This year I am quitting school.
I am going to leave my children's education in the hands of my kids and their teachers.
Like most parents, I was lured into the learning curve almost unconsciously. I went to back-to-school nights. I attended meetings with classroom teachers. I accepted pounds of mimeographed purple prose on educational objectives.
Parents and teachers are partners, I was told. But with each semester, the teachers seemed to expect less of themselves and more of me. If my child failed to master the multiplication tables, the teacher told me to solve the problem. Explaining that I had already learned the nines table was not enough. I was given homework to do so that my child and I could recite the times tables in tandem.
We made flashcards. We invented games. We theorized. We memorized. I ranted. He raved. After a few weeks of concentrated effort neither of us knew the nines tables. I may have forgotten how to multiply, but there was one thing I did remember: why I had decided not to take courses in education. I am one terrible teacher.
Finally, I became an elementary school dropout. I flashed the flashcards right back to the teacher and reminded her which one of us had the teaching certificate and the paycheck to prove it. Sure enough, my son learned to multiply.
The next fall, a new teacher welcomed me with new homework to challenge my mind and my schedule. I could be a remedial reading coach. There were also opportunities in recreation, costume design and computers. These were all unpaid positions, but surely I would volunteer my time and talent to enrich my child's educational experience.
This year, I am going to make a clean break. No more pencils, no more books, no more guilt about the fact that as a working mother I have no time to clean erasers. Here are some of the other educational experiences I plan to abandon:
Homework. Teachers tell us to take an interest in our children's homework but never how much of an interest. I have decided to be sure homework gets done but not ensure that it is done to my standards. I've already made it through fifth grade. Now it's my kids' turn to calculate and compose essays on "My Favorite Animal."
Trips. Maybe it's true that my kids' education will be an empty shell without chaperones for class trips. But its hard to convince the boss to give me the day off to take the class to a museum that we could take them to visit any weekend.
Costumes. Betsy Ross has resigned. Surely school plays can be staged without elaborate costumes crafted by conscripted parents. Last year, one mother received four pages of instructions on the creation of a costume for a sixth grade Shakespearean production -- including details for sewing a cape, a cap and a farthingale. It took four hours just to find out what a farthingale was!
Missions Impossible. Every fourth grader in the county studies fruit flies in February. The local public library has seven books on fruit flies. How many parents are going to tear their hair out searching for a reference book for their kids' fruit fly report? Answer: All but the seven smart parents who took the fruit fly books out of the library in September because they had a kid in fourth grade last year.