The Personal Toll on Helicopter PARENTS

Hi Readers! Just back from the dead, after a grilling incident left me with second degree burns on my right hand FINGER TIPS! Bad news for a blogger (and YEOW!!!!!). So I went to the E.R. and got some very powerful pain drugs. So powerful that they left me lying on the floor all day yesterday, lifting my head only to vomit. Now, happily, my fingers are fine (tap, tap, tap) and I have vowed never to take a Vicodin again.

And now, on to less personal gripes.

Check out this esiysstfes
, “Helicopter Moms, Heading for a Crash,” from Sunday’sWashington Post . It’s by Margaret Nelson, author of Parenting Out of Control, and it basically says that by the time you have watched TV with your kids (to make sure it’s appropriate, and discuss relevant issues) and done homework with your kids (to help and guide them) and played with your kids and driven your kids and watched your kids at soccer/dance/chess/lacrosse, there’s not a lot of time left for your other relationships: With your spouse, your friends or your community.

I really related to the homework part. My husband and I DO spend a ton of time helping one of our sons with his homework and we  watch the evening dribble through the hourglass until but a few grains are left for teethbrushing and good nights.

Sometimes this time drain it’s not just a reflection of hovering and helicoptering — at least not deliberately, on our part. Sometimes it really is externally imposed by a society that demands a ton of kids and, by extension, parents. For instance — not that this is such a time sucker — but almost every quiz my sons take at school has to be brought home, reviewed and signed by a parent. Why?

And that’s not to mention the paperwork, the forms for every activity, the giant projects that a kid COULD do on his own…maybe in a few years. But it seems to me that sometimes the schools treat 8-year-olds like middle schoolers, middle schoolers like high school kids and high school kids like graduate students in advanced particle physics at Princeton.

Anyway, perhaps that’s a bit off topic (okay, AND a personal gripe. Just like I promised to move away from! It’s the Vicodin hangover typing.)  What I liked about the Washington Post piece is that, rather than castigate helicopter parents yet again, it mourns the richness of life they give up: the time to volunteer for a political campaign, or have dinner with friends. As Nelson says at the end:

Many of the helicopter mothers I’ve spoken to have told me, often with pride in their voices, that their daughters are their best friends. At first, I wondered why these women — some of them in their late 40s or 50s — wouldn’t prefer to spend their free time with people their own age. But as I looked more closely at the way they are tackling parenthood, I understood: They have no free time.

All the more reason to try to go Free-Range — not just on a home-by-home basis, but also to encourage a society that lets kids be kids, so parents can be part of the bigger world, too.  — Lenore

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102 Responses to The Personal Toll on Helicopter PARENTS

  1. Beth July 6, 2010 at 10:15 pm #

    Will comment on the article later (it’s great!), but I have to say…aren’t there “grilling gloves” one can buy to prevent just this type of accident? I’m sure if children did the grilling there would be!

    And for those wondering, yeah, I’m being sarcastic.

  2. Erika Kotite July 6, 2010 at 10:23 pm #

    I asked my daughter yesterday if she understood that parents who give their children as much freedom as possible still care deeply about who they are and what they are doing–and she said yes. It made my day.

  3. Lisa Romeo July 6, 2010 at 10:31 pm #

    You– and Margaret Nelson — said it!

  4. Amy July 6, 2010 at 10:31 pm #

    I think your hypothesis about 8 year olds being treated like middle schoolers, and middle schoolers being treated like high schoolers, and high schoolers being treated like college students, is wrong.

    I come from a family of teachers. My father in law taught high school physics (my own class, included) for 30 years. According to him, he had to drop his standards each year to maintain a standard bell curve distribution of grades.

    What was a D when he started ended up being an A by the time he retired.

    Our students are not going to college knowing the things they need to know to be successful, and it’s reflected in the experiences of the many college professors I know, who are astonished at the increasingly shoddy performance of the freshmen each year. They can barely read and write and do basic math – and these are the COLLEGE students!

    I think there are a lot of reasons – #1 that the schools are involved in “character education” and other such nonsense that has nothing to do with the three Rs.

    I think the reason teachers assign complex projects to their students is because they know the parents are going to “help” (or do it for them).

    My parents NEVER sat down and helped me with my homework, and I graduated from Purdue University on the Dean’s List. It was MY homework, not my mother’s.

  5. KateNonymous July 6, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    Hey, at least the drugs seem to have taken away the pain! Mr. Nonymous gets none of the painkilling and all of the side effects, which is why he doesn’t even take them after surgery.

    My mother always said I was her best friend, and we were friends even when I was a child. She was also always my mother. How did she do that? She was definitely an authority figure in our family (I can never remember hearing “Wait until your father gets home”), but we always knew that we could trust her and confide in her, and she made learning fun. It’s possible to do both.

    She also made sure that I learned HOW to do things. I still remember her helping me write my first book report in third grade, and my first research report in seventh. But I think she was a bit put out at how much I took those abilities to heart; in high school I would never let her read an assignment, even to proofread, until I’d gotten a grade on it–because I wanted to be sure that the grade was entirely mine.

    Come to think of it, I’m not sure that she or my dad “checked” my homework. They were there to help us if we asked for it, but it was always clear that they were a resource, not a source of answers. This was true throughout high school. To this day my dad insists that he didn’t really help me get through calculus. And while it’s true that when I would ask for help, he would start with “Tell me what you understand so far,” and I would wind up figuring it out on my own, I also firmly believe that by making himself available for help, he gave me a sounding board that helped me work through things on my own. But I needed him as that sounding board!

    The irony is that schools say that they emphasize critical thinking, but I see very little evidence that that’s true.

  6. Lisa July 6, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    This reminds me of a recent opinion piece in the Globe and Mail about the oppression of motherhood. It’s plain to see why the birth rate has plummeted in the Western world — parenting has become ridiculously time consuming!

    As a parent who homeschools kids whose academic needs can’t be accommodated at school, who bakes everything to avoid allergens and preservatives that adversely affect my kids (one of whom has a deadly allergy), and who has an unfortunate overly-conscientious personality that requires me to do things like hang my laundry out to dry so as not to waste energy unnecessarily, I am all for free-range parenting whenever possible! Otherwise, I fear a serious burnout would ensue. (Sorry to use the word “burn” here, Lenore!)

  7. Aaron Klenke July 6, 2010 at 10:34 pm #

    Been there and done that with the first set of kids . . have chosen not to do it again. I try to be a good dad, but more and more I tell my kids that I should not and will not be their primary play partner.

    In regards to the homework issue, reading “The Case Against Homework” justified a tone of changes in our house for the better.

    Worth checking out:

  8. Mika July 6, 2010 at 10:37 pm #

    This touches on so many things for me…I recall a discussion with another mom when I was a new mom – I was talking about my mom being a super-mom, and she said well she had that in her head too -and she was trying, but it was hard. Only minutes later I realized her idea of super mom was soooo different than mine. She was thinking as described above. I was thinking of my single mom that was president of her Lions club, did volunteer work helping kids to read, went for her weekly exercise and so much more. Such a difference.

    I have said in secret to my only friend I dared say this to -but the helicopter type moms are really taking their toll on society -and you can’t have it both ways…you can’t want every playground perfect for you kids and then criticize that “obviously no moms were on the board of parks and rec” -you can’t whine about breast feeding laws if no one is there to advocate in daily living (only advocate groups).

    Time and time again it is the personal “advantage” for their kid instead of a corporate good. From cord blood banking – everything possible to save my kid vs donate (yes I hope my kid never needs their cord blood). Vaccine risk for Rubella vs. the world of pregnant moms….

    More and more our world is made up of moms making insular choices and seeing nothing wrong with that.

  9. Elena July 6, 2010 at 10:53 pm #

    I agree that this new parenting style must be exhausting, and unnecessarily so.
    But my mother is my best friend — and that’s a wonderful thing. We both have friends in our age categories, and that does not take away from our relationship in any way.
    Now that I have a daughter myself, I can only hope she will think of me as a friend when she grows up.
    But, yes, it would never have occurred to mom to do my homework either with or for me. If I asked for help, she would give it — this usually meant proofreading of a big-deal essay, but she was not ever a helicopter parent.

  10. Matt July 6, 2010 at 10:54 pm #

    On homework –
    I think kids are getting more homework now, but too little of it requires active thinking.

    On signing for quizzes –
    So many parents DON’T pay attention to grades, and then scream at the teacher when their precious kiddo is failing. This helps prevent that – or at worst, is a CYA for the teacher.

  11. 6th grade teacher July 6, 2010 at 10:55 pm #

    The number one indicator of success in school is how involved a parent is in their child’s learning.

  12. kimelah July 6, 2010 at 11:07 pm #

    I just started reading the article and how the mother “Erica” requires her children to discuss what they’ve watched. And then I thought of my own children, who will call me into the living room to show me (via the PVR’s lauded rewind feature) a cool scene they’d just watched. Or will seek me out in the kitchen, or my room, or while I’m on the computer to tell me, in excrutiating detail, about the show they just watched (Criminal Minds, NCIS, etc – the 14yog), or the cool experiment they just witnessed (Mythbusters – the 16yob).

    At the other end of the spectrum, I do have to “hover” over my 16yo son to ensure he actually does his homework, or even go to school.

    I guess I could probably say I’m a helicopter when I need to be, to ensure things that need to get done, get done.

  13. Pebblekeeper~Angie July 6, 2010 at 11:10 pm #

    I am still working on having more time for the boys to be off by themselves – and we have a very simple schedule. I am looking for time where there is “nothing to do”. I don’t think the issue here is how much we help with homework or befriend our kids – but how much time do they have away from us with out an agenda? How much time do we have to pursue adult activities? We live in a lake house and so far this summer we’ve only had one day with guests from our town. They are all busy. Events. Plays. Swim Team. Baseball. Choirs. They can’t come throw a Frisbee and swim at the lake because they are too busy. When they do come – each one says – I wish we could do this more often. Sad.
    Yesterday my boys were going to walk to the park one mile away, instead of the one 1/2 mile a way. They turned around. Their excuse? They thought I would worry because they were taking too much time. I need to watch what I say and think about their safety and make sure it does not hinder their exploring. 🙂

  14. adriennebreaux July 6, 2010 at 11:34 pm #

    My parents didn’t spend even one tenth of that time hanging out with me and I came out just fine! I think the happier, enriched and relaxed parents feel, the better at parenting they’ll be. For goodness sakes spend some time away from the kiddos!


  15. King Krak, I Smell the Stench July 6, 2010 at 11:42 pm #

    Teachers who assign too much homework, or homework that requires the parent(s) to do a lot of it, need to find a new vocation. All they are doing is making the kid’s (and parents’) lives miserable. Unless, that is their job, eh?

    Once-again, another case has been made for Homeschooling or, my preferred flavor, Unschooling.

  16. Amy July 6, 2010 at 11:44 pm #

    Once-again, another case has been made for Homeschooling or, my preferred flavor, Unschooling.

    I fully support your right to “unschool” your kids.

    After all, someone’s going to have to change my kids’ oil and make their burgers someday.

  17. Beth S. July 7, 2010 at 12:09 am #

    I agree with Amy and Matt. I don’t think for a second that we’re treating kids older than they are. I think we’re treating them younger. So many kids these days are overparented that they don’t know how to make decisions for themselves or manage their time. The parents make the decisions and manage their time and as a result, become exhausted at the micromanaging and then lash out at the teacher. Thus, the teacher becomes exhausted at having to defend her assignments, tests, and projects and rather than fight the good fight, chooses to take the path of least resistance.

    My first two years of teaching dealt with this very thing. Parents today won’t accept letting their kids fall on their faces. Everything has to be A work, and as a result, their kids never become independent.

    As for what Matt said, he hit it right on the head. I used to make my students get all their tests signed so that parents could never come screaming to me at the end of the quarter saying, “Why didn’t I ever see these tests?”

    I don’t do that anymore though because our school switched over to a gradebook that lets you post grades online. Now of course we have the helicopter parents emailing every time their kid gets a C on a quiz. Nevermind that the kid is getting a 98% in the class. Let’s focus on this C because it’s going show that their child isn’t perfect.

  18. Lisa July 7, 2010 at 12:10 am #

    Well, homeschooling certainly does away with the homework issue — except that it ALL becomes homework! It’s a big responsibility for parents to take on, but there are a lot of benefits to it.

    At least you can make the assigned work meaningful, appropriate to your child’s level, and interesting. We homeschool and our evenings are spent on whatever we want (the kids generally do their own thing, as I am “off duty”, although we sometimes play games or sports as a family if we all want to.) No teacher-assigned busy work, fill-in-the-blanks or colouring projects for us!

    Yet, here it is a July day and my kiddos have both chosen to do algebra today. It’s a heat wave, so they’re stuck indoors, but they will generally choose educational activities in their free time. It’s all in how it’s presented and how you make learning a pleasurable activity, rather than a dull chore to be avoided as schools generally do.

    “Unschooling” plays a big part in this — if you encourage your child’s passions and let him take the lead on what he learns (at least for some things), you’ll be amazed at how much they’ll enjoy it and retain it. If an adult dictates the learning too much, it tends to go in one ear and out the other, or is immediately forgotten after a test.

    We don’t “unschool” entirely, and some folks take the concept to a really bizarre extreme, in my opinion, but the subjects that my kids have “unschooled” are the ones in which they may well become professors some day. No burger flipping for these kids, thank you very much (unless that’s what they really want to do with their lives).

  19. Larry Harrison July 7, 2010 at 12:16 am #

    Hello Lenore. I’ve emailed you before, I have both the Kindle version of your “Free Range” book AND the hardback, and am loving what I’m reading. You are my hero.

    I am SO sorry to hear of your grilling accident, and at the same time–you will NOT be hearing any safety lectures from me about it.

    I can tell you, in our house the MARRIAGE comes first. My wife & I make time for each other that has NOTHING to do with the kids, and while are kids are above everyone else, we make sure to make plenty of time for others as well. By the same token I tell people that I also make time for my hobbies, photography especially–and NOT just clicks of the kids either, but the landscapes which I’ve done for sometime.

    I WILL NOT stop doing these things just because I’m a parent. My life will NOT be full of nothing but sippy cups, errands running to the store to get diapers, and yet another Elmo DVD on my television. Yes those things are a PART of my life now, and a pretty big part, but I make a point to see to it that they will not completely take it over.

    Sadly, I find that I am an exception to this. So many people who I knew before they became parents, now never have any time for us, because the children have completely taken over 100%. What’s more, they seem to take PRIDE in this. I’m sorry, but I don’t see it that way. Sure your kids are first over your friends, but it shouldn’t be a complete takeover.

    Sorry, but I need ADULT conversations about ADULT topics and ADULT interests. My child is not anymore responsible for entertaining me that way than I am responsible for being their 24 hour playmate. Yes I do act goofy with them & make them laugh, and I enjoy it–but I’m not going to eschew my adult interests.

  20. janetlansbury July 7, 2010 at 12:17 am #

    I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I don’t believe parents should sit down to do homework with their children. Homework is meant for children. It’s practice, not a performance. When we help more than very minimally, we give our kids the message that they are incapable of handling a child’s work by themselves. They don’t “grow out” of the need for help, but only become more dependent, less self-confident.

    We need to teach children that it’s not only OKAY to make a mistake, it’s a GOOD thing because those are the lessons we learn the most from, remember best.

    I wrote about a positive approach to helping with homework.

  21. Karen Allendoerfer July 7, 2010 at 12:25 am #

    I think this article has a number of good points–for example, that there is a lot of paperwork in modern (helicopter) parenting that detracts from more worthwhile pursuits. I also like “The Case Against Homework,” mentioned above.

    But I like the idea that mothers and daughters can be best friends, and that it doesn’t have to be considered weird. Many successful people are good friends with their parents–Bill Gates, for example. And in Europe young adults are more likely to live with their parents without stigma than in the US. I would find the development of more cross-generational friendships to be a refreshing change from the generation gap, devaluation of elders, age segregation, and overemphasis on individualism that we seem to have in the US these days.

  22. Lisa July 7, 2010 at 12:26 am #

    One more comment about this and then I’ll stop – promise!

    It just occurred to me that “unschooling” might be described as “free range schooling”. Giving kids freedom to learn what they want (I’m not talking about watching TV or playing video games all day, but actual learning), giving them the resources or skills to find them themselves, and them letting them have at it (providing mentoring and guidance when requested) is a great way for kids to become independent learners, just as free range parenting generally helps them to become more independent in life.

    Just wanted to try and edify people a bit on this point, who may be unfamiliar with the concept. I’ll have to blog on this point soon — I’m quite excited to see the parallels.


  23. Mika July 7, 2010 at 12:31 am #

    In the Caribbean where I’m from – all through primary/elementary school the kids have a “homework notebook” – the kids write down the homework -at the end of the day the teacher signs it to make sure the kid got it all -even as little as KG we had to write it down. And that night, when it is all done, the parent signs it. And it also allowed for the very occasional brief notes between the teacher and my parents – maybe about early pick-up or something.

    My mom always checked to see that I had done what I was supposed to e.g. Exercise 2B Numbers 1-10. But that was it!! It wasn’t a detailed check UNLESS it was a trouble spot for me and my mom would sort of work through some stuff one-on-one (she was also a teacher). That happened once every 2-3 months and I was happy once I “got” the concept to tell my mom “see ya” -and it was a lot more about understanding and working on how to process than actually ever doing it. I cannot recall my mom EVER doing my homework.

    At age 11 -when we began high school (think Harry Potter) that was all over with.

  24. Beth July 7, 2010 at 1:08 am #

    I always felt OK with the fact that my daughter wasn’t my best friend, but now reading a few of the comments above I’m not so sure.

    We talk, and we share, but I certainly have private parts of my life I don’t tell her about, and I’m sure at 23 there are things she chooses not to share with me as well. We get along great, enjoy spending time together, and she is a wonderful young lady….but she is not, for me, nor I for her, a “best friend”.

  25. LoopyLoo July 7, 2010 at 1:09 am #

    janetlansbury –
    “I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I don’t believe parents should sit down to do homework with their children.”

    I’m with you 100 percent. I can only remember a couple of occasions when my parents helped me with my homework — difficult math problems that had me stuck and rides to the library. Otherwise, I did my own homework on my own time. If I decided not to do my homework, that was fine — but I was the one who would suffer the consequences of poor grades (and therefore grounding.) I’m shocked to hear that spending hours a night at the dining room table while Junior does his homework is now the norm. As a child, I absolutely wouldn’t tolerated it.

  26. Claudia Conway July 7, 2010 at 1:39 am #

    In the UK, certainly, I get the impression that a lot of school homework involves parents because of an insidious governing attitude that because some parents are uninterested in their kids schooling they should make sure that ALL parents are involved, to avoid any of them shirking their responsibility for their children’s learning.

    Upshot, I’m sure: concerned parents knock themselves out researching and creating super-duper projects etc. The uninvolved minority will still not care or get involved in the slightest.

  27. Tate July 7, 2010 at 1:45 am #

    I was extremely disturbed as, in the middle of a conversation a particularly helicoptery helicopter mother looked to her 7 year old daughter who was sitting in her lap and informed me that her daughter was her best friend. I found it to be a little scary in truth. What a lot of pressure on the little girl.

    When I was around 10 years old and my mother and I and my many younger siblings were staying up in the woods in New England, she would have me stay awake with her for company. I was happy enough to do so, but it did occur to me that it would not have been a responsibility I would have liked for longer than a summer.

    To this day I have a very good relationship with my mother, and my sisters and my brother. If I had to pick a “best” friend I would probably choose one of my sisters, but in the end I wouldn’t. We’re family and it’s a different relationship. I have best friends elsewhere, as does my mother. It doesn’t mean we love each other any less.

    I do feel for both the helicopter mother and her daughter, though. It felt to me like the mother felt this bond because she spent every waking moment with her child, or wanting to be with her child, even going so far to call her child in sick to school one day when she really wanted to hang out with her daughter. While this may or may not be connected, I will say too that the little girl did not have any close friends in her class.

  28. spacefall July 7, 2010 at 1:45 am #

    I think possibly high schoolers are getting the *workload* of a graduate student, but with none of the depth. We used to get page after page of completely pointless busy work — word searches in science, maps to colour in history, and so on. It’s a lot of work and a lot of pressure to get it done, but it in no way prepares students for the university workload, which is much less superficial. Doing a stupid “science terminology” word search is tedious and frusterating, but finding the word oogenesis in a block of letters doesn’t even teach how to use it in a sentence, let alone the actual science. We live in a society that values breadth of knowledge, rather than depth, and our classes reflect that. And because it’s harder to memorize a list of unrelated terms than it is to learn about a single one in depth, it’s wearing on the students. Parents may not have time to be best friends with anyone but their children, but I think increasingly children don’t have time to be best friends with anyone but their parents, and even as a lifelong loner I think that’s kind of sad.

  29. Kelly July 7, 2010 at 1:49 am #

    Ah, only a few minutes in until a nasty and ignorant unschooling comment. Very, very sad and definitely makes me feel my thoughts aren’t wanted in this comment thread.

    Unschooling/homeschooling is an awesome lifestyle and my children demonstrate just how wonderfully it works (for those who wonder, you can read a lot about it on my blog).

    However – those of us who home/unshool/life learn/autodidactic learn, etc. should remember that 98% of children in this country ARE in school. How are we supporting those kids – and their parents?

  30. SKL July 7, 2010 at 1:52 am #

    To helicopter or not to helicopter; I know it’s wrong, but the question is, how hard is it to do the “right” things when society is built around the “wrong” things? As much as I’d like to deny it, I do get affected by judgment regarding my parenting style. I hope that I can learn to turn defensiveness into confidence before my kids go to school.

    My kids are in a bunch of activities right now. Most of them are at school, so I don’t have to run them around. In the evenings, I can give my kids a chance to fool around. However, when they get into grade school, I suspect the schools won’t accommodate all the activities they will want to do. So I will have to figure out what is going to give. Independence is priceless; however, I doubt I’ll be militant to the extent that I refuse to take my kids to any evening activity. I’ll have to keep working on finding the right balance – and probably err on both sides from time to time.

    I guess I am still not sure what a “helicopter” parent is. If there’s no practical way for my kid to get from point A to point B without my driving him, am I a helicopter parent when I drive him? If my kid has a report that requires skills far beyond my kid’s grade level because the teacher demands parent involvement, am I a helicopter parent when I provide the minimum amount of assistance needed to complete the assignment? True, I could send it back to the teacher with a note saying that I don’t do homework and force my kid to suck it up. Yes, I’d be making a statement and all that, but my kid ought to have a positive relationship with his teachers and a responsible attitude toward schoolwork.

    When my 3-year-olds came home with homework, after I picked my chin up off the floor, I provided a time and place for them to work on it while I prepared supper. I also sent a note to their teacher saying that I do not do homework and whatever they do on their own is what she would get. Interestingly, my kids were able to do far more of the homework on their own than I had given them credit for. Eventually the homework stopped coming, which is good, because my kids rarely sit down indoors between breakfast and bedtime when the weather is decent, nor would I want them to.

  31. Rachel July 7, 2010 at 1:53 am #

    I believe strongly in a free-range childhood, but as a teacher, I just can’t agree with Lenore’s harping about the burden of homework in the middle school years. Kids need homework, they need some of their homework to be difficult, and they need to attempt the homework independently. This is how they learn how to learn on their own.

    Let me put this in concrete terms. There are basically two approaches to teaching middle school history: (1) Assign minimal homework, cover the facts by lecturing or showing movies in class, and don’t attempt to do much more than that. (2) Cover the facts by assigning homework reading on a regular basis, and use class time to examine primary sources, engage in debates and role-playing games, organize information into charts and timelines, and otherwise apply the factual knowledge gleaned from the homework reading. If you want the kids to learn anything meaningful, option 2 is the only choice. Option 1 is easier on everyone, but it’s boring for everyone (students and teachers alike) and it does the students a disservice by not taking their intellect seriously. Option 2 consumes more time, and the kids will struggle and, yes, sometimes even fail to comprehend the assigned reading on the first go. But any true free ranger ought to realize that kids need opportunities to try things, including intellectual things, on their own sometimes. It is essential that a late elementary or middle school aged child have some occasions to sit down at home, alone, and try to figure something out from a book, rather than being led lockstep through every lesson by a kindly adult.

    It can be difficult to assign appropriate homework for a middle school class because the children in a single middle school class vary so much in both personal maturity and reading level. But in my observation, when middle school parents complain about too much homework, there is usually one of two things going on. Either the parent has utterly unrealistic ideas about how the child should complete the assignment, assuming that the child should know every single word in the reading and understand every idea at first glance, or the parent has a child who just doesn’t work very well independently– one who doesn’t use a dictionary well, can’t guess words’ meanings from their context, has difficulty keeping track of her belongings, doesn’t pace himself well, and quails at any difficulty. Sometimes the problem is temperamental; some people are naturally more adventurous or better organized than others. But often it’s because the parents have not fostered the child’s intellectual or personal independence and the child has grown fearful of attempting anything independently.

    Homework isn’t something to be afraid of. For kids over the age of 8 or 9, especially, homework is the friend of free-range parenting, not the enemy. Look at homework as an opportunity to foster your child’s intellectual self-reliance just as you foster his personal independence. Do NOT sit at your child’s elbow as he works. Give him an English dictionary, a foreign language dictionary, a ruler, a calculator, a dayrunner–whatever he needs– make sure he knows how to use these tools, and back off! Celebrate his ability to work independently. If he announces that there are two words he doesn’t know in the reading assignment, don’t say, “That book is too hard” but rather, “That’s great! You learned two new words today! Pretty soon you’ll be able to read anything.” If he announces that he can’t solve the last two math problems, tell him that trying is all that’s required– and that people often learn more from a thoughtful failure than from an easy success. And finally, remind yourself that a child who does not learn how to work independently and tolerate some degree of intellectual struggle and confusion at 12 will not be able to do any type of research or independent intellectual work at 25. Letting your child struggle a little now, and develop the coping skills he needs, will embolden him to pursue any intellectual adventures he wants to pursue in the future.

  32. Scott July 7, 2010 at 1:55 am #

    Regarding time spent with homework. We were spending several hours a day dealing with all the crap that the schools demanded. Locally our schools start in with 1-2 hrs of daily tedious and unimaginative worksheet homework starting in kindergarten, in the name of get tough academics. It wore us all down and accomplished nothing positive. Plus there were the constant demands for cash. Plus if you try to have a parent teacher conference the teacher doesn’t show up, or shows up and has nothing to say or seems to be talking about another child. We’d be asking, “You say he doesn’t know the alphabet? Really? Strange, how do you suppose he is able to read these books then?”

    We finally pulled them all out and started homeschooling. We now spend less time per day dealing with school than we did when they were in school, and have the advantage of being several grade levels in material ahead of the other kids their ages locally.

    Contemporary school doesn’t seem to do a lot for kids other than wear them down while drilling them in state propaganda and fear.

  33. Pebblekeeper~Angie July 7, 2010 at 2:02 am #

    For the record – we are unschoolers, or as hubby likes to say, Some Schoolers.

    I have seen the helicopter issue with parents no matter how their children are educated. I actually see that it is worse with moms that teach their kids at home.

    Helicopter to me – is the hovering. Up Down. Side to Side. Maneuvers quickly. There for rescue. Trained, gassed up, and usually with a rescue swimmer close by to assist. Vigilant to save.

    My hope for kids is that the helicopter could stay in the hanger, until the rescue is requested by the child. Let the child feel failure, pain of a pulled muscle or a skinned knee. Wait to see if a rescue is even needed. Coast Guard Helicopters do only go out for rescues that involve possible loss of life – or for training maneuvers. It would take far too much time and money to hover around every ship that is out to sea, or up the river fishing, or in the bay crabbing. 🙂

    Let them play- get hurt- dust themselves off – and feel empowered.

  34. Larry Harrison July 7, 2010 at 2:11 am #

    I don’t want to get in the habit of double & triple-commenting but I wanted to address homework specifically.

    First-off, yes, it should NOT be a game of playing doubles–that is, with the parent doing as much of it as the children. First-off, homework is FOR the children, not for the parent, and secondly–the parents have lives of their own having nothing to do with their children, and that should be respected rather than met with the typical sneer of “which matters more to you, your hobbies or your children?”

    Secondly, this–homework should not be such a burden that a child can’t be a child. They need to be able to be children. To that end, there should definitely NEVER be summer homework, and for that matter I disagree with any homework over the weekend either. To do otherwise is to disrespect a child’s need to actually be a child & is further a disrespect of the family’s personal time.

    I think homework overload teaches kids to be workaholics when they grow up, too. My children are not in school yet, but I definitely see this being a problem when they grow up. First, I am their parent, but their homework IS NOT MY JOB, it is my CHILD’S job, PERIOD. Second, me as an individual, my wife & I as a couple, and all of us as 1 family unit have our private time, and especially on the weekends, this is to be respected. Period.

    They, the schools–NOT US (or me)–need to deal with it, and quit preaching to me about “your child won’t succeed any other way” and trying to sign me, my wife, and us up as a family as rats in your rat race. Sorry, we’re not playing that game–we’re not rats and we’re not racing.

  35. Karen July 7, 2010 at 2:22 am #

    I was talking with the Dad of one of my son’s classmates a few weeks ago. He was concerned about the “hours” of homework their teacher assigned every night. I found this interesting because my kid never spends more than 20-30 minutes a night on his homework–same teacher, same class. Hmmm. I have a pretty smart kid, but I don’t think that’s the main thing going on here. I think the main thing is: TA DA–I don’t do his homework with him. If he is really stuck, he’ll let me know and I’ll try to help him get back on track–but mostly he is on his own. In the other family, a parent always sits down with the kid doing their homework. I think this slows things down.

  36. Stephen July 7, 2010 at 2:23 am #

    One reason so much time is taken up with homework is that so much time is wasted during the school day. If employees spend so little time focused on the tasks in hand they would be fired, but at school this is normal.

    My kids are still too young for this, but as a good example of what can be achieved if the child is allowed to actually focus for sustained periods, my friend’s son, who is now 9, organizes his own schedule and deliberately by his own volition gets up early so he can get his school work out of the way, usually finishing it by 11 am or so. He is then happy to be free to engage in other activities – basic programming, reading, playing outside and exploring. And his parents also do not have the stress of trying to get lots of extra work done in the evenings when everyone is tired and ready to call it a day.

    I don’t think the situation is as bad here as it is in Japan, where my wife and I taught for a number of years, but the use of time at school could certainly be arranged in a much more effective way so that time could be left for other growing and maturing activities – as well as time spent with parents just…. relating!

  37. Virginia July 7, 2010 at 2:33 am #

    @Rachel: Sadly, the two approaches to homework you offer are not the only ones. There is also the approach, taken by many schools today, of requiring reams of useless worksheets to be completed started in Kindergarten. And Approach #2, which you recommend–expecting students to assimilate basic information on their own so that class time can be used to deepen understanding–is obviously inappropriate for young children.

    In my experience, especially in the early grades, kids get homework that no reasonable person could expect them to complete on their own. And they get in trouble if it’s not done. Given that situation, most caring parents are going to put a significant amount of time into helping their kids with their homework.

    If I had it to do over again, though, I would tell my son’s Kindergarten teacher (who was wonderful in every respect but the amount of homework she assigned) that he simply would not be doing the homework that year. Oh well–hindsight is 20/20!

  38. Steph July 7, 2010 at 2:38 am #

    I know anecdote is not data, but… My stepson came to live with us when he was starting 9th grade and my my husband morphed into a helicopter parent, staying on top of that kid’s grades, checking the on-line, real-time grade website nightly, making sure homework was done, imploring the kid to go to the teachers to argue his grades, emailing teachers himself, pricey SAT prep classes, etc. Now the kid did do pretty well in high school grade-wise (although I’ve often argued that the school inflated grades and placed kids in honors classes, even when they shouldn’t have been) and husband patted himself on the back when the kid got a partial scholarship to his #1 college.

    But then kid goes away to this college and it all falls apart. Because Dad was no longer there to hold his hand, stay on top of him to make sure papers were done, or enforce study time. This kid never learned to do it himself. One year and $26K later, he was academically dismissed from the school, and has given up (at least for the time being) on the whole idea of college and is living in my basement.

    My other stepson, who is a senior in high school, stayed with his mom, who has taken a very hands-off approach. She understands that he has to suffer the consequences in order to learn from his mistakes. He’s doing very well in school, and his grades are HIS grades. Not his mom’s. I really admire her approach and hope I will be the same when my two little ones get to that point. And I have every confidence that stepson #2 will be fine when he goes off to college next year

  39. Big Mac July 7, 2010 at 2:52 am #

    Two things:
    1) I actually DON’T have a problem with homework. What I have a problem with is busy work – repetitive, pointless work that doesn’t do any good and just eats up time. If little Jimmy is struggling in math or little Lizzie is behind in spelling I completely support them getting work that will help them get caught up. I also think studying for quizzes and tests is necessary, and that the occasional project that actually requires the kid to THINK about the subject and not just vomit back what the teacher says is a good thing.
    2) I have heard so many people say “Oh, if you don’t sit with your child as they do their homework/wait with them at the bus stop/find a babysitter for your 12 year old/drive them to soccer practice/make them do chores/etc.etc.etc. you are LAZY and should be ashamed of yourself.” Uh, I’m lazy? My wife is dead, I’ve raised our son (nearly 7) by myself. I work, I’m part of the VFD (volunteer fire dept), we run a small farm (mostly for ourselves), I do the majority of the housework/yardwork/maintenance (no housekeepers or mechanics for us!), I cook most of our meals – and you know what? I still take time for myself. Poker night with the guys, the occasional date, reading books not written by Roald Dahl, working out daily, you name it. And I do spend time with my son – we read together every night. We go hiking and camping and riding. We shoot hoops in the front yard and play catch in the back. I taught him how to swim, how to box, how to play guitar and chess and a million other things. And if there’s a problem in his life, I’ll help him through it. Letting him wait at the bus stop by himself or having him peel the carrots when I make dinner hardly makes me lazy. And if I can do it, there’s no reason why two-parent families shouldn’t be able to as well.

  40. Uly July 7, 2010 at 3:04 am #

    I believe strongly in a free-range childhood, but as a teacher, I just can’t agree with Lenore’s harping about the burden of homework in the middle school years. Kids need homework, they need some of their homework to be difficult, and they need to attempt the homework independently. This is how they learn how to learn on their own.

    Funnily enough, none of the evidence says that homework is even helpful before the 6th grade. Of course, you teach kids around that age 🙂 but I bet a lot of us are talking about younger children. And unfortunately, Rachel, I don’t think most teachers take your approach to homework (which strikes me as a sensible one, for the record) either. I think even in high school there’s a lot of busywork and garbage being given out. Certainly I recall that from my own high school days, and I see no reason to think it’s gotten *better*. (This is why I didn’t do homework – I was Taking a Stand!)

    From talking to people online I suspect part of the problem is that teachers are expected or even required to assign a certain amount of homework, even if it’s pointless. I can’t imagine many teachers really WANT to grade 25 crossword puzzles on basic science vocabulary. (That’s 25 per class. You do the math.)

    And finally, remind yourself that a child who does not learn how to work independently and tolerate some degree of intellectual struggle and confusion at 12 will not be able to do any type of research or independent intellectual work at 25.

    This is as gloom-and-doom as “The kid who doesn’t have piano lessons and soccer and yoga and all-day preschool at 2 won’t be a success in life”!

    One of the wonderful facts about children – about people in general! – is that they change. I do think it’s good for children to learn to work independently, especially by the time they’re in the double digits. I do think it’s important for them to learn how to do research and struggle through things that are hard.

    I don’t think that if they fail at learning this skill at a particular age, though, that they will NEVER EVER EVER be able to figure it out. Let’s take a deep breath here.

  41. Sara July 7, 2010 at 3:09 am #

    Being a friend to a child is wonderful and definitely cross generational relationships are a blessing that brings great knowledge and respect for experience. However, parents that are married, need to focus first on their relationship with each other or they are in a way abandoning their marriage to their children. Their relationship will suffer and perhaps fall apart. This does not improve things for the child. I also feel that a parent is a parent first and a friend second. I certainly want my daughters to feel free to come to me, but they must also know who is in charge in our home. Adult children are a whole different question.

    Women need relationships with other women…women that have experienced some of the same things in life in order to feel connected and whole. Couples need fellowship with other couples. Without those relationships, hobbies, activities, we are nothing but breeders that raise the cow to prepare it for market. When the cows are gone, we are left with no friends, no spousal relationship, and no activities. This is not my vision for family bliss.

  42. Gee July 7, 2010 at 3:19 am #

    “Contemporary school doesn’t seem to do a lot for kids other than wear them down while drilling them in state propaganda and fear.”

    But then there’s recess.

  43. KarenW July 7, 2010 at 3:45 am #

    I’m no helicopter parent, but even I don’t have time for freindships, and barely any time for myself to speak of. Happily, I do have a very good relationship with my husband and consider HIM to be my best friend,

    I assume that these helicopter parents in the article are rich people. Otherwise, who does their shit work? When my kids are occupied with friends or TV, that’s when I’m cooking or cleaning the house or taking care of the yard.

    And on the subject of homework – I agree that the responsibility should fall on the kids. However, my son struggled quite a bit in first grade and would not have passed if my husband and I both did not spend a lot of time helping him with reading. I don’t think that’s going to suddenly change this year, either.

  44. Donna July 7, 2010 at 3:46 am #

    @ Rachel – I have no problem with homework if it’s of value. Reading an assignment for class? No problem. Book report? No problem. Project? No problem. However, I distinctly remember from my childhood days – and can’t imagine that it is any better now with the emphasis on test scores – that 95% of my homework was busy work that had no purpose whatsoever other than making sure that we had a homework assignment for that subject. Really, writing spelling words 10 times each was the most pointless exercise I ever did in school and made me hate spelling.

    @ Lisa – It’s great that your kids get to learn what they want. I’m sure that they love it. What kid wouldn’t love only studying what they are interested in. I’m sure they would make great professors except they’re never going to be able to graduate from college. You see, to be a professor, you need that basic liberal arts degree that requires college-level knowledge of all subjects. To get to be a professor of history, you also must be able to master college level math, biology, physical science, geography and English. You have to muddle through them, and get a good grade, even if you despise them with every fiber of your being. Hard to do if you’ve never bothered to study them in childhood and have always been able to focus on just what interests you. Further, the world simply doesn’t work on the idea that you can simply do what you’re interested in. I love several aspects of my job; absolutely hate others. I have to do ALL of them. I’m not sure I would be able to accomplish that if I had spent my entire childhood only doing what interested me.

    @ Beth – Be very okay with the idea that your child is not your best friend. I certainly hope that my daughter and I share a close relationship as she grows that moves into a good frienship when she is an adult. That said, I don’t want her to be my best friend and I don’t want to be hers. I’m always her mother first and foremost and I don’t want to be her closest confidante. I don’t want to hear about her sexcapades and I’m sure she doesn’t want to hear about mine. I’m not going to go on spring break and drink until I puke with her, and I hope that the person that she chooses to do that with will be her best friend who will have her back 100%. And, if I were her best friend, who is she going to gripe about me to?

  45. Renee July 7, 2010 at 3:48 am #

    How do I do it with four kids? It’s true I do less, that’s how I do it.

    With younger children (infants/toddlers), yes taking time out is difficult,and at times improbable. Now with my youngest is two, my hands are more free.

  46. Richard Holmes July 7, 2010 at 3:54 am #

    Can I suggest one day you take a trip over to Japan, and head out into the countryside? You’ll find all Japanese elementary school children walk to school, sometimes for over a mile, in a group with no adults with them. The schools insist that they do this. You’ll find 5-year-old children cycling to the local supermarket and going shopping by themselves. You;ll also find virtually none of the social problems that plague many Western countries such as obesity, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, underage drinking, school disciplinary problems, high crime, social alienation, etc. If the West took parenting lessons from the Japanese, not only would our children be happier and healthier, but out societies would be a heck of a lot better of as well.

  47. Matt July 7, 2010 at 4:02 am #

    @ Richard Holmes –

    “If the West took parenting lessons from the Japanese, not only would our children be happier and healthier, but out societies would be a heck of a lot better of as well.”

    This is somewhat ironic, as Japan is famous for being ridiculously high-pressure on students during middle and high school years in particular (and then, oddly to the Western mind, very lax during college). It’s also the only country I’m aware of where there are numerous competitive preschools that test the mother’s aptitude before agreeing to admit the (sometimes yet-to-be-born) child…

    Not that we can’t learn from other cultures/countries – and there are things that I think the Japanese do much better than we do – but I think you have a perhaps too-rosy outlook?

  48. Sky July 7, 2010 at 4:37 am #

    Unschooling/homeschooling is an awesome lifestyle”
    That’s kind of like saying “collard greens/ice cream is a delicious food.”
    “I come from a family of teachers. My father in law taught high school physics (my own class, included) for 30 years. According to him, he had to drop his standards each year to maintain a standard bell curve distribution of grades. What was a D when he started ended up being an A by the time he retired.”
    This is evidence that children are not being taught WELL in the lower grades, but not necessarily that they aren’t being treated as if they were more advanced than they are. In my observation, this advanced treatment is part of the problem. Instead of treating a kindergartener like a kindergartner, and drilling and chanting and shoring up the basic essentials of the ABC’s and phonics and basic spelling, they are giving them huge poster projects on specific themes to do at home. They are having them write daily in journals in school – paragraphs upon paragraphs – when they haven’t even taught them anything beyond beginning letter sounds. They’re treating them like they were already in sixth grade, when they haven’t taught them much of ANYTHING yet. It’s a little bit crazy. In elementary school math, they introduce abstract concepts before children are really ready to think abstractly, instead of building systematically from lower to higher skills – they skip all around. So, by the time they get to high school, they are lacking in the essentials. Not as much is expected of them in terms of essential skills in elementary school, but more is asked (I won’t say expected, but asked) of them in terms of advanced skills, and, when they can’t do it (because it’s a ridiculous expectation), they’re just given good grades anyway. It’s weird. It’s all backwards. I marvel at it. Seeing these journals my daughter brought home, with pages and pages on unintelligible writing. She never once brought home a spelling list, or a spelling test, or a phonics worksheet, or anything like that. Compared to my childhood, anyway, it seems like they ask more of my daughter, while actually teaching her less. Strange combo.
    I’m not against homework that is aimed at reinforcing skills through drill and practice, I just hate PROJECTS, particularly those that clearly require parental assistance (which is pretty much all of them).

  49. Sky July 7, 2010 at 5:00 am #

    “Funnily enough, none of the evidence says that homework is even helpful before the 6th grade.”

    Actually, some of the evidence does say homework is helpful before 6th grade. And some of it says it isn’t. And, most likely, it depends a great deal on the type of homework assigned, the kid, and the parents, none of which is really controlled for in most of these studies. My daughter was not assigned homework in K, but I did “homework” with her frequently. We did Hooked on Phonics as “homework” because I saw no progress in school in reading. After K Hooked on Phonics, I saw marked improvement. I think “homework” can be a way to teach what isn’t taught in school. Granted, it’s a shame they aren’t teaching more in school, but there’s also only so much they CAN teach, given a mixed ability crowd and the necessity of making sure everyone meets the minimal standards.

    I believe in homework for PRACTICE. But homework for PRACTICE means the teacher doesn’t have to grade a thing. You get the answers the next day and grade yourself, and ask questions about what you don’t understand.

    But I begin to suspect that homework is not used much these days for practice and reinforcement. It is used either for (1) busywork or (2) to make the parents do the teacher’s job of actually teaching the kid the material.

    I do think at least 60% of what my daughter learned last year she learned at home. Perhaps this is why studies show that kids with parents who are involved in their kid’s schoolwork do better. Because despite 7.5 hours a day of school, MOST essential learning STILL occurs at home. Some of this is the failure of the modern education system. But some of it is just the inevitable limitations when you have 20+ kids of varying levels in a classroom.

    Having realized this, I would homeschool…but quite frankly I prefer not to spend all day with my young child, so, I like to take advantage of this babysitting service, where she also happens to learn some things. And then I can teach her what she didn’t learn at home on weekends and in other spare moments, because it really doesn’t take long.

  50. Lisa July 7, 2010 at 5:16 am #

    @Donna — I agree with you. That’s why I said I’m not a complete unschooler. They get lots of time to follow their passions, which they wouldn’t necessarily at school, but I still require my kids to learn all of those things that they will have to learn to have a well-rounded education. To the extent possible I try to make it inspiring (so they’ll want to do it themselves), interesting, and not associate it with lots of boring worksheets.

    I’m not worried about them. They will be well equipped to do whatever it is they want to in life — and they’ll have the self-confidence that comes of having largely prepared themselves for that future.

  51. Scott July 7, 2010 at 6:01 am #

    me: “Contemporary school doesn’t seem to do a lot for kids other than wear them down while drilling them in state propaganda and fear.”

    Gee: “But then there’s recess.”

    I realize you’re joking, but no joke, the schools don’t have recess here. In addition, PE is one 45 minute session per week, and recently there has been an initiative to replace actual PE activities with playing sports oriented video games, plus Dance Dance Revolution.

  52. This girl loves to Talk July 7, 2010 at 6:14 am #

    I hate homework. A parent on my block actually TOLD the school her kids DONT do homework. She prefers afternoons/nights for family time and homework makes too much tension/tears/upset.

    I want the guts to do this! I told the teacher we only do homework if my kids remember and do it without me pushing, so homework is only done half the time. I think they let me off because they feel sorry for me that I have four kids. Most parents at school only have one or two.

  53. Scott July 7, 2010 at 6:32 am #

    When we discussed the absurd homework situation with local teachers, it was clear that parents who thought there was too much homework were seen as irresponsible, lazy and uncooperative. It was also suggested that parents who did not ensure homework was done could be dragged before the judge and face time in jail for child neglect, the state statutes of which include a category called “educational neglect”. Of course the statute was intended for parents who don’t send their children to school at all nor attend to their education personally, but that doesn’t matter, what matters is that authoritarian judges are ready to step in to assist in disciplining parents who are reluctant to join in with the mass delusions.

    For those of you who live in more sane parts of the country not besot by fundamentalism and authoritarianism, you may wish to check out from your local library “The Homework Myth” by Alfie Kohn. It’s fairly well known. In it he goes over the relevant research, which you can then use to butress your debates with the school’s devotion to mindless homework fanaticism.

  54. Catherine Scott July 7, 2010 at 8:00 am #

    Just to let you know that it’s the same this side of the Pacific Pond, and it’s also gotten a lot worse in a short time, between my older kids and my younger one starting high school (ie grade 7 here).

    By the time my youngest started mid-year break last week she was completely exhausted, worn out by the endless, often ill considered and pointless homework.

    And yes, there’s the forms, things to be signed. constant bombardment of all sorts.


  55. SKL July 7, 2010 at 9:17 am #

    “When we discussed the absurd homework situation with local teachers, it was clear that parents who thought there was too much homework were seen as irresponsible, lazy and uncooperative.”

    The way I put it was, I won’t sit my kids down to do homework every day because we are too busy going to the museums, parks & etc., reading, and learning important life skills in the evenings. I understand that you work on this copying of letters during the school day.

    I dare any teacher to call me lazy.

  56. Jen Connelly July 7, 2010 at 10:00 am #

    I was actually just contemplating this general topic this last week. I’m on a parenting site and I’ve seen so many posts about “what do you do with your kids all summer?” and “how do I keep my kids from being bored”. What they want is advice on how to literally entertain their kids every minute of the day because they don’t think their kids should be left to themselves, that’s neglect.

    I’m sitting there scratching my head wondering when they do anything for themselves or even cook or clean. Then I realized…they don’t. Ever. Their entire days revolve around playing with/entertaining their children and were not talking just toddlers. No wonder these parents are so frazzled and burnt out.

    I also get endless comments about how I manage 4 kids with another on the way. The consensus is I must be super busy and can’t possibly have enough time with each child individually, etc. They also almost always mention they can barely handle their 1 or 2 kids.

    I have to admit I’m having a hard time right now. I suffer from depression, I’m pregnant, my husband moved to another state for work back in April and I’m on my own with 4 kids and no car. Next week we add baby #5 to the mix.
    But on good days I have no problem finding time to myself (uninterrupted time is a little harder). There are days I’m actually bored out of my mind because the kids are doing their thing and I can’t find anything I’m interested in doing, lol. I’m sure all that free time will evaporate once the baby comes. Or, at least, it will be harder to coordinate.

    I realized the other day that those people that say it’s so hard with just 1 or 2 kids are tying to do EVERYTHING all the time with their kids. They never let their kids out of their site for even a second even bringing 4 and 5 year olds into the bathroom at home with them because they can’t be trusted to be alone for a second. That level of involvement would be exhausting and if I had taken that route when my kids were little I would have never had #3-#5. There wouldn’t be time to even make those kids, lol.

    As for the homework thing: I’m hands off on homework. I already finished school, I don’t need more homework. Obviously if one of the kids is struggling in something I help but otherwise they are on their own. My 1st grader last year was expected to know how to read on the 1st day but they didn’t really teach it in kindergarten. Homework was hell for her. Every single day for every sheet (2-3 a day) I had to sit and basically hold her hand.
    I had to read over everything then sit and try and make her read the questions and come up with her own answers. 3 sheets could take almost 2 hours for her to complete (was even worse with my son the year before). It was excruciating and took up my entire afternoon. Meanwhile if one of my other kids actually needed help with something I couldn’t help them unless I stopped helping the 1st grader who would then sit there and stare at her sheet until I was back. I was about to lose my mind.

    She’s reading better now and the last month of school she was finally getting the hang of her homework and only needed me to explain the directions and go over a few sheets. The rest she did on her own. With my son, who struggled the same way in 1st and was doing much better in 2nd, I would look over his sheet (he only got 1 a day) and give it back to him. If he asked for help I would look at it and decide if he was just being lazy or really needed help. Most of the time he just didn’t feel like reading the directions himself and I would make him do it then check later to see if he had actually understood. He got the hang of it after a month and stopped needing help.

    My oldest (in 4th) was a different case. She’s just plain lazy and doesn’t want to do her homework. I had to be on her case constantly just to make sure she did her homework. I didn’t always check it either. If she made a ton of mistakes because she didn’t want to put any effort into it than that was her problem. I was hoping the teachers would stop giving her extra credit to make up the points she lost on sloppy, unfinished homework. She ended up getting all As and Bs for doing crappy work. She learned only that she didn’t have to do her best because there is always EC to make it up. Sigh.

  57. Annanina July 7, 2010 at 10:08 am #

    The massive amounts of paperwork that come home from school are overwhelming at times. Fund raisers, wear-this-color day, homework, projects, forms to fill out and snacks to remember…. and this was just Kindergarten. I felt that it was important as a parent to painstakingly go through everything and help my daughter remember things, encourage and help her to complete the worksheets, and so forth, but it was such a chore at times. I’m not a naturally organized or nit-picky sort of person, so I kind of had to force myself into this “helicopter parent” role for the benefit of my daughter. School just seemed to require it. I do admire those who homeschool their children, and think it is a valuable thing to do, yet I’m not sure if the benefits are worth the sacrifices and so haven’t and probably won’t go that route myself.

  58. JRB July 7, 2010 at 10:08 am #

    I COMPLETELY agree with everything you and Margaret Nelson wrote. You GO!!!

  59. kherbert July 7, 2010 at 11:01 am #

    FYI – I’m a teacher and personally I think HW is a waste of time
    1. Per district policy I can’t take a grade on it.

    2. Some of my kids have parents that do their hw

    3. Some of my kids can’t do homework because they are homeless, they have to sleep at their guardian’s work.

    4. I’m supposed to take conduct points off if they don’t do homework.

    As much as possible I did things like read this article, make a comment on the class blog, and be ready to talk about it. Then I would open my room after school and before school for tutoring. The kids could do their HW then.

  60. paula143 July 7, 2010 at 1:25 pm #

    Being a mother of a 13 years old daughter, I often need to help her doing her homework, especially math homework. But, to be very frank, I can’t always manage them. So, I take help of They take only 99 cents for 3 math problem done!

  61. Donna (the other one) July 7, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    Count me in for homeschooling. I put my 3 oldest through public school and thought there had to be a better way. Now my 9 year old reads Shakespeare and my 7 year old is a math whiz. Both can do their own laundry, cook, and clean up after themselves.

    My kids spend the summer outside playing, like they’re supposed to be. Bored? I have a long list of chores that need doing. Or they can take a book outside, sit under a tree, and read.

    There’s an adult available (I am a single mom, so I have to work), either myself or my 23 year old daughter, but I limit the number of commitments my kids have to be at so they can enjoy being “bored.”

  62. baby-paramedic July 7, 2010 at 5:55 pm #

    Re Homework.

    I am a fairly recent highschool graduate, and three of my younger siblings (whom I cared for) just graduated too.

    The expectation was a MINIMUM of three hours work per night. The work we were given would easily total five hours if it was to be done well (in senior school). Six hours of school (ish) followed by five hours of homework?

    It was a relief entering the workforce fulltime.
    I could go home and and not take work home with me!

    (Note: I never did the “busy” work. Unless it a: looked interesting or b: the teacher could explain its usefulness to my education, it was not done. So, every year I go a “D” for homework… But A or B in everything else).

    I do believe homework has its place.
    I do NOT believe there should be so much of it.
    Busy work (under the guise of revision) rarely benefits anyone.

  63. Donna July 7, 2010 at 8:07 pm #

    @ Donna (the other one) – I’m curious, how exactly do you “homeschool” as a single, working mother? Do your kids just teach themselves? Squeeze lessons in the couple hours when you get off work and go to bed? Now I admit to being very anti-homeschooling but if you’re going to go down that road shouldn’t there at least be school?

  64. Lisa July 7, 2010 at 9:13 pm #

    @Donna — Maybe you are “anti-homeschooling” because you don’t really know anything about it? How much “learning” do you think actually goes on in public school? How many hours are truly devoted to advancing a child’s education (as opposed to just putting in time with busy work or crowd management)?

    Homeschooling families generally find that they can accomplish in a couple of hours what it takes schools all day to do. And, furthermore, they can direct the learning to the child’s actual abilities (rather than the median, or lower) and help that particular child to flourish.

    I took my kids out of a private school (which was better than our local public school) because they were bright and keen and I wanted them to stay that way. Now, two years later, I just completed some standardized testing with them (for fun) and discovered that they are both in the 99th percentile, as compared to other children their own ages, in ALL subject areas across the board. Homeschooling certainly hasn’t hurt them.

    My husband and I are both lawyers, although I don’t work presently. If I did, I’m fairly certain that I could still homeschool my kids by providing them with projects to work on during the day, or letting them do self-directed learning, and limiting the actual lesson times to a couple of hours in the evening (much like a parent of a school child would spend on homework). It certainly wouldn’t be impossible.

    I recently read an interview with a Nobel prize winner, who, although being in his 80s, still credits his mother with his success. She had homeschooled him, very sparingly (maybe an hour a day), and let him pursue his interests otherwise, which allowed him to specialize and become an expert in his field from an early age. That’s something my own kids do — but you indicated in an earlier comment that they likely wouldn’t get to go to college if they followed their interests. That’s not the case at all, and even with a couple of hours of lessons a day they will more than cover what they need to get in wherever they want to go. They are already ready for college level courses in their areas of expertise (biology and physics), despite being elementary age.

    You should know that schools like Harvard, Stanford and MIT actively recruit homeschooled kids, as they tend to be self-directed and driven to learn (they haven’t suffered the ennui that comes of sitting in mind-numbing classes day in and day out for years).

    Kindly educate yourself before making disparaging comments.

  65. Mike July 7, 2010 at 11:28 pm #

    Not that I agree with Helicopter parenting, but where are the Dad’s in this scenario? They keep referencing how the mom’s are too busy for a social life. Perhaps people should be asking why more isn’t expected of Father’s and their roles as parents. If more is expected of children and more is expected of Mothers why is it that we don’t expect more from Fathers?

  66. Library Momma July 8, 2010 at 12:16 am #

    I know this discussion wasn’t originally about homeschooling, but I had to add to it because we also homeschool. At one of our homeschooling groups, a long-term homeschooler shared with us that 15 minutes of one-on-one instruction is equal to 1 hour of classroom instruction. She said there was research to back up this assertion, but if it’s true, that means that a homeschooled child could receive four hours of classroom instruction in one hour at home. Amazing.

    I’ve met plenty of unschooled kids who were college bound or already attending community college or a four-year university. Going to a public or private school and then college does not guarantee any more success than being homeschooled and going to college.

  67. pentamom July 8, 2010 at 1:36 am #

    It’s easy to read the word “unschooling” and assume that means no education, or no thorough education.

    But would it be acceptable to form an opinion, and then mock and criticize, based on your reaction to an unfamiliar word on any other topic?

  68. Donna July 8, 2010 at 5:47 am #

    @ Lisa – Actually, I know a good bit about homeschooling and am still adamantly opposed to it. I don’t doubt that one-on-one interaction is more conducive to learning than a classroom atmosphere. Truthfully, if the parents are educated themselves and actually have the patience and skills to teach their own children, I can see where it benefit the children academically (and that is a big if because most parents I know are very intelligent and educated but would make absolutely horrible teachers for their children or any other child).

    I have a real problem with it from a social and societal basis that has absolutely nothing to do with academics. Schools teach so much more than academics and contribute to general society beyond the individual students they churn out. Destroying those institutions and the continued removal of the white, middle class from the rest of the population is not the direction that I want to see my country heading. But I choose to live in the inner city not the lily white suburbs 10 minutes away with the best schools in the state because I believe there is more to learn in life than that which can be found in books.

    That said, I’m still curious when teaching occurs for a single working mother. I also am a single working mother and I couldn’t imagine a time that I am less likely to be an effective teacher for my child than after a busy day at work when I would much rather be unwinding my day – kinda one of my complaints with homework. Nor is it the best time for my child to learn as she is generally tired from her day. Nor do I personally see any benefit of having my young kids home all day doing ??? when they could be in school at least socializing. The benefit from homeschooling seems to come from actually being with parents more hours in the day than I’m actually with my child, whether all that time is spent with actual studying or not.

  69. Dave July 8, 2010 at 7:16 am #

    Lenore you hit it on the head again, “Let parents be part of the bigger world.” What is the sense of spending all our time raising kids that in turn will spend all their time raising their kids. When do adults effect change and engage in the adult world? After all aren’t we raising kids to be adults in and adult world?

  70. Sarah Hodgson July 8, 2010 at 9:53 am #

    I’m bracing myself for first grade. The forms and paperwork for kindergarten blew me away…and her teachers chastised me for not insisting that she do more “letter” practice at home. I never did get around to signing her homework assignments or making sure she did them in fact–I thought that was a joke, but it seem prevalent. Signing homework assignment….gish.

    I’m trying to enjoy the summer without feeling guilty we’re not waking up early to practice her writing skills.

  71. Gail July 8, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    @Big Mac – YES!! What you said. All of it.

    Needing time to myself is a big part of how I wound up being so adamantly free range.

  72. Carrie July 8, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

    “(2) to make the parents do the teacher’s job of actually teaching the kid the material.”

    My son is going in to 3rd grade in the fall. Ever since he started school, he has struggled with reading and writing. This year, even his math has fallen as well. Every night, we struggle through hours of homework, plus we work on spelling words, practice math facts, and do extra writing because his writing is so bad (and to make it even “better” we started a typing program at the end of the year because his handwriting is absolutely unreadable). I loved his teacher this year and she really did a great job but at one point I was forced to ask “What exactly am I sending him to school for?” If I’m teaching him reading, writing, math and spelling, what is he getting from the school? PE? Art? Music? Maybe a couple of times a week, due to a rotating schedule for “specials” Recess? Only when the weather is good (n the midwest, that means pretty much not at all from Nov-March) and only if the entire class behaves and everyone gets their homework done. Social Studies? they watched Liberty Kids videos once a week. Science is only subject we don’t really cover at home and they only do that 1st and 3rd quarters. 🙁

    He goes to school from 7:45 until 2. He comes home and has a snack then jumps right back into homework and spends two hours doing it to get it all done (we alternate simple drilling of the material and games like Math Twister and time telling bingo to make it more fun. Game nights always take longer)

    I would love to be less of an education helicopter parent but as long as he isn’t learning the materials in school, someone has to teach it to him. Over the course of second grade, he managed to claw his way up from “failing” to “working towards grade level” meaning he still wasn’t where he should be but he was better than he was. If we backed off, he’d be right back at the bottom. 🙁

  73. Wonder in the Woods July 8, 2010 at 11:21 pm #

    We homeschool and I wondered if I am a helicopter parent because I am the one assigning the homework instead of a teacher at school. Yet, we are also teaching our children to be more independent. How is this possible? We follow some Free Range ideas and let our children pursue their interests. It is true that you can spend as little as 1 to 2 hours a day covering EVERYTHING a public school will cover. I don’t have to follow assignments given by someone else. The rest of the day my children play and work mostly on their own. Sure, we do projects together and take fun field trips but my kids also have plenty of time to use their imaginations, go outside, and play with other children. We homeschoolers laugh every time the issue of socialization gets brought up by someone who doesn’t know what it is really like to homeschool.

    My kids get plenty of socialization with more than just “lily white” folks too. My kids have many friends with at least one parent who was born in another country or their grandparents were born in another country. We are interested in all cultures and we have plenty of time to learn all about them–not just the superficial information available in schools. Speaking of “superficial,” this is the real problem with public school. Everything learned there ends us being superficial because of the spiral method and standardized testing. Relationships formed at school are superficial too –remember that best friends are no longer allowed in schools. Everything I read about public school lately sounds like prisoner management and not what I want for my children. For anyone dissatisfied with public school, try homeschooling. After you get used to being “different,” it really is a great lifestyle. And if you don’t love it, you can always go back to public school.

  74. Uly July 9, 2010 at 1:02 am #

    Donna, I fail to see how an artificial, age-segregated group of people that is nothing like any adult environment (unless you grow up to be a teacher) teaches anything outside of academics – certainly anything that can’t be taught in any other way. Perhaps you could elaborate instead of simply throwing it out as unquestioned fact.

  75. sonya July 9, 2010 at 4:00 am #

    I would never dream of helping my child with homework. To me that’s cheating. My daughter (4th grade) does get a lot of homework, a bit too much perhaps, but my only responsibility is to ask her if she’s done it, and make sure she has time and a quiet place to do it. I don’t check it or help her with any of it. If she has a project to do, e.g. for science fair, I will help her locate the materials (since she can’t exactly drive to the store), that’s it. Her homework is her responsibility, and has been since kindergarten.

    And as for homeschooling, I personally could never do it. I’m just not a patient teacher, and we end up fighting whenever I try to teach my daughter something. But I’m sure it works for people with the right personality/skills – just not me!

  76. Donna July 9, 2010 at 4:45 am #

    Uly – That’s a matter of opinion. I see much to gained by school outside of academics. Learning to interact with people of different races, religions, beliefs and socioeconomic backgrounds as equals. Hearing different points of view and interacting with people who believe the complete opposite of you and needing to be cordial. Getting picked on, dissed, not invited to the big birthday party for the year – sorry, as long as it doesn’t get out of control, I actually think that teaches children resilience. Learning to live with and follow rules that are abitrary, make no sense and you can’t change. Having to navigate a classroom with a teacher who doesn’t like you. Getting a failing grade because you didn’t prepare for a test.

    And then there is the social aspect. I enjoyed going to school and hanging out with friends. While I know that homeschoolers generally have group activities, that doesn’t come close to interacting with my BFFs 5 days a week for 6+ hours a day. I liked being in classrooms full of other kids. I liked being in clubs and other after school actitivies (and no I wasn’t particularly popular, nor was I at the bottom of the school food chain). I want my daughter to have the opportunity to do the spring musical, play in the band, join french club because the teacher is hot, enjoy Senior Skip Day, go to football games and homecoming dances, go to the Prom (or be crushed because she isn’t asked to the prom), get in trouble for passing notes in class, ditch school, make fun of her teachers, gripe about how miserable so-and-so’s class is with her best buds, engage in school drama and gossip and the million of other things that made childhood fun.

  77. pebblekeeper July 9, 2010 at 4:53 am #

    UhOh Donna. You just described Homeschooling to a T in Central Oregon and along I-5 in Oregon. Which is why people keep asking – you know about your experience – but you don’t know about ours. You are making assumptions to what our lives are like during the day. We have everything you just described above. Home Schooling is far far far from a one man band being a religion forcing rule monger to a fleet of over bred servants who sit at the kitchen table alone, lonely and without any interaction all day. Maybe you should try to meet a bunch of kids who learn at home? My experience – is that if you have a function with 10 public school kids – 10 private schooled and 10 homeschooled – you wouldn’t be able to put the right labels on the moms or the kids. 🙂 Why are you trying to put labels on people you don’t even know on a comment string that had nothing to do with homeschooling? I’m sorry if you had a 2nd cousin twice removed that locked her kids in the basement and never let them see daylight and forced worksheets under the crack of the door – but that really doesn’t happen in real life. 😉

  78. Uly July 9, 2010 at 8:36 am #

    Learning to interact with people of different races, religions, beliefs and socioeconomic backgrounds as equals. Hearing different points of view and interacting with people who believe the complete opposite of you and needing to be cordial. Getting picked on, dissed, not invited to the big birthday party for the year – sorry, as long as it doesn’t get out of control, I actually think that teaches children resilience. Learning to live with and follow rules that are abitrary, make no sense and you can’t change. Having to navigate a classroom with a teacher who doesn’t like you. Getting a failing grade because you didn’t prepare for a test.

    All this, excepting the last two (unless you’re a homeschooled kid who also takes outside classes, which is apparently quite common) is stuff homeschooled kids can do.

    For that matter, school classrooms aren’t typically all that diverse, so we can strike that OFF your list entirely.

    And then there is the social aspect. I enjoyed going to school and hanging out with friends. While I know that homeschoolers generally have group activities, that doesn’t come close to interacting with my BFFs 5 days a week for 6+ hours a day.

    When I was in school, I was always told we “weren’t there to socialize”. And we *didn’t* really socialize. We didn’t interact with each other that much except at lunchtime and between classes. Your homeschooled kids could get just that much interaction by, I don’t know, joining a co-op or something.

    I liked being in clubs and other after school actitivies

    There’s no law saying that homeschooled kids aren’t allowed to take dance classes or swimming lessons, so after school activities are still on the table.

    I want my daughter to have the opportunity to do the spring musical, play in the band, join french club because the teacher is hot, enjoy Senior Skip Day, go to football games and homecoming dances, go to the Prom (or be crushed because she isn’t asked to the prom), get in trouble for passing notes in class, ditch school, make fun of her teachers, gripe about how miserable so-and-so’s class is with her best buds, engage in school drama and gossip and the million of other things that made childhood fun.

    Much of this is stuff homeschooled kids can do. They can do musicals either outside school or – in some districts – within the public school system, ditto for band and whatnot. They can go to football games, and join sports teams. If they’re invited, they can go to Prom. They can have friends and gossip. Okay, so passing notes in class probably doesn’t work that well… but I don’t think that’s exactly a make-or-break moment in your life.

  79. Donna July 9, 2010 at 10:00 am #

    “There’s no law saying that homeschooled kids aren’t allowed to take dance classes or swimming lessons, so after school activities are still on the table.”

    Taking classes is oh so different than clubs at school. As is performing in someone else’s school musical or theatre company. Or going to a school football game for a school you don’t attend (I’m not sure why one would even do that) and don’t know the players, cheerleaders, band members and most of the fellow students sitting in the stands. Or going to a Prom that isn’t yours. Or playing on school sports team as opposed to a rec sports team. The social dynamic is 100% different. I always did both – school clubs and private lessons – and there is no comparison of the two in the actual social aspect.

    “For that matter, school classrooms aren’t typically all that diverse, so we can strike that OFF your list entirely.”

    Actually my child’s school is one third white, one third hispanic and one third black with a little shaved off some groups for a small spattering of arab/persian and asian (those communities in town congregated in another neighborhood but join her group in middle school). The school is about 50% underprivileged and 50% middle class/upper class right now. One third of the school doesn’t speak English as a first language. Since it’s a college town, there is a large number of foreign nationals here to study at the university (many who never leave).

    “When I was in school, I was always told we “weren’t there to socialize”. And we *didn’t* really socialize. We didn’t interact with each other that much except at lunchtime and between classes. ”

    I remember being told that too. And yet we socialized constantly in school – again goes back to that note passing thing if we couldn’t verbally speak. And I graduated with a 4.0 average.

  80. Donna July 9, 2010 at 10:20 am #

    @ pebblekeeper – You have homeschool football teams that play against other high schools in oregon? COOL. I think that’s a rarity though. And your kids ditch school without your knowledge to go hang with friends (because it is the illicit part of the activity that makes it worthwhile)? Afterall, you said that that I described homeschooling to a T.

    And, frankly, I don’t want to live in Oregon. No offense to the state as it’s very beautiful, but I’m not moving there. Homeschooling kids here (and in SoCal where I used to live) are 100% white middle class. I’m sure some areas have other ethnicities but ours does not. And there are no underprivileged homeschooled kids from the hood. Don’t even try. They are all middle/upper class and hopefully all college educated.

    I’m not putting labels on kids. Homeschooling kids are perfectly normal children. They do socialize, have fun and enjoy themselves. I never said anything different. I certainly never said that anyone was locked in any basement withheld from human interaction. Apparently, you believe that that is what non-homeschooler must think in order to be opposed to the wonders of homeschooling but I never said anything similar to that.

    Personally, I want my child to have a childhood with all the trappings of normal school for all its ills. With all it’s negatives, I still think formal schooling adds much to a child’s life and is the way to go. That is my opinion and I’m entitled to it. Just as your entitled to be pro-homeschooling, I’m entitled to think it’s a bad idea.

  81. Donna July 9, 2010 at 10:58 am #

    You are never going to convince me that homeschooling is a good idea. Beyond the fact that it is 100% not the lifestyle I want for my child, I think that it has a negative societal impact. It’s just further pulling kids that could be positive role models away from schools, thus, leaving more of the underprivileged to flounder in failing schools with no help. People who would put this much time into their child’s education could do so much to make schools better for everyone, rather than just focusing on their own children. I’d much rather see the efforts being put into doing what these women did and rebuild public schools so that everyone can benefit from a decent education.

    The fact is that the upper part of the population is always going to have to bring the bottom along. I deal with a portion of the population that needs so much help from the rest of population if it’s ever going to contribute positively to society. And no, I’m not talking about socialism. I don’t want to take anyone’s money and give it to anyone else. I want to give the poor the tools to succeed if they chose to use them. Some will; some won’t. But right now, they are reproducing at a much higher rate than us so we need to do something.

  82. Kelly July 9, 2010 at 11:08 am #

    Donna, you’ve been making the same anti-homeschool points over and over. Interested in giving it a rest?

  83. Gail July 9, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    Why has this turned into a nasty debate about home- vs. institutionalized-schooling? This so-called discussion is unbecoming to a group of – normally – open-minded, analytical, parents. It seems to me that the decision on how to educate our children is incredibly personal and based on so many factors they couldn’t possibly all be covered here, and the truth about which method is best must lie somewhere in the middle.

    This argument is taking on the same flavour of attack as breast vs. bottle, stay at home vs. day care, cloth vs. disposable, and any number of other isssues that have come up since we became parents. Honestly, can’t we agree that there is no one size fits all approach?

  84. pebblekeeper July 9, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    For the record – We have are from a two parent family where both parents are Native Americans, two different tribes, the boys are both registered as well. My husband gives us a single job income from a small town retail store. Without working – we really can’t get much poor-er than that. So again – you are throwing alot of assumptions out there, which is why you are getting alot of response. My kids played basketball for the local teams, our schools here are so poor they don’t have teams, the play for the community teams in this town, it was our prior town that they played on the school teams. They do have their own prom, and ball games. My best friend’s son was captain of their 70,000 population town’s football team and voted as Homecoming King. She questioned really? Do you get it that he doesn’t go there?

    They do skip school. They do sneak down stairs. They think they are so tricky. They do attend classes with a group of friends that they have to be with through thick and thin, divorces and deaths, triumphs and victories.

    I’m not trying to convince anyone to choose one path to academic success – but to not implore each other to be open minded about it all. I have many public school friends who would never consider our life style, thats cool.

    I think sometimes other families think that by our even mentioning it or sharing our lifestyle that we are attacking theirs, or trying to change their minds to change their choice. Um. Not Here. Not Me.

    But everything you’ve mentioned about homeschooling so far – what you think we’re missing. Truly. They are not. Maybe the aggressive attacks and belittling remarks could be tempered with thought and consideration to what these brave families are trying to share. 🙂

  85. SKL July 9, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

    Not that I plan to homeschool my kids (though it’s tempting), but on the “school is for socialization” note . . . I went to school. Let’s just say that to me, “school is for socialization” is about as meaningful as “fistfights are for developing eye-hand coordination.” Some kids benefit from socializing in school, but they would benefit from socializing anywhere. If they could get their schoolwork done in half of the time and then go to their job or theatre company or volleyball team, they would probably have a better social experience. Meanwhile, those for whom school is emotional torture could find a less painful environment to hang out in.

    I really wish they would stop trying to make school a social utopia and focus more on learning. Then they could probably shorten the school day for all but the slowest or most devoted students, and let kids use the additional time for less structured / unstructured, more life-like activities.

  86. Anon July 9, 2010 at 9:49 pm #

    I am going to homeschool one of my 3 for the next two years. Why? He is lagging socially, very little positive social interaction. Sitting alone at lunch every day did not send him the positive messages that you imagine all kids getting in that social environment. Not that it bothered him, he is introverted and being around 20 people all day exhausts him. Public schooling is very hard on the introverted 25% of the country.

    He has developmental lags in organization, for which his teachers have berated, not helped, him. He is profoundly gifted, and our gifted program has so far, been characterized by more (not more interesting) work.

  87. Wonder in the Woods July 9, 2010 at 11:31 pm #

    @Gail, you are absolutely right. This should not turn into this kind of debate.

    I think we should talk about what works for us and perhaps a few things we don’t like about other methods but avoid making broad statements such as “I am adamantly opposed to it [homeschooling]” and that “it has a negative societal impact.” This is judging what others are doing instead of stating what works (or doesn’t work) for you. You cannot ascertain what every homeschooling family/child is like just like you cannot put people in socio-economic groups or racial profiles or assume you know everything about a traditional school family or child. People do not want to be put in groups or have labels. They want to be heard and appreciated for who they are…

    I have several friends who choose public school and we get along fine. They know I have certain frustrations with standardized testing, etc. but I also respect their choices and know that their family life adds to the type of education their children receive. School is not the only thing children are doing, I hope.

    I spoke with my friend who is a fabulous public school teacher last night. She said in some ways her hands are tied and in other ways her principal gives her a lot leeway to teach the way she wants. I do believe teachers feel the same frustrations as I do with the institution of public school but I would not say public school is all bad. I’m sure it varies from school to school and classroom to classroom. Next school year I want to sit in for a day in my friend’s class. I’m sure it will help me balance the negative press.

    I’m sure most parents with children in public school are all too aware of the negative aspects, just as homeschoolers are aware of our particular challenges and negative aspects. We either try to compensate for these or think “I’m not going to be a helicopter parent” and let the kids deal with it.

  88. Uly July 10, 2010 at 1:13 am #

    Taking classes is oh so different than clubs at school. As is performing in someone else’s school musical or theatre company. Or going to a school football game for a school you don’t attend (I’m not sure why one would even do that) and don’t know the players, cheerleaders, band members and most of the fellow students sitting in the stands. Or going to a Prom that isn’t yours. Or playing on school sports team as opposed to a rec sports team. The social dynamic is 100% different. I always did both – school clubs and private lessons – and there is no comparison of the two in the actual social aspect.

    Now, aside from your asinine assumption that homeschooled kids only… know… other homeschooled kids and not any of the other children in their neighborhood who, perhaps, attend school, at this point I have to stop and ask you: HOW DO YOU KNOW IT IS SO DIFFERENT?

    Like, were you homeschooled part of your childhood?

    Because I know homeschooled kids, and I know people who homeschool their kids, and their kids don’t seem particularly lacking or upset in any way. Nor do they seem to be all white and middle class and all that either – I’d say the demographics are fairly normal, actually. And their experience sounds like nothing like you think.

    So now you know where I get my views from – people I know. Where do you get *your* views from? They don’t mesh with *anything* I know, and you keep saying things like “Oh, it’s just not the saaaaaame!” without offering proof or even an explanation of why it has to be the way you like it to be “the same”.

  89. Kelly July 10, 2010 at 2:31 am #

    Donna has repeatedly said she won’t change her anti-homeschool stance, but for those who have empathy for some of her arguments – that homeschooling is only for lily-white middle class, that homeschoolers are taking away education for marginalized people and their choice is negatively affecting the rest of the country (homsechooled/unschooled children represent about 2% of American children) – I really enjoyed this article by Eva Swinler at “Natural Life”.

    “Public school advocates frequently take on the mantle of alleged protectors of opportunity for the children of poor and oppressed communities. They justify their dismissal of – or even attacks on – homeschooling as a necessary part of advocating for their underserved students; if homeschooling flourishes, the reasoning goes, then education for students in exploited communities will inevitably suffer.

    It’s a long article but a great one; anyone interested in the role of unschoolers/homeschoolers in the larger social justice sphere while working for educational rights for all would benefit from a read.

    I also want to put a vote in for less ad hominen attacks on how individual families are educating their children. Saying, “What you’re doing is wrong full-stop and I’m entitled to that opinion” doesn’t seem like much of a discussion.

    I truly believe though, besides a comment here or there, this has actually been a respectful dialogue on what can be a very controversial subject (I thought Amy was a bit nasty, and I still don’t get what SKL meant by the “collard greens/ice cream” reference to my expression of joy in homsechooling/unschooling).

  90. Kelly July 10, 2010 at 3:01 am #

    Oops, sorry, it was Sky, not SKL, who mentioned collard greens! 🙂

  91. hopewellmomschoolagain July 10, 2010 at 3:46 am #

    I just discovered this blog! I fit right in!
    Lisa @

  92. Susan2 July 10, 2010 at 8:45 am #

    I’m not a teacher, but I think teachers have it so hard when it comes to the homework issue. I know some parents complain that the kdis get too much, but when they let up, other parents complain about not getting enough homework.

    It’s also difficult to know how to handle the parent-involvement issue. I have a friend who lives in a wealthy community. I have always been surprised at the REQUIRED level of parental involvement with homework, even in high school, in her district. Perhaps because they know the parents are going to be involved anyway, they might as well give them specific roles because then it will be more likely that the kids do other parts themselves.

    I live in a poor district, and my kids don’t get much homework. Sometimes I worry about their education compared to kids in other districts due to this, but I’m not sure if there’s much of a difference in learning between kids given little homework that they do totally on their own and a lot that their parents do for them.

    As for homeschooling, I know that homeschooled kids have as much of a chance ot socialize as anyone else. I think I know what Donna is getting at though. When enough people begin removing themselves from the public arena – private/homeschool instead of public school; buy books & home computer rather than using the public library; join private clubs rather than using public parks – it will mean a lessening of the democratic ideals that are the foundation of this country. Obviously, a few people homeschooling is not going to make this happen. But when it becomes a trend to remove ourselves from public institutions when they don’t meet all our expectations, we become a more stratified, isolated society (or several societies within a society) rather than a unified nation.

  93. AnarchoFeminist July 10, 2010 at 10:37 am #

    On the best friend side, I’m 25 now a graduate student and it’s only in the last few years that my mom has become my best friend. Before she was someone I could talk to but she was still my mom. Now that I’m on my own and pretty much on equal terms we hang out, go shopping and generally just chill together. We do spa days whe I go to visit, something we never did while I was in high school.
    I think that if you want to be your kids friend, try to be more like the responsible older sibling. Let them choose the books and magazines they want to buy, not Maxim or playboy, but also put your foot down on issues. Even small ones will remind the kids that you’re cool but still in charge.

  94. SKL July 10, 2010 at 11:54 am #

    Susan2, it’s funny you say that public schooling is our only hope for maintaining the democratic ideals that are the foundation of this country. I’m pretty sure that none of the founding fathers went to public school. And I think that today’s public schools do a terrible job of teaching democratic ideals as well as other values this country was founded on. Schools are anything but democratic, and most teachers have little understanding of our nation’s history.

    I’ve attended both private and parochial schools. The only difference I noticed as far as community was that the public school cared less how we dressed. My kids go to a private school, and it is more diverse than many public schools, including the one I attended. When I entered elementary school, my siblings and I attended 3 different elementary schools, and the two nearest neighbor kids went to two more different schools. (Our schools were Lutheran, Catholic, public mainstream, public gifted, and public special-needs.) Are there really urban neighborhoods where all the kids go to the same school? Do we really all need to go to the same school in order to learn compatible values? Although my elementary school was Lutheran and most of the kids were middle class or higher, we focused a lot on being compassionate, responsible, and charitable. When I transferred to the public school, I was so far ahead of my new classmates in terms of “social studies.” I was the only kid in my 8th grade class who could accurately write out the Pledge of Allegiance. Can we really say the public schools do a better job of teaching national values?

  95. Scott July 12, 2010 at 12:09 am #

    “Taking classes is oh so different than clubs at school”

    You know what is also different about homeschooling from public school? Driving to Washington DC, meeting with your state representative, talking about the issues, then hitting the natural history museum to look at dinosaur skeletons and talk with a paleontologist whose books the kids enjoyed, then a skip over to the national archives to look at the original Declaration of Independence, verify that it really was written on hemp paper, then hit an ethiopian restaurant for dinner over in Adams Morgan for Wat, Injera and homemade spiced wine they brewed in the bathtub even though the kids are all under 18. Let’s see your public school do that sometime.

  96. Party Piper July 12, 2010 at 10:00 am #

    We just got done discussing this in developmental psychology. Parents who are permissive often end up being more authoritarian, because while they want to give their kids the ideal childhood, they also end up resenting them, and being more strict.

    And as far as homeschooling, it’s a personal choice. A parent shouldn’t have to, but I do think there should be standards, as there are in my state. I’ve personally known people who homeschool who readily admit that their kids have sometimes gone weeks without a formal lesson, and that when Thanksgiving comes around, their kids are cleaning, not learning. However, I’ve also known kids who are homeschooled whose parents are brilliant and good educators, and their children flourish. I for one thank my lucky stars that my parents DID NOT homeschool me, because school was where I escaped, and my public school education has served me well.

  97. Susan2 July 12, 2010 at 10:08 am #

    SLK – I’m not saying public schooling is our only hope for maintaining our democratic ideals – read my post again. What I’m saying is that as we do away with spaces that everyone knows and participates in, there will be less of the feeling that “we’re all one country” that our Founding Fathers worked to establish. One theory states that this all started with better transportation. As people began to spread out, we could create enclaves of people like ourselves, whereas before we had much more contact with many different types of people.

    I’m a native northeasterner, but I lived for several years in the Midwest, and I’ve seen that the Midwest has a greater commitment to the public sphere, which leads to a better sense of community and the feeling that people are, let’s say, a Wisonsinite first, and secondly a liberal, conservative, Buddist, white collar, blue collar, etc. This is the sense of “democratization” that I am speaking of. Again, a few people pulling themselves out of the public sphere to join a private club or to homeschool isn’t going to diminish this, but as it more and more people do it, it will have an effect.

  98. Liz September 4, 2010 at 7:37 am #

    As a Teacher I so agree with this. Teachers are under enormous pressure in schools to plan every minute of every childs day and they better not be playing, they better be practicing for the test! Recess is cut, they are doing math in gym, etc. It is easy to say “rebel” but we are losing our jobs because of it. Kids need to be social in school, they need to play, and even just hang out with their friends. (im not talking about going the opposite way, with The teacher reading the paper and the kids going wild, just as with parenting there needs to be a balance) And there is no good benefit to homework because as you said it is often more homework for the parents than anything else.

  99. Scarlet Gardella July 22, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    There are some attention-grabbing time limits on this article however I don’t know if I see all of them heart to heart. There may be some validity but I will take maintain opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we wish extra! Added to FeedBurner as effectively


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