Rebecca Eckler, a blogger over at Mommyish, does her daughter’s homework. I don’t mean she helps her daughter do it, she actually does it.
We’re not supposed to hate her for it, according to the title of the piece, and, in fact, I don’t hate her for it. But I do judge her for it. Because why? Because, well, she’s doing her daughter’s homework, that’s why!
Here’s why her daughter isn’t doing the homework on her own:
She arrives at school just after 8 a.m., plays in the playground running around until 8:30 a.m., then has a full day of class, including on some days gym and swimming, until 3:30 p.m. Then, she’ll have after-school activities, like dance or play dates, and then dinner at 6 p.m. Then it’s bath time. Her schedule exhausts me, and I’m not the one actually doing the physical running around and using my brain all day.
And here’s why Eckler steps in all the time:
She’s so tired sometimes that she doesn’t read the instructions when we do her homework and I have to remind her, not so gently, to “READ THE INSTRUCTIONS FIRST!” I don’t like myself at these moments. I hate the impatient tone in my voice. My daughter hates it, too. (I really only get “impatient voice” when it comes to homework.) Which leads me to just want to take over because, quite frankly, I’m much nicer and my daughter is much happier when I just tell her what to do.
Eckler has convinced herself that her daughter, a fourth-grader, is actually learning when the mom does the work (she cops to doing the fun stuff like spelling but never take on the math, because she hates math). Eckler has convinced herself that the daughter is still learning something, since the mother is showing by example how she finds words in a puzzle.
Eckler says she wouldn’t do it if she thought the homework had value. “If I believed that homework was more important at her age than playing with friends after school outdoors, or dancing, which she loves, than [sic] she’d have all the time in the world to do her homework on her own.” In that case, one wonders why Eckler sat down and cut out and mounted pictures of elephants for a research project so that her daughter’s board would stand out among those of her peers’.
I know the arguments against homework in grade school and I totally buy those arguments. A lot of homework is a waste of time. My question is, then, why create a charade? A charade that the fourth-grader is complicit in. Sending in finished homework sends a sign to the teacher that the daily assignments are manageable when they are not. When the daughter gets praise for her standout poster on elephants (or a gold star for a completed word search), what does the mother expect the daughter to do: say “thanks,” or say “thanks, my mom did it”? If it’s the former, then she’s teaching the girl to lie. If it’s the latter, then why do the homework in the first place? What’s wrong with a crappy elephant poster? Does Eckler realize it’s her own effort that is standing out among grade-schoolers and not her daughter’s?
Oh, I know it’s easier to just blow through some silly word search than to sit there and listen to a tired kid whine about hating homework or language arts or word searches or her teacher or her mom or whatever. But know what’s even easier? Saying, “OK, put your stuff away and go brush your teeth.”
But she’ll lose points! Or recess! Or privileges! Yet those are called consequences and those are for the child to experience. If the consequence of not doing homework is too steep, there are other avenues, like cutting back on after school activities or, gasp, talking to the teacher about homework expectations.
I know intimately this temptation to take over a project: the annual science fair is a real exercise in restraint for me. But I’ve seen what happens when I step in — self-motivation is undermined, genuine interest in a project flies right out the window, pride or satisfaction in finishing just isn’t there. Eckler may think she’s helping her kid but the real help would be if she said, “eh, just do your best.”
One of the most sobering things I think parents can learn about their kids is that their best often isn’t all that dazzling. Why try to hide it? They’ve got time to become great. Especially at something like homework.
Do you, or are you tempted to, do your kids’ homework?