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Parents Make the Worst Teachers

Will my child be the first kid ever to fail kindergarten?

Published on: May 28, 2020

mom and son on the computer in a dark room

“It has taken all day to do one pretty straightforward assignment and she is fighting me and calling me names and I’m just done with it,” my friend texted me. We met up for a (6-foot-apart) walk.

We continued talking about her day. There were tears from both parent and child. She’d gotten an email for the second Sunday in a row informing her that her daughter failed to complete 80 percent of the assigned classwork.

We have kindergartners.

My friend told me she asked her daughter’s teacher, “Will my child be the first kid ever to fail kindergarten?”

I live one mile and one school district over and we haven’t had the same pressure from school staff to complete work. There are no consequences if we do no work and there are no prizes or grades if we do it all. There are inconsistencies all across the board when it comes to distance learning, and schools don’t yet know how to measure student learning.

She is not meant to stare at a computer. She’s meant to touch, play, and personally interact with her world.

I had to apply for a computer from my school district so my kindergartner can complete her distance learning. Except, I don’t think we’re going to finish the lessons. My highly physical, very intelligent, poorly regulated daughter does not want to complete her kindergarten year online. She’s social and emotional. She is not meant to stare at a computer. She’s meant to touch, play and personally interact with her world.

If the ideology wasn’t hard enough, there’s the problem of teaching my own kid. We were not meant to teach our own kids. Okay, maybe some magical, homeschooling veterans were, but my particular parent-child dynamic does not work that way. In talking with my friends with kids, I do not seem to be alone in feeling this way. Kids used to traditional schools do not want their parents to be their teachers.

Plus, I’m already asking her to do so much. I ask her to eat healthy foods. I make her submit to teeth-brushing and bathing. I ask her to pick up her things and put away her laundry. I’m still asking her to do these things. More, even, now that we’re home 24/7 for infinity. To ask her to do math work on top of all that is maybe beyond her kindergarten executive functioning capabilities ... it is certainly beyond mine at this volatile time.

I really think I could do it, though, if it weren’t for one factor: It’s not my job. I was laid off along with 3.3 million others. It’s my 3-year-old. I have a friend with kids the exact same ages and I asked her what her daily schedule was. She said they start on school work around 9 a.m., take lots of breaks, and are done around 4 p.m. “Wow!” I said, “but what do you do with the 3-year-old?” “She follows along, mostly, or goes and plays on her own.”

My 3-year-old cannot follow along with my kindergartner. When she and I read chapter books, it’s my happiest time of the day. I’ve read her the first three Harry Potter books, the first of the Narnia series and others. But, if my 3-year-old is around, he actively tries to sabotage us if he doesn’t understand the book. He’s a good reader and loves picture books, but, when bored or in over his head, he becomes a destroyer of worlds.

The same goes for his sister’s lessons. He will sit and watch if the teacher does a read-aloud, but if it’s time to do some math or writing, he goes off on his own. I need to stay close when my daughter is doing her learning because the platform, Seesaw, is easy enough to use but she often accidentally clicks out of things or needs help remembering the instructions. More than once, it’s been a little too quiet in the other room. When I find him, my 3-year-old has been causing chaos. He took a jar and threw it on the patio, shattering glass everywhere. He found the bubbles and poured them all out. He took grapefruit knives and ripped up a sticker book. He’s bored. Preschool was all about play with peers. He’s nowhere near ready for kinder.

What’s a mother-turned-teacher to do? Survive.

Maybe it’s because he’s a boy, maybe it’s his personality, but, either way, it’s what I have to work with. I have friends struggling to do the same while massively pregnant, with infants demanding feeding and attention, and other mitigating parenting issues. My house is not a peaceful, ordered classroom. It is a busy, messy whirlwind even when I spend all my free time trying to stay on top of chores.

So, what’s a mother-turned-teacher to do? Survive. We go outside whenever it’s even remotely good enough weather. I used the money refunded to me from my daughter’s canceled birthday party and summer camp and bought a few outdoor toys, activity books and board games. I have to tell myself to let go of competitiveness to “succeed” at distance learning. I have to follow the flow of my kids.

Should parents be held accountable for our kids’ academic success? No. I have a ton of privilege on my side: I’m not working, we have some expendable income for new activities due to my husband’s work, and I live in a house with a yard. Still, I’m failing to meet Common Core standards with my 6-year-old and don’t have the foggiest notion of how to intellectually engage the 3-year-old.

Did I mention I have a Masters of Arts in Teaching? This is, theoretically, my area of expertise and I cannot do it. How are moms and dads who are working full-time, living in apartments, parenting with infants or kids with significant learning challenges, experiencing financial hardship or any other factors I haven’t mentioned supposed to make sure their kids do 80 percent of the arbitrary amount of assignments on Seesaw? Impossible.

My kid is going to fall behind, you say. Yes. True. Yours and every other kid as well. When we blissfully, triumphantly return our kids to the classroom with their highly skilled teachers, whenever that is (which I doubt will be before the fall), teachers will not fault us if our kids’ handwriting or multiplication tables aren’t “where they should be.” If they do, I say, feel free to ignore them. Let go of your own expectations for kids this year. You are not meant to be your kid’s teacher.

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