Hispanic Mother Helping Young Daughter Struggling With Homework
Hispanic Mother Helping Young Daughter Struggling With Homework

Is ‘helping’ with school homework really that bad?

There are two types of people in this world: people who did homework in school and those who are amazing at excuses.

"My backpack was stolen from the old aged home," was always a winner. It implied your heart was in the right place, even though your body and mind were on the couch playing video games. "My dog ate it" was and always will be #fakenews.

I never liked doing homework. But I like it even less now that I don't get the credit for it.

Helping your kid with their homework is a thankless task, and it's also contentious. Because at what point does helping become "doing"? Probably the moment you realise it's 3am and you're been clag gluing glitter to a cardboard planet for the past six hours while your child is tucked safely in bed.

It also defeats the point of homework, which is, well, no one is actually sure what that is.

Who really knows what the purpose of homework is? Picture: iStock
Who really knows what the purpose of homework is? Picture: iStock

There's no definitive research saying it's beneficial for primary school kids, so it's become this weird stand off between teachers who think parents want it and parents who think their kids need it but can't actually be bothered getting stuck in.

A 2018 global survey of 27,000 parents found only 13 per cent of Aussies spent seven hours or more each week helping kids with homework or reading to them. Compare that to India at 62 per cent.

One likely explanation is that we're a nation of entitled layabouts. Another is that we have confidence in our education system and the teachers who go over and above to make sure our kids can read, write and quote Harry Potter verbatim by the time they hit puberty.

But there's also a catch-22 when it comes to homework. Last year we were warned of the "profoundly dangerous" risk of concierge parenting; a term coined by a Sydney principal in reference to parents who want to sort out every challenge put into their children's path.

If we're helping too much with their homework are we setting them up for a life of mooching and dependency?

As a general rule, we’re a nation of entitled layabout. Picture: istock
As a general rule, we’re a nation of entitled layabout. Picture: istock

I never considered myself this type of parent - I generally allow my children to fail spectacularly - until our daughter decided to spring some 11th hour homework on us on a Tuesday at 9.27pm.

Few things test your patience like a nine-year-old trying to type a sentence at a speed a little faster than a tortoise and only marginally slower than an email drafted by your dad. It took all my willpower not to snatch the laptop, touch-type the rest of the essay, and spend some long awaited freetime watching a show I'd be chipping away at in six-minute increments for the past eight weeks.

But I held my nerve and watched the letters appear one by one on the screen as the clock clicked down to 10. Things were going quite well until I spotted a spelling mistake. And then another.

Before I knew it the whole thing was riddled with errors, which - as a writer - cut me to the core. There was no way any child of mine was turning in an essay full of spelling mistakes, so I decided to do my best impersonation of Michael J Fox in Concierge and fix everything - the spelling, the syntax, the grammar, the tenses, the punctuation, the lack of tension between the two central characters, a narrative arc that unfolded in an extremely predictable and linear way.

Did I got too far? Who cares. We'll probably get an A.

Darren Levin is a columnist for RendezView.com.au