DEAR DR. FOURNIER: Summer has been great and I don't want to go back to school. The thought of carpooling, projects, homework and bedtime are exhausting me already. I have three children. Every time I hear someone imply that parents need to do more, I want to scream. I know I should be writing to you and asking how to prepare my children to start back. I can't. I need help because I don't want to face it.
The Assessment: Many parents become anxious at this time of year at the thought of having school invade their home again.I am ready for the backlash from the education community, but when I say "invade," I mean it.
For many families school is like an alien intruder that has the sole purpose of disrupting family life. This alien can morph itself into many forms - spelling lists, math facts, social studies tests, science study sheets, long-term projects, outside reading, and the list goes on. But this alien's purpose is not primarily to educate and enlighten: it's to invade.
The good news is that there is a way to fight off the alien invasion. The bad news is that it takes a great deal of courage.
The alien only survives in families that allow their "house rules" to be torn to shreds by school rules. The answer is actually very simple: Have the courage to say "no" to school rules that invade family life.
HOMEWORK: All assignments must be planned as soon as you arrive home. Homework must be completed and on the kitch-en counter by 6 p.m. If any homework is left to be done, there must be a justification, such as needing help to understand an item. All test preparation will be done independently first, using a tape recorder for self-review. All long-term projects must be ready two nights before they are due. If children have so much homework that it cannot be completed under family rules, then the parent will write a note to the teacher or go speak with the teacher if it becomes a common occurrence.
FAMILY TIME: The entire family will have dinner together at least three nights a week. (Be specific as possible or else these three nights may never happen.) On one "family night" each week, the family will have an activity together, such as going to the movies or out for ice cream, in order to break the monotony of school and homework. Everyone attends all family activities - no excuses from parents or children! Any extracurricular activities must be scheduled on other nights of the week or they are not acceptable.
HOME RESPONSIBILITIES: All family members must pick up and clean up their own rooms before going to school or to work. After dinner everyone helps to clean up the kitchen.
GRADES: Making good grades does not mean making all A's. Family time is more important than that. On the other hand, failing is not acceptable. To keep grades under control, every Thursday night will be review time. Children will present their grades and averages for the grading period. This assures that everyone gets the help they need to make acceptable grades so that family time is not stressed.
This is just an example, and each family should follow its own vision. It may not be easy but family life is what we make it.
Will it work? Yes.
Will your children fight you? Yes.
Is it worth it? Absolutely.