“Help! Constant Updates on My Son’s Grades are Turning Me Into a Helicopter Mom!” – Letter

Hi Folks — Here’s a totally fascinating topic that I didn’t realize was quite so widespread: The daily, sometimes hourly, online updates about our children’s grades. My sons’ schools both have programs like the one described below, but I don’t have them on my phone so I don’t check them very much.

It seems to be the schools’ assumption, however, that I should. As such, they are demanding a kind of  two-fer: The kid AND parent, as a team. It reminds me of the way “arrival” and “dismissal” morphed into “drop off” and “pick up.” The assumption is that OF COURSE a grown-up will be involved, shepherding the children all the time. Now we’re expected to be shepherding them through their academics the same way. So here’s the question asked by a reader named Aimée Lafrenière Turner who is a Maine native and lives there with her husband, son, and dog in “a teeny-tiny house in the most kid-and-bike-friendly neighborhood ever.” She is a television and web writer-producer and you can follow her on Twitter @AimeeLTurner, or read her blog, The Maine Page Turner, which is featured on WCSH6.com:

Dear Free-Range Kids: Not sure if you’ve touched on this topic.  It’s not about safety, but definitely about over-supervising one’s kids.

My son is now in the 6th grade and his school uses “Infinite Campus,” a tool by which parents (and only the parents, not students, to my knowledge) are given access to information about their children’s homework assignments, grades, etc., all through either a traditional website, or, more dangerously, through an iPhone app.

It is ridiculously convenient to use — it sends me an alert on my iPhone whenever any teacher posts a new grade…. and I’m ALWAYS CHECKING IT.  I’ve NEVER hovered over my son’s grades.  I’ve always felt like his work was HIS (to the point that although he is a bright boy, his grades haven’t been stellar — but my goal is really to teach him to own his own results).

On the positive side, getting prompt reports of some of his lower grades have helped us help him to turn in his homework more promptly, approach teachers to discuss his grades, and to do some extra-credit work to bring up a couple of low quiz grades.  However, on the negative side, I’m feeling obsessed with his grades in a way that I never thought I would. I’ve talked to other mothers who also check it OFTEN.  My husband (who has a different brand of smartphone and so cannot check iPhone nearly as often — correction: he doesn’t check it at all) says I’m obsessing.  However, I’ve caught problems that would have led to C’s on my boy’s report card that he’s been able to improve to B’s by taking action.

I’d be curious to hear from other Free Rangers about their experience with grade pressure in general, and Infinite Campus (or similar kinds of software) specifically. Thanks, Aimee T., in Maine

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Are hourly report cards a good idea?

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