Schools are not your daycare and teachers are not your babysitters

Every time I would complain about public schools to a friend of mine who is a public school teacher, he would respond with “You don’t understand how awful most parents are. You are obsessed with your child’s education, but many other parents are not even remotely interested in what happens to their kids. Public school curriculum gets dumber and dumber because parents are getting less and less interested in their kids’ lives. You don’t how hard it is to teach kids to read when their own parents don’t give a shit about whether they learn to read, such that they won’t take even 30 minutes to read to them at home. I’d tell parents their kids are failing the grade, and they’d tell me to take it up with their child because it’s not their problem.”

He’d also respond with this tirade whenever anyone brought up the issue of school violence and bullying. There are a lot of parents who want teachers and school administrators to be wholly responsible for disciplining their child.

What was always surprising to me about these exchanges is that he was not at the stereotypical “forgotten” school. He was not Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds trying to teach British literature to inner-city gangbangers that just wanted to fuck and kill and were going to graduate to prison. He was in a middle class suburb with college-educated parents who could afford all the Baby Einstein they wanted. You ever wonder how celebrities who could afford to send their kids to the best schools end up having to bribe colleges to admit their functionally illiterate children?

Caring about education is not a function of money and class now, assuming it ever was. It’s kind of remarkable how many social problems all come down to the destruction of family life.

After a couple weeks of coronavirus school closures, I totally understand what he was saying. Many parents truly regard their kids’ schools as taxpayer-funded daycare.

Ever since I nixed all my social media accounts, I have a friend here who likes to send me screenshots of all the stupid stuff she sees on social media. It’s kind of nice seeing what’s going around without having to sort through it myself (something my mental health will not permit). Because she’s a homeschooler, the theme from the past couple weeks of her screenshots are parents who are complaining about having to do homework with their children since schools are closed. The memes and comments started off with crazy kid antics, but they’ve become increasingly dark. One said “Day 10 of homeschooling, human biology: testing whether chloroform is really odorless,” and it had a picture of a mother holding a washcloth over her kid’s face. I’m sorry, that’s just sick.

I’m not sure what humor parents take in the fact that they have raised complete hellions that they don’t even like to be around. “Please let this pandemic be over so I can dump my hellspawn off on someone else” doesn’t seem like the kind of sentiment a normal, well-adjusted person would want to share with the world. I would like to think that most parents are not complaining about having more time to spend as a family. That most people think the hours spent with their children are precious because they only get one childhood.

We have a neighbor down the street who works from home on a normal day and sends her child to a private elementary school here. That school has aligned its decisions with the public school system explicitly to avoid liability. They do not want to hold classes when the state is not and then have to deal with lawsuits if kids get sick.

She has sent us two messages so far asking us if we would babysit her child for several hours (during the middle of the work day) so she could be in meetings. No kidding. The notion of fixing your kid a snack and starting a movie for them in another room is too hard? Or handing your child a book to read and telling them that you are going to be on an important phone call, so please be quiet?

I kind of get it now, though. On normal school days, she’s at home but leaves her kid at the school in after-school programs until 5 pm. That only leaves a couple hours in the evening to have to deal with the kid, which is mostly a meal and a bath. During spring and summer breaks, the kid attends a litany of camps – in perfect succession, so the kid never actually gets a break from being managed by adults. There’s no careless summer vacation for that child of racing bikes and building forts. When she’s awake, she waits for someone to tell her what to do and where to be.

This pandemic is quite literally the mother’s first experience of being responsible for her own child for large stretches of time and she’s desperate to find anyone to fill the childcare void that her child’s school served. She’ll even ask neighbors to take a break from earning a living themselves to supervise her child. It doesn’t even occur to her that this might seem insane.

When this pandemic first started, I was skeptical that parents like this existed, but now I understand they do. They are willing to outsource parenthood to any random Joe in their environment. In fact, she thinks that because we have come up with an effective way to homeschool and run our own business simultaneously, throwing her own child into our mix is an elegant solution. Nope.

These are not minor cultural failings. Having parents make it 18 years without assuming any role in their child’s education (and, yes, a child should be getting an education before kindergarten) is a big deal. Having children who need to be professionally managed every moment of the day is a big deal. Even young children should be capable of entertaining themselves and participating in independent activities. And these are really two sides of the same coin. The kids aren’t developing their minds, so they cannot function independently. If your child cannot occupy themselves for a couple hours without misbehaving to get attention, you have a big problem on your hands. And it’s not the kid’s fault. It’s yours. You have neglected a major component of their personal development.

Being a terrible parent is not cute or funny, and you don’t get a mulligan on the responsibilities of raising a child. Being a good parent is also not some impossible task that must be outsourced so you can earn a living. If you can make time to watch seven hours of a gay polygamist meth-head zookeeper on Netflix, you can help your kid with their homework without a bunch of manufactured, self-indulgent drama and martyrdom. And this isn’t just about when your kids are out of school and you’ve lost your taxpayer-funded babysitter.

19 thoughts on “Schools are not your daycare and teachers are not your babysitters

  1. I agree with your entire post! I think women in particular have just become extremely lazy and discontent with motherhood (and this even extends largely to the roles a wife plays for her husband, too, they resent them and are lazy about it all).

    It’s scary that you really can’t say this quote below now-days, because people really will get irate!

    “Being a terrible parent is not cute or funny, and you don’t get a mulligan on the responsibilities of raising a child. Being a good parent is also not some impossible task that must be outsourced so you can earn a living.”

    You’ll get shamed and ostracized – even subtly calling it out, which I’ve tried to do, gets a very intense and negative reaction from other women. It’s almost like they want the right to be a bad parent, and you can NOT shame them at all, or say anything that would make them feel bad.

    I do get it though, that when you have multiple children it IS hard to get them all to behave at once, because they make their own choices and they have their own unique sin nature each child! At some point, they really do have to make the decision to behave or treat the other siblings the way they’d want to be treated, and it can be hard in that training part, especially if they’re too young to really understand it (1-3 maybe even 4).

    It’s weird that the number of children interacting together also seems to matter… when we take just one out of the equation, and it doesn’t even matter which child, the other two magically get along WAY better and work together without fighting! My husband and I can’t understand that phenomenon, it’s just very strange to us.

    Another point… the fights between toddlers are scary in my opinion, but I do work to get there fast and separate them and try to teach them it’s wrong, but it surprises me how fast they go at each other and how critical it is to be there to intervene! Makes me feel soooo bad for the babies and toddlers left in daycare, because there’s just too many and I’m sure it’s very hard for the workers to really get there in time.

    I was a daycare child after my grandparents couldn’t watch me after age 3. I did the camp thing, too, alllll summer long. When my parents put me in at age 3, that first week I got a huge, ugly bite on my face of all things!!!! My dad was horrified and took a picture. He cried a lot he said when they had to do daycare, but my mom just wouldn’t stay home or try to figure out working from home or living on less to make it work. She really regrets that now, and has told me I’m, “doing it right.” But I can see how moms can get worn down when having multiple kids and training them in those difficult phases. My husband has been working 8-15 hour shifts recently, depending on what’s going on, and it can be **intense** with four kids, one being the newborn! But thankfully it’s just temporary and is getting easier 😀

    Yes, we can teach and raise them to do right, but I do think it takes time and TONS of intervening in the right moment and constant training how they should respond better etc.

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  2. And just to add to that last thought, I think most moms just don’t want to put in all that work to train them when they’re young to become good (older) children who take responsibility for their choices and how they treat their siblings etc. Because it IS definitely a lot of work and mental exhaustion at times… you have to constantly be, “on,” constantly be ready to correct and to do it the right way. Not every day is like that for sure, but it can require a lot of the mom.

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  3. Our culture has broken down a lot of the aspects of household life that make this work, IMO. In the households I mentioned, there is zero concept of hierarchy. They might as well be roommates for all it matters. There’s also a huge difference in families where religion is present and ones where it’s not.

    I think this is one of the ironies of homeschooling versus traditional schooling. One of the biggest criticisms of homeschoolers is that their kids “lack socialization.” But you don’t see homeschoolers complaining that their kids are destroying the house because they were left unattended for five minutes. You don’t see homeschoolers . complaining that their children do not have a sense of authority or responsibility by the time they are school-age. They spend a lot of time around adults and it shows.

    I find it incredibly difficult not to speak plainly with women who think being a bad parent is a badge of honor, and it’s a trait that goes hand-in-hand with materialism in my experience. Any woman who says to me “ugh, it’s just so hard to be all things to all people” is going to get “maybe you should meditate for a while on your priorities.”

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    1. That’s so true. In older times they would have had A LOT more help more than likely. I know my great-great grandmother who did so well at parenting 12 children had her mother-in-law living with them for most of the time, and she helped a lot. The older sons wrote about it in their booklet. I believe she also had servants… just a totally different lifestyle than trying to do it all on our own. I’m VERY lucky my mom helps a lot!

      It’s sad though that I’ve found this same disturbing attitude around homeschoolers just as much as regular public school moms, especially large-family ones (6+ kids). We know a couple of families that have 9, one that has 8 and one that has 5. Only one of those moms has a good attitude and what I’d call a spirit of excellence, I look up to her so much (and she has 9)!

      It’s sad and it does bother me, but honestly, those women with the really large families are either pregnant or dealing with a 0-2 year old on top of all the other kids, which I get would be hard, but it’s still not fun to see. One who only has 5 is constantly complaining and has contemplated suicide. I mean… I don’t understand why one would have that many if they knew they wouldn’t be able to handle it mentally, but maybe she didn’t know? It’s very sad.

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      1. That’s horrible. A lot of it might be postpartum depression too. The standard of excellence is on its way out with some younger homeschoolers too, in favor of unschooling. They have a totally different idea of unschooling versus older homeschoolers.

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      2. Post-partum depression and hormonal imbalances make parenting very difficult. Unfortunately doctors are not much help. I feel sorry for those moms because I was like them. The women with many children who are happy probably have a supportive husband, a decent income, and balanced hormones.

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      3. I had postpartum depression with my first, and yes it was brutal. But doctors *did* help and medicine helped. I believe it’s the adult’s job and duty to make sure they’re healthy for their children, that’s just part of being an adult. It’s not fair for kids to have a mom (or dad) who refuses to take car of themselves mentally and physically, so that they can care for them.

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  4. The reaction of some working parents to the schools being closed is a sad indicator of how screwed up this whole two-income economy really is. I think you nailed it that many of them have never actually had to spend much time with their own children. The progressives told them that it took a village and they believed it. Thankfully it’s not 100% like that. I’m really happy for the kids (in good families) that get to stay home, especially the ones that are bullied at school. I hope we see a surge in new homeschoolers.

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  5. I know I’m a little late to the party here, but I just want to say this is one of the best things I’ve read online since the start of the pandemic. It is shocking how many people have no desire to spend time with their children, and have no idea who they actually are as people. They expect the schools to give them breakfast, before school care, discipline and teach them all day, Feed them lunch and snacks,and Babysit them until 5 PM, possibly later if they’re involved in an afterschool sport. It makes you wonder if these kids have any real attachment to the actual parents

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  6. I so get this. I am trying to figure out how to instill caring about my future step kids education to their parents. Marshall doesn’t read and his mom who gives into his tantrums gives up having him read to her. He told me I was torturing him by making him read with me for 15 minutes…I wasn’t…but he got it done. I am passionate about education and learning and also kids having a summer and someone home. I am learning to be a mom to a 5 and 7 year old and it is very exhausting and tiring…at least they like me a lot. I don’t want to be one of these parents that don’t invest in their kids. For now I do have to work but i am going to work on changing that some how.

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    1. So there are lots of ways to work on reading that keep it fun. One program to look into is Reading Eggs. It is a super inexpensive program. They also have Math Eggs. https://readingeggs.com/

      There are simple phonetic readers that focus on individual sounds too, which I think takes away some of the chaos and makes pattern recognition in language easy. This set is what I used to teach our daughter to read with great success. It is kind of pricey, but it has a solid logic to it. https://www.amazon.com/Primary-Phonics-Complete-Storybook-Package/dp/B06ZYHBY75/ref=sr_1_2

      These flashcards for learning sight words are excellent too https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B077XRL55P/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

      Literacy is honestly magical to me. A little work each day, and then suddenly it all just clicks! It’s so empowering for little minds.

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  7. For students who do have troubles, and there are personalities who do, whether you want to label them dyslexic or not: it’s night and day if you can find a phonics program which is “hierarchical.” Meaning- one phonic sound (most importantly, the vowel combos) is introduced, and then mastered, before going on to a new one. Of course this includes learning the “rules” which, contrary to the myths people spread about it, are quite generalized in English. Students can learn them, but some do struggle and making sure you have a hierarchical program can actually make the difference between their learning to read, or not.

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  8. I am posting a late response. I agree that parents need to care more about their children’s education and should not expect schools to teach them everything, but during the spring, the problems of online learning escalated. In many districts, numerous students stopped showing up. Most teachers lacked experience in remote learning, and parents struggled with balancing multiple responsibilities at home. Other major issues included grading students fairly and taking attendance. In addition, millions of students lack access to the essential technology for remote learning. Furthermore, millions of parents can’t return to work if their children can’t attend school. For these reasons, online instruction is a poor substitute for actual time in school.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/schools-coronavirus-remote-learning-lockdown-tech-11591375078

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    1. Online instruction is a poor substitute for personal instruction, but in many school districts, even when meeting in person, students are not getting personal attention anyway.

      The students that “stopped showing up” is not necessarily a nefarious thing. I have met two families in recent days where the children simply could not participate in online instruction. For example, in our daughter’s karate class, there are two kids (same family) whose parents are professional locksmiths (both of them, that’s the family business). The parents drive around (separately) in a van with all their tools all day responding to calls. Economically, the family barely scrapes by in normal times. They absolutely could not afford for either one not to work. They have no extended family nearby who could supervise their kids while they were gone. Day care is not an option, but even if it were, they could not afford it. So with schools closed, the kids are spending the day riding around with their parents in the back of the van. I have also seen this with delivery folks as well. Single mom lost her job and is now making money delivering food for fast food residents to middle class and wealthy neighborhoods, who still need their Chipotle fix during a pandemic. Her kids are riding around in the back of the car with her all day (and all night). The kids who are failing to show up for class are not necessarily the middle class parents where mum can’t multitask kids and work meetings. But it’s the later who are filling up social media with their bitchfests.

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      1. Moreover, for those families, getting a voucher of $10,000 per child would radically alter both the quality of education their kids receive and their stressful family situation.

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      2. In many places, lots of students simply didn’t show up online, and administrators had no good way to find out why not. Soon many districts weren’t requiring students to do any work at all, increasing the risk that millions of students would have big gaps in their learning. Preliminary research suggests students nationwide will return to school in the fall with roughly 70% of learning gains in reading relative to a typical school year, and less than 50% in math, according to projections by NWEA, an Oregon-based nonprofit that provides research to help educators tailor instruction. It expects a greater learning loss for minority and low-income children who have less access to technology, and for families more affected by the economic downturn.

        One major issue has been how to assess students fairly when learning is done remotely. Many school districts aren’t comfortable issuing grades for remote work. Some have told teachers not to give failing grades because of equity issues. Many are using a “hold harmless” approach, where grades that negatively affect students can’t be used, but ones that help them or are neutral are permitted. Some teachers believe the rule has simply resulted in students not doing work.

        Some students have simply gone missing. Early into the shutdown, the Los Angeles Unified School District estimated that on any given day in a week span, 32% of high-school students didn’t log in to learn.
        About 9.7 million students aren’t connected to the internet, according to an estimate by the EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit focused on connectivity in public schools. “As a nation, we were not prepared to take learning online,” said founder and CEO Evan Marwell.

        https://www.wsj.com/articles/schools-coronavirus-remote-learning-lockdown-tech-11591375078

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