Thursday, February 18, 2010

Obama on Parenting and School

President Obama gave parents some advice in Essence Magazine. See this link: and don’t forget to read the comments below the article.

Obama says that parents should not allow their kids to watch TV during school nights.

I say that everyone needs downtime and sometimes TV is fine. Especially if the Olympics are on! TV in moderation is perfectly okay, even on school nights. As a parent, it’s easy to lay down the law and say “No TV on school nights” but it’s a lot harder to monitor your children’s TV time – that’s where the discriminating parenting comes in. There are some really good shows that are worth watching with your children. Yes, there are bad shows, too, of course, but you don’t have to watch those or allow your children to watch them. Or, you can watch them and then have discussions with your children about why they were bad shows. Turn it into a lesson.

Obama said that he and Michelle make their daughters start homework as soon as they get home from school. If they don’t finish by dinnertime the girls can continue afterwards. I worry about a culture that promotes working 12+ hours a day. Where’s the balance?

I say that a better idea is to let the girls have some free time right after school, especially while it’s still light outside. They’ve been in school for 7 hours, when they come home let them relax, or play outside, or hang out with friends, or walk the dog, or read for fun, or play a game, or help around the house, or play some music, or draw, or go to an after school extracurricular activity, or take a walk, or work in the garden, or…. There are so many healthy alternatives to doing homework the instant children get home from school.

And, look at the homework being assigned. If it’s busywork, or turning your child off to learning, then re-evaluate it and look at the impact it is having on your family and discuss this with the teacher. Or, if it’s simply taking your child too long to complete it - the National PTA and NEA recommends 10 minutes per grade level – then discuss that with the teacher. This would mean no more than 40 minutes/day for a 4th grader (Sasha’s grade?) or 60 minutes/day for a 6th grader (Malia’s grade?).

The things I liked about Obama’s parenting tips: he advocates an early bedtime for his girls (9:00 pm). Sleep is healthy! He also promotes staying in touch with teachers. I agree with this as long as parents don’t go overboard, and as long it is respectful on both ends. He says students must give their best effort in class. I agree. He promotes reading. I agree. He suggests having regular talks with your child about school and personal issues. I agree, as long as the discussions about school are not overly focused on grades, tests and homework. Lastly, he says to celebrate the little successes along the way. I completely agree.

What do you think?


  1. It's really nice to know that Obama has included these programs for the youth. One step at a time, that's how he's taking everything. More power to you and your blog. By the way, it might interest you too to have your own free and easy to manage parenting forum. Good luck.

  2. Let's see how things work out as the Obama girls move on to middle and high school when it becomes more of a challenge for many teens loaded with homework to find time to read for pleasure and get the necessary amount of sleep. The sleep deprivation and the connection between that and what's happening in our schools needs to be part of the conversation around childhood obesity.

  3. I loved what you wrote and you are so right when you say you can’t just say no tv or no this or that w/o missing out on some great opportunities to grow and learn. It’s the same w/anything. You have to participate with your kids and there’s the DIFFERENCE right there!

  4. You have had some great info on your site and the homework situation prompted us to see Race to Nowhere and become much more knowledgeable and engaged in the broader Education Reform issue. Much of a childs' success in school and learning is attributable to QUALITY teachers like the young woman we saw in the movie who ultimately gave up the profession she loved due to the "politics"/beauracracy.

    Below is some information I would like to share w/ you and your readers with the hope that more parents will look at our educational system/process from an even broader perspective and fight for reform so we can provide our children with a quality education with quality teachers.

    Debate – NPR – March 2010
    RE: “Are teachers unions to blame for failing schools?

    Article – Economist– March 2010
    RE: -- CA Schools from Bad to Worse

    The Cartel – movie trailer / website
    RE: Effective Education for Everyone –

    Article – Obama wants high paying, high skill jobs in future – March 2009
    Excerpts from article:

    Obama said that greater investment in early childhood education and rewarding talented teachers would significantly improve the system.

    … Obama also said there has to be a way to ease bad teachers out of the classroom. He was responding to a question from a Philadelphia-area schoolteacher. The woman looked away and refused to answer when Obama asked if she'd seen any teachers whose work was so bad she wouldn't want her own children in that class.

    Obama said some people just aren't meant to be teachers.

    He also said there needs to be other ways to evaluate teachers besides standardized tests. He said those tests can't measure progress in a struggling school, and that they represent the biggest flaw in the No Child Left Behind program.

    Obama said that if teachers are forced to teach based solely on a test, fewer students will be inspired to learn.