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Parent Volunteering: When Your Child's School Asks Too Much

Parent Volunteering: When Your Child's School Asks Too Much

Parent Volunteering: When Your Child's School Asks Too Much

"I hate homework time," says Circle of Moms member Emilie B., who laments that it has become her "second job" to help her first grade son complete his take-home assignments. "I have to sit with my son for hours helping him with his homework, erasing, making him start over, trying to help him figure out the answers without telling him what the answer is. The next day his teacher sends home a note telling me his homework was too sloppy, or he didn't do all of it. I am just so sick of homework. He is only in the first grade. It should not be this hard."

Dawn B. has a slightly different problem with her children's school: she is no good at saying no to the many requests for volunteers. That's why she too says she's feeling the squeeze from her children's school. When she realized recently that her school volunteer work had gotten out of control, this mom of three decided it was time to set some priorities and scale back. "School volunteering has my schedule booked right up. I am finding it hard to attend all of these trips and family days. It seems like they all land on the same day. Now, I have to choose which child I go with, and I feel horrible when I can't be there for each one of their classes."

The experiences of these two Circle of Moms members reflect the rising concerns about excessively high expectations for parental involvement at school that lead to excruciating juggling acts, guilt, and burnout. Baking cookies and attending parent teacher meetings just don't cut it anymore, says Debbi H, who is a class mom and PTA member. "I am in school more than the principal."


Too Much Homework...for Moms

Many Circle of Moms members agree that schools are piling on way too much homework — for parents. But what about the literal kind of homework — the work sheets and other assignments that children bring home and need moms to help them with each night, "for hours on end," as Chelle G. describes it.

"I think homework should be banned," she says. "We mothers have already been to work and now have to endure many, many hours of homework. I think our kids do enough school work at school and when they get home they should be able to relax or play or just hang out with their families. It definitely puts too much stress on the moms and the dads and the kids as well." Tina G. agrees. After a busy day at work, "homework is the worst part of my day."

Mandatory "Volunteerism"

Adding to the school stress overload, some schools are making parental volunteerism mandatory. At her children's Catholic school, the contract outlines that parents must volunteer 20 hours a year or else pay $300, says Lisa W. "We have to work two bingo nights, buy from the market three [times], and I'm also the treasurer of the [parent organization]," she says. It's the same story for Becki E. who is required to volunteer 50 hours each year.

Some Circle of Moms members say they think the increased pressure for parents to volunteer is driven not just by the shrinking budgets of schools, but by the increasing difficulty of finding parents who can help out. "I think schools are finding it harder to get volunteers these days because we are all so busy, and more parents work now than they used to," says Jodi A.

But some moms point to the upside of all this pressure on parents to become more involved: as Jacqueline F. explains, all those fundraisers, bingo nights, and book fairs strengthen the school community and the bonds between families. "Every day you see parents taking time to visit with each other when bringing their kids to school."

Do you spend more time than you'd like on school-related activities?

Image Source: Sanjoseraginggrannies via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Join The Conversation
VannessaBlasingameBurson VannessaBlasingameBurson 6 years
@ Lisa Doughit, are you saying your kids are doing less than 90 minutes of homework per night? I'd love to know what school district you're in so I can research the possibility of moving there! I can assure you it is possible to do more than that plus multiple practices and sports, because that is my daily nightmare! I have 3 children and my oldest is a freshman in high school. He plays football and baseball through the fall, and has anywhere from 2-5 hours of homework per night EVERY night and on the weekends!!! We rush through a meal and a shower once we get home whenever that may be, and begin the ordeal that is nightly homework!!! How they do it is, they have NO life outside of school demands, AND they do not get proper rest - as my son often does not get to bed until sometime between midnight and 2:00 a.m. only to have to be awakened early to get to school early to finish up, go around to ask any questions he may have, and begin the whole process over again. There is absolutely NO reasonable defense for the unbearable amount of homework! These kids cannot wait to get out of school. After 6 years of junior high and high school in our district, they are begging for the meager demands of a tier 1 university. My poor son has worked exponentially harder in his 7th, 8th and 9th grade years than my husband or I EVER had to work during our college years!!! I'd love to know what stands to be gained and if anyone thinks it's worth the trade off of their entire youth and last remaining years with their families!
CoMMember13631168226529 CoMMember13631168226529 6 years
Unfortunately, very few parents really volunteer in the schools, that's why the few that do feel overwhelmed. In my experience, homework is often work that hasn't been completed in class. If you are spending hours working with your 1st grader to complete his/her homework, maybe you should ask for a conference with the teacher and find out if your child is doing the work they should be doing in class. When I taught the only standing homework was practicing their spelling words and 30 minutes of reading a day (the reading was whatever they child chose to read). Any other homework was usually work that had not been completed in class. Some students preferred to socialize in class rather than do their work. Occasionally, for a long term project additional work needs to be done at home. You might also check with the school to see how much time your child is being pulled out for "assemblies", bully-proofing lessons and other things that have been mandated that take away from classtime for students to complete the necessary work.
VictoriaFincher61201 VictoriaFincher61201 6 years
I agree with being involved with your kids and their schooling ... but it really does feel like school is trying to take over our lives! I have twins in KINDERGARTEN with OVER AN HOURS WORTH EACH of homework EVERY night of the week!! They don't even get home until 4 pm. Between homework and making sure they shower for school the next day, dinner is almost impossible to fit in before bed time!! It's ridiculous! And talk about stressfull for them ... by the time I'm done helping the first child (who is understandably tired of doing the same things he just did all day long at school), my temper is non-existent when I'm helping the next. I actually have to make sure I alternate which kid goes first with homework, otherwise one kid would get "patient and helpful mommy" and the other would only know "ripping her hair out she's so angry mommy." What can they possibly do all day long at school that causes the need for 5-6 pages of homework every night for a 5 year old?! And since when does a kindergartener need to know how to correctly write a freaking paragraph?! What happened to letting kids be KIDS?!?!?!?! UGH. It's sad that I hate having my kids in school MORE than I hated going myself!
LisaDouthit LisaDouthit 6 years
Based on Carrie Garner's comment of 10 min. per grade level per night, that means that a freshman in high school should be doing 90 minutes of homework per night. I would like to know how coaches think their students are supposed to get in 90 minutes of homework per night, when they are doing 4 and a half hour practices 2 times a week!
NatashaRoby NatashaRoby 6 years
I send snacks to my sons school for snack time 2 boxes of cereal and fruit snacks a month, then they want me to come in once a week for there snack time, then they want me to come in every other montyh for a 10min meeting (i live 20miles away) I send letters in to school, and ask they call instead. Last years teacher was ok with it, this years teacher not so much. Gonna be a long year!
LisaDouthit LisaDouthit 6 years
Not only are they making it more demanding on the parents, they are making it more demanding on the kids! My daughter, who is a freshman in high school, brought home a American History project that required research and a presentation on Friday (today) of the turn of the century invention. She chose the revolving door which was invented in 1888. There was an option of creating a 3D model, which my daughter (being the over-achiever A+ student that she is) wanted to do. I had to literally tell her that there was no way I had the time to fit that in her busy schedule which included a 4 and a half hour Color guard practice (this happens weekly) on Tuesday and a 5 and a half hour (also weekly) practice on Thursday. Wednesday church youth group from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m. and trying to get my own home-based business up and running! I am a single mom, this was just IMPOSSIBLE. If I had a husband, maybe he could have worked with her on Monday evening to 'create' this model, but if I did, he'd probably be the lazy ass her dad turned out to be.. so probably not! The schools (and coachs) are driving concentious kids in the ground and overwhelming the others to the point that they JUST DON'T CARE! I'm about sick of it!
CarrieGarner CarrieGarner 6 years
First of all, if it is mandatory, then it isn't volunteering. These parents need to band together and stand up and say "no more" If you let people take advantage of you, they will. Simple as that. If it actually volunteer work and you are doing more than you want, you HAVE to learn to say no. While I volunteer a lot (and I like doing it), I also know when to say no. There are only a finite number of hours in the day and there are certain things that I'm just not good at. I just pass on those things that don't work for me. Someone else will do it or it won't get done, nothing to lose sleep over. For homework, the recommended amount is 10 minutes per grade level per night. So if your kid is in 4th grade, they should be doing about 40 minutes of homework per night. I don't do more than that. The starting point would be to talk to the teacher and explain that the homework is too intensive for your child. Most teachers I've met will take parent suggestions into consideration. If the teacher won't change the amount of homework, you should take into consideration what the consequence would be for NOT doing the homework. Personally, when my son was in first grade, his teacher sent home an hour or more of homework each night. I approached her and explained that I felt that it was too much, we were holding nightly battles over doing ANY of the work because he was totally overwhelmed by the volume of stuff to do. She told me that she felt the amount of homework she sent was reasonable and wouldn't be changing it. I thanked her for her time and went home, to make my own determination about what sheets NEEDED done each night. I took out the stuff that was busy work (she was literally sending home 2 and 3 copies of the same sheets and expecting the kids to do them all every night) like multiple sheets or coloring pages. Instead we focused on 2 or 3 sheets, doing writing, math, literacy skills, etc. Homework time became much less of a chore for both of us. The teacher sent home a note telling me that his homework wasn't being completed. I sent it back, telling her that what I felt was relevant to his education was being completed and if she had other questions, I was available for a meeting. I never heard another word from her about it, his grades never suffered and we weren't waging war over every afternoon after school anymore. He is now is 4th grade and doesn't love homework but he understands that it is important and helpful and generally does it without much argument. Although I have no proof, I fear that if we had spent hours doing that first grade work, he would have been burned out and learned that homework was just a chore, more silly busy work, instead of a learning tool.
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