How to advocate for the education of the modern child: It’s personal

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Return to Table of Contents: 2014 Spring/Summer Edition of Banana Moments Family Business Quarterly

Photo by: Miroslav Vajdic via Flickr

Photo by: Miroslav Vajdic via Flickr

When my sons were in grade school, they each in their own way declared that their academic education was the teacher’s job, not mine. And just as my children were arguing for a sacred division of labor between parents and teachers, I explained with divine confidence that there could be no doubt that their education was ultimately the parents’ responsibility. I cannot say that I understood their logic for declaring their education none of my business, but I do know that it was important for me to form a united front with the teacher, so that my sons would not feel like they were serving two masters. And while I did my best to not assert my personal opinions about their academic performance, the expectation of the children in our home as students was simple: behave and do your personal best.  My children knew that if they failed a class, they better still be getting an “A” in citizenship. And for me this was a no-brainer because if they knew how to behave in the classroom, they would capable of learning something if they so choose.

Over the past decade, I have observed our system of academic education to be a somewhat emotional area for parenthood as the anecdotal evidence suggests that a college degree is not a panacea what with all the debt financing and a lackluster job market.  In a recent New York Times article about whether college was worth it, it is interesting to me that the case was made that in the long run, earning a college degree, despite the cost, is worth it. One of the conclusions this journalist asserts is that college has become what was once the value of a high school degree.  I perceive this to be true. I wonder what high school lessons consisted of 100 years ago and if we might find it resembling more college level learning.

And by the same token, the benefits from the pursuit of education in any venue is such a personal matter because in order to be truly fruitful, enrolling in an educational institution still requires the individual to apply herself in some meaningful way.  The most important thing a child can learn is how to seek and realize their personal mission in life; to embrace a strong sense of purpose to guide them.  In this context, some children are college bound and others are not. So how will you receive your child if she decides not to pursue a traditional college education? Is a college degree the only path for her success in life? In this regard, child rearing expert, Madeline Levine cautions us in her book, Teach the Children Well, to be careful about levying a very narrow definition of success for our children because it causes emotional trauma and harm; it is indeed a boundary violation even though we may choose call it love language.

And yet is seems we have as a society surrendered this sacred responsibility of education to a system which can have a dehumanizing impact on student-teacher relationships that disturb the peace, now amplified by cyber-connectivity.  (See related: Responding to youth issues). For many students, the education experience can become a treadmill robbing them of a quality of life that makes the learning experience more like slavery, or as activist mom Viki Abele calls it, “A race to nowhere.”  Abele’s thesis that our current system of education is not setting youth up for lifelong success and is creating serious health issues, comes from personal experience with her own children and a teen suicide in her community.  This tag, “A race to nowhere”, became a documentary aimed to inspire a cultural revolution to make the education system more responsive and nurturing to students as creative human beings. (See video above.) Her message strikes at the heart of the federally mandated academic policies of the K -12 education system driven by a premise that more busy work in the classroom and at home and standardized testing are the primary outcomes of the education process.

 See related: The race to nowhere and the global network culture

 See related: How parents help students tame academic anxiety

Whatever your point of view about the politics of education, this is the current reality our children must navigate in the present system. So if your child is not thriving, then it is important that they have an advocate so they can find their own footing and experience the power of choosing to learn something despite whatever adversity they encounter from within (such as learning disabilities) or from the current environment at home and at school.

How to advocate for your child’s education

As your child’s education advocate the interests of your child are always at the forefront – to help them learn to take responsibility for their own education and express their own voice in the process.

Bonnie Terry, best-selling author of Family Strategies for ADHD Kids, Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills, and Ten Minutes to Better Study Skills and one of the co-authors of Amazing Grades is with us today. For more, go to: BonnieTerryLearning.

Bonnie Terry, best-selling author of Family Strategies for ADHD Kids, Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills, and Ten Minutes to Better Study Skills and one of the co-authors of Amazing Grades is with us today. For more, go to: BonnieTerryLearning.

Advocate for the emerging executive. The first thing is to expect that your child can assume responsibility for his part to learn because it is after all an inside job. Self-discipline is the core skill for life-long learning and discipline is first learned at home in order to be successful in the classroom. But that brings me back to this perceived division of labor my children expressed about oversight of education  belonging to the teachers, not the parents. The teachers I have interviewed over the years have expressed the stress they experience when parents expect the teachers to have all of the responsibility for the learning and academic performance of the students. It is a no win situation. This is a form of abdication, which I believe has contributed to the controversial nature of our education system today. In my mind, the student is the emerging executive, someone who is expected to think for himself so he can choose to learn, and the parent and teacher form a united front to support that student by governing the home and the classroom accordingly.

Expect your child to learn how to advocate. Secondly, our children need to understand that it is possible to engage people to help address a personal problem. This requires assuming good intent when asking for help, rather than being prideful and defensive about academic performance issues.

Bonnie Terry is a learning expert in Granite Bay. She teaches parents how to help their children overcome learning challenges such as ADD/ADHD, and her advice about advocating for your child’s needs in the classroom is simple: show the child how. “Let your child be present when you bring to the teacher’s attention an unmet need on behalf of your child,” she said. “And then the child can understand that there is no humiliation or shame involved. You simply state your concern and ask for help.”  According to Terry, your child will over time become confident, with your encouragement to advocate for themselves. This is the ultimate objective. For when our children have confidence to assess their situation when they are not succeeding, and seek help when they are experiencing a problem understanding something, this is a life-long learning skill; this is the ability to be humble and collaborate.  This is exercising personal power in a constructive way.

See related reading: Succeeding in life overcoming distraction and learning challenges

For tips about advocating for your child when confronted with a bully situation, go to this tips sheet: Confronting the bully at home and at school.

Proceed to next article: Preparing for internet porn and sexting in the social network

Return to Table of Contents: 2014 Spring/Summer Edition of Banana Moments Family Business Quarterly

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Joanna Jullien (Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien
(Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.

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