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Do you help your kids with their homework?


Matt Harris, Burlington


Engineer, Burton Snowboards; Son, Owen, 10; daughter, Sadie, 7

Our son is a fourth grader. He gets homework every night, and it's up to him whether and when he does it.

He's pretty lackadaisical about doing it, frankly — especially in math. At some point, he decided he didn't need it anymore, so he stopped. The teacher talked to us, and we said, "You need to work it out with Owen."

Finally, they made an agreement: He demonstrated that he didn't have to do the math homework by doing some advanced assignments.

He still had to do the writing, though, and sometimes he would come ask us, "Hey, what do you think I should write about?" I love having opportunities like that, when he wants me to be involved, but I'm not going to say, "Hey did you do your homework?" He needs to learn responsibility, and he's not going to learn by us reminding him all the time.

I'm personally, philosophically opposed to homework. I think that it has pretty limited utility. It's not like you're broaching any new subjects at home; it's repetition. I think that self-directed activities are the most meaningful. I think we should leave them free to do more of that.

Andrew Perchlik, Marshfield


Fund Manager of the Clean Energy Development Fund, State of Vermont; Daughters Mary, 14, and Maple, 9; son, Wren, 11

We do help, but we don't help do it. I think that's the key difference between what I consider helpful parenting and what's not helpful in the long run. My kids take the work seriously, they panic, and it's hard to see them cry: "I don't have time, my teacher's going to be mad at me."

That's not the time to give them a lesson on planning. Often it starts with a reminder earlier in the process.

My kids do a lot of other stuff; they're so busy. We try to look at the assignment to see how long it's going to take, to fit it all in. The biggest part is being involved in their lives and knowing what's going on. Then we know where they're coming from.

We try to be as involved in their lives as possible. Discussions about homework lead to discussions about other things — this is just another opportunity to spend time with them.

David Weaver, Starksboro


Telecommunications Consultant, Radius Network; Sons Sam, 17, Theo, 15, Dylan, 14, and Neo, 11

I did the Parenting On Track course, so I'm trying to get them to take more responsibility. My 17-year-old was upset with me this morning because I didn't get him up for soccer practice. But he's going off to college, and there's not going to be somebody saying "Did you get it done? Did you get it done?" This is his last year of high school, so I'm going to sort of trust, but verify — and monitor from a distance.

The 11-year-old, I jump in on his homework to a degree. He's quick to suck me in and have me do it for him, so I have to be cautious. I find it a joy, especially as he's still studying for spelling tests. I was a dreadful student when I was a kid, and I appreciate the opportunity to study his spelling words with him and drill them into my own head.

Creating a good study environment is sometimes a challenge with a group of boys. One always wants to annoy the other one. There's a bit of "OK, you have to go do your homework in this room and stop tapping your pencil against the table because you're driving your other brother nuts."

Jason Mullin, Vergennes


Assistant Director of Donor Relations, Middlebury College; Sons Silas, 14, and Wade, 11

We've allowed our children to kind of manage their own homework. My wife and I have decided that as long as they're doing well in their classes, we don't need to be too involved.

They generally do their homework after dinner. They get home, have a half hour of screen time, we have dinner a little while later, and then the rest of the evening is wide open. They tend to do their work, if they have any, right after dinner.

My wife and I are available to help out if any questions come up. We're realizing that ninth grade is going to be more challenging, and so we're going to be a little more proactive and involved with Silas. We want to be more informed about what's required of him. We're going to ask him "what assignments do you have? What's due this week?," just so that there's no chance of falling behind.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.