Parenting has changed. Nowhere is that more evident than on school grounds.
I honestly cannot remember a time when my parents volunteered in my school, or asked me more about my homework than did I finish it. Not that I considered them at all apathetic or indifferent to my education. There was an assumption back then (I graduated high school 25 years ago) that my education was my responsibility.
Recently, I took my daughter to visit a high school we hope she attends next year (this particular school is neither a magnet nor a charter, but what’s considered an alternative school). That astonishes my parents! Even more amazing to them is that it might not be the last of such pre-enrollment visits. I actually went to this very same high school, and back then there was no Information Night or Open House Tour prior to the application process.
At that tour, it hit me just how much parenting has changed in the last generation; while we hope it’s for the better, sometimes I wonder.
I wonder if maybe by being so involved in my daughters’ education, am I depriving them of that opportunity to take ownership of it themselves? I especially worry about that in my 5th grader. I feel like she sometimes doesn’t complete her homework at her after-school program not because she needs my help, but because she’d rather play with her friends and procrastinate in getting it done.
I saw a familiar look in most of the other parents’ eyes on that tour; wanting so much, so desperately to provide the very best for our children. Do we want it more than they do? If we took a step back, would our children step up?
I know that they say that parental involvement is key to a child’s success, but I’m still skeptical that we’re defining that term in the best possible way.
My parents were incredibly involved in my life, and completely supportive of my extra-curricular activities. I fell in love with theatre at the age of six, and my parents involved themselves by spending most of their weeknights and weekends taking me to rehearsals and performances. Just as one example, there was a winter during my elementary school years that my dad spent driving home from his job in San Jose to pick me up in Santa Cruz (about an hour commute), drive me to San Francisco (a two-hour drive), wait for my 3 or 4 hour rehearsal, and drive me back to Santa Cruz. That is parental involvement!
That’s the type of parental involvement I also love doing as a parent; being there and cheering them on at their performances, assemblies, etc., spending time together doing what we all enjoy, and just plain hanging out together and talking.
I do not love nagging my daughters to get their homework done, driving frantically to Staples or Target to pick up supplies for projects, or looking up mathematical formulas on the internet to help them complete their homework.
I’m not saying parenting should be easy. Nor is every moment spent on something other than school necessarily lovely, either! I’m just saying, there’s a lot more to parental involvement than signing a reading log. And raising a productive adulthood means that at some point, parents have to let their children be free enough to become responsible.
April McCaffery is a single mother to two daughters, in 5th and 8th grade.
- What should parental involvement mean?
- Re-thinking Parental Involvement
- Parental Involvement Through the PTA
- Parental Involvement in Homework
- Parental Involvement in School: Enter the Father