Hi Deborah! We actually ended up doing something a bit different. There was just no way to allow parents to see the the actual course and access/view only their child's work/activities
If parents could access the course (as a guest, or a modified role), then they had access to students' private information (blogs, forums, profiles, etc.). Restricting access to this information worked, but also restricted them from their own child's information. It's as if once they're 'in a classroom,' they are not longer 'connected' to their child.
As much as we wanted parents to be able to view classrooms, the more pressing issue was how to allow them to grade student work. We worked out a solution - the setup was somewhat complex, teachers still have to actually enter the grade in student gradebooks, and there is some minor maintenance involved when students change classes.
If you are only interested in allowing parents to see courses and view their student's activities, perhaps you could setup a modified guest role (that doesn't allow access to forums, blogs, etc.) with a single password. Parents could use this to view courses (but that would be it). Then give each parent their own account for the parent role. They would login with the universal 'guest parent' account to view courses, and login with their regular parent account to view their child's activities/grades.
It's a bit of a pain because they have to remember two accounts, but the 'guest' user/pass could be pretty simple. Our admin are also teachers and have two accounts, it's not that bad. We often use the profile 'login' function to toggle back and forth. It's possible you could set overrides that would allow the guest role and parent roles to 'login' as each other. Besides, if they can't view items that display student info/ interaction, then the course page really isn't going to change much, and they wouldn't visit is often.
The single guest role would, of course, allow access to all classes. If that's a problem, maybe that could be addressed with groups or assigning roles to categories.
Sorry - not a great solution...probably not even a good one *lol* - but maybe it will lead us to something else. Post back!