Our dinner conversation is mostly about my kids’ school day, but it’s rare that they can report much about what they are learning in their core subjects. However, they have many words about the school-wide diet/exercise program, or about the video they watched on how to be safe in the kitchen, or about the activities that they did to learn their personality type.
And it occurred to me, no wonder we spend our evening doing your job… you spend your day doing mine.
No school choice is perfect. No family is either.
But if we all decided once-and-for-all what our jobs are and do them well, maybe both institutions would improve.
We spent many years homeschooling, and I must say, it was so difficult to do both jobs of parent AND teacher, and honestly both suffered at times. I’m sure many families can do both very well. When my kids entered private school, I felt the reversal of parent-teacher roles almost immediately with sex-education, personality type exploration, and conflict resolution. Now, my kids are in public schools and it’s much more of the same.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that the schools try to partner with families and encourage the learning of these things, perhaps even reinforcing them at times, but the main teaching of these subjects should be mine. Should be, but isn’t.
I’m not blaming you. It’s not your fault, you’re just responding to waves of kids who are coming to you with serious needs. Your heart goes out to students who haven’t been taught many life skills or much about themselves. You see how they can’t concentrate because no one gave them breakfast or a way to get lunch. You watch them suffer from a lack of boundaries or guidance in their home life. You can’t help but notice the shame on their faces when they show up without supplies, notes signed, or an emergency-contact number.
You are taking over my job because of hundreds who came before me who grossly neglected theirs. You’re filling in for me, just in case I don’t show up.
I’m asking you to wait and see if I do -before you take me out of the picture. I need to feel that you expect me to do my part.
Because parenting is really hard, and most days, I’d rather not. And honestly, I’ll be more likely to quit if I know someone else has already stepped in for me. So please don’t.
But teaching kids math and reading is hard, too. I know, because it’s been my night job for years.
I sit at the table after dinner and teach my kids what they should have learned in school and try to imagine those parents who didn’t buy any school supplies doing the same. They probably aren’t doing their job as math teacher at night. I know, because some days I also get away with doing neither, and no one calls me on it. So, it’s hard to stay motivated. Believe me, I know.
Now, we have a whole mess of kids who know all about their introvertedness, how to balance their meals, and what to do if they witness bullying, but they can’t add fractions or write a paragraph.
I include my own kids in that mess. They’ve got backpacks and lunch money, but they don’t learn well at night after a long day of properly balancing their diet or practicing the character trait of the month. I don’t teach well while I’m folding laundry.
But I’m not the kind of gal who throws out complaints without solutions…
So, what if our “homework” was more about exercise or preparing healthy meals? What if we felt a real, cultural expectation to talk to our kids about puberty or to teach them good manners? Right now as a parent, I feel more pressure to make sure they get the perfect attendance award…
What if we did our best at our own jobs and held each other accountable? What if we spent our evenings being parents instead of teachers? What if the teachers actually had enough time to teach grammar and spelling during the day?
What if parents had to answer hard questions such as, “Why is your child hungry, sleepy, or without clean clothes? Why do you have a cell phone and a manicure when your child has no notebooks? Why did your child not know how to blow his nose or say thank you? When are you giving your kids healthy food and exercise?”
I don’t know who should ask those questions, Perhaps it should be my church asking? Or other parents? Or maybe it should occasionally be the teachers…
It doesn’t matter, but I know I would step up my game if I knew someone was going to ask them of me. Wouldn’t you?
And if I’m going to take my job seriously, I also need to ask some questions of you, too. I need to ask, “Why don’t my kids know American History? Why can’t my daughter understand fractions? Why hasn’t my son been asked to read more classic literature?”
Right now, no one is asking or answering any questions, and our kids are suffering.
There are no simple solutions, but there is one simple answer that I can give today…
“Because I’ve been doing your job and letting you do mine, and I’m sorry.”
*Please note- We love our kids’ current and previous schools. This post is a result of reflections on the general institutions of family and education. 🙂