Sunday, February 10, 2008

My daughter’s second-grade teacher does not correct homework; she only checks whether it was done. In keeping with the guidelines in your book on homework “Ending the Homework Hassle” my children do their own homework, but I review their work when they bring it back home.

I find that my daughter often makes significant errors (sometimes most of an assignment) or leaves many questions unanswered. When I quiz her about these mistakes and omissions, she often can give the right answer. When I ask why she didn’t do the problem or assignment correctly the first time, she tells me it doesn’t matter.

She clearly doesn’t take her assignments seriously, which concerns me. How can I get her to take school seriously when the teacher doesn’t, or is this no big deal? I have stayed out of this so far but will be meeting with the teacher soon and want to discuss it then if appropriate.

A: Over the past 10 years or so, I have heard this same story from numerous parents all over the United States and have concluded, therefore, that not checking the accuracy of homework or class assignments must be some newfangled educational “reform.” If so, it’s definitely having the intended effect. Many a workplace manager has told me that a good number of today’s young employees come to their first jobs believing that doing accurate work is not a requirement, or even necessary. One would think public schools would dedicate themselves to doing all they can to ensure that America remains competitive in the new global economy, but alas … well, just alas.

Yes, your daughter’s teacher should be checking the accuracy of her students’ work. (Please, teachers, don’t tell me you have too much on your plates already. My second-grade teacher taught 40 children by her lonesome. She checked our work — and with an obvious vengeance toward lowering our self-esteem.)

You most definitely should discuss this with her, but if you get nowhere (which is very possible), then you’re simply going to have to resign yourself to reality and begin taking up the slack. In this regard, I believe that in the current public education environment, responsible parents have to accept the need to do some amount of home-schooling; they are going to have to fill in the almost inevitable instructional gaps, check work at home and act as quality-control managers.

When my children were in elementary school, I noticed their teachers were taking a rather casual attitude toward the quality of their writing assignments. As you can imagine, good writing is important to me, so I simply informed the children that I would be checking their writing assignments at home and making them redo anything that didn’t meet my — by comparison — draconian standards. I recommend that you do the same. Check your daughter’s homework and class work. When you find an assignment that isn’t up to par, make your daughter correct it or do it over again, even if the assignment already has been accepted by Miss Lazy Bones.

Longtime readers may point out, correctly, that what I’m recommending to this mother amounts to micromanagement, something I generally counsel against parents doing in any area of a child’s life. That’s true, but as we are told in Ecclesiastes 3:1, there’s a time for everything. Note that I am not recommending that this mom help her daughter with her homework, much less even sit with her while she does it. Furthermore, I predict that in no time at all, the quality of her daughter’s work will improve dramatically, requiring less and less micromanagement on Mom’s part.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site (

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