From My Mailbox: Letter from a frustrated parent

I live in Rhode Island and have a 13 year old 8th grade girl. I wanted to share with you the attached newsletter that the Superintendent of our schools just sent this evening. All about how to be an active parent in your child’s school life, i.e., homework, etc. I personally resent being told how to stay involved in my child’s school life. I can’t be much more involved when I sit night after night with 3 hours of homework and what takes the cake and I’m getting quite fed up with is the homework on the weekends. I can’t tell how little “family” time we have left. I’m sitting here quite angry.

The reason I’m quoting this letter, one of just dozens I receive like it every day, is because the newsletter from the Superintendent is really worth reading–not because any of the information is substantiated or based in research, but because it isn’t. I’m guessing that most parents, after reading the newsletter, would think that homework is essential and has a lot of value and would feel intimidated in challenging any policy.

Dear Parents and Guardians
of Portsmouth Students,

This newsletter, the first for this year, is targeted
around one of the Portsmouth School Departmenti?s
four guiding principles n? that we will work to involve
parents and the community in all of our efforts. The
other three guiding principles around which we
organize our work are:

1) The quality of teaching and learning in the class-
room is the most important factor in student
achievement and must be supported and pre-
2) All students have the right to full access to the
general curriculum and that curriculum must be
of high quality; and
3) The school system is committed to the effective
and efficient use of resources n? money, time
and staff.

Student success depends upon a strong school-
family partnership. I know as both an educator and
as a parent myself that you, as well as the educators
in our schools are keys to your children becoming all
that they can be. We cani?t do it without you!

I hope that you find this newsletter helpful. I will be
sharing others with you as the year progresses.



As your kids work on their homework assign-
ments, keep in mind that as parents,
grandparents or guardians you have home-
work too. While your homework might not
involve textbooks, notebooks and a variety of other sta-
tionery supplies, your assignment is equally if not more
important than the ones given to your child.
Your homework is all about setting the tone at
home to ensure that your child gets the message that
school is his or her number one priority. Youi?re also
responsible for creating high expectations, being sup-
portive, nurturing a healthy environment, establishing
priorities, getting involved, maintaining and often initiat-
ing communication between you and your child, talking
with your childi?s teacher, and enforcing consistent rules
regarding homework, school attendance, bedtime, dress
codes and extracurricular activities.
Educational studies have shown that students who
have involved parents, no matter what their income or
background, are more likely to:
• Earn higher grades and test scores, and enroll
in higher-level programs
• Be promoted, pass their classes and earn
• Attend school regularly
• Have better social skills, show improved be-
havior and adapt well to school
• Graduate and go on to post-secondary educa-
By working together as partners, families and
Portsmouth Public Schools can ensure that students
have the tools they need to be successful.
Whether your child is just starting kindergarten or
is well into the high school years, your involvement
and staying i?plugged ini? to your childi?s daily life is key.
It may be more difficult to find the right balance of in-
volvement as your child gets older and stresses the
need for more independence. However, you should
remain vigilant.
Despite what your adolescent child might say, he
or she really does want you to be involved. As children
get older, parents tend to think they doni?t need to be as
involved in their education, but actually, the opposite is
true o? kids crave more support in middle school and
high school, experts say.
For more information on how you can stay in-
formed and involved with your childi?s education at the
elementary, middle and high school levels, please
check the Portsmouth Public Schools website at http://
In the meantime, the best thing you can do for
your child is just spend time with them, read with them,
do activities together, ask questions about what they
do in school that require more than a one word answer,
and just be there for them.
So leti?s take a look at your homework checklist.
Chances are youi?re already an expert on many of
these assignments.

SET THE TONE: Your children look to you for clues on
how they should feel about school. If you have a posi-
tive attitude toward school, chances are your child will
also have a positive attitude. If you have concerns or
problems regarding the school or teacher, be careful in
the way you verbalize those concerns. Children are
very quick to pick up on negative attitudes.

know that their education is vital to their future success
and that you expect them to do their best work at
school. While some students may score high grades
and other students will achieve lower grades, the effort
behind those grades is what really matters. If your child
goes to school with the attitude that she will give it her
best shot or he will give it his all, youi?ve created the
right expectations.

BE SUPPORTIVE: You are usually the first person
your children will turn to when they need help with a
school assignment. So if they need extra help with a
particular assignment, provide them with guidance,
take them to the library if they need additional informa-
tion, and be a resource. One website that is particularly
helpful is Or check the links on
the Portsmouth Schools website for additional re-
sources. If you find your child might need tutoring help
that you cani?t provide, please contact the teacher.

nutrition part of your daily life. Provide healthy snacks
like yogurt, cereal, fresh fruit and veggies. And remind
your kids that eating breakfast is the fuel that makes
their body work. Likewise daily exercise is crucial for
your childi?s well being. Exercise sharpens brain power
and helps kids feel more energetic.

ESTABLISH PRIORITES: With so many activities
available to kids these days, iti?s probably hard for your
son or daughter to choose between sports, art lessons,
scout meetings, and many other events. Let your chil-
dren know that school comes first, then set a reason-
able limit based on your childreni?s personality and
needs on how many additional extra curricular activi-
ties they can accommodate in their schedule without
shortchanging schoolwork, family time and sleep.

GET INVOLVED: Nothing means more to a child than
looking out into the audience at a school play, athletic
event, concert, or any other performance-related event
and seeing his or her family in the audience. Whether
iti?s an open house at school, an art show, a parent-
Continued on page 4

Families have homework too!
• The School Savvy Parent (365 Tips to Help You Help Your
child) by Rosemarie Clark, M.Ed., Donna Hawkins, M. Ed.,
and Beth Vachon, M. Ed.
• Parents have homework too by Sybil Humphries
• Parents Should Take Part in Childreni?s Education by Amelia
Williamson, Bryan College Station Communications, Inc.
teacher conference, or any number of other activities,
the more you get involved and the more you know
about whati?s going on at your childi?s school, the more
i?plugged ini? youi?ll be to your childi?s life. If you have
time to volunteer, please check with your childi?s school
on what opportunities it has available. You can also
keep learning alive during the summer months through
routine activities like cooking and reading, through spe-
cial family outings such as camping trips or a stroll
along the beach, or through doing fun academic activi-

TALK TO YOUR CHILD: Each child is different. Some
want to share each and every detail of their school day
as soon as they hop off the bus. Others might feel
more comfortable talking about whati?s going on in their
life while youi?re driving them to a friendi?s house, doc-
tori?s appointment, or cleaning up the kitchen after din-
ner. It doesni?t matter what format works for your family,
the key is to keep the lines of communication open
between you and your child.

best way to communicate with your childi?s teacher.
Check your childi?s folder/planner/agenda daily. This is
the teacheri?s best method of communicating with you.
Should problems arise, always go to the teacher before
going to the principal. You and your childi?s teacher are
part of a team working together to help your child suc-
ceed. Attend parent-teacher conferences and go to
these with a prepared list of questions about how you
can best help your child. If you feel you need more
frequent meetings with your childi?s teacher, please let
the teacher know and he/she will be glad to set up ad-
ditional conferences.

to be consistent with the ground rules regarding gen-
eral behavior in your household, you also need to set
and enforce consistent rules regarding school and
school activities.
• Homework n? Set a time in your household when
homework will be done. Get in the habit of asking
every day i?do you have homework?i? as well as
checking the homework to make sure it gets done.
Some households set up ground rules such as i?no
TV until all homework is done.i? Also, keep in mind
that the homework is for the students. As tempting
as it may be to i?fixi? the homework, parents should
let the students do their own homework and learn
from their mistakes. If you and your child are con-
fused about the assignment, help your child list out
the questions to ask the teacher the next day.
• School Attendance n? Attending school is just as
important to kids as showing up for work is for
adults. In fact, getting kids in the habit of being
punctual, attending classes, and following the
school guidelines will do much to give them a
head start in life.
• Bedtime n? Growing kids need a lot of sleep. And
unfortunately with all the activities that we pack
into one day, sometimes sleep is the first thing that
gets shortchanged. Teens are especially likely to
cut back on sleep. Five year olds should be getting
10 to 12 hours of sleep per night. Kids ages 6 to 9
require about 10 hours of sleep, those ages 10 to
12 require nine hours of sleep, and teens need 8
to 9.5 hours of sleep. Most pediatricians and sleep
experts recommend that you establish a bedtime
routine and stick to it even during vacation and
weekend time periods.
• Dress Codes n? Your child may claim that all her
friends are wearing the latest fashions to school,
but keep in mind that the school does have a
dress code that is strictly adhered to. So the next
time youi?re in doubt about a certain outfit your son
or daughter might want to wear to school, check
the school guidelines located on the website at
• Extracurricular Activities n? For some kids the
thrill of getting involved in all kinds of after-school
activities can be lots of fun. Just be sure that these
activities or a job doni?t cut into the time needed to
devote to schoolwork.

5 thoughts on “From My Mailbox: Letter from a frustrated parent

  1. You know, one of the things that really gets me about these administrators’ sermons is the assumption that school should be the most important thing in a child’s life, at the expense of all other activities. We forget that many people just don’t fit the “school” mold, and that it is the “nonschool” things, such as dance lessons, art, church, or family dinners, that will make them successful adults.


  2. I am frustrated with the excessive amounts of homework my 10 and 11 year old children bring home.
    What are the school systems doing to our young children?
    First, let me say, I understand that states have regulations that schools have to follow, therefore, the blame rests on the State agencies and not the individual schools.
    Still, children need to be children, they need to play and move.
    Instead, they sit all day in classrooms and then have to sit again at home.
    Is it any wonder why we have so many over weight kids in the US.
    Here is my 11 year olds average day:
    Her alarm goes off at 5:30 AM, she catches the bus at 6:35 AM (mind you it is still dark outside) she gets home from school around 3:30 PM. I allow both of my children a half hour to break. By 4:00 PM, she starts her homework, which lasts 2 – 3.5 hours with dinner included. Now it is around 7:30 PM and getting dark outside. When is she to go outside, unwind, and be the 11 year old that she is?
    Now though in a trip to the store with mom or TV program and a shower and the day is over.
    Now for my 10 year old, he does the same but doesn’t get home until an hour later at 4:30PM
    Both of my children are a little over weight and all this sitting is not helping.
    Furthermore, it’s not fair for the parents like myself, who are single mothers working a full time job, but still must spend my time helping with so much homework, and still do the yard work, cooking and cleaning. Parents need a life too!
    Education is great but needs to be balanced.
    Someone please stop the insanity!


  3. Given the relevance of the curriculum in relationship to what is needed by today’s (and tomorrow’s) citizens, I would say that school may be one of the LEAST important things in a student’s life. How will the industrial school system, with its standardized testing, etc., help students grapple with complex issues such as global warming, failed states, corporatism, or pandemics?


  4. I am a very frustrated Mom of a nine year old boy. My son comes home, and most days can not even play for half an hour. He has to get right on his homework, it is usually around 2 1/2 hours to 3 hours to complete. By the time homework is done, he has to eat, shower, brush his teeth, and then do his reading. When he wakes up in the morning he has to start all over again. Please tell me when my child is supposed to be a child. So get this, my son was removed from his classroom and put in another classroom for not concentrating on his work. I couldn’t believe it when the Teacher told me that she was playing a movie in the class for the gr. 5’s and expected the gr.4’s to concentrate on their math and ignore the movie. I am 32 and there is no way for me to concentrate on anything with the T.V. on. My son was embarrassed and completely centered out. The teacher thinks that if the kids could get more work done in the classroom, they wouldn’t have as much to do at home. Isn’t it asking a little too much to play a movie, and expect nine year olds to ignore it????? PLEASE, SOMEONE STOP THE HOMEWORK AND LET OUR KIDS BE KIDS. THEY ARE GOING TO HAVE A LIFE TIME OF WORKING HARD, WHY ARE THEY PUSHING OUR CHILDREN MORE AND MORE AND MORE?????


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