Today we spent the afternoon at a water park in upstate New York. At one point, while the kids were on the slides and I was relaxing in the sun, I overheard a woman telling her friend that her daughter, who is starting 10th Grade next week, still hadn’t done her summer project. She’d read the book, but didn’t know what type of project she wanted to do. Then the Mom said, “And she’s only got a week left, so she’d better hurry up.” Pause. “What is that, anyway? It’s SUMMER! Why make them do schoolwork? And THEN the school gets mad at me if the project isn’t done – like it’s my job to badger her to do it. They should know, parents have better things to do.”
After getting home, a friend of mine who lives in another state and whose daughter started 2nd grade a couple of weeks ago, wrote on Facebook that she brings home more homework than he had in high school. What is up with that?
Finally, and also on Facebook, someone in a certain teacher’s action group to which I belong posted an article written by a teacher, telling parents that they need to (and I’m paraphrasing here) give a s*!t and be more involved with their kid’s education. In a related and somewhat ironic note, I am often told by members of this same group (and again, I’m paraphrasing) that I do not have the expertise – being just a parent, don’t you know – to talk intelligently about education and probably shouldn’t even be allowed to “teach” my own kids.
So what is going on here?
My take on it? Schools want parents to be involved, but only to the degree that they enforce whatever rules the school sets up. They are to be the teacher’s wing man at home; making sure homework is done and telling the kid he needs to do as his teacher says. Oh and feeding, clothing and making sure the kid has all the basics, of course.
Once parents become too involved, they are seen as nuisances. If they side with their child against the school, things get ugly.
If they take their kid out of school altogether and allow them to learn on their own without coercion, they are directly responsible for everyone else’s poor education.
You know what I think? I think I agree with my friend Christa Gainor, who yesterday posted a wonderful piece titled “Homeschooler’s fight against Common Core is misguided”.
The problem is not that parents won’t enforce the rules on behalf of the teacher or the school. The problem is that such rules exist in the first place. The problem is not that we elitists are taking our children out of the system, making it that much more difficult for everyone else. The problem is that others either aren’t aware they can do the same or don’t know how to make it work for them in their particular familial or socio-economic situation.
One of the reasons people like me and Christa and Wendy Priesnitz and Shauna Reisewitz and Sue Patterson and Linda Wyatt and Cathy Earle & Lindsey Muscato and many others write about life learning and homeschooling and unschooling is not only to offer support to those already learning outside the system, but to help those families, whose kids are still in schools and unhappy, find a way to do the same.
That’s the problem we are trying to solve. One family at a time.