Thursday, July 24, 2014

Is Society Creating Helicopter Parents?

I found this post in my drafts folder, originally written in the spring of 2012. I don't know why I didn't post it but the topic is still relevant, even though two years have gone by since originally written. So I'm posting it now, complete with pictures from two years ago. Hard to believe that much time has already flown by.

Lindsey working on an art project. By herself.
One morning this past week I went to Lindsey's school to help her get a form from her locker. While walking along the hallway in front of the 3rd grade classrooms I saw other students' research projects that had already been turned in lined up along the windows. (See previous post on my lack of sewing abilities in assisting on this project.) While most projects were dioramas, as Lindsey predicted, a few had chosen the sewing projects.

After looking at the quality of the craftsmanship of the sewing projects, I can guarantee you that there was significant parent involvement in the final products. I thought one of the projects was a store-bought stuffed animal, until I saw the tell-tale seam where the animal had been stuffed and then sewn shut. For real? How does a teacher grade that, it so obviously isn't the child's own work?

Marissa proudly shows off her 1st grade writing project.
This same week, Lindsey's running club, Girls on the Run, has decided that their service project will be to hold a bake sale with proceeds going to the Animal Humane Society. The GOTR coordinator sent an email home to parents, explaining the group's chosen service project and informing us all that the girls would be planning the event after school on Thursday. Instructions would be coming home to the parents on what the girl would be bringing to the bake sale.

Before you could say "peanut butter chocolate chip," emails were flying around from all of the moms volunteering to bring various baked goods, cups, signs or what have you.

The coordinator emailed the group again and kindly but firmly said, "Thanks for all your enthusiasm for this service project. This is a girl-led project. Your child will be telling you what she would like to bring to the bake sale."

In other words, butt out. Such a good reminder.

Yet at the same time, in order to keep parents involved in their children's education, kids are assigned projects that in my opinion are beyond the child's ability to complete on their own. As a parent it becomes difficult to know where to start and stop with helping with the projects.

Lindsey's recent research paper and project had a great guide for parents to help with the writing piece. It reminded parents that the paper was to be the child's own writing, and that the parent's role was only to suggest edits or revisions, not to re-write the paper. There was a list of questions parents could use to help in that process.

This part is confusing to me. How can you make that clearer? You use this word a lot of times. Is there another word you can use that means the same thing? 

Those questions were extremely helpful to make sure I didn't take over writing the paper, yet could provide good feedback. But then the actual project portion of it clearly needed parent involvement to complete.

As a parent I am in disbelief at how quickly my girls are growing. It is easy to keep doing what I've done for them when they were pre-schoolers or toddlers, because I forget that they are now nearly 7 and 9, and can and should do many things for themselves. "Mom, may I have some water?" is now met with, "Sure. You know where the cups are. The faucet still works, right?"

I do not want to be a helicopter parent but I want to be involved in our children's education and lives. I am learning that it is an easy line to cross.

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