In a recent scroll through Facebook posts, I came across a status update that upset me. It was from a parent of a middle schooler who was clearly frustrated and downright exhausted from all of the homework and expectations piled on her child just a couple months into the school year. The replies and detailed comments that followed really drove home how bad our educational partnership has become.
“I don’t remember school ever being this ridiculous,” replied one mom, followed by another, “You think 6th grade is bad, wait until 7th. All my kid does is homework, from the second he walks in the door.” One dad grudgingly admitted, “I can’t even figure out how the online program works. Am I the only one who can’t access the assignments?” Then, from a resigned mom, “I finally pulled my kid out and put her in private school so she could actually be a kid and enjoy life a little. Her new school cares about learning and doesn’t spend the whole year preparing for standardized tests.”
And these were just the first few comments. They continued, many with heavy use of collective personal pronouns: our project, our time, our exhaustion. “We have four hours of homework every night!” one parent lamented. I couldn’t help but notice her use of the word we. What is this we she spoke of? We shouldn’t have anything, right? After all, it’s not the parents’ homework, nor is it their responsibility. Or is it?
Who is to blame for the shared frustration students and parents have toward schools? Well, I think I might have the answer.
In a recent conversation with another middle school parent, she told me, “The problem is that the school doesn’t let me do what I know is best for my kid. They EXPECT me to check my kids’ homework every night. They even make me sign to prove that I did it! They TELL me to sign up for gradebook alerts and call the minute I have a concern. I want to give my kids responsibility, but the school makes me feel guilty if I’m not involved in every aspect of my kids’ education.”
My advice to this mom was to follow her instincts. She knows her kids better than anyone else in the world, and she instinctively knows that parents aren’t supposed to hold their kids’ hands forever. Doing what is right for your kids is more important than letting a school guilt you into becoming overinvolved and enabling.
Parents are being made to feel that they must be the pivotal force in all of their kids’ decisions and responsibilities, and if they’re not, well, they must not be good parents. So as a natural consequence, parents now view school as just as much their domain as their kids’. And why not? They’ve been given instantaneous access to every grade their kids earn. They get lessons on how to navigate the gradebook system and set their phones to alert them each time a grade is entered. Nightly, they check assignments online, access school calendars, and receive notifications about homework expectations and due dates, tests, and quizzes. They can download the course syllabus, study guides, teacher notes, and handouts that their kids dropped on the floor or stuffed in a folder. The parents really are doing school. No wonder they refer to homework and projects as ours rather than theirs.
Involved parents make for successful kids and all the data supports that. But the minute parents start referring to schoolwork and grades as ours, they’ve stepped over the line. Schools, quit asking parents to attend school all over again. Quit making projects so intense that parents take them on in order to have just a few minutes in the day to relax a little with their kids, and quit expecting them to know every little thing their kids are doing at school. They have their own lives! Let them live them!
And parents, quit letting schools pressure you into conforming to a philosophy to which you do not subscribe. If your kids have four hours of homework every night, call the principal and ask him or her why that’s necessary. Question the validity and value of the assignments. Ask why eight hours of desk work a day isn’t enough. Insist that your child have downtime, time to play and be involved in extracurricular activities that are healthy and balanced. And don’t fold to the pressure to be hyper-involved. Do what feels right.
This nonsense that has evolved over the years has taken hold of our common sense – all of the things we used to know to be true – and we are now allowing others to dictate our levels of parenting. It’s time to say enough is enough.
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