Fostering Independence

papers, homework photo from
papers, homework photo from

Fostering independence is crucial. Hear me out. This is mostly about homework, but it has a much wider application.

My daughters teacher called me recently to inform me that a) she has not returned an interim that was sent home the day before and b) she is now up to six 6 pieces of un-returned homework, so that means a “3” on her report card and absolutely no honor roll again this quarter.

Ok. Tell me something important.

So I’m bummed about the interim. Not that she got it, but that I didn’t see it. Otherwise, her homework, her consequences. I’m not in fifth grade. I don’t have homework I am not doing. I am not in danger of getting a *gasp* 3 and not making the honor roll.

I think the teacher hates me.

This is the third time we’ve had her as a teacher in four years. She knows how I parent by now. Not my circus, not my monkeys. OK, Maybe it isn’t as severe as all that. But seriously, I am trying to raise independent adults, not reliant adult-escents. I don’t want a ten year old who can’t make a meal, let alone a twenty year old who can’t function in the real world. Independence is what we’re aiming for, right?

That means I shouldn’t have to do more than ask once if there is homework (or whatever) and I should be able to trust the answer. If they lie, then the onus is on them to get their work done without help, because obviously no help was needed in the first place (you know, or the answer wouldn’t have been no, there isn’t any homework). I shouldn’t have to harp about really, really there is no homework? Let me see your planner. Why didn’t you write in your planner? Or the other side of that, why did you lie and tell me there was no homework when clearly you wrote homework down in your planner.

I want nothing to do with their planners. Kind of in the same way I want nothing to do with brushing their teeth, washing their hair, or tying their shoes. They are big kids, not toddlers who still need to be taught those skills. I want children comfortable in their independence, not scared to try something because someone else has always taken care of it. 

On the bright side, the teacher seems to get it. She’s around my parents ages. So I guess she technically parents “old school” too. She listened to me, kind of agreed (maybe. I think.), and explained she had to cover her own ass. That the new principal is cracking down on homework (and absences and tardiness and whatever else she is cracking down on) and I told her that if there was a problem and the principal wanted (or needed) to talk to me to just give me a call, I am right around the corner. I am more than happy to come in and explain to her that fifth grade homework is not my problem and why I feel that way. She sort of chuckled and told me she knows. 

So in the end, we established that I am not in fifth grade, that if my daughter fails, she fails on her own merit (on the contrary, if she succeeds she succeeds on her own merit too – I don’t do projects, homework, or anything else school assignment related for my kids), and that I have zero problems coming in to chat with anyone in the school. I’ve had kids in that school since 1997 (way before those kids were my kids!). Many of the teachers who are left saw me pregnant with all of my kids and have taught them as well. I have zero problems being involved, so long as being involved doesn’t mean I am doing the work. 

Homework is such a headache. There has been article after article explaining that it doesn’t reinforce anything and is often just busywork. [homework is useless] Well, we’re busy enough at home. Keep your busywork in class.

If you don’t know by now, I don’t coddle. No one ever appreciates how hard it is to foster the type of independence they need, instead of giving the type of reliance they want. Of course they are my babies who need everything done for them. Of course I am always going to love them unconditionally and want to make everything better, easier. But in the long run, making everything easier really means being a hardass now. If I am not going to remind them to do their homework in college, they need to learn how to handle it on their own much sooner than college. 

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