Don't Make the School Mistakes That I Made as a Mom

A former teacher and mom shares the school mistakes she made as a parent -- and the lessons she learned the hard way.

My daughters will be in sixth and third grade this fall. Even though I used to be a teacher, I've fallen short as a school parent many times. Mostly because I worried about what other people thought -- the teachers, the school, other parents. I've learned the hard way what is important -- not the perception of others, but making sure my children's educational needs are met while balancing their physical and emotional development, too. Read my lessons so you won't have to learn them the hard way like me.

School Mistake: Not Speaking Up
As a former teacher, I cringed at the thought of being that parent. I let my first grader endure a chaotic classroom and distracted teacher, watching as she fell behind in every subject. Mid-year I stopped volunteering because the noise in the classroom was too much -- even for me. I tried to be the nicest parent ever, hoping that would change the situation. It didn't. And my daughter lost a year of learning. In fact, it took until fifth grade -- three years! -- for my daughter to catch back up to grade level in math.
Lesson: Advocating for my child is my job. If I don't speak up for her needs, no one will. Now I communicate frequently with the teachers, knowing that I can still be nice while advocating for my child.

School Mistake: Guilt Volunteering
I knew when I signed up for party mom, that it was a big mistake. I work. I'm kind of disorganized. And, I don't love meetings -- which was a big part of the job. Somehow I got through the morning meetings talking about crafts, and the year of parties, despite my throbbing headaches at the parties. Party mom was a big mistake.
Lesson: I'm great with in-class volunteering and helping in the library but not great with field trips or parties. I'm okay with not being great at everything. Now I try to only volunteer for tasks that fit for my personality and schedule.

School Mistake: Allowing Homework Misery
My first grader had to write one journal a night. It took us an hour of tears to even get a half page. Every night. For 9 months we both suffered and endured. Those 9 months helped her develop a hatred for writing and a belief that she wasn’t capable as a writer.
I worry that she may never enjoy writing because of that year. If only I'd asked the teacher to modify the homework, or just told my daughter not to do it at all, and made up something more fun to do with writing.
Lesson: Now I use my best judgment as a parent (and former teacher) with homework assignments. I don't make my children do homework that seems unreasonable -- at least not in elementary school -- especially if they are on or above grade level. I patiently explain to our teachers that my children needed to read and play, not do busy work. (Um, what are they going to do -- kick us out of school?) P.S. There is an abundance of research supporting my position!

Don't worry about what other people think of you. Remember that you know your child best. At the end of the day, you answer to your kids, not to other people. Do what's best for them.

iVillage Back to School Community Challenge Coach Melissa Taylor is a mom of two, a teacher, author of Book Love and Pinterest Savvy, and blogger at Imagination Soup. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google +.

Read more from our coaches:
On Time for School! Here's How to Never Be Late
Makeover Breakfast Before School! 8 Ridiculously Delicious Recipes
Get Kids Ready for School Without Yelling! (Yes, It's Possible!)

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