of school as it links to their families and home life and vice versa.
The overlapping of school and family can produce "family-like schools" and "school-like families," according to Epstein (1995, p. 702). Family-like schools have an accepting, caring atmosphere and welcome families. These schools take into account the realities of family life in the 1990s and are equitable for all families, not just a few. They are able to recognize each child's individuality and special traits. Similarly, school-like families emphasize the importance of school, homework, and learning activities.
To extend this concept, Epstein (1995) suggests that the language used by a school to identify students, families, and educators should take on a "family" concept. For example, rather than using the word "students," schools should use "children" because it suggests an extension of the family.