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  • Here's The Harm That Happens When You Do Your Child's Homework

    The parents' compulsion to help kids with homework has definitely increased with online classes.
    by Thumby Server-Veloso .
Here's The Harm That Happens When You Do Your Child's Homework
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  • Let me start with a disclaimer. I come from a progressive school, and our homework does not equal the amount of work other schools with more traditional setups give. But I hope that teachers from trad schools are carefully considering workloads and providing reasonable amounts of assignments and deadlines.

    As an educator and parent, I believe a reasonable workload allows students to practice and apply lessons taught within a specific period. It also considers the needed time for play or relaxation for children of all ages. They need to pursue hobbies or interests, cultivate social relationships, and meditate or exercise for their mental well-being.

    We know our students' struggle, and we get why parents want to help, especially when too much homework becomes overwhelming. No teacher wants to hear her students are crying, and their parents are stressing out because of something she assigned.

    However, the parents’ compulsion to help their children has definitely increased now that they are doing school at home. Problems arise when parents equate perfect or high grades to their child’s success. They say to themselves, “What’s the harm in doing their homework? If I can get my child perfect grades, then he will be an honor student.”

    With this kind of mindset, parents apply pressure on their child and themselves to turn in “the correct work,” with parents usually ending up doing the assignment to reach the level of perfection they think is required.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not against parents, tutors, grandparents, or older siblings helping out. But it’s one thing to provide some assistance and another to do the child’s work for them. Be aware of over-helping, because sometimes “saving” our children from schoolwork is a temporary solution that will not help in the long run.

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    How to guide your child when doing homework

    There are many acceptable ways parents can help. Parent and child can read instructions together, discuss the lesson, gather the materials needed. You guide your child in his homework by helping him remember or find the answer — you don't provide the solution.

    For example, while doing a math problem, the parent asks, “What’s 5 + 7?”

    Then, the child answers, “11?”

    Now the parent often replies, “Wrong, it’s 12. Write 12.” What she should say is, “Try again. Use counters this time.”

    Help your child find ways to come to the solution rather than just dictating the correct response.  You can help your child study for tests by asking questions or reviewing together.

    Parents can also teach their children how to organize their notes, highlight important information, and give techniques (such as mnemonic devices or spelling rules) to help them remember lessons or see patterns.

    For example, when studying for a spelling test with "ei" and "ie" words, you can teach them: Use "i" before "e" except after "c," or when sounding like "A," as in neighbor and weigh.

    Other parents like to simply be close by as their child works if words of encouragement or assistance are needed. Finally, some parents help by checking when everything is done and then working together on confusing items to the child.

    What’s the harm in doing your child’s homework?

    While teachers can’t always prove it, many consider it cheating and might take off points from your child’s scores or conduct grades.

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    But the lasting adverse effects are that when parents take over and do the tasks themselves, they send self-esteem-damaging messages like the following to their children.

    • You can’t do this without me (this breeds dependence).
    • You need me to do this correctly (this results in low self-esteem).
    • Your high grades are because I worked so hard (which means awards or recognition are undeserved).

    How teachers tell parents did the homework

    Teachers can tell when a work is not student-made. Teacher Erika Subang, a Kinder-level teacher, says, “One way is when the outputs from live class are strikingly different from the assigned work.”

    Sometimes the penmanship is different altogether, not just the way the letters are written, but even the spacing between letters and words.

    Teacher Athena Alberta, an early-grade English teacher, says one way to tell is to look at the language used. “Especially if the language of the work does not match the way the child speaks in class, how the child talks when engaging in conversations in class.”

    With projects in Art and Science, the complexity is a clue, especially for students who show very little or no interest in these subjects. A giveaway is a student doing multi-step projects that are intricate and detailed beyond the level of interest or understanding that they have shown during class discussions.

    To understand the purpose of assigned work, Teacher Athena shares, “It is to help students retain lessons and skills. As with anything, practice makes perfect. When work is given to students, teachers hope to sharpen their skills, so that they may be able to use them any time they see fit.”

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    With mastery of skills comes confidence, too. Teacher Athena adds, “With their skills intact, any time students encounter a new lesson or the same lesson, they know what particular knowledge and skills they need to apply.”

    Another rationale for homework is to gather information on how much of the lesson was understood, which serves as a guide for planning the next session.

    I often tell my students, “When you make mistakes, it tells me what I need to teach better.” I am not giving tasks as a test to see who was listening; I honestly want to know how much of the lesson they understood. It’s my job as a teacher to get the lesson across, and their responsibility as my students is to show what they have understood and how they can use that knowledge.

    But if I can’t tell what they don’t understand or if they are ready for the next lesson, and if they can’t feel that they have a voice in my classroom, then we are not communicating. So instead of getting to know my students, I am just collecting parent-earned points to put on a report card that will be Instagrammable.

    How parents can really help their child with school 

    Make a routine

    One of the biggest issues is time management. Students need a routine to help them self-regulate and take control of their time. Part of the routine should include time to do their homework and time to relax and have fun.

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    If children know that their whole day is not dedicated to work, they will be motivated to finish their tasks earlier.

    Make a calendar

    Showing your child how to list down their assignments and when they are due and which ones they may need help with tells parents how much time that week to set aside for helping. It also encourages students to try completing easy-to-do tasks independently.

    Learn to prioritize

    Teach your child to rank their homework according to the importance and arrange them in their schedule according to when they are most focused. For example, some children do their best work right after lunch. Then, that would be the ideal time for them to study for upcoming tests or work on their Math exercises.

    Give consequences and rewards

    Both consequences and rewards should be reasonable and agreed upon. There should be a discussion between the parent and child before the week starts about the consequences and rewards for unfinished, poorly, or well-done work. Whether it’s gadget time, tv privileges, Zoom sessions with friends that are being taken away or given, these should be agreed upon beforehand.

    Talk to the school

    Some parents may feel that if they don’t do the work, their child will have no time for other things. However, we have all heard the horror stories of children burning the midnight oil to finish their homework, only to do it again the next day and the next. In cases like these, I would encourage the parents to speak up.

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    If you genuinely believe that the workload is too much, talk to the school. Show them your child’s weekly calendar and reason with them. Many of the teachers and school administrators are parents going through the same thing as you and will understand your family’s plight.

    Let it go

    Learn to “let go” of the idea of the perfect student. Perfect grades are not the equivalent of success. Instead, ask yourself: Is my child happy, motivated, hard-working, showing a variety of interests in sports, arts, music, or other hobbies?

    In this day and age, parents are turning their attention to their child’s happiness and developing skills and talents. As a result, we don’t need to pressure ourselves and our children into getting straight A’s anymore. 

    So the next time you get the urge to do your child’s homework, stop yourself and ask your child instead, “How would you like to do this?”

    How to raise a successful child? Focus on character and attitude. Read here 

    Barbara Server-Veloso is known as Teacher Thumby at her preschool, Toddlers Unlimited, and Ms. Thumby at her grade school, Thinkers Unlimited, Alabang. She is also a partner in Spark Discovery Center. Teacher Thumby has a Master’s degree from the University of the Philippines in Family Life and Child Development. She has been teaching since 1993. She is also the mother of Lucas and Verena.

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