I’d be hard-pressed to find an online discussion, article, or opinion about education that didn’t include the phrase parental involvement I’ve spent the last 8 years of my oldest daughter’s scholastic life trying to live up to that standard.
Most of the mentions of parental involvement include directions like setting up a proper place for your children to study, asking about their school day, and ensuring that they get a proper night’s rest every night. My own daughters have the opportunity both at their after-school program and at home to get their homework done, we talk about our days, and they know their bedtime. I put their good grades on the refrigerator, and help them with their homework by asking them first what they think the answer is. I gently correct their spelling and grammar in everyday life.
Still, I’ve been wondering lately on what I might be missing as a parent by prioritizing school over everything else.
When my oldest was starting 5th grade, I thought it was time she take on more responsibilities at home. I wanted her to start making her own lunch to take to school. The reality, however, of getting her homework done and the basic bedtime chores meant that I was back to spreading peanut butter on the bread before the first week was over.
She’s in 8th grade now, and she has enriching activities at her after-school program that keep her busy until 6 most nights. I know that those are the highlights of her day. Being an artistic person myself, I know she’s learning valuable skills of teamwork, commitment, and confidence with her acting and dance classes. But when we get home, she’s back to homework and I’m lucky if I can get her to put her dirty clothes in the hamper.
My children know that their education is important to me, but I feel like we are always playing catch-up with every other aspect of our lives. We forgot to call their cousin on his birthday because my youngest daughter had to complete her diorama. I’ve been trying to involve them more in the cooking process, but we can only do that on weekends because they’re usually doing homework while I make dinner during the week.
While I firmly believe that a good education is the backbone of not only a successful individual, but a successful country, I worry that the concentration solely on this night’s homework assignment and tomorrow’s test can soon turn into a child that bases their value just on their grades.
One week turns into a semester into a school year with a couple of months off where even then, parents are busy attempting to supplement their children’s education with trips to historic places, education-based summer camps, and some districts are even implementing summer workbooks because of the “summer slide” concern that children don’t retain what they’ve learned in May through September.
Sometimes I think the most valuable thing I can do for my daughter on a school night is to listen to her tell me about the friend that’s mad at her, and explore the reasons why and how to apologize. There aren’t any courses in communication on her school schedule. Sometimes I think her Math homework might mean more to her if she’s cutting a recipe meant for 6 in half than if we do the word problem that’s in her workbook. Maybe instead of the museum, I should take them to the park, where my younger daughter will notice the birds flying in formation above us. Maybe my parental involvement would mean more if I concentrated more on being a parent than being a teacher’s assistant at home.