Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Homework Helper for $100/hour

Check out this NY Times article about hired homework helpers.

Apparently wealthy parents actually pay homework helpers anywhere from $15-$100/hour to “teach organizational skills and time management, or … sometimes just sit there [with the student] until the work is finished.”

“As schools have piled on expectations and as career paths have sucked in both mothers and fathers, this niche industry is catering to students who are capable of doing the work but need someone who can just be there with them to consistently do the work in a regular manner.”

“At a recent session with a student, [the homework helper] dug through his papers for assignments and encouraged him to write more slowly. She uncrumpled work sheets and read the questions to the student. But mostly, she sat next to him as he pecked away at a writing assignment, urging him along when he got bored.”

“Statistics on the number of homework helpers do not exist, but tutoring services say the demand has grown in the past decade, particularly in families with children in private schools. The practice seems to be most common in Manhattan and wealthy suburbs.”

After reading this article, I’m almost speechless. I find so many things wrong with this it’s hard to choose where to begin. So, instead of pulling apart the article I’ll just give some general advice to parents on helping students with homework.

Grades K-12: let your child play, hang out, rest, relax and exercise after school before any homework is done. Encourage reading books or magazines of your child’s choice. If your child asks you for homework help, offer it, but don’t do any work for your child. This is his or her homework, not yours. This is his or her test, not yours. This is his or her project or paper, not yours. Don’t hover over your child while he does his homework.

Make a note of how long their homework takes. As a general guideline, it shouldn’t take more than the 10 minute per grade per night, Monday-Thursday. That is, 10 minutes/night for 1st grade, 20 minutes for 2nd grade, etc up to 120 minutes/night in 12th grade. And encourage family activities over homework on weekends and holidays.

Make a note of the quality of the homework. Is it work that is energizing and encouraging them to learn more about the subject matter? Or, is it crushing their spirit? If it is crushing their spirit and eating into valuable family time, contact the teacher politely and tell her what the homework is doing to your family.

If your child is older, encourage the student to talk to the teacher himself to explain how much time it is taking or to suggest alternate types of homework that will still help the student learn.

Don’t nag your son or daughter about his or her homework. Let your child take control of his own work. If she misses an assignment or forgets to study for a test, it is not the end of the world. She will learn the consequences of her actions and will make an adjustment next time, if it’s important to her.

If we micromanage our children’s homework (like the hired homework helpers) we run the risk of creating fragile kids who feel incompetent to be independent.

The article says, “the end goal is you don’t want a child who is dependent and scared and can’t do anything” by himself or herself... “A good homework helper is one who teaches a child so that they no longer need a homework helper.”

I would say a good parent and teacher is one who teaches a child so that they no longer need a homework helper.

Any thoughts?


  1. You miss out on the blessing of seeing the creativity and completion of an assignment. I was recently impressed to tears reading my son's composition. I was given the opportunity only if I didnt offer any corrections. I think its great to stand back and just watch what your kids can do.

  2. I consider myself to be a good teacher, and I assign reading in the biology book for homework for my biology class. I also have students do a worksheet that goes with the text selection and guides their reading. Please give me feedback on whether this is or is not appropriate and why.

  3. When I've watched my kids do homework that involves completing a worksheet that goes along with a text selection, they skim the text and just look for the answers to fill in the worksheet as quickly as possible. It seems to be a practice that is more about finding the answers than learning the material. Why not ask your students what they think is a good way to learn the text material?

  4. BTW, my oldest son read this post and said, "it's true, when you stopped helping me with my homework I started doing a better job on it myself without your help."

    And, both of my sons grades have improved since I've stopped mentioning homework, stopped checking the electronic grade book School Loop, and stopped micromanaging their homework.

  5. Kerry, your suggestions rule! These are some of the suggestions a psychologist gave us to help with homework completion. In our house, this has resulted in a huge reduction in stress with homework as well as better performance because our daughter knows it's her job, not ours. She can take credit for completing it and doing a good job.

  6. Not only letting them manage their own HW but also making sure they know you believe in their ability to do it independently is a much better lesson than any worksheet could provide!