Back to School: Our Role in Our Children’s Education

Written by Lynn Reilly,

Lynn Reilly is a mother of two young children and a professional school counselor for adolescents. She shares her perspectives regularly on everyday parenting concerns, based on her professional counseling experiences. These are fused with personal parenting experiences using a blend of humor and reality on her blog, Perspective Parenting.

Image: Stuart Miles

Age 5, you’ve been waiting for your children to get here for what feels like forever, but in reality, it’s only been five years, an entire lifetime as a new parent. The first day of school: a time to let go and acknowledge that your role as primary educator is shifting, and you are now looking at job sharing – job sharing with someone who doesn’t know you or your children.

Job sharing… you wonder, “What are my responsibilities in this new shared profession, and what are the responsibilities of the other employee, who has the degree and certification that calls them an expert? How can we both work together to figure this out?”

In an effort to simplify things, look at it this way: if we choose to rely on the educational system and the teachers of our children’s school to single-handedly motivate, teach, discipline, inspire, and lift our children to new knowledge-laden heights, we will continuously be greatly, greatly disappointed. Of course, that is not to say that this WON’T be done for our children by a few select educators, but if you are holding your breath, you better have some back-up oxygen just in case.

When we chose to have these children in our lives, we took a vow. Without saying the words out loud, we promised to cherish, love, support, educate, reward, punish, juggle, sing off key to get them to laugh, not rip out all our hairs when they stop listening to us, and hold our tongue when they are making the “biggest mistake of their lives” because they have to learn on their own. It’s a lot of responsibility, without question, but the bottom line: we are teaching our children what we feel is valuable and right, which includes working hard in school, the importance of independence, how to effectively self advocate, and when to know you’ve reached your limits. These are family values and invaluable life skills, and no one else should have the role of teaching this to our children.

When our children’s teachers went to college, they too took a silent vow, to help support, challenge and question, provoke and teach direct knowledge to the students entrusted in their hands. They did not, however, promise to remind our children to do their homework, ask for help when they need it; and they did not promise to grade our children based on whether or not they are having a bad day. It is their role to educate based on the curriculum, ideally in various formats that potentially intrigue and inspire our children to want to learn more. Unfortunately, for all of us, it’s our children’s responsibility to feel the inspiration. We can teach them, through example, what inspiration looks like for us and how it gets us where we want to be, but we can’t seem to crawl in their brains and place it in there for them.

So, yes, we should look to the educational system to provide the facts, the details and the knowledge we can’t possibly remember, as well as hope they will support our children when the need arises. But when it comes to the values, the life skills, the self advocacy, it’s all us, the parents – the supreme educators in our children’s lives. This is a job with a very small paycheck but very large rewards. Why else do you think the teachers do it?

Fun Fact: This is the first article I wrote and shared with my brilliant friend and school psychologist, Sue Tobin of Parenting Owl. If you’ve ever enjoyed my perspectives, you can thank Sue for inspiring me and getting me started.


One comment

  1. Excellent piece! Well said! I thought of mine getting through school as his learning how to walk a tight rope; I wanted him taught by “masters,” but at the same time, I wanted him wearing a well-attached, very long safety belt. A certain amount of freedom forces them to think and make decisions for themselves, yet they are so vulnerable! Even when they go away to college, they are so vulnerable!

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