Grace closes a recent post by saying:
Mark and I were probably the only parents in Iris’ first grade class that let her turn in a diorama that SHE created. Don’t be a helicopter parent. Let kids do their own homework.
She also links to a previous entry making the same argument at greater length (and with charming pictures). I know I ought to agree or keep my mouth shut. But when did I ever do either?
Z and I helped the kids with their homework for years. I remember when Emma had a Waldorf trained teacher who was fanatical about colouring the whole page — every map, diagram, illustration had to have full coverage and marks were deducted for a scrap of white. Many nights Emma and I sat up until 10pm filling in white space, and I felt no compunction. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Z and I have sliced balsa wood for dioramas, cut shapes for collages, read aloud from the encyclopedia pointing to interesting information, and edited reports with a heavy hand. Eventually, around grade 10, both Emma and Jake pushed us away, refusing to show us any work until it was returned by the teacher. Before that we were always there when asked, and sometimes when we weren’t.
I don’t see anything wrong with this. Editing with a heavy hand is exactly what I’m asked to do for the students in my freshman seminar. That’s why they write drafts — the rationale has nothing to do with lifting grades artificially and everything to do with the idea that they might learn from one-to-one contact with a teacher willing to go over their every word. And if you think I did any less lecturing and explaining to Emma and Jake than to my freshman, you are quite mistaken: I did much more. So they had an advantage and their work got better, but am I supposed not to do this in order to level the playing field? And so then maybe I should not do it for my freshmen.
Never did we do the work ourselves. The kids were always there, with a hand on the piece. If it was something they couldn’t do (or weren’t allowed to do) involving maybe an exacto knife, they watched, taking a hand whenever they could. And from this too they learned. The time that sticks most in my mind is when we suddenly discovered on a Sunday morning that Jake had an 8 page newspaper to produce for the next day, and that the group was meeting at our house. We set up an assembly line. The kids dictated their stories to me, I typed them up on the computer and printed them in columns, then they went to the table where one kid cut them into pieces and another, with Z’s help, pasted them up on big sheets. By the time we were done we had a beautiful product; it looked, I admit, like it had been done with help, and it was way better than any other group’s, and this caused me some embarrassment. But the three kids in Jake’s group learned much more that day than they would have if they’d been working by themselves.