Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Kids' Homework

Beast Mom had an entry on kids' homework. (go read it now. I'll wait.) I started to comment on it, but my comment ended up being a whole essay in itself, so I decided to just blog it. :D

I'm tough on my kids academically. They're both extremely bright, I want them to try their best, and I know they're capable of a lot. I do offer to check Mark's homework daily. If he balks at it, I back off and let him deal with whatever grade he's gonna get. If he lets me check, I'll tell him what's wrong and send him back to re-do it. I'll explain concepts if he's struggling with something. I'll even sit right next to him and help him figure out what his next step should be. But I WON'T feed him answers. That doesn't do him any good at all. I do, however, believe that Mark has all the resources he needs to get a 100 on all of his homework assignments. IF he chooses to avail himself of these resources. If he doesn't, no sympathy from me.

With big projects, (like the academic fair), I guide him. First he comes up with an idea. Then he sketches out what he wants the project to look like. Then I ask him to make an outline of steps he needs to do to get the project done. (ALL the steps.) Then he does each of those steps. (well, except the hot glue gun. I might let him try that this year, though. Maybe. Man, the thought of Mark with a glue gun is a little scary.) Not all in one day, but with the outline, he can see how if he does a little bit at a time, it gets done without overwhelming him. It also lets him see that there's a lot of work involved in creating a good project, so leaving it until the last minute does NOT work.

And as he gets older, I let him take on more and more of the "natural" consequences. He's very forgetful. VERY. (THAT'S another whole post.) When he was younger, he would frequently leave something at home (gym sneakers, his lunch, a library book, etc). He'd call me, I'd drive the two miles to the school and deliver it. As he got older, I'd only do delivery for something that would affect his grade. And as he got a little older, I stopped doing even that. He's now in sixth grade, and I don't deliver to the school for him. At all. Just last week he forgot to put his math homework back in his backpack, and didn't turn it in the day it was due (Wednesday). This year he gets 10 points taken off the grade for each day it's not passed in on time. Now, Wednesdays they go with X. So he wasn't going to be coming home after school where he could get his homework. I decided to cut him a little bit of slack. This is my idea of a little slack:

I called him at his dad's that night. Asked him what he intended to do about his homework. And guided him (without ever actually suggesting it myself) into figuring out that he could ask his dad to drive him by our house in the morning on his way to school and pick it up. He checked with X, X said okay, and I prepared to be up to greet Mark when he picked up his homework.

Which he did not do.

So on Thursday when he came home, I asked him why he never showed up. And he responded with, "I don't know, Dad said last night we could do it but then this morning he just didn't." And when I asked Mark why he, Mark, didn't REMIND his Dad, he just gave me this blank look, followed by dawning comprehension. (

No school on Friday or Monday. Tuesday (today), he FINALLY passed in his math homework. Two days late, 20 points off automatically, before it even gets graded.

And I ENCOURAGE this penalty. He had another paper that he did in class, and his teacher wasn't happy with his complete lack of effort, so she made him do it over at home. I asked her if she was going to take the 10 points off for passing it in late, and encouraged her to do it.

I'm MEAN that way. I mean, I *could* have rescued him any number of ways on this stuff. But how does that help him? Is he likely to remember stuff in the future if Mom will just bring it to him every time he forgets? (from experience: NO.) Does it teach responsibility? Will it help him in any way, shape, or form in a future career? Nope.

Kira was talking with my dad about first grade the other day. He was asking her if she thought first grade was harder than kindergarten. She answered in the strong affirmative, so he asked her how it was harder.

She said, "In first grade, when you fall down on the playground, they just tell you to GET UP."

Tough love, people. mk

1 comment:

The Beast Mom said...

I think that quote of your daughter's that you ended with is AWESOME. Awesome that she's learning about new stages in school and acknowledging them. Awesome that she knows it kinda' hurts a little - that life CAN hurt and that she'll survive anyway. Awesome that she's talking out loud like that. That is very cool. That is the perfect example of what I'm talking about. You are not mean or wrong in any way to "let" your kids learn things the hard way, like letting your son get the penalty for late homework. You are doing them a HUGE service as a mother. Liked this post very much!