Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013: The original version of this column failed to attribute a passage about Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant to a June 4, 2013, report by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post. It has been edited to correct this error. A version of this column appeared in the June 20, 2013, print edition of the Deseret News on page C3 under the headline "Who is in charge of kids' education? You!"
As another school year ends, some parents are happy to have their kids out, other parents wonder what they will do with their kids now that they are out, and still others wonder what they can do to make next year a better educational year than this year has been.
It is common, even popular, to gripe and grouse about how terrible our educational system is and how lackluster many of our schools and teachers are; and when we do have a child lucky enough to get an exceptional teacher, we are so thrilled at how lucky we are.
But research continues to show that the single most important variable in a child’s education is the level of involvement of parents. It is proved time and again that when parents really take ownership in their kids’ education, and when they are willing to spend the time not only to help with homework but to monitor and motivate their student in every way they can, good results happen.
Of course, the problem is that, particularly when both parents work full-time, doing all this for a child seems nearly impossible.
According to a recent report by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) recently got in a lot of political hot water by saying that "America's educational troubles began when women began working outside the home in large numbers."
Strauss reported that Bryant was participating in an event "focused on the importance of ensuring that children read well by the end of third grade." Bryant responded to a question about the mediocrity of America's educational outcomes. Bryant said:
"I think both parents started working. And the mom is in the workplace."
It may not have been a very smart political statement, but guess what? He was right!
With both parents working, who is going to spend the time to help with homework consistently, to be up to speed on every subject and on how a child is doing and what he is struggling with in each class? This is time- and effort-consuming stuff.
There is no question that in today’s world and today’s economy, both parents sometimes have to work to make ends meet, but there are also many, many families where both parents working full time is based more on ego or on luxury or on societal norms and status than on necessity.
If you have a choice — even if that choice involves choosing between living a more modest or more extravagant life — one of the factors that ought to be weighed is how important your kids’ education is to you.
We often do not frame the choice in terms that specific. We just say, “Well, we’ve just got to make a choice between whether both of us will work and we will have the things we want or whether one of us will stay home and we will have fewer material things but give more parental time to our kids.”
That is the basic choice for many parents, but the educational thing should be factored in, too. So the choice should be framed a little more like this: “Do we choose more material things (by both working) or do we choose more attentiveness to kids' needs and the quality of kids' education (by one of us staying home during critical years)?
Of course, just having one parent at home more won’t do it. There has to be the commitment to education and the determination to really get involved.
But it’s at least worth thinking about — the possibility that getting wealthy enough to pay your child’s way to Harvard may not be as important as helping her to get a good enough education to go to Harvard.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."