Monday, November 23, 2009

1st High School Trimester Redux - Part 1

Since Logue entered high school this Fall, my anxiety level started increasing exponentially. The voices inside my head keep saying "Now his grades actually count." At first I had to restrain myself from grabbing his backpack and doing his homework for him. Call me crazy, but I've seen the 3rd grade science projects in which the quantum physics applied clearly did not come from the 8 year old.

I want Logue to have all the resources possible for the kind of education he deserves, that any child deserves. Unfortunately, grades sometimes determine the opportunities and homework sometimes stifles the excitement for learning.

A few nights ago, Logue had to sketch a copy of a Calvin and Hobbes illustration as accurately as possible. He tried for 2 hours to conjure up something he thought would be acceptable to turn in to his new high school art teacher. But in his mind he fell short because accurate meant perfect and to him it wasn't perfect. Then came the frustration, the anxiety and the defeatist attitude and BOOM! It hit me - like wearing 5" heels reminds me that I have bunions:

Flash back to 5th grade math class. One day Logue didn't finish a homework assignment. His teacher, brilliant man, decided he'd show Logue a thing or two by putting him out in the hall. That night, Logue didn't know how to do the new homework because uh, he was in the hall feeling stupid and missed the lesson. This went on EVERY DAY for months before I found out. The teacher sure showed Logue. Wait, showed him what? That homework and school can be profoundly castrating?

After the Art assignment melt down and my flashback b*tch slap, I let Logue have some time to just relax and not think about homework. Then I did the unthinkable: I told him that the grade was not worth losing self esteem. If he tried, he tried - even if that means a "D" as in "Dang, so close." If the teacher has some suggestions for improvement, so be it. His grade is not a reflection of WHO he is. I want him to WANT to learn. And anyway, I would be punching out any teacher who doesn't realize how wonderful and brilliant he is. He let out a huge sigh and gave me a hug. *Joy* I still get hugs from my 14 yr old son. Twenty years from now, we're going to remember the hugs, not the grades. (Well, and maybe the image of me socking his teachers with my 5'3" mini self.)

I've always had mixed feelings about homework and grades, probably because I got nothing but A's out of fear and now I'm a pretty screwed up, gigantic, anxiety ball. What are these stressful homework situations teaching our kids?

Cut back to present day, 1st Trimester, Freshman year: For Logue's final exam in English he had to answer the question, "What does it mean to be Educated?"
While I may not be educated enough to answer that question in any coherent fashion, I do know what it DOESN'T mean:
*It isn't that you've memorized the Periodic Table and all the Presidents of America.
*It isn't how many hours your butt was stuck in a desk.
*It isn't your test scores.
*It isn't your pedigree of degrees from Pre-School to PhD.

What kid can even make it into Stanford or Harvard these days? One with a 6.8 GPA? And what does that half million dollar education get them today? A large diploma with an gigantic student loan bill?

We've all stuck our nose in our kid's homework where it didn't belong in an effort to either circumvent an emotional breakdown, boost their chances of getting to be an Ivy Leaguer or (even better) prevent our "perfect parent" reputation from being tarnished by a bad grade in 3rd grade geography. Whether its helping with just that one little paragraph or building the damn model bridge ourselves, sometimes we just to want it to get done already!

Apparently some parents' (not me of course) OVER involvement in homework has become an epidemic according to Alfie Kohn. In "Stop doing the homework, overzealous parents warned," Kohn states this phenomenon has some schools requiring students to complete their work at school to ensure parents are not undermining the learning process. I say yay to that concept. I already did my times tables.

Homework at our home can cause tension, stress and anxiety. I'm not going to let 5 hours of video gaming take the place of what could be more productive, non-comatose time BUT, I will be the first to email a teacher when memorizing states and capitals becomes a 2 hour long process with only Oregon and Washington accomplished while members of my family are losing their voices and handfuls of hair. I have questioned teachers on the validity of an assignment. It does mean crossing that line. You know, the one that puts you on THAT list at the school. So, I'm the Bad Mom - the out of the box, non conventional, trouble maker who questions the curriculum making all the teachers avert their gazes when I walk down the hall.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "So, what's going on at home that is affecting your child's ability to do their homework?"

You mean besides the fact that I tell my kid the homework is stupid?

I'm not at the point yet where I have taken on battling the school's homework policy, but there are many parents who have done just that: like here.

Luckily, I have THE BAD MOMS CLUB - to at the very least share my badness, non Super Mom ways and have moms like me to justify my unconventional means of surviving .

note: no teachers were hurt in the making of this blog post.

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