Friday, September 24, 2010

School's Out Forever

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?


  1. This is SO good Lynda!I happen to agree completely and have had many of the same thoughts. I "let go" of Anna's projects and homework when she entered middle school. The first time she was on her on, I saw a sense of pride and achievement...and although it came with some tears of frustration and might have not been presented as well as some others, she managed an A and OWNED IT!

  2. Good luck with your movement. Last year was the best ever in elementary school - my daughter's teacher said if it looked like a parent had helped their child with any homework or project they would get a F. Yahoo! Sweet, sweet freedom for me.

  3. Love it! I have said this for years. Now our sixteen year old won't even ask, since she would prefer to learn it on her own, and not from Dad who gives lectures on history from the beginning of time, when she's studying Industrialized America. Her artwork has improved so much by learning from her own mistakes. I dare any art teacher (or me as the artistic parent) to take that charcoal from her hand and "fix it". Oh the wrath that ensues. Wanting it/doing it for themselves will make them into strong self-sufficient adults. Kudos!

  4. I "divorced" myself from a middle school science project this weekend after reading this... It was truly liberating! You are so right, my parents never "helped" me with any of my projects (and I believe it nurtured my creativity) and I passed 7th grade science already, I don't need to do it again! My son's project looks wonderful and he did it on his own. (Except for the part where I spray painted some of the parts because I didn't want my front porch multicolored...)

  5. This is AWESOME! I knew I wasn't alone out there! :-)

  6. Im on my 3rd attempt at 5th grade. The first time was hard enough. Had I known I would have to repeat it 4 times, I would not have tried so hard the first time. I think this totally explains those dreams where I find myself back in high school at 35 and it being totally horrific and worse than my first attempt at it.... I back you 100%!

  7. You are so right, and that crap is starting SO young! When my oldest was *2*, I signed her up for a toddler's art class. At the end of each class, the kids were supposed to hold up their project and tell the group about it. At least half of the projects had been done by the parents--in a class where there weren't even any grades at stake! Personally, I like the crazy, psychedelic-looking upside-down boat that my kid made, because it looks like a little kid made it. I don't want a little construction paper boat made by me.


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