Moms (and Dads) on a Mission – More from Halifax, Nova Scotia

Today’s guest blogger, the mother of a second grader, lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She holds a masters degree in psychology and works full time doing psychometric testing of adults. She has written three previous entries here, here and here.

Musings on the News
by Psych Mom

Our local television station recently did a three part feature story on home and school education issues. The promos that were broadcast in the days ahead of the actual piece gave the message that this story was about informing parents on how they can be more involved in their children’s education and that their children would have better outcomes with parent involvement. The first evening featured the topic of homework, the second night was about communication between home and school, and the third night was, what parents can do to help the struggling student. Unfortunately I was only able to watch the second evening. A couple of parents were featured, and a couple of teachers, each with their perspective on the importance of communication. One mother indicated that she stays on top of her child’s homework as a means of knowing what he’s doing at school. The teachers, one male and one female, promoted the value of communication between home and school, so that parents would be able to assist the teacher better in teaching their children.

I sent in a message to the TV station to voice my concerns about the 1950’s style of the life that seems to be portrayed in the piece I saw. There was none of the chaos of getting home at 5:30 with hungry kids…it was Mom lovingly hovering over youngster working at the kitchen table, book and papers spread wide. Everyone is smiling. You could almost hear Ward Cleaver coming through the front door. The good parent is one who wants to know what the child is doing in school and you can only learn that through making sure your child does their homework. The other aspect of the story that was clear was the idea that the teacher and school are the leaders and decision makers. The good parent follows their lead.

Maybe the point of this series was to provide some energy for parents to get through the last piece of the school year. That would imply that school is drudgery and everyone is tired by now, so lets all just pull together and see this hell through. It wasn’t about learning, it was about how to help your child survive school. And in the same vein as the message that adults give kids about “we did it, so you have to do it”, the kindly lady on TV was providing the message , ”Listen up parents, we all know school is dreadful but we have to help our kids because if you want to be a good parent that’s what you should do.” Oh, and “Listen to the teacher….he/she knows best”

9 Comments on “Moms (and Dads) on a Mission – More from Halifax, Nova Scotia”

  1. northTOmom says:

    I didn’t see this program because I live in Toronto but I’ve noticed that many media pieces about homework focus on the pragmatic aspect: ie, how to help your child cope with the stress of nightly homework. Instead of questioning the value of such a stress-inducing after-school experience, the authors of such pieces continually advise parents to “set up a quiet homework corner, make yourself available,” etc. It drives me crazy! And I agree with you, PyschMom, that a program such as the one you describe seems to be speaking to our collective “homework fatigue” and the general “school fatigue” that it induces by this time of the year. I know that I’m personally in survival mode at the moment, just waiting (along with my kids) for school to be finished–and this, despite the fact that my children attend a school in the Toronto District School Board, which revised its homework policy (in the direction of less homework) almost two years ago. The new policy, while a welcome change, has not in my opinion solved the homework overload problem because it gives teachers a lot of discretion to interpret it as they see fit. So, my kids have four projects to complete in this term alone, a situation which clearly contravenes the spirit of the new policy, but there you have it. (I`m new here and glad I found this site!)

    April 26th, 2010 at 9:52 pm
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  2. FedUpMom says:

    Wow, that’s interesting to hear. I’ve been very skeptical of a lot of homework “reform” I’ve heard of, for the reason you describe. Suggested new guidelines, left up to the discretion of the teacher, are not enough.

    For that matter, even if we could wave a magic wand and get rid of all homework in elementary school, we would still not be done. Our schools need a massive overhaul, from curriculum to classroom structure to parent choice. We can dream …

    April 26th, 2010 at 10:40 pm
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  3. HomeworkBlues says:

    Up to the discretion of the teacher. So why is it that teachers write in here all the time, telling us their hands are tied?

    April 27th, 2010 at 6:32 am
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  4. PsychMom says:

    Welcome northTO mom….that’s really interesting to hear. I wonder what Frank Bruni would have to say…he was the one that started much of the change in Toronto’s homework policy, wasn’t he?

    Homework just seems to be such a sacred cow to teachers….it’s become a symbol of school. There’s a commercial up here that just started running…I can’t tell you what the product is or anything much about the commercial except that the voiceover tells a little boy “There’s something special coming to your home tonight”…and he shouts “NO Homework???!!!.”

    I’d like to ask every Middle Schooler at our school the first thing that comes to their mind when they think of school.

    April 27th, 2010 at 7:01 am
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  5. HomeworkBlues says:

    One mom wrote recently here that sure, kids hate homework but they have to do it. As FedUpDad wrote, it would be easier to get rid of Christianity.

    Homework is entrenched. Kids are supposed to hate homework, teachers are supposed to keep assigning it. Except when that model really took off, in the 1950’s, kids didn’t get much of it. Many could whip it out on the bus home. A math practice sheet, some spelling words, a book report, spelling sentences. Done and done! And then we went out to play. All afternoon, still catching fireflies at dark, our parents hollering to us to come in already and eat dinner.

    And no, I don’t count reading in that homework mix. Reading is pleasure, reading is fun, reading is all I ever wanted to do, all my child ever wanted to do. But that’s because in those ancient days of the 1960’s (I’m giving my age away), without all our newfangled “reform,” public school keeps spouting at us, school didn’t try to turn kids off to reading.

    I read with abandon and so did most of my friends. I don’t remember the soul crushing tedious tasks kids get today that seem to be doing everything to extinguish that light. Reading logs, dreary reading responses, book report covers, silly meaningless projects. The latter too could vaguely be called “fun,” I suppose, but what’s the point if all they do is kill reading time?

    April 27th, 2010 at 8:38 am
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  6. HomeworkBlues says:

    The latter TWO, not too. And while I’m listing dreary language arts tasks that probably have done more harm to kids’ reading today than anything else, also count copying definitions out of the dictionary, outlining the textbook, chapter by chapter (didn’t they already do that? Isn’t that what the Table of Contents are for?) and in our case, telling my child she was not allowed to write a whole paragraph for a spelling word since she was told to write only one sentence. In a Gifted Talented Center!

    My daughter loved the paragraphs and it captivated her attention. The teacher told her if she hadn’t done the paragraphs, she would have had time for ALL her homework. That one sentence, now that the passion got squeezed out of it, took longer than the paragraph!

    Moral to that story. Stop dictating every minute. You’d be amazed how hard kids work when they have some say in it.

    April 27th, 2010 at 8:45 am
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  7. northTOmom says:

    Teachers in the TDSB (Toronto District School Board) can no longer claim that their hands are tied. In elementary school, the new policy gives them the option of assigning virtually no homework. Even in middle school (grades 7 and 8 here in Ontario), total daily homework assigned is supposed to take “one hour or less” to complete. I don’t have kids in middle school, but I suspect many of them are spending much more time on homework than that.

    The problem is, as PsychMom says, that homework is indeed a sacred cow to some teachers and unfortunately to some parents as well. When the new homework policy came into effect at the beginning of last year, my daughters’ grade 4 teacher (I have twins in the same French immersion class) did not change one iota the volume of homework she assigned–which was a lot!–until about half way through the year when the school had a meeting about the new policy and she was gently urged to change her ways.

    But in the teachers’ defense, many of them claim that they can’t get through the overloaded “new” Ontario curriculum without assigning homework, i.e,, without offloading a portion of the teaching onto parents. So I agree with FedUpMom, homework reform isn’t enough; it needs to go hand in hand with curriculum reform (or re-reform here in Ontario).

    And now, back to composing a letter to my daughters’ teacher complaining about the 4 projects in one term…

    April 27th, 2010 at 9:10 am
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  8. northTOmom says:

    HomeworkBlues: I totally agree–reading shoud be for pleasure, not something kids are forced to do as homework. We’ve had teachers assign logs, and we’ve mostly just ignored them, refused to fill them out or hand them in, with little or no consequence. When teachers ask, I just say, my kids love to read, and given enough free time (hint), they read often, a lot, and voluntarily. No need for logs. The one thing I’ll say for the new TO policy, is it gives parents the amunitition to fight back. But many (including me at times) are too timid or intimidated by teachers’ power over their children to use it.

    April 27th, 2010 at 9:30 am
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  9. PsychMom says:

    I just had a good laugh. In the Globe and Mail today, there’s a story about the Vancouver School Board announcing that, due to budget deficits, they are cutting 10 days out of the school year next year. All the early dismissal days will be cut out, and several three day weekends will be instituted to allow “for much needed rest time” for students and their families. Oh, and the spring break will be two weeks instead of one, because of the realization that it will follow a period of intense work and the recognition that students will require a much need break.

    So only when the government is strapped for cash, does it become necessary to recognize students’ need for rest. How interesting.
    And who will bet me that if the high school kids, in particular, are given a two week ‘break”, they will be given an assignment to do over that break. I’ll bet too that there will be screams of disaster coming about how badly the kids need those 10 days in school because they are so under-educated already.

    April 27th, 2010 at 9:33 am
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