I am dropping out of the fifth grade. I didn’t like it the first time, and now, it’s even harder. I’m probably going to skip middle school and high school, too. (Although, there were some fun times in high school I wouldn’t mind re-living. There was this one time at band camp…) I have decided that I really don’t like algebra or making 3-D models of cells or learning about the Reconstruction. My half-baked decision comes after only five weeks of school. The other night as I sat at the computer with my son, searching the web for some obscure political cartoon satirizing the end of slavery, I had an epiphany. This was his homework, not mine. He was being graded, not me. I was completely free to grab some Merlot and catch the latest episode of “Ghost Hunters” if I wanted. So, I did.
As I sat there watching Jason and Grant attempt to provoke a spirit into slamming a door or ruffling curtains, it occurred to me that if I could just get enough parents behind me, I could start a revolution. I know this sounds crazy, but what if parents quit helping their kids with their school projects and homework? It’s an insane notion, but what if children took full responsibility for their work and (gasp!) did it all by themselves?
I’m thinking about starting a grassroots movement to get parents out of schools. I have a feeling that this will be even more controversial than the prayer issue, though. I’m willing to sacrifice my afternoons at Hobby Lobby looking for foam balls and my evenings spent deciphering the value of x and y to find out. My Mad Mom Manifesto will state that parents are strictly forbidden to “help” their kids with their classroom assignments in any way. I’m calling for moms and dads to spend their time planning family-friendly fall festivals and organizing school improvement committees instead of researching the Civil War or creating a time line for Ben Franklin’s early years. I’m encouraging all parents to put down the magic markers and step away from the construction paper.
I don’t have a single memory of my parents helping me with my school assignments, and I didn’t end up in jail or dancing around a stripper pole. Back in the ‘70’s, parents were parents and not tutors or cheerleaders or substitute teachers. (On a side note: Didn’t it seem that substitute teachers back then were Grumpy Old Trolls pulled from underneath a fairy tale bridge somewhere? We were lucky to make it through the day without being eaten.) My parents never checked to make sure my homework was done, and they especially didn’t care if my answers were correct. The teacher would be checking on that. If I didn’t understand it, then I needed to study harder. Their job was to teach me right from wrong, mold me into a good citizen of the world, love me, clothe me, and feed me. (And occasionally smack my rear when I deserved it.) It was their duty to instill in me the good sense to know that it was my responsibility to get my work done and know that I would suffer the consequences if I didn't. When did parents get their job descriptions confused?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m my kids’ biggest fan, but if we never let them fail, just exactly how does this benefit them? Parents seem to think their child's identity is their own, therefore if the child does poorly, the parent does poorly. I don't think so. I finished fifth grade with flying colors, and my son's report card isn't going to change that fact. I want him to excel, but I want him to want it for himself. I can't hold his hand forever - I have shoe shopping to do! (Okay...I'm just kidding...sort of.)
Have you seen the caliber of the projects kids bring to school lately? It’s usually obvious which kid has an Engineer Mom or an Artist Dad, and because of that, the standard is now set too high. God forbid that a ten year old brings in a poster board on our Founding Fathers that doesn’t look like it was designed by a Madison Avenue marketing firm. And, I’m fairly sure that kindergarteners will soon be required to be proficient in Photoshop and PowerPoint. Crayons are for babies, you know.
So, I’m taking adulthood back. I will no longer agonize over vocabulary words. (Hey, I’m allowed to use spell check, encouraged even.) I have decided that I will worry about fractions only when my recipe calls for half a cup of this or a quarter teaspoon of that. I am officially declaring glue sticks off limits for any one over the age of twenty-one. I’m going to use my downtime to relax like a grown up and encourage my kids to be kids, shaky handwriting, misspelled words and all. Now, who’s with me?