For Parents, Where's The Line Between Helping and Hovering?by Ann Dolin
Should parents go online to check their kids’ grades and homework?
The iconic overstuffed student’s backpack is quickly becoming a relic of the past and as a result, the way parents oversee their children’s progress in school will never be the same.
With an estimated four out of five K-12 schools having some sort of presence on the internet, teachers are quickly turning to paperless web portals with names like Edline, Blackboard, Homelink and MyBackPack to make assignments, provide virtual handouts and communicate with parents. The advantages to students and parents alike are many. Students no longer have to retrieve reams loose pages from their backpacks. And instead of relying on handouts and notices hand-carried by their children, parents now have a direct line of communications with the school staff.
The Dark Side to Portals
There is, however, a dark side to these portals. The power of this technology gives parents the ability to tap into their child's account, track assignments and take day-to-day control of when and how their children do their daily homework. I believe a certain amount of hovering is appropriate for elementary school student. But as tempting as it may be parents to for access the portal and oversee the completion of homework each week, parents of middle school and high school students must largely resist this impulse. The most precious gift a parent can give to their child is the ability to confidently navigate life independently.
Going Online to Hover
I was taken aback recently to learn that a parent I work with in my tutoring practice taps into 16-year-old son's school portal each day and prints out his assignments so they will be before him when he gets home from school. When asked why, she responded, "If I didn't he would never do them." I worry about this student once he goes to college because he has never developed the organizational and time management skills he will soon need for success.
What is the proper role for a parent in this age of school internet portals in overseeing the completion of homework and projects and studying for tests?
Here’s what I recommend:
- Choice of System: Expect that your student have a system in place to track assignments, projects, and dates of quizzes and tests. It should be up to the student to determine which system works best for her. Some students find that apps that run on smartphones or tablets are ideal for this application where they are permitted. Others prefer the old-fashioned assignment notebook.
- Trust but Verify: Learning how to keep track of assignments and manage time effectively takes years. Don’t expect you student to master complex organization and time management skills overnight. Trust that he has completed his daily assignments and planned out those that are long-term, but be wise enough to verify. This means that you may want to cross-reference what your child says he has for homework against what is documented in the portal. “Trust but verify” shouldn’t be daily, but should be used when a part has that uneasy feeling that work has gone undone.
- Weekly Meetings: Something that works well for many parents is to schedule a regular meeting with your student Sunday after dinner where they can update you on her progress during the past week and when and their plans for the week ahead. Your student should be able to easily rattle off what is to be done if their assignment book and planner is up to date. If he can’t maybe he needs some extra support.
In the end, portals are highly effective means of keeping track of assignments, tests, and other communication. They should be used primarily by students, not by parents who insist on going online to hover.