Can I Stay Home Today?

A Parent’s Challenge to Stress the Importance of Education with their Tween

By Jorge Hernandez

Can I stay home today?

These are the first words I hear every morning when I wake my seven year old son Dariel, for school. He started second grade this year and although his grades are wonderful and he’s received two awards, one for perfect attendance and another for A-B Honor Roll, he still wishes he didn’t have to go. I can’t blame him, who wouldn’t want to stay home and spend the day playing with Four Arms and Heatblast, from Ben 10?

Unfortunately for him, I’m a first generation Cuban American and my mother was a public school teacher for thirty two years in South Florida and she instilled in me the rules I use today about school and sacrifice. She always said, “One of the greatest lessons any young person can receive is learning to be patient and understanding the rewards of sacrifice”. With my daughter, who is ten now, it was simple. She caught on quick and took full advantage. When she was in second grade and in aftercare, I would always tell her, “If you do your homework in aftercare, when you get home you have more time to play”. At first it was difficult for her because all her school mates where playing during aftercare and she wanted to participate. I was persistent in asking her every day, “Did you do your homework” when I would pick her up from aftercare and she would say no many times at first. Every time she said no, I waited until we arrived at home for her to ask, “Can I watch TV for a while” and I would say, “Now you can’t, because you have to do your homework”, “If you would have completed it in aftercare, this would be your free time”. The aha moment came when the aftercare teacher praised her in front of all the other kids and myself for being so dedicated to her school work and said to her “you probably have more time at home for playing, right?” She looked at her teacher with a great big smile and said “yea, I get allot of time to play, when I get home”. The other kids looked at her and said “we never have time to play at home”.

For my son, I think his aha moment came at the end of this final grading period. I mentioned earlier that he won two awards and my wife and I were invited to the award ceremony. The ceremony was only for parents of students who were receiving awards. He was very proud of this fact and was negotiating his reward for doing well in school. I took note of all the excitement, his reward request, the look on his face when he was called up to receive his awards and the look on the faces of his classmates who praised him for being recognized. He and his buddies, who also won, took photos together along with the teacher and of course the proud parents.

When we arrived home later that day, I sat him down and I asked him, “So, how did it feel to receive your awards and being recognized by your classmates for doing well in school?” He said “I liked it, it was cool”. I said, “It was cool, because you put in a lot of hard work, went to school every day and did well in class and in the end you were rewarded and others were not. Don’t ever forget that with hard work and sacrifice you can reach things you never thought you could reach”. He said, “Thanks dad, can I stay home tomorrow?” Lesson learned!

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