Sunday, May 3, 2009

"Helping" Kids with Their Homework

I've spent most of the afternoon going through Addie's research paper. There were benefits, of course (Addie gave Belle a shower, for example, and Pythagorus read Belle her bedtime story ... these are usually my tasks and I enjoy them, but the break was kind of nice), but for the most part ... ugh!

Addie is literally a writing prodigy. I could read her fiction, poems, and essays happily for the rest of my life. Research papers, though ... painful!!!!!!!!

It got me thinking, though, how Addie lives with an English teacher and a mathematical scholar, yet she very rarely asks for (or accepts) help with her homework. We have an unspoken agreement with our little academic superstar--if the grades are good and you're not acting like a psychopath over lack of sleep, we're not going to nag you since obviously whatever you're doing is working for you.

Like me, Addie is a master procrastinator. However, she knew enough not to ask for assistance of any kind until she had a solid draft (and in her defense, she had rehearsals all week until ten, so she was a busy girl today), and that wasn't done until late this afternoon.

It was good. I was proud of her, and I told her so. She managed to write a research paper that wasn't a total snoozefest, provided information to support both sides of an issue, and framed it with an effective introduction and conclusion. I fixed the commas, some of the word choices, and her Works Cited (Addie has a random inability to do a correct Works Cited ... she has all the information, but it's in the wrong place, and this is the one thing I'll actually fix up for her). That was it. It was a good paper. I'll be surprised if she doesn't get an A. But, most importantly, it was Addie's paper.

It bothers me a great deal when I have assignments that come in with a kid's name on it when I know darn well that his or her parent did the bulk of (if not all of) the work.

Perhaps I feel especially strongly about this issue because I'm a teacher, but where is the line where parents are doing too much "helping"? Did I do Addie a disservice by not rewriting her paper (she's in an Honors class ... there are no doubt parents that will do just that)? Should I have made her write her own damn Works Cited? Should parents let their children sink and swim on their own? Should teachers?

When does "helping" become "enabling", and is this as much of a problem in this country as I think it is?