I worked on a college campus for over 10 years before I started to stay home in admissions or financial aid. We saw all types of students and all types of parents. The student/parent combo that I understood the best was the one that most closely related to my experience. My parents were supportive but had no clue. I usually sent an email directly to their accountant asking for a copy of their tax returns so that I could complete the FAFSA for myself and I always applied for a pin for them so that I could sign it electronically for them. There were countless times that I asked why I had to use their information when it felt as though I was doing everything on my own. If something needed to be signed I either handed it to them with a pen or I forged their signature and they never minded they just wanted to help however they could.
High school wasn't much different. I brought home my grade reports and since I was a decent student my parents rarely had much to say other than "good job".
My husband's parents were similar yet more involved. Bret's mom filled out the FAFSA and understood the process better. I still remember my surprise when I found out that she had his log in information and could check his grades in college. For Bret it was just easier that way and again he was a good student that rarely needed help or concern for anything with regards to school.
Of course there are many shades of grey when it comes to parenting styles and level of involvement. On the complete opposite side of my parents are what we in admissions used to call helicopter parents. They hovered over the kids and sometimes it was confusing as to which person was the student. They would get the mail and emails sent directly to them and would quickly call with questions. Not only with regards to the financial/admission side of things but with academics as well. Parents would email and call professors about grades, missing assignments, extra credit opportunities, etc. Students would forward information to their parents and let them handle things for them. I always wondered at what point the kids finally got to be the adult in the scenario since it obviously wasn't college.
So fast forward a few years and I now have an 11 year old struggling in 5th grade. These days her grades and assignments are all electronic so I log in to see how she is scoring and what assignments she might be missing.
I always envisioned this with her coming home from school and asking if she had homework. Of course she would work on it right away if she did and then if she had any trouble she would ask for help and we would help. We would also always be willing to check over math homework, etc.
Here is how it really goes:
Mom: Em do you have homework?
Em: Yes, just math
Mom looks at agenda and sees two other assignments written down...Emily what about these two assignments?
Em: Oh, yeah we did that one in class but I forgot I need to do that science page.
Mom: Did you bring your science book home? (Thinking I have no idea how to figure out how many protons and neutrons each element has from looking at a periodic table anymore)
Em: No, the teacher didn't want us to bring the science book home.
Mom: Did they go over this in class?
Em: I'm not sure but I finished my math homework.
Enter dad...thank goodness.
Dad checks over math homework, makes Emily redo at least a couple problems that were wrong which includes reteaching that section to make sure she actually understands it. Also gets frustrated that her mental math skills kind of suck. Then he helps her with science homework and I am again relieved that he is super smart and never forgets anything so he knows how to teach her how to figure out the protons/electrons/neutrons, etc.
Then set the timer for Emily to read her book and she is done for the night. Next morning mom sits and drinks a cup of coffee and decides to log into the online grade information for Em and finds out that science score is very very low. Opens to find that two science assignments are listed as missing. When mom gets Em up for school and asks about it she has no idea. Mom goes through backpack and finds that missing assignment was the first page of the worksheets worked on night before that must not have been completed. So have Em sit and work on assignment while eating breakfast and make dad late because he has to help. Mom writes note in agenda stating Em has no idea what second missing assignment is.
Here is the thing. I feel like 5th grade is different from college but am I creating a kid that needs her mom to constantly stay on top of things with her? Am I creating habits and concern within her so that she understands how important these things are and teaching her how to stay on top of it all for herself? Why does they prospect of bad grades (we are talking C's, D's, and even F's here) scare the heck out of us? Should we let her fail?
The feedback I get from teachers is frustrating. I email concerns and I get "Emily is a good student who works very hard. She seems to pay attention and spend her time in class working. I am surprised to she that she is doing poorly in some of her subjects. I will meet with her to talk about where she is in each subject and what we need to do from here."
Emily is a good student who is failing at least one subject and doing poorly in several others. What it feels like she is trying to say is Emily is well behaved and doesn't get into trouble. She fly's under the radar and then when the teacher realizes she is not doing well in school it is too close to the quarter and no time to raise the grades.
Em does work so hard and she really does want to do well (partly because she is a people pleaser). I have hired tutors in the past that have told me that Emily understands the material. So then I worry she is just not focusing or getting distracted? Ugh.
So we continue forward. We work hard at home to stay on top of everything and keep trying to instill in Emily how important school is and that she has to stay focused. I pray that I am lifting her up, encouraging her and most importantly that we love her.