Saturday, April 15, 2017

Breaking the Homework Rule

Yes, there are a lot of rules for kids, but guess what, Virginia, there are a LOT of rules for parents too. One of the biggest ones is DO NOT help your kids with their homework. Parents who do get called helicopter parents, hover crafters and worse.

So  it's at considerable risk I'm posting here today to say I was one of those parents who DID help. I have my reasons, and IMHO they weren't because I was into helicopters.

My mother helped me with homework in early elementary school, most especially with math work and even more with reports for science or English studies. I cut out the pictures we pasted into the reports, but she helped me find them. She wasn't "supporting" me from the sidelines, by the way. She was actively helping me to put things together.

While my mom helped with math problems (though she wasn't great at math), I mostly remember hours of working on reports with her, and those times together were some of our best. I'm not sure why she did it, because I don't think she got a lot of help as a kid (unless that's why).

Working on school projects with my mother taught me something I was NOT learning in school, namely, HOW to create reports and do assignments carefully and how to be disciplined about doing them. And as a six or seven year old, I didn't know and wouldn't know how to do that unless someone SHOWED me. 

If left to my own devices, would I have created reports like the ones I did? I doubt it. I would have written something, maybe, but I had no real idea of how to go to a library or comb through magazines to find pictures or even how to write my thoughts down in any way that made sense. I also learned that writing was IMPORTANT, because my mother clearly thought so and wanted to take time out of her day to make sure I did, too.

So, okay, say I learned that from my mother doing ONE report with me. Did she really need to help on subsequent ones for the next year or two when I was in first and second grade? Technically, no, she didn't.

But we don't always learn something by doing it once. I think learning is really more a process of absorption, of doing and doing again until it becomes second nature to you. These days, when I have writing assignments or deadlines, people tell me they appreciate how fast I am and I'm happy to say I found a lot of success as a writer, artistically and otherwise. 

In other words, I don't need anyone to help me anymore. But I'm glad I had help when I needed it.

And when my son was little I helped him with his reports (though I stunk at math so he was pretty much on his own there unless he got extra help and time from a teacher at school). But these days he writes his own papers and I enjoy reading them. 

That's why I think showing, rather than telling him how to put reports together in first and second grade was a good idea. I'm not saying every parent has to agree with me, but it really worked in our family and I don't think it was "bad" or "helicopter" parenting. And maybe I'm not supposed to say this, but sometimes, it was even fun.

So much for rules, I guess. 

Here's what I found on this topic: