During a back-to-school night at our local elementary school, we visited our daughter’s fourth-grade classroom. There, along with our daughter’s classmates’ parents, we learned from her teacher what she would be doing in fourth grade that year.
The teacher started off her presentation by having us participate in a game she did some mornings to get her pupils engaged in learning about each other. The teacher would say a fact, and those to whom the same fact applied, would stand up. She started with, “I have a child in fourth grade,” and everyone stood up and replied, “Just like me.”
She gave a few more statements before she said, “I help my child with homework,” to which every single parent stood up—except for us. Of course, all eyes swiveled around to see who the miscreants were who didn’t—gasp!—help their child with homework. It was a moment of clarity that showed just how we as parents have bought into the notion that helping our children with homework was a necessary part of their schooling experience.
But, as John Rosemond points out in his new book, John Rosemond’s Fail-Safe Formula For Helping Your Child Succeed in School, exactly who is that helping? The conclusion Rosemond draws is that it isn’t the child.
He rightly points out that one underlying problem has infused all school-related troubles with an extra coating of confusion: “The average, middle-class American mom takes pretty much for granted that if her child fails to measure up to one standard or another—whether behavioral, social, or academic—that shortcoming is in some way indicative of a failing or inadequacy on her part” (emphasis his). Rosemond doesn’t belabor this point, one he’s made in other, more general parenting books, but it does bear repeating in this guidebook on school troubles, given that many times, our actions as parents compound the problem our children are having with schoolwork.
His chapter on homework is especially worth the price of the book, as he strips away the veneer of why we think homework is important (grades!) to reveal what he deems the Seven Hidden Values of Homework: Responsibility, autonomy, perseverance, time management, initiative, self-reliance and resourcefulness. Who know a simple math worksheet could accomplish so much?
The key to uncovering these values—and allowing our children to reap the full benefits of those values—is to empower our children to do their homework entirely on their own, with minimal (read: hardly any) assistance from parents.
Lest you think the book is all about homework, it isn’t. Rosemond tackles other school troubles, including how to correct school performance and classroom behaviors and why retention can be a good thing. Also helpful is the question-and-answer sections in each chapter that provide real-life examples and solutions.
Overall, this is a welcome update to his earlier Ending the Homework Hassle. However, I would caution that this isn’t for the faint of heart. If you’re serious about helping your child recover his own responsibility in the area of school, then Rosemond’s suggestions will provide a blueprint for accomplishing that. If you’re not, then you might be more alarmed than comforted by the no-nonsense and practical advice contained within these pages.
Personally, I hope more parents would find the courage to follow Rosemond’s advice and give the school work back to the child. After all, full ownership of a thing—be it homework or behavior—is the best way that a child learns to be resilient, self-confident and resourceful.