My daughter has only been in school for one month and I’ve already gotten in trouble with her teacher. Which I’ll completely understand if the teacher doesn’t much care for me as I’m guessing I’m the only parent that told her to piss off. Let me explain.
Genevieve went to first grade this year at what is supposed to be a very good suburban public school (better than 94.7% of all Ohio elementary schools on some test score), coming from a Montessori setting in kindergarten. The trouble started the first week. We were sent home a very large packet describing the expectations of the parents of the students in first grade, which included my signing off that my child and I had done “homework” for what worked out to roughly 40 minutes each and every night. Also that first week they used an adaptive computer test to conclude that my child was “behind” and needed additional home work to “catch up.” The teacher than followed up with me to verify that I had received the packet and understood her expectations of me. To which I told I didn’t agree with such an expectation, for a first grader and of a parent. Further that I wasn’t concerned regarding Genevieve being “behind” as that was a baseline measurement and not indicative of a rate of learning or potential.
My reasoning for rejecting to comply has two components, practical and philosophical.
I lead a busy life due to personal and professional choices I’ve made, and over the years I’ve made it a habit to study ways of reducing the stress inherent in it. The single largest contribution was a theory put forth in “Getting Things Done,” by David Allen. Mr. Allen calls outstanding, un-negotiated obligations or desired results as “open loops.” His theory states that it is not the volume of “open loops” that causes anxiety and stress, but the nagging feeling that we aren’t getting things done or are forgetting something which is caused by not “closing” the loops. His system to alleviate stress is to catalog, process, organize, review, and negotiate our “open loops,” all the projects that we are trying to get done in life. In the negotiation step we can do one of four things, do it, don’t do it, delegate it, or defer it. And in this process spending roughly an hour a night on first grade home work lands squarely in the “don’t do it” category as I am not going to be forced into that “open loop” and feel like I’m failing my daughter on the nights our busy lives don’t allow us to do it.
Philosophically I rejected this homework request with my initial reaction being, “Who’s in school here, me or Genevieve?” But on a deeper level I feel this is a path to mediocrity. Intellectual curiosity is not learned by a parent forcing their child to do their homework but by an internal motivation that must be discovered either through exposure to something that interests them or competitive drives. We each must be responsible for our own lives and helicopter parenting (which I view this as a form of) is corrosive to individual identity and accomplishment. If Genevieve comes to me and asks for help in understanding a concept or an intellectual tool necessary to accomplish some work, I’m happy to spend that hour, but not forcing her to do it in the first place. A further philosophical consideration is effort applied and expectations for return on that effort. From what I understand, I as a parent have only a 20% contribution to Genevieve’s eventual life path with the remainder being environment, social (friends), and genetics. If I were to invest an hour a night from first to 12th grade of my time on her education, you’d better believe there would be some expectations. I would rather accept and enjoy Genevieve according to the decisions she chooses to make in life.
And hence I concluded the meeting with teacher, “I guess we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this.”