His Homework is My Homework

Ways back in the early days of my career I worked with a guy who used to bitch and moan to me about how much he hated his children’s homework. Virtually every day he’d wail about how miserable it was to work all day and then to come home to helping his children with hours of homework.

I remember asking him why he was doing it when it was their homework. It seemed ridiculous to me that a parent would have to do something like that. Now of course I knew kids whose parents had done their homework for them. But that had been tied into a whole competitive thing in which they were determined to make sure that little Johnny won first place at the science fair.

During one particularly tedious bitch session I told my officemate that I was tired of listening to him kvetch and that if he taught his children to be responsible he might have some time to himself. As you can imagine in my early twenties I was a master of tact and diplomacy.

Surprisingly enough Curt laughed at my comment and said that one day I would learn for myself that “homework was punishment for parents as well as children.” I can’t say that I remember my exact response, but I am sure that it involved an eye roll, a head shake and some muttered comment.

Well years later I have come to learn that homework isn’t just for children, parents get to do it too. I am not as cynical or worn down as Curt so I won’t whine about it here. I am very involved with my children’s education so helping with homework comes with the territory.

I understand Curt’s lamentation far better than I did then. Right now I am involved in homework because my children’s time management skills aren’t good enough to get things done without help. Someone has to monitor them so that they get things done because without guidance homework would be relegated to the very last thing to be done prior to bedtime which would become a real nightmare.

But what Curt was really speaking about were these intricate projects that they kids get. They’re surprisingly complex and that is where mom and dad really get involved because without help they wouldn’t get done. So to paraphrase Pacino, “just when I thought I was done they sucked me back in again.”

And now if you’ll excuse me it is time to work on another science project.

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  1. Jack's Shack November 2, 2007 at 7:22 am


    I bet.

  2. Daled Amos November 1, 2007 at 5:14 am

    “His Homework is My Homework”–There probably is an appropriately solemn Latin phrase for this somewhere.

  3. fashionista cat in a zero gravity shoe-store October 30, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    Jack, American teaching degrees are not acknowledged over here on grounds of a lack of substantial academic and educational knowledge and practice required for German teaching degrees. (I’ve got a few friends from the US that had earnt their teaching degrees over there, but needed to go through university here to be permitted to teach here. They told me the requirements for US teachers can by no means compare to the requirements over here, where teaching degrees compare to post-graduate degrees over there.) Admittedly, you get good and bad teachers all over, but solid training can help avoiding mistakes from the beginning.

    Overly demanding homework repeatedly assigned to children bespeaks a teacher’s inability to adjust the didactics to the children’s respective intellectual abilities. I can understand that with lots of competition, teachers want to show off fancy projects, but that is not the purpose of school education, plus it easily raises the frustration level of kids that are not in the lucky position to have parents that can or will help them out.

  4. Jack's Shack October 30, 2007 at 5:07 am


    Since I never took Trig I imagine you’re right.


    It is kind of weird. 🙂


    One of the reasons I have tried to keep my kids in day school is that they don’t have to go to Hebrew school. It provides a little more time after school to work on homework and do something fun.


    I hear you. It is hard to find that balance.


    Here in the states there is a lot of pressure on the teachers. Good and bad provide a lot of homework.


    There is a lot of that.

  5. Shira Salamone October 29, 2007 at 10:22 pm

    Part of the problem is that the homework being assigned is, in some cases, far more sophisticated that would have been assigned to some of us older folks at the same age. A while back, I read a complaint (in a blog or newspaper) that the parents had to spend hours every night helping their kids with their homework because what the kids were being taught was beyond the comprehension ability of most kids of their age. Imagine how freaked out I was when I read a post from a then-10-year-old blogger complaining about having to study for tests in “algebra and advanced fractions.” (Yes, I copied that quote directly from her blog.) What the bleeping blue blazes is a *10-year-old* doing studying algebra, a subject that wasn’t introduced even to my math-wizard-the-accountant husband until he was 15? Good heavens, what’s the rush? If this is typical nowadays, it’s no wonder kids need so much help with their homework!

  6. fashionista cat in a zero gravity shoe-store October 29, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    Hmmm, since I teach, I may have a different perspective: parents should encourage their kids to do their homework, check they have done them if need be, but they shouldn’t actually do their kids’ homework. Homework is supposed to be practice and revision (that’s why I and many teachers I know refuse to grade homework unless someone has done extraordinarily well and therefore deserves a bonus). During my time as a student, I also had teachers assigning us tasks that we, at our young age, simply couldn’t have accomplished by ourselves, but those were bad teachers, not good ones, as they weren’t able to schedule their projects and adjust the level of difficulty to the age group they were dealing with. Kids should still given be enough time to be just that – kids.

  7. FeeFiFoto October 29, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    I’ve spent more time on my kids’ homework than I ever spent on my own, partly because my school was mediocre and theirs is much better. It’s very difficult to extract myself from their process because I so do not want them to fail, but when helping my son write an essay turns into a two-sided screamfest it’s time for me to back off and either let him sink or swim, or hire a tutor who won’t have any emotional stake in his success.

  8. Another meshugannah mommy October 29, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    Tell me about it. We just finished an enormous paper-mache project that the teacher sent home for all of us parents to do. There was NO WAY the kids could have done it themselves. As third grade hit this year – our son’s homework has increased enormously – along with Hebrew School homework!! At 8, it is too much for him to manage effectively on his own. It just frustrates me to see all of his free time eaten up by homework.

  9. Guilty Secret October 28, 2007 at 8:24 pm

    Nice post, Jack. Funny how things turn out!

  10. Michael October 28, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    Probably the moments when the kids start getting into trigonometry.

  11. Jack's Shack October 28, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    Can it really be that bad, having to spend time talking with the kids?

    No it really isn’t, but I can see that there are going to be some moments where this is more challenging.

  12. Michael October 28, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    My oldest one is 4, and I’m already helping her with her writing. Now I see that there’s only more to look forward to!

    Can it really be that bad, having to spend time talking with the kids?

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