3/15/12

Parent, Child, Teacher and Time

Parents and teachers have one thing in common for sure.  The struggle, the tug of war, the battle for time with our children is more and more an issue as pressure to perform well in school oozes out beyond the hours of "school time" in the form of homework and into family time and time for extracurricular activities.

Tick, tock, tick, tock time to wash, time to eat, time to read, time to write, time to sing, time to wiggle. . . When I was a teacher, I was very concious of time throughout the day.  Preparation was key.  Hop in the closet for a minute for a book I forgot to pull out ahead of time?  Disasterous!  So be prepared, keep things moving, and make the most of every minute.  That's what I did, or tried to do, every day.  And as for homework, I kept it to once a week, and gave it because that was the trend at the school I worked, though most of us felt if the child just read a book or was read to, that is all we really wanted them to do.

Once I became a stay at home mom, time seemed so luxurious.  I had one little baby and all the time in the world.  A rough night for baby and me?  Well, no big deal, we'll just lay low.  When baby sleeps I will rest too.  I felt no pressure that I would have to be a highly functioning human the next day.  We might take a stroll if my  energy was up or sit in the big swing that hung in our livingroom back then. 

By the time I had three children, two in school, I no longer had all the time in the world with my kiddos, even if we stayed home together.  Now not only did I send two children off to school for 6 hours, I was being told what I needed to do with them when they get home.  Homework every night in third grade.  Really??  Now I am sounding like someone's grandparent,  "Back in my day we never had regular homework till at least middle school, what're those teachers doin' over there?"  But really I know, if we think our kids are under pressure, the teachers are moreso. 

Now I never thought I would be a high pressure, sign my children up for everything, type of parent.  Honestly, I don't think I am that parent, but I do see the benefit of letting our children experience more than school has to offer.  More music, more physical activity, more art, more freedom of expression, more family time, more play, just more.  Because I have come to realize, through my children that there is more to life than school, there has to be, because for some (of course and thank goodness, not all) of our children school is a walk through hell and Dang I forgot my sandals! 

I began to resent the very institution I dedicated years of service and self education to. 
My children belong to someone else for the day and damned if the rascals could even tell me how they spent their day.  And, I knew what questions to ask. . .sort of. 
ME:  "What did you do at morning meeting today?"  CHILD: "It's called circle time Mom." 
ME:  "What did you do at Circle Time?"  CHILD:  "I don't remember." and on and on till finally, my husband had the Brilliant idea to ask the kids "What did you have for lunch?"  Then, "Who did you sit next to?"  and wheedle his way into the school day that way.  A bit of progress.

My biggest beef though, became homework.  "Hooooome wooooork" -insert whine- as it is known in my house.  *Ugh*  Now let me see, is the homework meant to give the kids practice or show us what they know?  Is it meant to test, or practice our childrens' organizational skills or ours the parents?  I often have felt the homework is put in place to make us Practice Parenting.  And I have found some of the assignments meant to produce "family time and interaction" to be on the verge of insulting and a rather poor imitation.

When it wasn't to seemingly instill family time into our time away from school, the work was often in the form of "practice".  I am a teacher, I do know some kids have to practice everything, I do.   "Repetez, repetez!"  my old French teacher used to say to us every day. But I also know many kids have to practice something,  rarely does every kid have to practice everything.   However, a book about differentiating instruction for children, by Susan Winebrenner set forth a wild notion in my mind.  If a child already knows the information, what is the point of practicing it??  none.  You know it .  I know it.  The kids know it.  (Perhaps that is why it is called "hooooome wooooork" at my house? )

So, this week, in a new school, my oldest son brought home a different kind of homework.  This time around, the kids are to do research and put their information together in a class scrapbook page about one of the 50 States.  Wow!  The kids had two weeks and a checklist, and from this end I helped my kiddo manage his time, in a way that worked much more readily for our family and extracurricular activities.  I much prefered the freedom of this new homework.  I could tell they were getting a lot of scaffolding and ideas from school too, especially on week two.  My kiddo would come home with ideas of how to arrange his project and reminders of things not to forget.  He was motivated and even told me to "butt out".  Yeah baby!  That's what this Momma wants to hear when it's time for HoooomeWooork.
 I think it is important to say to our kids.  "School is important, your family supports you and supports and respects the school and your education."  In the same vein I feel that schools need to be supportive and respectful of family time, and extracurricular activities and the sure fact that there is and should be more to life than school.  A fine balance for sure.

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