Some parents sit right next to their children when it’s time to do homework, overseeing every detail of the assignment. Others take it further. If the child procrastinates and resists long enough, the parent actually ends up doing most or all of the work.
But why are parents so involved? Many say their kids aren’t able to complete the work without their help, and teachers don’t have time to give their children individual attention.
Yet there’s a downside to being so actively involved in homework. First, it takes the teacher out of the loop so she’s unable to make changes. When the assignment is turned in the next day, she doesn’t know that it took nearly three hours (with a lot of fighting) to complete, so she can’t modify future assignments to match the child’s needs.
Second, if kids count on their parents to explain everything when they’re at home, they won’t ask the teacher to clarify assignments or to re-teach concepts that are not yet understood. In fact, such an arrangement actually discourages kids from taking initiative, being responsible, and working independently—even though such skills are highly valued in the workforce.
Still, parents won’t likely back off so long as they believe that other parents are helping their kids. They just don’t want to be judged as non-involved, uncaring parents.
I can understand that feeling. When my daughter was in fourth grade, there was an evening event where all the fourth graders displayed their brilliantly crafted pirate boats—and trust me, those ships definitely surpassed anything one would expect from 9-year-olds. That is, all but one boat—our daughter’s.
I remember thinking how the other parents probably thought my husband and I were too busy to get involved. Yet I also remember what my daughter said. Yes, she was embarrassed by her measly boat among all the impressive galleons. But she stated with confidence, “At least I made my boat by myself.”
What will it take to return homework to something that encourages and ensures independent learners?