When I quit a lifetime of drug use and reunited with my daughter from foster care, finishing my education was a tool I needed to keep busy and stay clean. My drug counselors and my teachers at the GED program advised me to finish my GED and go to college. I wanted to achieve my goals and prove to myself I am smart enough to do it.
Despite failing the exam eight times in three years, I stayed focused on my goal, finally passed it, and entered college.
Dreams for My Daughter
I had dreams for my daughter’s education, too. My daughter was 5 when she came home from foster care. I was so excited to take her to school, help her with little projects, go on field trips, talk to her teachers, and just to be there to see her grow. I wanted us to have memories I never had as child with my mother.
My daughter is in eighth grade right now. As she has grown up, I have seen that she is a very intelligent girl. She knows what she wants and she does the best that she can in school. I hope I can instill in her what she needs to be successful in her education. I also want her to be happy in school, not stressed and overwhelmed.
Right now, my daughter wants to be a veterinary technician. To support her, I even took her with me to my college’s vet tech program to show her around.
Modeling Good Habits
I get involved in my daughter’s schoolwork to make sure she knows how to achieve. For instance, I learned in my GED program and college classes how important it is to always ask questions if you do not understand something. I tell my daughter, “Do not ever be ashamed to ask questions!”
I also provide her with a home environment that supports her schoolwork. When she comes home, I usually take 15 minutes with her and we talk about the day, any school events that are coming up, and her homework assignments. Then I give her about an hour of free time (she likes to go on the computer). Then she reads for 30-45 minutes while I am cooking dinner in the kitchen. After dinner, she does her homework.
I help my daughter with her homework. I always tell her that, in math, she needs to show every step of the problem. In humanities, she needs to write full paragraphs and include details. Her father and I both practice Spanish with her. I’m particularly proud that she’s speaking well in basic Spanish. My parents were Mexican but I grew up in foster care and never learned Spanish. I get funny looks sometimes because people assume I speak Spanish. I don’t want that to happen to my daughter. Not long ago, I made her practice the Spanish alphabet every night so she would have it memorized for her oral quiz. It paid off because she received an A.
I check her grades and assignments online and let her know what she is doing well. If any of her grades start to slip, we discuss it and I tell her, “It may be a minor thing but you need to get that grade up.” Once your grades fall, it can be hard to get them back up.
Help With Homework
My daughter has anxiety and separation anxiety, and both can affect her performance in school. She sometimes gets anxious when the schoolwork gets to be too much for her.
At times when my daughter is overcome with work, I help by giving her a 15-minute break and talking with her about taking her time to understand the work. I also reassure her that she should not feel ashamed to call her teacher for extra help. If she has a math problem that I also don’t understand, we call her math teacher and he helps her over the phone. Then she feels better and finishes all of her work. I like that, even after school hours, she can get help.
Advocating at School
I’ve also asked the school for help with my daughter’s separation anxiety. Last year, I noticed that it helps my daughter a lot that her best friend is in her class. When her friend stays home, my daughter misses her and has a draggy day. This year, I really wanted my daughter to be in the same homeroom with her friend again. Over the summer, I called the parent coordinator several times and emailed her old homeroom teacher about putting them in the same class.
I felt like a pest but I knew it would be easier for my daughter to have a familiar face in her class on the first day of school. I remembered my daughter’s first day of school when she came home after three years in foster care. She cried and, over time, acted out in class so much that we had to see a therapist.
This year, when the first day of school came, I was nervous. But I guess all of my calls and emails paid off because she was happy to be in the same class as her best friend again.
A Supportive School
My daughter really likes that the school is supportive and acknowledges her hard work. When she is doing well in a subject, the teacher gives homework passes, so she can pass on a homework assignment for one day. She has also gotten awards for perfect attendance and for being on the honor roll.
When I see a test or homework coming home with a 90% and with a positive comment from the teacher, I always give my daughter a hug and a kiss and tell her, “I am so proud of you.” I also tell my daughter it’s not just grades that count. It’s her hard work that I’m proud of.
Pushing Hard Enough
Other parents sometimes tell me that I am pushing my daughter too much. One of my friends has a daughter in the same grade, and if I ask her about a homework project that both of our daughters are working on, she never knows what I am talking about. She actually told me that I am pushing my daughter to do more than she needs to do on homework and that we spend too much time on it.
I was upset because I take pride in how I am raising my daughter. I want her to understand that there is no short cut in life. I want my daughter to have dreams and goals and choices. I feel that I am giving her the study tools and habits that will help her succeed.
Honestly, I think my friend treats school as a place for her daughter to go to be out of the house for the day, not as a place where she can grow and develop. I am going to keep pushing my daughter, not so hard as to break her, but hard enough to see that she is capable of hard work and to feel good about her accomplishments.
A New Family Story
A few months ago it came time to find a high school for my daughter. I really wanted her to go to the high school that’s in the same building as her middle school. I felt it would be an easier transition because it’s nearby and familiar, and it’s also a good school.
When I talked to my daughter’s guidance counselor, he told me that the high school is very selective. My daughter would need to score high on the statewide exams, have good attendance and achieve good overall grades. After we submitted our application, I was overwhelmed by waiting.
A few weeks ago, I felt I could not wait for the notice to be sent home. I called the guidance counselor. He was very nice. He told me that he was not supposed to let parents know the results yet. But he did say, “Yes, your daughter met the standards. All you’ll need to do to ensure her acceptance is put this high school as your first choice.” I felt so proud of all that my daughter and I have achieved together.
I never received these tools for success from my own mom or dad. I had to learn them on my own. I hope that when my daughter is older, she remembers how I taught her to study and she instills the same values in her children. This is something I want to pass down in our family.