Dreading the Projects This Year?

If you are a parent dreading the start of school you’ll understand this poem that my mom andI wrote about 26 years ago. 

I sit at this paper and I stare and I think,

That homework and those projects 

Had me right on the brink!

The next year’s project-what will it be?

A model? A report? Oh, I can’t wait to see!

As if I don’t have enough to do!

New projects will make me incredibly blue.

No fear, I can do this! I’m sure you’ll agree!

They’ll be done with college, and I’ll finally be FREE!

I wrote this with my mother after receiving a phone call from my then freshman daughter who was attending a college in Pennsylvania. She had to go to a lab to get internet access in those days. While there, she witnessed a classmate email her mother the topic for the first essay they were assigned for their Writing 101 class. She was appalled, and knowing how I felt about parents helping with children’s homework, she just had to share.

I have shared this story with others at many conferences and to my surprise, it is more common than I knew. I have had professors come up to me and express their frustration over the parents that have come to their office hours to complain about a grade their children received papers that the parents had written. One college professor shared that a parent had the nerve to tell him that she prided herself on her writing ability and she never got anything below an “A.” Then she proceeded to question his credibility.

Parents have been helping with homework for the past 40 years. Parents didn’t help prior to that. It was the bad press about the poor job teachers were doing that eventually lead parents to do for children that which they could do for themselves.

Once parents began helping, we began to see a decline in the attentiveness of our students in the classroom. Why would a child listen in class if his/her parent was going to help at home?

It created a vicious cycle. The children didn’t listen in class. They would complain the teacher didn’t teach it, when they were really not listening. The parents would fear their children would get behind, so they helped with the homework. The work would come back done correctly. The teacher would get the impress ion the instruction was clear and continue teaching in the same manner. The cycle continued.

To stop the cycle and encourage children to become more active learners, parents need to express confidence in their children that they can get the support they need from their teachers. They just have to listen in class, ask questions when they don’t understand something, and do their homework independently. The errors they make will help teachers see if they need to reteach a concept or teach it differently.

Homework was not a bonding experience between me and my children. As a result, I became very inept when it came to knowing how to do their assignments. I began saying, “I don’t know how to do that assignment. You will have to ask your teacher how to do it.” For the longest time, my children thought I was dumb as post. But, the benefit was they learned to talk to their teachers at the ripe young age of 5. Once they realized the teacher would answer their questions, they would come home, so their work, and I never was asked about assignments again. There were times when I had to coach them on how to ask stubborn teachers for support, but they learned and it resulted in them dealing with the most challenging teachers in high school and college. Later, these skills helped them deal with bosses and superiors.

The best part of all, I didn’t have to have the stress that lasted long past the time they went to bed that was related to our initial homework fiascos.

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