Monday, January 13, 2014

Motherhood Monday~Homework Struggles: Parent vs. Teacher

Homework can be one of the biggest struggles between a parent and a child. As the parent we want to help, but how much is too much, and what if they don't want our help, but need it. Today Bonnie Frank (a.k.a. Lady Blogger) joins us for Motherhood Monday to give us the perspective of both a mother and a teacher. I grew up with a teacher for a mother and now that I am a mom I can only imagine how hard it was to separate the two...especially when it came time for homework. Bonnie is here to give us moms some much needed tips when it comes to making homework time a lot less painful.
 Bonnie Frank (a.k.a. LadyBlogger) has a Master's Degree in Education and is a former teacher and college professor who has taught hundreds of elementary, middle school and college students. Bonnie has two teenage sons and is married to a man she's been with for 32 years.  You can read more of her thoughts on her LadyBlogger website ( and on FacebookTwitter,  Pinterest and Google +.  

Homework Struggles: Parent vs. Teacher

I've worn both parent and teacher hats for the past 17 years and I understand the struggles that homework can cause among parents, children and teachers.   The idea behind homework is that kids should have an opportunity to practice what is being covered in class.  Today, some teachers implement a "flipped classroom" model where students watch instructional videos at home and class time is used for questions, review and introduction to the next lesson. In either case, kids have something to do at home...
    **On any given day, the following question is heard in homes of traditionally schooled and homeschooled kids around the world:
       Scenario #1: "Mom/Dad, can you help me with my
 What do parents and teachers think when they hear this  

I want my child to succeed in school.  My child needs me and I don't want to let him down.  I'll just show him 
the way that I know how to do it.  It's much faster and easier than today's "new math" anyway. 
Note: This parent is feeling insecure about his parenting skills and/or the child's academic abilities.  Having the child go to school with the homework completed will make the parent and the child look/feel better.  

Homework is the student's responsibility.  This parent has already graduated from ______ (fill in child's grade here) and no longer needs to prove that he/she can do this level of homework.
Note:  Teachers need to evaluate the child's abilities.  When parents "help" with homework, it leads to arguments between parent and child as well as a message to the child that s/he is incapable.  This is no help!

I have been the parent in scenario #1.  I know what it's like to see your child struggle, cry, yell, throw things and quit when attempting to finish a homework assignment.  I also know the parental frustration and child's look of helplessness when he tells you, "That's not the way my teacher told me to do it."

No one wants a child to fail--not the teacher, not the parent, and especially not the child!  But interfering in your child's time to practice his/her skills and knowledge is a clear message that s/he is incapable in your eyes.  Moreover, rather than helping, it is actually impeding your child's success.  Your child will not learn to succeed unless you let him.
So what's a parent to do? 
     Scenario #2 "Mom/Dad, can you help me with my homework...?
   How the parent and teacher respond to/reflect on this question:

"Look at the assignment again and if you still have questions about it, call (not text or Skype) one or two of your friends from the class and see if that helps.  If that doesn't work, try again and if you are still having difficulty, email (not text, call or Skype) your teacher, let her know the steps you've taken to get your assignment done, and ask to arrange a time (before school, lunch, free periods or after school) that the two of you can meet and you can get some help."

"I am so glad that __________ (fill in student's name) emailed me (not texted, called or Skyped) about the homework last night.  It is clear that s/he really tried to complete the work and was responsible enough to let me know right away rather than waiting until the beginning of class the following day.  This shows that s/he cares about the assignment and takes responsibility for his/her learning.  I really wish more of my students were like this."

Note: Parents who homeschool their children may need to say "I'm wearing my mom/dad hat right now, not my teacher hat..."

The question in scenarios 1 and 2 were the same
, but the reactions to that question were very different in each scenario.  As with anything else in life, although we cannot control what happens, we can control how we react to it. Showing our children that we believe in them and their abilities is crucial.  This doesn't mean that our kids must figure out everything by themselves (remember calling friends, emailing/meeting a teacher), but it does mean that they need to take responsibility for their own learning.  If the situation arises where the student requires assistance on a regular basis and a tutor is needed, the tutor should not be the parent.  A parent's job is to parent.  (Even if that parent also homeschools his/her children.)  There are loads of tutors out there including Education majors at local colleges and universities looking for (free) practicum hours!

Parenting is a tough job and the more we can allow ourselves opportunities to 
enjoy our children, the better (and more peaceful) our home lives will be.  I'd love to know your thoughts on the homework struggles!

Looking for a book that can help your homework woes?  John Rosemond's  Ending The Homework Hassle is a good place to start.  This book offers "step-by-step directions for implementing a successful homework management system."  Regardless of whether you choose to use his suggestions, Rosemond's approach provides parents food for thought. This book is available in paper form and on e readers.  


  1. At what age does scenario 2 start? My son is in Grade 2, although I'm not answering questions for him, he is not about to be calling friends and emailing the teacher at his age. We work on homework as a team, it is his responsibility to answer the questions without interference, but the reading and research is done together. Honestly, he has already brought things home and I've been like 'What in the world is this?' and he has brought it back to the teacher the next day to get more information buts other than that, we work on these problems at home, together.

  2. It's all hard - all the hats. As a teacher, I always struggled giving homework to students who I knew had to work all night (I taught high school).

  3. I like that you brought up this discussion. My daughter is younger--3rd grade--and she has actually been instructed to work with her parents on the assignments and we are given instructions that echo that. It is sometimes hard to find that line of when to help and when to let the kids work it out.

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