No One Did My Homework For Me And I’m Sure As Hell Not Doing My Kids’

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boy not happy about homeworkMy mom never ever did my homework for me. It wouldn’t have occurred to her that that was an okay thing to do. In fact, she so didn’t do my homework with me that I hated asking her for help because she made me figure stuff out on my own. But I always knew that homework was my responsibility and whether I did it or not or worked hard on it or not would be a reflection on me and me alone. So now that I have kids, I am ready to allow them to fail if need be because I will never do their work for them.

Let’s draw a distinction between what it means to help a kid with homework and what it means to do it for them, because those are two very different things. When you help a kid with their homework, you buy the glue and the poster board. You help brainstorm. You sit down with them at the dining room table and try to help them reach the right answer on their own. When you do a kid’s work for them, you yell the answers to math questions over your shoulder, edit their essays by rewriting them, and create a realistic medieval village out of clay for your first-grader.

When my kids were in preschool, they each got assigned a state and had to create some kind of crafty thing (poster, model, drawing, whatever) that showed some of the facts about that state. I took the kids to the store, where they took care of the most important part of the project — picking the color of their poster. Then we went home and looked up some facts, like the state bird and so on. Then they sat with their dad and picked out pictures of those things, which we printed out on our black and white printer, and they then colored in (badly) with crayons. It looked like shit. But it was completely driven by them, and was what you would expect to get from a four-year-old.

When I brought the kids posters into school the day they were due, I saw some things you wouldn’t believe. A topographical map of Wyoming. A poster with hand-drawn pictures of flowers and birds that were recognizable as flowers and birds. Notes about elevation and average rainfall. And my kids’ crapped up posters. And you know what? I felt really good about it. Because it was obvious that I let my kids do their project their way and that we spent exactly as much time on it as a preschool class project deserved, meaning close to none.

Now my kids are in first grade, they have to read every night and sometimes do math worksheets. I tell the kids when it’s time to get started and then I peace out. If someone needs help, I help by breaking down questions and guiding them toward the answers. But I am not invested in making sure that they turn in homework that has all the right answers, because isn’t the point of homework to do your best and then learn from your mistakes? If my kid goes in with all the correct answers all the time because I made sure of it, how does that help them learn? How does that let their teacher know where they are struggling and where they are sure of themselves? And how do they learn that it’s okay to be wrong because being wrong from time to time is a part of life?

They learn all of those things by having the wrong answers, and by not doing a great job on some projects. Then, after their teachers have corrected it, they can bring it back home and we can say, “Well, heck. Let’s see where things got screwed up and we’ll go from there.”

(Photo: Bokan / Shutterstock)