The other day my six-year-old son, Jeff, came home from school a bit dejected. “What’s wrong?” I asked as he turned his backpack upside down shaking a torrent of school papers onto the kitchen table.
The teacher, he explained, wouldn’t give him his star sticker since he didn’t turn in his reading log last week. “What?” I asked. “We read Charlotte’s Web together last week. I remember seeing the paper come home with a red check mark on it.”
He nodded, his mood brightening. “I’ll remind her tomorrow,” he said. Problem resolved. Or so I thought.
The following afternoon, he walked from the schoolyard with the same look on his face. “Did you talk to the teacher?” I asked apprehensively. “Did you remind her that you had read Charlotte’s Web?”
“Yeah, I told her, but I’m not sure she heard me,” his voice crackled. “All the other kids have all their stickers, but not me.” Now I was really getting mad. You just don’t mess with my kid's stickers!
These days, schools are demanding more from parents. Our children’s learning comes with a larger chunk of shared responsibility between student and parent. My son's weekly reading logs are just one small reminder that my school days are far from over.
Although we have always read to our kids every night, now the school is mandating it. Each week, a sheet of paper—a reading log—is tucked inside my son's homework folders asking for the title and author of every book read during the week. Not only do I secretly resent being told that I have to read to my children (even though it’s been a ritual since they were six months old), but now the school is requiring proof. In other words, it’s my homework. On more than one occasion, I have sat at my kitchen desk on Monday morning, bleary-eyed and grumpy, filling out that darn log. “Hey,” I’d yell. “Did you read Arthur’s Family Vacation on Monday or Tuesday? And what was the name of the book you read last night?” Often I’d be met with silence. “I need a little help here!” That was usually enough to get every family member scrambling into the bedroom to hunt through piles of books shouting out names of titles. Now that’s togetherness.
It just wasn’t like this when I was a kid. When I went to grade school in the mid-1960s, I did my class work; I came home, and I did my homework. My parents rarely interfered in my schoolwork. If I had a question, I’d ask. If they knew the answer, they’d help. It’s not that my parents didn’t care. To the contrary, they did. They just trusted that I was doing my job, and the school was doing theirs. My folks mostly showed interest the old-fashioned way—each night before I went to bed, my mom would ask, “Did you do your homework?”
They reviewed my report card carefully and dutifully attended back-to-school night and the yearly parent-teacher conferences. My mom often volunteered to be class mother, brought in homemade cupcakes for class parties, and came on class trips with us, too. On graduation day from high school, my parents rewarded me with a party and a set of luggage.