Some Thoughts on the Stealing of My Daughter

Today I read this article from The New York Times. I'd recommend having a kleenex handy if you read it.

It was particularly poignant because of my frustrations with all this "preparing for the future" stuff.

I understand the importance of thinking and preparing for the future and I don't for a moment envy this mother or any others who have no future to prepare for. I only wish that somehow I could harness that "live for the moment and enjoy your children right now" attitude and enjoy it in our lives.

But we can't because our children have to prepare for the future.

I try my hardest not to overschedule my kids' lives. When Elder Oaks gave his "Good, Better and Best" talk in conference, I listened and rejoiced. But I wasn't the only one who needed to hear that talk. Every school teacher needed to hear it and apply it in their classrooms, as well.

We've been really blessed with smart kids. Smarter than we are and smarter than we deserved. All of our kids (especially the older ones to whom this applies more) realize that college is expensive and that good grades will lead to money which will lead to college. So they work hard in order to have that blessing.

But that hard work isn't just accomplished in school. Much of it is accomplished at home. And that load of work that is done at home is sometimes too heavy to carry.

Too often, I think homework is given because teachers think they're SUPPOSED to give homework. Some of the homework my kids bring home seems to have little to do with actually improving skills and learning. Much of it is busy work, meant to teach kids responsibility. I'd contend that I, their mother, can teach them responsibility better than a teacher who's trying to teach a couple hundred students responsibility. I can teach them to work. I can teach them to serve. I can teach them that there's joy in resting after a job is done well. I can teach them about values and character and love. But I can only do these things if they have time in their busy schedules for us to BE TOGETHER.

Unfortunately, there's not enough time in the day for me to talk to my daughters while we fold clothes or cook dinner or go grocery shopping together. This time together is why I love summer so much and dread the start of the school year.

In order to succeed in the future (get the grades to get the scholarships) they have to be dedicated to school work. Hours and hours of it. Veronica got home at 2:30 today and with the exception of about 45 minutes, did homework until nearly 10:30. I'd understand this if it were isolated to the occasional big project, or if she were a procrastinator, but unfortunately, this evening is repeated far too often.

Please tell me how she's supposed to keep up with the homework so she can keep her good grades, have time to work a few hours every week, practice piano, read something for pleasure, have a modest social life, fulfill church obligations, shower, do her personal progress, and still find time to sleep.


I want to say, "FORGET IT. DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT. JUST DO WHAT YOU WANT FOR AWHILE AND EVERYTHING WILL WORK OUT." But if her goal is college, forgetting it won't make it work out.

I sat down with her a few weeks ago because she had so much she was trying to fit into her life. We made her a schedule so she could get through each day without being overwhelmed. It included things like scholarship research, study for the ACT, finish Personal Progress, Read Scriptures, apply to colleges, practice piano, work at Great Harvest, go to the temple, write to Grandma and her brother who's on his mission, clean her room, and several more things. And all of these were in addition to the regular homework given out every, single day in her classes.

She's a senior. I'm down to less than a year of her still being my girl and living with us. And we're being robbed of this time.

I'd like her to have time to breathe, to play, to read something besides assignments, to attend her brother's basketball game, to spend an evening gabbing and painting nails with a friend, to spend time with her family, to go to a Young Women's activity without having to worry about the homework that isn't getting done.

I either want much less homework or more hours in the day.

Life should include some living, not just homework.

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Leslie said...

you just made me depressed.

missy said...

You either live in my brain or in my house. I just pulled my 7th grader out of school because he was so overwhelmed by homework (and he's a perfectionist which added to the problem) that he had no life. He was a mess all the time! So we're doing the home school thing which means he's done by the time everyone else gets home from school and he can actually be a kid. What a concept! It's not a bed of roses (this is only our 2nd week so we're still ironing out the kinks), but he's happier and less stressed. I should note that he did fine in school - straight A's all the way through - but it was coming at too great a cost.

Good luck with your daughter. (Have you heard about BYU's High School transcript program? We're considering that for my 10th grader...) It's so hard to know what to do, but I heartily agree that there is more to life than school. I'll be reading the article you referred to. Great post!

Anonymous said...

Amen! So much truth in this posting. I miss seeing kids be kids! I often wish my children and now my grandchildren could have grown up like I did. We had school, but we also had "not school." We had our time to be kids. I loved growing up when I did and I am sad for my posterity who are missing out on life because of "too much homework."

Kristi said...

I remember being busy as a teenager, but there was still time to do fun things when the occasion came up. I agree that teachers do give too much homework. Do they take into consideration that the other teachers are assigning homework too?
Your kids are smart and apparently have good time management skills. Maybe that is what teachers are trying to teach...

missy said...

I know I already posted a comment, but I just read that article you referred to and it is devastating! So well written and quite beautiful, but sad and heart wrenching and just plain devastating. But I love her perspective, especially the part about her goal to help her son live with maximum dignity. Thank you for the recommendation!

Anonymous said...

I am an old man, and went to college when you could "put yourself through" working part-time and summers. I was awarded only one scholarship . . . which I didn't get to use because of leaving on a mission. I blame the problem you are facing on the horrendous cost of a college education. Without that, your kids could relax and settle for "B's," like I did. LDH

Torrie said...

If it makes you feel any better, in my teacher education classes, they are encouraging teachers to try to avoid homework, for the most part. So many kids now have to work to support their families or have younger siblings to care for that "the homework question" is getting more and more difficult. I've had many teachers tell me to try and avoid it as much as possible. Although I do think that much homework is indeed "busywork," I know that some of my homework assignments did teach me to manage my time, develop my skills, and prepare me for college. I hope I can find a good balance between the two extremes when I'm a teacher.

A book you might want to check out is The Homework Myth. It came highly recommended to me by one of my favorite teachers this semester.