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I am definitely BU but not sure by how much - parental school-involvement.

(35 Posts)
LaContessaDiPlumpOnSea Fri 21-Oct-16 09:45:45

I am a WOHM (3 days a week out, 2 in) and work school hours. My friend is a SAHM. She is very involved in her son's primary school, volunteers there and now has an official role there. She was talking the other day about how rewarding it is and how she feels it is really important to be an involved parent, although she did add the caveat that it's just her opinion.

Now I, on the other hand, am really quite uninvolved grin we drop the DC off at breakfast club 5 days a week because they like it, and collect from a childminder 3 times a week due to work constraints; therefore I have only ever had one glance into DS1's classroom (on the first day of term!) and rarely chat to the teacher other than pleasantries on the 2 days a week when I collect. I am quite happy with our set-up. I have volunteered to go along on trips, and listen to my son when he talks about his friends, and have arranged playdates after school with them at our house - I feel like I'm not being entirely neglectful!

I know my friend is a bit bemused at my lack of inclination to get involved in school management/my son's daily school life, and tbh I can see why because it is so different to hers. However, I think I know why I feel this way; my own mother taught at my school until I was 16 and I found it horribly claustrophobic. I felt like she was always there and I couldn't escape her, and resented what felt like her constant attempts to burrow into my head. She talked to teachers about how I'd behaved that day and berated me if it wasn't good enough (by her standards), and I lived in fear of teachers telling her I had done badly in a test because there would be hell to pay sad Obviously that relationship had other issues understatement but the upshot is that as a result of my own school experiences I strongly feel that kids need a bit of space in their lives, and that school fits that need perfectly. It can be a place where they learn how to make friends, behave appropriately and interact with adults/teachers on their own, without the safety net/constant looming presence (delete as appropriate) of mum/dad. Obviously this is the best-case scenario and precludes bullying, in which case I can see parents would be a welcome and needed addition.

Therefore, I know IABU to find my friend's set-up with her son (we see them once a week after school and the talk is always all about his school life) a bit claustrophobic. I'd never say this, of course - I smile and agree a lot - but I am starting to feel like my own approach comes off as the cold distant mother one (due to comments that she's made, where I might just be being sensitive) and that that description isn't necessarily fair.

I know IABU, at least in part grin but I guess my overall question is: do kids benefit from having some time without parents when they are at school? Is it very dependent on their personality, or can they all benefit from it?

TeenAndTween Fri 21-Oct-16 10:01:53

I think all children will benefit from having time away from their parents at school, but that doesn't preclude parents being involved too.

e.g. I used to go on a lot of trips with DD2's class. But I always asked not to have her in my group. Sometimes when they split the class in 2 I didn't actually see her for the whole day. But it was helpful to the school to have me attend.

Different parents what / are able to have differing levels of involvement. That's OK, there is no single 'right' way to do it.

ParadiseCity Fri 21-Oct-16 10:06:42

I have a similar friend. She is a teacher and her entire career is now based on her child - I find it sad in a way because it's all about 'giving them the best possible start in life' but what about her actual OWN life?

She is lovely but her child has become a self obsessed twat who think the sun shines from their own backside.

I smile and nod and change subject as soon as I can. I do not know the exact result of every test my child has taken, I don't know all their teachers, because I don't need to - it is their education not mine!

RatherBeIndoors Fri 21-Oct-16 10:08:28

I write this as the parent of a child who has additional needs, massive anxiety and physical health needs - I still think it's good for my child to have some space of their own at school. It's good (although very hard) for LO to build relationships with children and adults in the safe arena of school, without me facilitating hovering I am probably involved at a similar level to you OP (with a bit more teacher contact due to meetings etc to discuss health/other needs). If there is a trip outside school, I do go as a support to LO, because at the moment that's too much for LO to manage otherwise, but I hope there will be a day when that will change, and I tend to be on the lookout for signs it's time for me to step back.

OhNoNotMyBaby Fri 21-Oct-16 10:10:01

No, OP. You are not being in the least bit U.

I have never got involved. Partly because the children didn't want me to - it is and was "their space." Mainly because I've always worked FT and don't have the time or energy. Also partly because I'm just not interested and I hate the whole 'school mum' thing, which can get bitchy, patronising and competitive.

LaContessaDiPlumpOnSea Fri 21-Oct-16 10:20:59

Glad that it's not just me being mean-spirited then grin she obviously gets a lot out of it and I think her son doesn't really register if she's there or not at this point (they're 5), but I do wonder if he'll mind more as he grows up. I have kept quiet to her so far about my feelings on school-parent claustrophobia though because I know it would be really mean and negative of me to bring it up!

Butteredpars1ps Fri 21-Oct-16 10:23:07

I know which approach I think is the sensible one. I'm sure friend means well, but it would drive me bananas too.

LooseSeal Fri 21-Oct-16 10:23:56

I'm a SAHM and I've chosen to have very little participation in the school. I've helped out on trips and so on in the past, but I don't enjoy doing it and DD has now reached the age where she relishes her independence so I doubt I'll be volunteering again.

It's horses for courses really I think. Some people enjoy getting really involved with the school, others don't. I don't however think it makes a single bit of difference to your child's actual education whether you're a familiar face around the school or not. I do also wonder what happens to parents who over invest in primary when their child goes to secondary and they can no longer have anything like the level of school involvement they once had.

allowlsthinkalot Fri 21-Oct-16 10:33:16

I am a parent who would love to be more involved. Our school doesn't have parent helpers, or allow us to volunteer on trips etc.

I agree that children need space from their parents. I send mine to cubs and brownies to achieve exactly that. But education wise I don't want to delegate it all to others, I want a direct involvement. And I want to bridge the gap between school and home.

It's a short phase of life and I will have plenty of time for other things when the children are a bit older.

YANBU but for me there is a balance.

SpiritedLondon Fri 21-Oct-16 10:35:43

It sounds to me like this lady is using the school volunteering to make her life at home at little more varied or fulfilling. Perhaps she's goes on about it so much because she's insecure? You are not able to participate so much because you work. And that's where that conversation ends. You can just put a full stop there and you don't need a long explanation about claustrophobia of anything else. My DD has just started school but I work 4 days a week so I doubt I'll be doing much volunteering TBH. They do have a very active PTA with lots of events so I'm sure I will eventually get involved with cake making or manning a stall or whatever. It's just a matter of finding a level of involvement which works for you. ( I don't remember parents volunteering when I was at school. How many things can we be expected to feel guilty about? )

pictish Fri 21-Oct-16 10:44:02

To each their own!

"I know my friend is a bit bemused at my lack of inclination to get involved in school management/my son's daily school life"

She is being small minded and self involved being 'bemused'. She is not the standard by which you or anyone else should live and she is being bloody arrogant to behave as though she is.

I cannot stand those who cannot see any other way but their own. If she wants to hang out at school she can. It's no reflection on anyone else that they don't.

Tell her to pull her head out of her own bum.

LaContessaDiPlumpOnSea Fri 21-Oct-16 10:52:33

Ah, she's not that bad Pictish! There is a tendency in all parent-related activites to assume that more involvement > less involvement, so I can see where she's coming from.

It does make me laugh when she asks my DS what he had for lunch that day though, because the same company apparently supplies both schools (our DC are at different places) and so she likes to see if our DC had the same. I have never asked DS what he had for lunch ever because frankly I don't care grin can't say that to her though as she gets a confused look at my ignorance!

LobsterQuadrille Fri 21-Oct-16 10:56:00

I am completely with you, OP. I effectively replaced a child who was killed in a car accident (he was five) and my DM was so terrified of something happening to me that she didn't let me out of her sight. She set up a nursery and then taught at my school - I can still remember my first day at university and thinking "how do I cope without DM?" because I had been restricted so much - even meeting a friend in town wasn't permitted. My own experience was vastly different, partly because I was alone and in a foreign country and had to go back to full-time work when DD was six weeks old, but even if things had been different, I would always have wanted to take a step back from the stifling approach that my DM took.

Having said that, I have a great relationship these days with DM (86) and DD (18) and DD and I have discussed her grandmother's approach at length. I'm sure it's no coincidence that I chose a university as far away from home as possible and worked abroad for 10 years. It gave me the space that I really need to enable me to grow up unhindered.

YANBU at all.

LaContessaDiPlumpOnSea Fri 21-Oct-16 11:01:19

We have interesting overlaps, Lobster - I lost a younger brother when I was 6 (he was 3) and I'm sure that didn't help matters wrt parental presence. I also wasn't allowed to walk to town (small Welsh town, not a major urban centre!) until I was 15 and was driven to most places.

I went to Uni 4000 miles away and revelled in it grin

RhiWrites Fri 21-Oct-16 11:05:34

I think you could tell her.

Say something like "it sounds like that level of involvement is really working for you. My way is different because of how things were with my own mother being over involved with my school. It's great that you've managed to find a good balance though."

ClaudiaApfelstrudel Fri 21-Oct-16 11:09:44

I don't think you are being unreasonable at all OP, you're giving your DC the space they need to develop as individuals. School for me could benefit from being more focused on the kids and not on the parents.

You mentioned you've been in a few times, had a look at the classroom, and know the teacher enough to say hello. What more should you be asking of yourself? I think it shows a lot of care and strength of character to let your child get on with it and not interfere and butt in their lives all the time.

JellyBelli Fri 21-Oct-16 11:20:47

Neither approach is wrong, you are both doing what suits you.

VivienneWestwoodsKnickers Fri 21-Oct-16 11:23:27

YANBU. Your life is yours, hers is hers. Neither is the only way to live. You have your reasons and are happy with what you do, she is the same.

Don't judge your life against hers - she doesn't find it claustrophobic. There is no requirement for parents to act a particular way. My Dad taught at my primary school, and was my teacher for a year. That was awkward, and led to many bullying problems for me.

Your experiences don't have to mean that she is making the same problems for her child.

YeOldMa Fri 21-Oct-16 11:27:33

Out of the 6 kids we have, I only got really involved with the school for the last one at Primary School age. I have to say, I was cajoled into it because having been a teacher, I really had had enough of the education system. However, I really enjoyed it. I played it by ear with the amount of involvement that included my own child. He was happy to have me around but if I felt it wasn't in his best interests, I'd remove myself. At Secondary School, he definitely wouldn't have wanted me there but most Secondary Schools don't want you there either.
My other children don't feel they missed out, the last one doesn't feel he did either. However, no matter what the situation, I was vigilant about their progress and social integration because that is where you would be remiss if you weren't. Of course, most schools cry out for PTA mums and it is a great way of making friends and keeping your finger on the pulse.

Batteriesallgone Fri 21-Oct-16 11:34:07

A lot of schools benefit from parental involvement - but if they were overrun by competitive volunteers it wouldn't be any good at all! So you are both doing the 'right' thing.

The problem is not volunteering or not the problem is her making a value judgement on your parenting. And if that's her attitude it probably makes her a smug volunteer too which isn't what a good school needs.

If she's a good friend can you address this with her somehow? She needs to be pulled up on it by someone she cares about before she goes pissing off other parents she doesn't know that well

BertPuttocks Fri 21-Oct-16 11:35:59

I volunteer in a school but I'm there as 'Bert' and not as 'the parent of the Puttocks children'. I get a lot out of it but I don't see it as something that particularly benefits my own children.

I'm not involved in anything to do with my own children's classes or even their year groups. In the last year or so I've probably spotted them twice in a corridor as we passed each other. I don't even see them in assembly as that's when I am busy helping out in a classroom.

I think it's better for my own children to have their own space at school without me. I wouldn't want to go on a school trip with them or work in their classroom as I think that changes the dynamic. I've also talked about it with my children before and their view is that they like the fact that I volunteer but are glad that I'm not in their class. grin

redskytonight Fri 21-Oct-16 11:36:10

I would say this level of involvement is great at infants school level where children are very much encouraged to talk about "home stuff" and parents generally have to get very much hands on involved (if only in listening to your child read at home, and make sure they've got all the right stuff for school). I'd expect from about Y3 onwards, that school/home should start to become a lot more independent.

TBH based on my DC's schools, this seems to be something the schools themselves encourage. Infants school is very welcoming to parents, whereas junior you can still come in but much less frequently, and by the time you get to secondary school you know longer have a clue who any of your children's teachers are.

SavoyCabbage Fri 21-Oct-16 11:38:57

I've done both.

We moved when my Dd was in year four. Her previous primary expected a lot of parental involvement and I was there a lot. From morning a week in her classroom to helping set up the school fair. At her new school I drop her at breakfast club three times a week and on the other days she just walks herself. I wouldn't recognise her teacher if I sat next to him on a bus whereas I practically knew the inside leg measurement of her last teacher's pet dog.

I think my DS preferred the first scenario although that may be just because she was used to it. The good thing about it I found was she knew that school was important to us and that we valued it. Also you do get to know their friends. We had a birthday party for dd this week and we hardly knew who we were looking after at the roller rink!

On the other hand dd is very excited that I am going in for harvest festival this afternoon! She wouldn't have even asked if I was going at her last school.

Witchend Fri 21-Oct-16 11:39:28

I agree with the Op mostly. My dm tended to get overinvolved (though not particularly at school). And being an independent one, I sometimes found it awkward. Otoh both my dsis and dbro loved it-however they'd stay with dm which prevented them making friends so they didn't want to go without dm so she'd volunteer to help again...

So I've always said I wouldn't work in a school my dc were in unless that was the only way to get them in. I have volunteered at school though, and, at a young age, the dc love it and it gives you an insight into the school life. It's lovely knowing some of their classmates in a different sort of way. I had a little reading group, and 10 years later they still come up and say hello, if in a slightly awkward way! I think I was quite popular as a parent though, it would be different if you weren't! I also requested I didn't take my dc's group and refused to get involved with any complaints when I was there-if they came to tell me about someone I'd redirect them to the teacher.

cantstopeatingtoday Fri 21-Oct-16 11:39:44

From the age of about 11 I used to be what was known as a 'latchkey kid' (both parents worked full time and didn't get home till 6 each evening)
You know what? I loved it and my friends who had sahms were insanely jealous, because I had a few hours every day where I had room to breathe without a mother fussing over me all the time.
It gave me space and taught me how to be responsible.

A lot of parents are over involved in their children's lives. Their children don't get any space.

OP don't feel guilty.

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