Monday, August 16, 2010

My Response to "Tips to Begin the School Year"

Kerry Dickinson reposted her "Tips to Begin the School Year" and asked for responses. Kerry, ask and you shall receive!

1. Don't over schedule your children.

FedUpMom: I think the recession will take care of this problem.

2. Don’t sign your child up for academic tutoring unless he/she is in jeopardy of failing a class.

FedUpMom: I think a lot of tutoring goes on because the parents feel the school's curriculum is weak, and they may be right. Also, what about a child who has a special interest that isn't covered at school?

3. Don’t ask your kids about grades, test scores or homework too often. Instead, focus on the content of the subject.

FedUpMom: I agree.

4. If you are connected to an electronic school communication tool (like "School Loop") don't look at homework assignments and grades daily.

FedUpMom: I agree.

5. Give your kids at least an hour of down time after school.

FedUpMom: I agree.

6. Have your child do daily or weekly chores.

FedUpMom: I agree, in theory if not always in practice.

7. Don’t yell at your kids during homework time; you are not the homework enforcer. If they spend more that 10 minutes a night per grade level, email or talk to the teacher. (ie., 10 minutes/night in 1st grade, 40 minutes/night in 4th grade, etc.).

FedUpMom: I agree that we shouldn't be homework enforcers, but I disagree with the 10 minutes a night per grade level rule. As Alfie Kohn rightly states, some homework isn't worth 5 minutes of our kids' time (the infamous reading log comes to mind.) When it comes to homework, we need to talk about quality as well as quantity.

8. Don’t go to every scheduled sports game or extracurricular activity of your child’s.

FedUpMom: The trick is to make your attendance supportive, not a source of pressure.

9. Encourage unstructured outside neighborhood activities after school - a walk, a bike ride, hide-n-seek, skateboarding, picking flowers, building something, drawing on the sidewalk with chalk, etc.

FedUpMom: I agree.

10. Don’t use rewards and punishments with regard to school and sports.

FedUpMom: I agree.

11. Let your children fail. Think of the slogan "Fail to Succeed." In other words, they must make failed attempts at tasks before they can succeed.

FedUpMom: I strongly disagree with this one. Failure can be a devastating experience for a sensitive child, especially the kind of failure that happens at school, where the child usually has no way to remedy the situation. At the very least, a child who fails a test should have an opportunity to review the material and take the test over. And the failure should never be public.


  1. PsychMom contributes:
    I agree with you about number 11, FedUpMom. This judgement of young children on academics leads to nothing but heartache, good or bad. There is the immediate setup for comparison to other people, which isn't necessary.
    Being very opposed to homework before high school, I would take issue with anything school related coming home, but that's just me. I want my child at home to be concentrating on family things when she's home. She can play, talk, eat and sleep to her heart's content.

  2. To the extent that I can, I'd like to bolter my kids' resilience. How can I show my kid I have faith in him to overcome great obstacles? By having faith in him as he overcomes great obstacles.

    Parental control disguised as "kindness" can really undermine a child's self concept. (I'm writing this as a reminder to myself, you take it for what it's worth)

    Great inspiring video for all us screw ups here-

  3. The problem is that random bad experiences don't necessarily make a child resilient. Sometimes the child just becomes profoundly depressed.

  4. Random bad experiences?

    This year one of my kids has a teacher he doesn't like. He's always liked teachers, all adults really so I really feel for him. He's a very respectful kid. And very sensitive too. At the same time, he can often be looking all around the room, appearing unfocused and probably often being inattentive. I agree with him about her. "She yells." "She acts angry and hostile."
    I could pull him out of her class; into another class or school. After all, she shouldn't act like a bitch and they're just kids.

    But I want him to stay- I think if I did move him, the odds are pretty darn good the next teacher will be tough too. And if not this year then next year....
    And I believe he can handle it. He can adjust- and when he does, it will be his victory, not mine. I believe handling demanding teachers is a skill worth developing. He is unhappy right now. But ya know- “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you will not have to listen to his incessant whining about how hungry he is.”—Author unknown

    but probably-

    “Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Unless he doesn't like sushi—then you also have to teach him to cook.”—Auren Hoffman, Herald Philosopher

  5. The issue of resilience in kids is an interesting one. A friend, who researches and writes about children's issues for a living, recently gave a presentation to representatives of our provincial government on this very topic. It seems the government types here in Ontario are interested in cultivating resilience in youth. (The cynic in me thinks they want to do this so they don't have to pay as much for services to "non-resilient" youth...) Anyway, apparently, the notion of resilience is more complex and difficult to define than the ministry types expected. For instance, does it show "resilience" for a kid to suck it up and get through a bad experience, or is the resilient kid the kid who puts his/her foot down and says, I'm not going to take this anymore? One of my daughters, for example, has opted out of activities and camps when she realized they weren't what she wanted or when something about them made her uncomfortable. I've always allowed her to do this, but not without doubts about whether or not I was doing the right thing--especially because my other daughter (her twin) is more of the buck-up-and-get through-it type. I don't have an answer, but I think it's an interesting question.

  6. Suburban Chicken Farmer says:

    And I believe he can handle it. He can adjust- and when he does, it will be his victory, not mine. I believe handling demanding teachers is a skill worth developing.

    SCF, I really hope you'll reconsider. This will be the subject of my next post.

  7. Also, while we're on the topic of "Give a man a fish --"

    "Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll sit in a boat and drink beer all day."

  8. And furthermore --

    "Give a child a painting, and he'll be happy for a day. Teach a child to paint, and he'll be depressed for a lifetime."

  9. northTOmom, right, it's tricky to define "Fostering Resilience" - it's cultural, subcultural, outside forces supporting the development of an interpersonal attribute.
    Still, if they as an organization are taking it on- As a responsibility of a school to students I say, Good For Them! Of course, if I started hearing about "fostering resiliency" around here, my first inclination of thought would be-
    "Ah, they've found a euphemism to justify inserting themselves into the private lives of children and their families.
    Very interesting though, please update as it unfolds in Canada. Ya know, some of we lower Americans kind of had this mythical image of you guys as really having your stuff together with public services.

    Oh well, we'll always have Finland.

  10. "interpersonal" should be "intrapersonal" sorry. Someday I'll learn to write. ;(

  11. Suburban Chicken Farmer: I too look to Finland as a model. I'd consider moving there if the language weren't so difficult to learn!

    But, seriously, our public services here in Ontario are still pretty good (although if our current federal government had its way, most of them would be slashed). I think the youth ministry's intentions in looking into "resilience" are actually pretty benign. The goal seems to be to try to figure out which services are effective in fostering resilience in at-risk youth--in other words, which types of interventions might help these kids get through difficult social circumstances and succeed in spite of them. It's kind of at the research stage right now, I believe, so we'll see if anything concrete comes of it.

  12. It would be nice if the difficulties that kids encounter on their way to learning something were not defined as "failures." In a good school (a kid-friendly one!), I would think that kids would be encouraged to understand that learning happens over time and sometimes in fits and starts, and tests would be there to assess what to work on next, not to determine who is a failure and who is a success.