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Why Parents Should Refuse to Give Kids Homework Help [Guest Post]

Posted Nov 15 2009 10:00pm

Rafe Esquith, author of  Lighting Their Fires: Raising Extraordinary Children in a Mixed-up Muddled-up Shook-up World, has taught at Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles for twenty-four years. He is the only teacher to have been awarded the president’s National Medal of the Arts. His many other honors and awards include the American Teacher Award,  Parents magazine As You Grow Award, Oprah Winfrey’s Use Your Life Award TM, and  People magazine’s Heroes Among Us Award.  He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Barbara Tong.For more information please visit:   hobartshakespeareans.org and   Amazon.com


Sigh.

I just finished reading a student’s book report. It was beautifully organized, well written, and filled with insightful observations. The presentation was flawless. It was perfect in every way. Consequently, I am sad because I know this kid’s future is in jeopardy.  I hold a perfect book report in my hand and it makes me sad.

I know Kevin. He’s a nice boy with potential. He does good work in my class. His reading level is slightly low but he is catching up. His grammar is poor but he is making progress every day. He’s a fine citizen. Kids like him. To coin the oldest of adages, he plays well with others.

But this book report isn’t his. I’ve seen the work Kevin does in class, and it does not look anything like the report I have just read. It is the work of his mom and older sister, a high school senior.

You see, Kevin is in my 5 th grade class at Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles. And I see him climb the stairs to my room every morning. His hands are free. His mother carries his backpack and sister lugs his violin. Kevin doesn’t hold a thing, and he is not disabled. He’s an excellent athlete who loves to play shortstop. His mom and sister love him a lot, and do everything for him. They think they are helping him. They are not.

Parents, may I ask you a favor? Stop helping your child with his work. Of course you are there to support him. Have dinner with him and talk about school. Make sure he has adequate supplies and a quiet place to work. Encourage him to manage his time and help with the household chores. But when it comes to homework, please get out of the way.

It is true that a particular assignment may receive a higher grade because of your assistance. But we need to see the bigger picture. You want your child to be successful not just this year, but ten years from now. There are many things you can do to help your kid become a high achiever, and one of the most important ones is to let him do his own work. He may even fail a few assignments. That can be a good thing.

When he learns to deal with his mistakes, he will be stronger. He will be independent and able to handle a variety of the problems he will encounter as a student. He will meet with his teachers, listen to their constructive criticisms, and become the scholar you want him to be. Too much help on your part might ironically prevent your child from becoming what you hoped he would be in the first place.

Several years ago, the principal from a famous charter school came to visit me. He brought a young girl who was his favorite student of all time. He told me she was the smartest, most delightful, and most talented kid he had ever known. His description of her soul was practically Biblical. And he was excited because she had won a scholarship to an elite boarding school starting in the 9 th grade.

As good luck would have it, the following year the Director of Admissions from that very school came to my class, looking for kids from impoverished backgrounds that might be a good fit for her school. Trying to make a meaningful connection with this administrator, I mentioned that I knew one of her students, and mentioned this young lady. My hope was that this connection with one of her outstanding students might open the door for one of mine.

“Oh my God,” scowled the Director with an expression of disgust. “She is the biggest mistake we have ever admitted. She’s a nightmare! She cannot do a thing by herself. She cries every day because her work is terrible and she has been completely dependent on others. She shows no initiative. We are thinking of expelling her from school.”

This is what can happen when parents and teachers are too involved.

So parents, take notice. Raising your child is not a sprint but a marathon. There will be days when your child’s book report is not perfect. He might have to redo an assignment because the teacher thought the work was too messy. There might be students in class who are stronger in various subjects.

He may not even get straight A’s.

It’s okay. Really.

Straight A’s are fantastic. I want all kids to earn them. I just want to make sure they are getting them with their own talent, and not yours.

So take your kid to the store to buy the science materials needed for the project. By all means drop him off at the library or a friend’s house to help get work completed. And most important of all, have wonderful conversations at dinner about the day in school, the work being produced, and help him plan his days so that there is enough time to get the work finished.

Make sure your child is getting enough sleep. Healthy food is a good thing. Turning off the television is a great thing. And being a fabulous role model is the best thing.

But leave your kid alone when the work begins. Get on with your life and let your child begin his. Ignoring him might be the most loving thing you will ever do.

Rafe Esquith, author of  Lighting Their Fires: Raising Extraordinary Children in a Mixed-up Muddled-up Shook-up World, has taught at Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles for twenty-four years. He is the only teacher to have been awarded the president’s National Medal of the Arts. His many other honors and awards include the American Teacher Award,  Parents magazine As You Grow Award, Oprah Winfrey’s Use Your Life Award TM, and  People magazine’s Heroes Among Us Award.  He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Barbara Tong.For more information please visit:   hobartshakespeareans.org and   Amazon.com

Why Parents Should Refuse to Give Kids Homework Help [Guest Post] is a post from: Radical Parenting

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