Why I Don’t Help My Kids With Their Homework

I don’t like helping my kids with their homework. There, I said it.

My parents never had to harass me to do my homework. I just did it. I was annoyingly responsible. To the point that I spent Friday nights in college getting a jump on papers. My wife still makes fun of me for that.

But I feel no sense of responsibility over my kids’ homework. It’s their homework. They need to be responsible for it themselves.

And now there’s research that backs me up. Apparently kids don’t learn anything when parents help them, and sometimes they even do worse in school. Why? Well, do you remember the quadratic formula? Me neither. [For the smarty pants who wants to post it in the comments, let me save you the trouble.]

Plus my wife is a teacher. I’ve learned she has a much better handle on what the kids are actually supposed to be doing than I do.

Case in point, last week I was helping Lexi with a math problem. Let me summarize:

There are 9 tables in a room. Some tables have 6 chairs and some tables have 8 chairs. There are 60 total chairs in the room. How many tables have 8 chairs?

I started writing equations to fit the facts we knew: 6x+8y=60 and x+y=9. And I needed to solve for y. OK, I can do this. Two equations, two variables. We need to isolate y and do some substitution.

I started cranking away, forgetting two things:

  1. I don’t remember how to do this much algebra. I thought I did. But my answer was wildly wrong, proving how much I’ve forgotten.
  2. My daughter is in second grade. While they are touching on algebraic concepts this early, they don’t expect her to isolate variables and perform substitution. They just want her to get comfortable with multiplication.

So I stepped back and we tried it a simpler way. We guessed and checked to see if it worked (there are only so many solutions to x+y=9. Turns out our first guess was the right one.

I doubt Lexi learned much, other than Dad likes to complicate things.

So what is helpful for kids? According to the research, reading aloud to young kids and talking to teenagers about college plans.

Also, teachers matter: “The best teachers have been shown to raise students’ lifetime earnings and to decrease the likelihood of teen pregnancy.”

And the real reason I don’t like helping my kids with their homework? Patience. I don’t have the patience to sit there and work through things with them. Some people are good at that. I’m not. That’s why we have teachers.

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