Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Clarification and Explanation

I'm not sure if my main point was clear, regarding yesterday's blog post "Parental Misjudgment of Schoolwork".

It is good for a parent to feel happy about a child's learning and progress. However I think some parents are lavishing praise when it is not always deserved.

If the parent is ignorant of the content of the work their child is doing in school they should back away from being the judge and jury and instead turn over the judgment and authority of the teacher---and back up the teacher.

If the homeschool parent makes this error of thinking their child is better than they really are it may be due to an innocent ignorance. Overly confident homeschooling parents may never think their critique of their own child needs checking against someone else's opinion; you can't do anything about those people. Anyone who is worried their child may not be 'up to snuff' should do something about it by seeking a second opinion of some kind from an outside person, if they care about it. A number of homeschooling parents I know make comments that they worry their child may not be right on target compared to same aged school kids but they quickly follow this up by saying 'a bad day of homeschooling is still better than the best day at public school'. I am not sure I agree with that statement, but what they think and what they do with their children is none of my affair so I just let the matter drop. But I'm starting to get off track...

If the parents overly-praises an incompetent child, the child can wind up with a higher-self esteem compared to reality. They think they are better or more capable or smarter than they really are. They can often use some humble pie, as others who interact and work with them sometimes have to suffer through their arrogance and overly-inflated sense of self-worth when in their presence. For example it can be very hard for peers to be in an academic class with these arrogant students and it can be difficult to work with them as a team on a project or learning activity due to their sense of superiority. I share this with seeing the experience in action within the homeschool community at classes taught by subject matter experts, on team learning tasks and I also see it with the schooled kids at Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. It can be hard for a teacher or any other adult in a position of authority to teach these arrogant kids because some think they know more than the teacher does!

This has been discussed as a major issue with kids born after 1980 who are now entering the workplace and wreaking havoc with their entitlement attitudes and poor work ethic. It was one topic in the book "The Narcissism Epidemic" (read my book review here).

My point in discussing this is not to knock down kids or to just criticize them or their parents. My point is that if a child is producing schoolwork and is indeed in need of more help or teaching in order to CORRECT their wrong understanding of facts or needs help by way of more instruction to further DEVELOP their skills to be more at grade level or even just to keep being challenged and to keep improving on their skills, it has to come from a point of reality that the child is in need of improvement.

If the parent, especially a homeschooling parent, thinks the child is perfect just the way they are then growing and teaching can stop there, which is not good if in reality the child is in need of more skill development or if their understanding of what was written (i.e. needs help in reading comprehension) or their interpretation of facts needs correcting (i.e. not understanding the accurate historical or science topic information).

In my opinion all parents should help their children grow and develop, onward and upward. This requires first a humble attitude that children (and people of every age really) are never 'done' learning information and nearly everyone can use some skill improvement. A person should be in a constant state of refining and developing.

"The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds." -John F. Kennedy, "We Choose to Go to the Moon" speech, 9/12/1962.

The trick is to figure out what is 'good enough', when 'enough is enough learning about that topic, we've gone deep enough'. Also the goal is continual improvement over time, such as is developed after years and years of learning how to write well (writing composition not penmanship).

Another stumbling block is when a person seems to think they know it all or at least knows a lot, they can become closed minded. For some, once they think they understand something thoroughly, they won't listen to more information or opposing views as they think they're 'done' with the topic and they are already right in their viewpoint. The most sickening thing is seeing a young child act in a class with a teacher in a way that implies the student knows more and is 'above' the teacher's expertise level.

Parents who are too quick to praise as they feel that lots of praise is good for a child's self-esteem are HINDERING their children's development rather than HELPING them.

Some of these parents fight school teachers about the child's grades on homework or tests. I have read of parents calling college professors to argue over the grade received on college papers. This was a topic in the great essay "The Kindergarchy" by Joseph Epstein. Again this was discussed at length in the book "The Narcissism Epidemic" where the authors documented the student's self-assessment of their work as far superior than what it really was. The kids and parents who do this are living in a false reality, living in a fake world. This is not good for the children, teens and the young adults attending college.

I see nothing good that can come of too much praise by parents about the "accomplishments" of their own children, it's far too prideful and it serves no good purpose except to fluff themselves up maybe "oh look at the great job I did raising this child", to which I say, "Get over yourself."

It is tempting for me as a homeschooling mother to say my kids learn quickly and easily and that they "know enough". I'd love to say they were "done" learning a topic and that they need no improvement. However the reality is that my kids sometimes struggle to learn, not all learning comes easily. I hold a high standard that is not always easy to achieve. Once my kids accomplish something it is time to move on to the next thing. This feels like a constant uphill journey--but isn't that what it is supposed to feel like? Change and growth should not always come easy or quickly. It takes perseverance, diligence, and a good work ethic to keep moving forward and doing harder and harder work. And it seems to me that is right and good.

Low standards, easy goals, and complacency cannot be good for our children, especially regarding their education.

1 comment:

Susan Silver Dill said...

I agree. I have a son, who is about two years ahead in most classes. He is not a genius, although I get asked if he is quite often (since he is 14 and in a jr/sr level physics class in co-op). It's not that he's not smart a homeschooling mom, I saw where his strengths were and pushed him in those areas (Math, Science, Computers). He excelled... but then again, when he does NOT do the worked assigned by his co-op teachers and makes a poor grade (not due to his incompetence, but to his laziness) I allow that grade to carry through and be permanent. I believe they deserve what they earn, either way. But I would never "fudge" grades to make them look better.

Recently, my son had to write a paper comparing the opinion of Socialism as expressed by Upton Sinclair's main character in "The Jungle", to what Jesus says about that same topic (specifically in the area of "Rich vs Poor"). I could have let him get away with some lame, one page essay on the topic. I chose to push him, make him research the topic further, even have a meeting with our pastor, who is well-versed in this topic (and book). This further research sparked an idea, which bloomed into a three page essay and earned him an A grade (a 92, which would have been higher had he used the correct type of quotation marks...but I digress). Previously, when not pushed, he has scored much lower grades on similar assignments.

Just my thoughts. So, I agree with you!!