Sunday, October 26, 2008

Whose fault is it?

Warning: rambling thought process below!

I have to say that I've been feeling a mounting frustration about school. My kids' schools, that is. But I'm completely and totally conflicted about it, too. Will Richardson writes today about a conversation with a principal about who's responsibility it is to teach kids digital literacy. I was also struck earlier this week by Laura at 11D's Weekend Journal post, where she says, "the traditional paths to career success are made for men and the childless" in part a response to her need to be available to her kids, both in the general parent way, but also to advocate for her son with the schools and because there aren't adequate after school programs for her youngest son. There are a couple of comments in the thread to Will's post that mention "bad parenting" or "less than stellar parenting." I have to admit, that gets my goat.

The thing is, I often feel stretched way too thin. My son comes home to an empty house. We usually talk a couple of times by phone and both Mr. Geeky and I try to get him to work on homework and do household chores from a distance. This is about as effective as trying to freeze water with a blow torch. There are a couple of after school programs that I just now found out about that he could attend, but no matter what, it's not the same as having a parent around, someone you trust enough to ask stupid questions and who brings you apple pie when the going gets tough. So, I do take some blame when my kids struggle.

On the other hand, I think it's far too easy for teachers to assume that a parent is home to guide a kid through homework, to help them get organized, etc. And so, they immediately assume that something's not good on the home front when things start to slide.* I get frustrated at times because I feel like two-income families are in a real bind when it comes to getting kids through school successfully. If your kids needs, or you choose to provide personal attention, that often means after dinner, taking away from your own time to decompress for work or get other things done. I don't mean to sound selfish here, but I always find it interesting when people talk about "family" time and they're usually referring to some idyllic time long ago when parents didn't come home and frantically throw together something for dinner after a long commute home.

I think my conflict comes from feeling that there are certainly things I could do to help make school a more successful experience for my kids, but that I'm trapped in a system that doesn't fully appreciate or maybe doesn't even recognize my conflict. I've never heard anyone at a parent-teacher meeting or back-to-school session talk about ways the school helps two-income families struggling with a compressed time-frame to work with their kids. I've never heard after school programs or clubs highlighted. I also find it frustrating at the lack of societal support for both education and raising kids. Schools lack money to have more innovative programs or to extend days (things that might help dual-income families). And local, state, and federal governments have few programs that provide quality after school services.

I'll keep trying to resolve my conflict, but I have to say, it really does keep me up at night.

*I have to say that my kid's teachers have made a valiant effort to make me feel like it's not my fault that things aren't going well for my kid, and that at this point in his life, homework is his responsibility.