Let’s pretend for a second that I’ve heard tales of a child who was home-schooled for years and just joined a high school last year. So long as we’re pretending, we should also pretend that his mother is trying to “help” him graduate at 16 so a very close, practically inseparable, friend of mine now has a 13-year-old freshman. It’s a good thing y’all are so cooperative with pretending with me – otherwise I might have some trouble. I obviously can’t write about anything REAL that happens in my friend’s classroom.
Now, if the pretend child was exceptionally bright, there would be no problem with him graduating early. However, as is the case with some unfortunate homeschooling situations, Pretend Mom has overestimated her pretend son’s abilities and to compound this has started writing his English papers for him to help him pass. How do I know? Because his pretend English teacher told me so. We’re very close, after all.
While outrageously frustrating that any parent would do this for their child, especially as it’s almost impossible to prove, I’ll admit there is a fair amount of humor here as well – Pretend Mom is a horrible writer. She struggles almost as much as her pretend son with basic things like complete sentences, grammar and basic punctuation. According to my pretend friend, once the child was even baffled about why he didn’t get a higher grade, “But we ran grammar check and it didn’t say anything was wrong!”
Without going into any more of this particular drama my imaginary, er, close friend is dealing with, let’s make the point - please, for the love of all that is right and just in the world, don’t write your child’s papers.
I can hear those hackles raising people. I know all the writer parents out there are furious at even the mention of such a horrid thing. We fight off others who steal our stuff! Why would we encourage such a thing! Having watched this situation unfold, though, I’m starting to think it’s easier than we might think.
I’ll admit to something horrible – I once wrote my boyfriend’s English paper. It was about fifteen years ago and before I was legally able to drive a car. I was young, in love and stupid – although I didn’t realize how much so until later, but that’s a story for another day. I wrote his paper because I didn’t want him to fail the class. (He didn’t) Now, fast forward another 10 years. I’ll have a 15-year-old and a 13-year-old.
As an English teacher and a freelance writer, will I be able to sit back and let my little men handle their own work? I sincerely hope so. However, I can already spy a few areas where I’ll probably slip.
Ideas – Okay, so if my son struggles with an idea and I “help” him brainstorm, how am I going to keep from crossing the line? I can do it in the classroom because I do this sort of thing every day and have dozens of brains to pick, but will I be able to remove myself from my own kid’s work? I will, I must – but I hope I don’t forget at times.
Revisions – Obviously part of the writing process, but at what point does a revision become a rewrite? Again, something I do in class to help a child, but does it differ when it’s your own child? Only time will tell.
So far I haven’t had much trouble. I’m working with a kindergartner over here, and we’re reading and working on some basic math concepts. Among teacher friends we lament the lack of parent involvement with some (certainly not all) of our students, but now I’m starting to wonder – how easy is it to slip to the other side of the slope and help too much? Especially as a writer?