I love my son’s preschool. It’s progressive and open-minded and very supportive of play-based learning. But even in the best situations, the occasional negative assumption can break through. So at the recent parent-teacher conferences, I couldn’t help but bristle when the teacher commented how great it would be for me to attend an evening open house, where my son would “see me involved in his school.”
I know that she didn’t mean anything negative by it, but it hurt all the same. I am currently the sole provider in our household while my husband completes an online degree program to change careers. We approach parenting as a team effort.
I work on the same college campus where my son attends preschool, and my hours are relatively flexible, at least insomuch as I can take off when he’s ill or take a half an hour to attend a special activity at school. Still, my husband — by virtue of setting his own study hours — is the one who drops our son off at school each morning and picks him up.
Does that mean I’m not involved? I chose the school. I researched it, filled out all the enrollment forms, attended the orientation sessions. I keep his schedule in his head to ensure that he has on the appropriate clothes each day, along with permission slips or supplies for activities and field trips. I get up early each morning to help him get dressed, to make breakfast and pack lunch and start the evening’s dinner. I read the daily reports (I make my husband snap a picture of the class’s white board on his phone so I know what’s going on), as well as the weekly blogs. Each evening, I ask my son detailed questions about his day and his friends and his favorite activities.
Oh, and I read to our son daily, create fun projects and activities for us to do on nights and weekends, frequently take him to the beach or zoo while my husband studies, and participate in twice-a-week mom-and-son swim classes.
I know how incredibly important parent involvement is in schools — to help the teachers and to support children’s engagement and learning. But no, I can’t be available at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day for pick-up and drop-off, because I’m busy making sure we can afford the clothes and the food and the enrichment activities … and, oh yeah, the tuition that allows him to attend in the first place. There are many ways to be involved in a child’s life, and my son is lucky to have two parents who are very interested in his learning and his play — no matter who is actually driving him around.