Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Parental Approach to Their Children's Education: Please Weigh In!

I've been doing a lot of thinking since my post about Addie's adjustments to her Biology class. It occurs to me that I have another bright little girl just beginning her school career (she is reading in kindergarten).

Addie was raised with school being a very high priority. Her father and I are both teachers, and the value of education was never a matter for debate. Until she reached high school, I checked her homework every night. I'm so lame I even signed off on her agenda book, just to make sure she was writing in it. She knows that only As and Bs are acceptable grades, and she has a transcript that would make any parent proud (and even more importantly, she is a kind, loving, amazing, beautiful human being).

I was raised very differently. My parents and step-parents are all college-educated professionals (Dad is a lawyer, Mom is a nurse practitioner); obviously, they were people aware of the value of education. However, they gave Adam, Mary, and I little to no motivation to do well in school. They were examples, yes, and they'd help if we asked (we never did), but basically we were on our own in terms of what we did with the educational opportunities we'd been given. Mary responded to a recent post by reminiscing about doing homework for one class in the class before it was due. Adam's brilliance is certainly not evident on his high school records. And me? Well, summer school for math was the least of it. That being said, though, the three of us all figured it out for ourselves at some point. We all have cum laude Bachelor's Degrees, I have a Master's Degree, and Mary wins the prize with her Ph.D. Obviously, my parents did something right there.

What's interesting to me is that I adopted a very different mindset with Addie than what my own experience had been. This was in large part because I used to wish that my parents cared enough to read through my papers, to discuss the historical repercussions of a given event, or at the very least to make sure I didn't make any addition mistakes in Algebra II. I wanted Addie to know that I cared.

I learned through a recent discussion with my mother that their approach to our education had nothing to do with not caring and everything to do with wanting to be different from their overbearing parents that checked every aspect of their schoolwork. My parents wanted to give their children the freedom to learn for the sake of learning in their own way, at their own pace.

Is one way better than the other? Is it even possible to combine both of these mindsets? What was your experience with your parents and your education?

Belle's future as a student may well depend on your responses ;) I am aware, however, that she is extremely different than Addie, that Addie has the whole "Oldest Child Perfectionist Parent-Pleaser" mentality while Belle is ... well, probably going to have pink hair and a nose ring before she is twelve.