Editor’s note: I did send this exact email to one of the kid’s teachers, but wanting to not throw the kid under the bus, I changed the Number of the kid and I may or may not have changed the gender.
Dear Mr. (Science Teacher),
As you know, there is a personal science experiment due tomorrow.
I’ve known about this since you sent home the reminder about it a week ago (by the way, thank you for those reminders — they are super helpful).
Anyway, I just want to let you know what has transpired over the course of the last week and give you a little bit of background info.
I used to be an elementary school teacher. I taught 6th grade for three years in Pennsylvania, and then 4th grade for six years in Wilton, CT.
So I have been on your side of the fence. I get the teaching side of things.
Now that I’m on the parenting side of things, I’ve always considered myself to be pretty consistent with my kids. I’ve always thought that I’ve held them accountable and taught them to be independent and that if they were experiencing any problems with respect to their school work that it was all coming from them.
Certainly not from me.
Anyway, Number 10 is giving me a run for my money.
Last week she told me about this science experiment. She explained to me that it was due on the 11th, that the kids could pick any experiment they wanted to do, and that she had already chosen what she wanted to do.
Then she asked me if I would help her.
I told her that I needed to see what the experiment was and that I would figure out a time to help her as soon as I understood what it was she wanted to do.
I also asked her what materials she would need, and she told me she needed eggs and food coloring.
Over the course of last week, she asked me a couple more times to help her with the experiment.
I said the same thing I had told her the first time. As soon as I could read a summary of the experiment and what materials were required, I let her know a time I’d be available to help her.
On Saturday we had this conversation again. But I was still given nothing in writing to read about.
And then on Sunday we had the same conversation again. I didn’t hunt her down or ask repeatedly for information. I waited for her to come to me.
This time Number 10 finally gave me the summary of the experiment that was written in her science journal.
This was when I discovered two things.
First, she had only written down part of the directions for the experiment.
Second, she was right that she needed eggs and food coloring.
But she neglected to mention that she also needed rock salt, Borax, and epsom salts.
Seeing as it was 4 p.m. on Sunday, I told her there was no f%$@ing way (not quite in those words) that I was going to go out and buy that stuff at that hour on Sunday afternoon. Not when I’d been asking to read what was required in order to complete this experiment for the past five days.
So I told Number 10 I’d help her find a different experiment. One that was simpler and one that didn’t require a trip to the store.
We found one which only required objects we could find around the house as well as water and salt.
We’d do a water density experiment.
I gave Number 10 a specific time I was able to work with her.
This is kind of a new thing. Not being available 24/7. Operating like a teacher who is available at specific times rather than a mother who has, up until now, been available basically around the clock, 24/7
So when the time I told her I’d be available came around, Number 10 chose not to take advantage of it.
I’d like to blame it all on her, but in the past, like I said before, there would be no way in hell I’d let her not complete a major assignment.
So I suppose she never thought I’d actually follow through and stick to the specific time frame I told her I’d be available.
I tole her I’d give her another opportunity the following day. Which was today.
Today I needed to go to Costco. As you know, there was no school. And as you may not know, Number 10 has five siblings at hoome. So with six kids home all day today, getting things done is a little more challenging. I can leave some combinations of kids home alone. But not all of them. And Number 10 is struggling with some behaviors at home.
So I gave her two choices. The first was she could come to Costco with me and then when we got back, I’d help her with the experiment. The other choice was she could stay home, and I’d take four of the other kids to Costco with me. Taking four kids with me would make the trip to Costco take much longer, and if that was what I needed to do, then I wouldn’t have time to help her when I got home, and she’d be on her own with the experiment.
I told her what time she should be in the car ready to go. If she wasn’t ready by then, she would miss out on the opportunity to go with me and consequently on one more chance to get help with the experiment.
As you can imagine by the length of this email, she didn’t pick option Number 1.
And when I told her I was leaving with four of her siblings and that she’d have to do the experiment on her own, well, she kind of freaked out.
She called my bluff and for the first time ever, she realized I wasn’t bluffing.
To be honest, when this happened last year with the science moon journal, when it was October 3oth and the journal was due the next day and Number 10 showed it to me and it only had five out of thirty-one days completed, well, rather than let her hand it in and get the grade she deserved, we helped her finish it.
We totally rescued her instead of just letting her hand it in incomplete.
So I have definitely been a part of the problem and this is a new thing for her.
I know she feels bad, and I know she’s a little stressed out.
I don’t want to make her suffer or feel bad about herself. But I do want her to realize this stuff has to start coming from her.
I almost caved and helped her, but then I caught myself.
Because if I don’t start somewhere, this will never change.
And I do think something good came from it.
On the bright side, she did complete the experiment 100% on her own. She completed anything else that needed to be done 100% on her own as well.
I have no idea how she performed the experiment or what she even said in her write up.
Whether she learned one single thing has yet to be determined. I don’t think she learned a whole lot.
Not about water density, anyway.
But she did learn that I am no longer going to nag or harass or rescue her when it comes to these big assignments. She definitely learned about accountability.
So her experiment was a bust, but hopefully mine was not.
Hopefully this process will help Number 10 move in a direction toward more responsibility and independence not just with her homework, but with all her assignments.
Anyway, I just wanted to fill you in on what’s happened over the past week, and how we will be operating here at home in the future.
When Number 10 comes to school tomorrow and tells you “My mom wouldn’t help me with my experiment,” well, that’s partially true.
But I just wanted to make sure you got the rest of the story.
So there you have it.
Moving forward, I’ll keep doing what I can on my end, and thanks for everything that you do on yours.