At least I did this right

Homework Help!

As a parent, I spend a lot of time feeling guilty. So I was happy to read this.

I wasn’t involved with my kids’ education — not the way parents today are. But I always had a pretty clear idea that homework was for the kids, not me, and all I did was check to make sure it was done. I didn’t go over it with them, and I didn’t coach them. I told them if they really didn’t understand something in their homework, they were to ask the teacher the next day.

And no, I never volunteered at their schools, although I did join the PTO.

Many of my friends are appalled when I tell them this, and it made me feel guilty. It honestly didn’t occur to me to be any other way, but my kids are both smart people and I don’t think anything I did changed that. Okay, maybe a little.

What I did do was expose them to a lot of politics, art, music and culture, and kept a lot of different reading material around the house. They knew I cared about how they did in school, but that was their job and there was no hovering. I was working 50-60 hours a week, there was no time to hover. The only time I ever intervened was when one of my kids had learning difficulties.

And fortunately, my hands-off approach turned out to be the right thing:

One of the central tenets of raising kids in America is that parents should be actively involved in their children’s education: meeting with teachers, volunteering at school, helping with homework, and doing a hundred other things that few working parents have time for. These obligations are so baked into American values that few parents stop to ask whether they’re worth the effort.

Until this January, few researchers did, either. In the largest-ever study of how parental involvement affects academic achievement, Keith Robinson, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and Angel L. Harris, a sociology professor at Duke, mostly found that it doesn’t. The researchers combed through nearly three decades’ worth of longitudinal surveys of American parents and tracked 63 different measures of parental participation in kids’ academic lives, from helping them with homework, to talking with them about college plans, to volunteering at their schools. In an attempt to show whether the kids of more-involved parents improved over time, the researchers indexed these measures to children’s academic performance, including test scores in reading and math.

What they found surprised them. Most measurable forms of parental involvement seem to yield few academic dividends for kids, or even to backfire—regardless of a parent’s race, class, or level of education.

Do you review your daughter’s homework every night? Robinson and Harris’s data, published in The Broken Compass: Parental Involvement With Children’s Education, show that this won’t help her score higher on standardized tests. Once kids enter middle school, parental help with homework can actually bring test scores down, an effect Robinson says could be caused by the fact that many parents may have forgotten, or never truly understood, the material their children learn in school.

It’s interesting, go read the rest.

One thought on “At least I did this right

  1. My kids’ first K-2 co-op teacher said it best, (usually when one of the moms was hovering): Who needs the practice? Teachers are not really interested in finding out how much math Dad can do, they need to know how the kids are doing, so they can tailor instruction to meet the kids’ needs. Too much help at home can cover up learning issues that are better addressed by professionals.

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