PracticalDad and Homework

Some important life skills come about through learning to manage schoolwork and homework – time management, self-discipline, consequences – and this PracticalDad fully supports the role of said work.  But it’s a bit of a trial-and-error process in the household since no kids are alike and the one might not be handling it as well as another.  So I have a quiet internal controversy about my role in managing schoolwork and how much I might be helping versus hindering in the long-term.

Technology has permitted parents much greater latitude than our own folks probably ever had.  School systems offer online programs that not only list the current student grades, but also offer teacher comments and daily updated homework assignments.  The message to parents is take advantage of the technology to keep tabs on how your child is doing.  Keep up with the homework and see if he/she’s missing or failing anything.  Stay on top of them since grades matter!

That’s true.  But how far do I take it?

At the upper elementary level, the students are given weekly planners for listing all assignments and upcoming tests and it’s my responsibility to review it daily and sign off to verify that it’s been seen.  Starting at the middle school level, I can visit the daily school district website to remotely ascertain what’s required for homework and tests.

And here’s where the debate arises.  Do I require my child to continue to bring me all of the pertinent work for my review after it’s done?  If so, then I’m assured that everything is being done and can be corrected so that the maximum grades are obtained.  I can also see what the teacher is covering and how material is being approached.  If I know this and think that some remedial work is necessary, then I know how to approach it as well.

But if I don’t review all of the work, then problems might be missed and assignments scotched with resulting poorer grades.  However, my child will learn the lesson of consequences better than if I review everything with him.  The simple reality is that I won’t always be there and there has to be a level of self-sufficiency.

So where do I balance it?  As usual, it depends upon the age of the child.

  • Younger children, through elementary school, have their materials checked daily and the homework is handled before other non-scheduled events occur.  This will include reviewing everything for correctness and completeness.  The thought is that as the child ages and is raised in a particular routine, that routine will hopefully be imprinted on the kid for the future.
  • When they get to upper elementary and middle school, I’ve taken to checking the planner as usual, but no longer review the assignments for completeness and correctness.  They should, by now, have some sense of what’s involved in reviewing their work and will suffer the consequent dings for not following through.
  • With one now in high school, and apparently in control of the coursework, I no longer look at things daily but will go to the system every week or so.  By now, we’ve thoroughly explained that the costs of college will also be met by her own efforts in addition to what we’ve been able to save.  We began this discussion when middle school commenced.  We’ve also continued our insistence that other activities and sports are entirely dependent upon good grades.

And I’m finding that I have to re-evaluate and adjust as needed.  Children are not alike in their skill sets and personalities and I’m having to blur the line as things continue.

Like the rest of fatherhood, this is a highly inexact science and I won’t really know how things went for quite some time.



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