16.3.09

Part of the Solution: Education Part 2


I apologize in advance for this article. It’s just been thrown together at the midnight hour to meet the deadline. Normally, I’d take the time to properly research a Part of the Solution to share with you. But, at the moment, I’m tired and overwhelmed after a weekend of family illness and an evening of last minute homework assignments, all done hastily because I neglected to read my kids’ weekly newsletter last Friday evening like I should have. Or like their teachers probably expected me to. I used to be a teacher, I should know.

I have an excuse, though. I have a health issue that rears its ugly head about once a year, knocking me out physically, then overwhelming me mentally and emotionally. I’m not explaining this for pity – it’s a part of my life that a two to three week round of doxycycline will help control – but I’m mentioning it because of the effect my ailment has on my children’s education when my body won’t let me do what I normally would in my everyday life. During these brief episodes, simple tasks look and feel like mountain climbing to me. I do them anyway, of course. But then the kids come home with spelling or math assignments labeled “complete with a parent at home” and, by that time of day, all I want to do is crawl under a rock. And I also inevitably oversee something important – a field trip permission slip, a review sheet for the big test, you name it.

The guilt is enormous. I love my kids. When I’m healthy, which is eleven months out of the year, everything runs smoothly and I’m Super Former Teacher Mom, aiding the girls while they study for social studies and math tests, and completing spelling activities with them. I sign their assignment notebooks and make them healthy snacks to fuel their brains. I rock, if you want to know the truth. But for a few weeks, these simple tasks actually feel quite complicated.

It’s not like I don’t have help. It’s not like there aren’t two of us. There are. My husband comes home and helps the girls with their homework regularly. But there are only so many hours in an evening, and he has his own lists of stressors, particularly in this economic climate. Downsizing, paycuts, having to wear multiple hats due to said downsizing – all of it takes its toll. And then, I think, he feels the way I do – grateful for the time with the kids, but also overwhelmed at one more task to do when it might be more fun just to play Connect Four and forget about the day while the kids laugh. Children’s laughter is a huge destressor, but kids don’t necessarily laugh much when they have no desire to write an outline for their research paper.

I’m really sorry for dumping on all of you like this, but I just wanted to say that I, more than once, have thought of the other fellow parents of schoolchildren who are overwhelmed by life on an even greater scale than me. You know, I’ll gain my health back in a couple of weeks. But for many other moms and dads, the various stressors of life remain for months or years. It’s a regular part of their lives. And then their kids come home with “complete with a parent” assignments, too.

It’s all the rage in teacher education to include the family in their children’s education. Parental involvement ensures confidence and success and builds a bridge that stretches from classroom to home. Parental involvement screams Your Education is Important to Me! and supports the teachers’ work on a deep and meaningful level. I know how important it is. I had to prove it in my portfolio for licensure, after all.

But, while parental involvement is certainly conducive to learning, I’m left to wonder how supporting children outside the classroom can be simplified for overextended, overburdened parents. Here are a couple of ideas, just off the top of my head:
  1. Support parents by donating your time as an after-school tutor. In Indianapolis, Shepherd Community Center needs volunteers for their after school program to help kids with homework and keep up with their studies. This is a huge support to the parents who work multiple jobs to make ends meet.
  2. Start a neighborhood homework help group in your home. (I just made this up and thought it sounded like a good idea.) The rationale being this: Many areas are not the focus of organizations’ outreach due to income demographics and location. There is no Shepherd Community Center where I live, right here in my suburban neighborhood. Not a free one, at least. But as the economy begins to tax parents with unemployment and other economic related stressors, a homework help group in neighborhoods like mine would ease the burden of parents who find themselves a sudden recession casualty. It takes a village…
  3. Become a mentor. Or support one. Becoming an additional go to person for a child can make a huge difference in their educational experience. When they know there is another adult who cares about their schoolwork (among other things, of course), they are likely to care, too.

Now I shall print out my daughter’s typed outline, sign a reading log, and go to bed. Good night.

4 comments:

  1. Good article Kim. Sorry you're feeling lousy.

    I feel homework in general is a problem as it creates an unlevel playing field for many kids. In school everyone has the same environment, tools at their disposal etc... But if you make homework a part of the equation that all changes. Plus it's a major drag.

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  2. Thanks, Aaron! I'm on the mend.

    I understand what you're saying about the unlevel playing field. That always seems to manifest itself when things like book projects are due. It's always so obvious who had help and who didn't!

    As a teacher I was anti-homework, but was required to give some. But I felt like my students should work hard and learn in class. If they had homework, it was something fun, like games on the book's website.

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  3. LOVE the homework "coop" idea! Seriously, you're onto something there.

    In some of our volunteering stuff, it is fairly common for parents to not be involved - whether that be due to lack of time, intimidation, or just not seeing the importance of it, but I hadn't thought of the immense pressure this desire for parental involvement puts on parents and kids. Thanks for the insight, Kim! Great post!!

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  4. I rarely see it acknowledged that a family who has ice cream together or rides bikes in the evening or values Nova and a few serious news shows is supporting their child's education. There are times we tell our daughter to stop doing school and go play outside. We give her a pass on her homework because, really, there is more to life.

    That said, I do not know how to give a healthy home life to every child. Wouldn't that turn teaching into a lovely job...

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