Homework and Parents

When we began having children, I felt extremely confident in at least one aspect of child rearing. Both my wife Trina and I were educated and what I would consider intellectual. We had both gone to college and had some success. While I had no idea what I was doing when it came to raising children I was pretty sure that Trina and I were smart enough to figure things out.

When the kids began going to school they would come home and occasionally need help with their homework. I did not see this as anything that I needed to worry about or prepare myself for; after all I had already been through these grades and these subjects so how hard could it really be?

With the older kids I don’t remember there being any problems. I was not that far removed from being in college so the Elementary School homework packets seemed like a breeze. I mean I knew my alphabet and was confident not only could I correctly place numbers on the number line but I could also do two-digit addition problems in my head without ever needing to show my work.

Something strange began to happen as the kids got older. Once the children reached middle school age, I found that Trina and I were no longer a partnership when it came to homework duties. I didn’t realize this was some kind of relay race where the baton would be handed from one parent to the next.

Suddenly I was responsible for dealing with the kids’ homework while Trina focused on the elementary grades. It was kind of a subtle handoff, I don’t ever remember there being a discussion or a differentiation made. Just one day the kids stopped going to mom for help and instead made a beeline to my desk.

I probably should have stopped to question this but I somehow got caught up in the flattery the kids used. Thinking back I should have known that when the kids began complimenting my vast knowledge of all subjects that something was up. Never underestimate the persuasive powers of children, they’re sneaky.

I am not usually one who believes in conspiracy theories but I can’t help but think I may have been set up here and my loving wife seems to be a prime suspect in this crime. The woman who graduated with honors and carried a high grade point average throughout her education was suddenly proclaiming her ignorance in every subject above the fourth grade level.

What was even worse is that my kids seemed to pick subjects where I had the least recollection from my own education. I appreciate that their math teacher had indoctrinated them that mathematics is critical to their success in life but seriously when was the last time that you went to the store and someone asked you to prove Pythagorean’s Theory at the check stand? And no offense to the teachers but I have never been asked to diagram a sentence in my life outside of a classroom setting.

Overall I haven’t really minded helping the kids with their homework. After all it does give me an opportunity to work closely with each child and help mold them from an educational perspective. The kids also seem to enjoy it whether it is just to see dad squirm when presented with an obscure formula or because they have had some success in school.

Before you get the wrong idea, it has not been a complete success. The kids have at times had their share of problems with classes and dad’s help hasn’t always been the best idea. For example, I am banished for life from all middle school science fairs after helping one of the girls prove that the earth was flat using a quarter. I don’t really think it is fair or accurate to say that I set back middle school science by decades nor do I think I am really to blame for the whole class having to take remedial science to get them to understand the planet really is round.

When our son Dakota moved from elementary school to middle school I heard that there was a huge party at the elementary school where the elementary school teachers celebrated surviving our kids. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

While I may complain whenever the kids come walking into the living room carrying a stack of textbooks and a confused look; I would not trade it for the world. There is just something magical about a parent working with their child and seeing the light bulb suddenly illuminate in their mind. So regardless of how disruptive their questions may be I’ll always find the time to stop what I am doing and be a part of their education. I just wish I had paid more attention in school, some of these questions are hard!


  1. Ruprecht says:

    I’m right there with you, Jeff.

    My conveyance skills aren’t always the best in helping out with math problems or social studies, but – given enough scratch paper to illustrate concepts and examples – I usually get through to them.

    Super post. I can identify with everything in it. Right down to the perplexing statement “… some of these questions are hard!”

  2. smith says:

    Nice one.


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