09 September 2014

School Means Other Parents

Apparently we need to riff on the second grade homework some more.  Here, as the school year is in its infancy, many a parental unit are stressed about the homework.  They all have Very Important Concerns about it.

Of course I, like an idiot, always think that when other parents ask about the homework they are also referencing the heinous hand-holding. I could not be more wrong.  Apparently that is all just fine for many, if not most.  I am in the minority when it comes to parents who don't sit down with all their kids so as to specifically tutor them through all the homework.  The idea that you would micromanage your kids time and progress that way is a-okay with these folks.  In fact, they feel very strongly that is is entirely necessary given how challenging the material seems to be.  As in, the parents, full-grown adults with proven records of being upstanding and productive American folks, are challenged by the problem solving material presented in second grade word problems.  The work is "too confusing" and there is "no way at all that someone could solve the problems with the information presented.*"

So I guess that answers like 98% of my questions re: what the hell is wrong with kids these days?  What is wrong with our kids is clearly us.  The Atlantic did an article about why parents shouldn't help kids with their homework.  I am going to go ahead and assume that, unlike the majority of commenters (this is like Lewis' Law, only with critical thinking skills) that we all understand the difference between "keeping your kids on track and checking that homework is actually getting done" and "helping your kids step-wise through every last activity the school sends home." While the article doesn't really pinpoint why this is true, I have a guess.

Maybe, just maybe, it is because when your parent is freaking out and hysterically e-mailing the teacher about a word problem that my 4.5 year old was able to complete, you are not exactly sending a clear message of working for academic success. Or rational stress response. Or academic accountability.  Or critical thinking skills.  What a shock! Watching your parents bitch and moan about how hard your work is doesn't improve academic performance.  Go figure!

Teaching kids to immediately demand external validation the very second they are challenged (you all remember wanting our kids to be "challenged" because they are all so bloody "gifted" right?) might not be the best approach for academic achievement.  The message "we" are all sending our kids is that the second the going gets rough, you look for someone else to blame. Or at least someone else to sooth your delicate sensibilities as they walk you though it.  Not to get all "boot-straps" on people here, but yeah. All together now: a little struggle never killed anyone's chances at an Ivy League**.

So my response? We switched to doing homework after dinner.  I said to Charlie "decide what you want to do each day and fill it in, then do it, let me know if you need help."  Her response (after checking the family calendar we had made) was "Can I use the timer on your phone, I can do all this tonight then have no homework for the rest of the week."  She did the work in about 15 minutes, she handed me the bits I had to correct or sign, she then packed it all up and went to brush her teeth for bed.  Well folks, my work here is done with nary a hysterical e-mail in sight.  Now I just need to never discuss this with any other parents, like ever, and we will be fine.

*Source: shamelessly eavesdropping on fellow parents in the preschool pick-up line while trying to suppress the impulse to smash my head repeatedly into the decorative columns in the pick-up bay. 

**With the disclaimer that as a mid-pack, culturally-white, middle-class school district in an education-loving blue state, "struggle" is a relative term.  Notably, my current peer group of families have it relatively easy in terms of "struggle." 

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