Who's Homework is it Anyway?

A child doing homeworkI recently attended a meeting at one of my daugther's schools. During the meeting, I explained my philosophy on how I monitor my child's homework. Simply put, I consider my daugther's homework to be her job, not mine. Granted when my daughter was much younger I would sit with her nightly and we would plow through homework together. Then in third grade things went amiss and homework became a battleground. Fourth grade was horrendous unti mid-year when I had an epiphany. I decided to make homework her job not mine. I sat her down and explained that I had already been through fourth grade and I was not going back to school. I would be available for consultation should she have any questions on her homework that could be addressed in no more than 10 minutes per subject. Anything outside the 10 minute window would prompt me to send a note to her teacher explaining she needed more instruction. Furthermore, it was her responsibility to make sure the work was done and turned in on time. I would be monitoring her progress through the school online gradebook and give her feedback if I saw anything lower than a "C". I toid her I trusted her to handle everything on her own and I would not be hasseling her anymore about getting her work done.

I know a lot of you are probably panic stricken. Probably you have a reaction similar to one of the teachers at the meeting, who said she checked her child's homework all the way through high school, to make it was complete. Maybe you are worried that such a hand's off approach lead to poor grades, missed assignments, complete and utter chaos! Don't worry, this tale has a happy ending.

Yes, there were a few struggles in the beginning. Mostly what I heard was some variation on the theme "It's too hard", or my favorite, "You don't love me, if you loved me you would help me." I do love my children, I love them more then they will probably ever know, and that is why I won't help with homework any more than a brief consultation. I know my daughter is capable of doing the work, she needs to learn that she is capable for herself. If I help her extensively and she gets an "A", to whom does that A belong? If she does the work on her own and get a "B" there is no doubt that it is all her own achievement. After the first two weeks or so, the drama died down, her grades remained relatively stable and there was only one missed assignment for a paper she lost. Now a few years later, she and her friend walk themselves to school and home again, come in, get a snack and get their homework done often before I get home from work. It is a wonderful system, no more fighting about schoolwork. I check her grades about once a week or so and let her know what is good and what is not accepable.

In some many ways she has grown up in the past few years, gained confidence in her abilities, and become a responsible person. I know we will have struggles and fights over the next few years while she grows up, that's to be expected. Quicker than she realizes she will be an adult, out on her own, responsible for herself. This is an exciting time, I don't do less because I don't love her, I do less because I do. I do less because I know how much she is capable of, and trust her to make the right choices. If I don't give her the chance to stand on her own two feet now, when its safe, and I am here to help, how will she ever know what she is truly capable of?

My next challenge is getting her to keep her room clean...