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Homework How Much Should Parents Help

Homework, How Much Should Parents Do

By Chris Jordan

The bane of my existence is homework. The sheer volume of the homework assigned, the amount of “help” that many parents give their children, to the discomfort I feel in allowing my children to do their homework themselves, all these things stress me out to no end. The last one I finally let go when I realized I was not doing my children any favors by doing their work for them, even though deep down I feel as though I am judged when my children hand in less than perfect homework assignments.

The phone rings. It is the mother of one of my son’s classmates.

Have ya’ll figured out math problems 3 and 5 yet?

Uh, I don’t know if my son has done finished yet.

Well, we can’t figure out what to do. My husband and I disagree on how to solve the problem. I was hoping you would know.

And herein lies much of the problem that I see with homework. The parents are doing it, not the kids.

Recently my 4th grade son had an extensive homework project that was supposed to be worked on over the period of a couple weeks. For a variety of reasons the project was way too difficult for a child that age to complete on their own. All of the parents I spoke with were essentially doing the project for their child. When the assignment was done and turned in I was the only parent who spoke up and admitted that had I not helped the project would not, could not, have been done. I am not sure why none of the other parents were willing to admit this. Maybe they were afraid that it was only their child unable to do the work? I don’t know.

It seems so much more intense than I remember from when I was a kid. My parents never helped me with homework or projects. School was always my job. Now with my own children I notice that parental involvement is all but required. And the line between helping and doing is blurred, at least for some parents.

For my own sanity, and the well being of my children, I refuse to outright do their homework, projects, or assignments. I am forever saying that I have already done 4th, 6th, 7th, fill-in the blank grade and I don’t need to do it again.

I consider myself more of a homework facilitator. These are my rules.

1. I will provide an environment conducive to doing homework. For us this means no tv on school days, with the rare exception, and a hearty snack after school before the witching homework hour.

2. I will provide all the materials that they need to complete a project. This means I have scissors, glue sticks, markers, colored paper and poster board on hand.

3. I will be a sounding board for ideas. Mostly this applies to my oldest kids who are in high school and writing essays and papers.

4. I will be as knowledgeable as I can about the subjects they are learning. When my older kids read novels, if they aren’t ones I have already read, I will read them also. This way I can discuss the books with them. If they are genuinely stumped on a problem or concept I will help them look it up in their textbook.

5. I will let them fail. So that they might succeed in the long run.

The last one is the most difficult for me. I suspect it is also the most difficult for all parents which is why they get sucked in to doing their child’s homework. None of us likes to see our children do poorly at anything.

My eldest son had a huge multi-disciplinary project due this week. He had known about this project for at least a month and yet chose to wait until the night before it was due to begin working on it. At 7pm that night he had asked me if I would help him.

Help you do what?

I don’t know, just help me.

Well, once you write your essays I will be more than happy to read them over. But I’m not staying up all night. And I am not helping you write anything.

Fine.

It would have been easy to do the work for him, to write the essays, or to spoon feed him the answers. I wanted to help him. I wanted him to get a good grade. I also want him to be capable, independent, and confident in his own abilities. In the end I went to bed and left him sitting at the kitchen table working. I was confident that it would be a good learning experience. It would teach him why he shouldn’t procrastinate. At 4am I went into the kitchen to get a drink and there sat my son, still working on his project. He did not go to bed for another hour.

That morning as he left for school, tired and complaining, I asked him what he thought he could learn from this experience. I fully expected him to answer that he would begin working on his projects as soon as they were assigned and not put it off until the last possible minute.

Next time I will start as soon as I get home from school… or maybe even the day before that.

Baby steps.

Chris Jordan
About the Author

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she wrote about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children. Yes, they...

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she wrote about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.
Yes, they are all hers.
No she’s not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.
Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That’s why her youngest is a teen now.
Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

 

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Professional Twin Mommy
Guest

Before I was a mom, I taught 9th grade for many years. When this question came up, I always said that if the parent picked up a pencil to “help”, that was crossing the line. In the e-era, I’d say that if a parent is adding any content to a document, that’s crossing the line.

suziejd
Guest

I edit, and I help study for tests and quizzes.  Sometimes my older daughter can get herself worked into a lather over how much she “can’t do!” the homework, and in those (increasingly rare) instances, I will help her break down a problem/project into its component parts so she can breathe again.  I was going to say I have *never* done a project for them, but it’s not true.  When my older daughter was in 6th grade, she had an electricity project, where she made a game with a complex buzzer/light mechanism.  My father helped her in the beginning stages,… Read more »

Jo
Guest
Jo

You are so right on with this!   “It seems so much more intense than I remember from when I was a kid. My parents never helped me with homework or projects. School was always my job. Now with my own children I notice that parental involvement is all but required. And the line between helping and doing is blurred, at least for some parents.”- YES!!! I have 3 kids- 2 girls and a boy.  The girls excel in school and I rarely if ever help them.  The boy, well he struggles in school ( 3rd grade) and its a… Read more »

Vera
Guest
Vera

I went to a french immersion elementary school, and none of my relatives spoke french, so they were not so much unwilling as they were unable to help me complete projects. I was home schooled through middle school and I was very behind for a very long time simply because I didn’t dedicate myself to doing the work. Still, my parents never did my work for me. When I was 17 I went to live in a different country to train for a sport and I did correspondence. Nobody could help me, but my parents, over the phone, explained things… Read more »

Beth
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Beth

I so agree with you – way too much parential involvement. I have 6 kids and live in a smallish town. The teacher/principals all know that I won’t “do” my kids homework because I already graduated from the very same schools they’re attending – and I show them my diploma as proof! Kids need to succeed and fail on their own, and while I struggle with the failing part, I also know that is also a success for them, just a little different.

Pogita
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Pogita

I teach at the university level. I am constantly amazed by the students who cannot even follow the directions for the simplest assignment. This is the first time that these students have been on their own with schoolwork. They are not prepared for the responsibility. This puts them at a great disadvantage compared to the students who have a sense of responsibility.  Parents who do the work for their kids or even help them plan the work are doing them no favors. Alternatively asking elementary aged kids to complete a full day at school and then spend a couple hours… Read more »

Anna
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Anna

I’m a college student now, and my mother reads over my essays for spelling errors. I also have friends do this for me and in turn will do it for my friends.  She does things like, goes with me to Goodwill to look at inspiration for my ceramics projects. But she doesn’t draw the sketches for me or sculpt the clay for me.  I know some kids in my classes whose parents STILL do their homework. I also know one girl whose mother held her hand all through high school and sat at the table and helped her do all… Read more »

Sid
Guest

I second the opinion that asking kids to spend all day at school and then several hours on homework is serious overkill. Perhaps if parents start refusing to do their kids homework it will become more apparent that it’s too much. For example, in the case Chris mentions about the 4th grade project. When my daughter starts school I intend to push back when I think the volume of homework is excessive. I don’t take my work home with me, why should she have to?

meredith
Guest

I won’t do any homework for my girls, but if they want me to quiz them on a subject for an up-coming test, I will….IF they have already reviewed the subject. If I start asking them questions and it becomes clear that they haven’t even looked over their lesson, I send them back to their room to study it by themselves first.

KerryQ
Guest
KerryQ

Wow, is this post timely. My second grader has a project to turn in (in addition to her daily hour of homework), and completely lacks the planning and organizational skills to do it alone. This has taken approximately 20 hours of work over the last couple of weeks. Completely inappropriate for her age, I think. It’s also frustrating when you don’t know what level of work the teacher expects.

Mary
Guest
Mary

For my 10th grader I’ll help by editing or give an occasional hint (Masters in English) on where to look in said reading /writing project.   But I have rules – there MUST be a typewritten rough draft and prewriting essentials – like an outline and note cards – before I will edit and I will not edit the day off. I need it two days out.   I will mark grammar mistakes and offer advice on sentence wording  (He’s AP/Pre AP and NONe of this is done at his school) and give ideas where to add what.   For… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

As a former high school English teacher, I spent a lot of time discussing “homework management” with parents. If you know your child is having issues staying organized and completing homework, maybe you need to work with your child at home to learn how to keep a weekly calendar. Maybe you need to check your child’s homework every night for completion. Maybe you need to quiz him/her the night before a vocabulary test. But you don’t need to write the essay, answer the questions that go along with the book, etc. I had a couple of instances of very upset… Read more »

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[…] some parents, helping their children can mean allowing them fail.  In a post on alphamom.com, one mother blogged about an incident in which her eldest son waited until the night before a […]

Debby
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Debby

A friend of my son’s (in high school) has always refused to do his homework, with no consequences from the school or parents. His mother mentioned to me one day that she had to do a big project for her son that weekend since he hadn’t gotten it done. I asked why the heck she was doing her high school student’s homework. Her response: You don’t understand! If I don’t do it for him, he’ll fail!

You think?

Heather
Guest
Heather

Side note from a teacher: when it’s more than obvious that you’ve done your kids work, guess what, I don’t grade it. I drop it from the grade book and pretend it doesn’t exist. That doesn’t help your kid either. FYI, I know what your child’s handwriting looks like!

Wendy
Guest
Wendy

When a parent does their children’s homework, they are essentially CHEATING! My son recently wrote his own college applications. They were not perfect. I was surprised to find out later that a neighbor “basically wrote” her daughter’s essays and didn’t think twice about it. In this case, the parent-written essays literally might take opportunities away from my son because the mom did the work – not the daughter. Parents doing their children’s work is a form of deception. It is a form of plagiarism. Basically your children takes the credit for the parent’s work (it doesn’t matter that they give… Read more »

Sara Marie
Guest
Sara Marie

Please. Others can do what they want but I will always pitch in and help my child.  And if that includes writing his essay or telling him the answers to math problems, that is fine with me. Because I have priorities. My priority is that my child and I don’t fight over homework to the detriment of our relationahip.  My priority is that my child NOT spend 4 hours every evening doing schoolwork and that he is able to enjoy his weekends after he has worked hard all week and not spend them doing yet ANOTHER book report.  Do I… Read more »

J
Guest
J

Okay. It is extremely obvious that one of my students’ parents is writing his essays. But I feel like I can’t do anything about it. I keep telling him that it’s not “his voice.” Trust me, when he errors a sentences it’s completely basic and then he tens in brilliantly expressed papers. He doesn’t deserve an “A.” I have kids struggling, working their tail off to pass. Their efforts far exceed this one kid. And parents, you’re not fooling anyone! Stop doing your kids homework, otherwise they’re not really learning anything! What’s the point of all this if they grow… Read more »

James Porter
Guest

The parents are doing it, not the kids.

True story! some of cmy kid’s classmates’s parents do moework for their kids to make them look more smart in eyes of teachers and other kids. I dont know whats wrong with these people

Drummond51
Guest
Drummond51

What motivates teachers to assign homework their students can’t do in the time allowed. It puts undue pressure on students and parents, turning education into a competition.