The following mornings are awful, my daughter teary-eyed and exhausted but still trudging to school.
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I wonder: What is the exact nature of the work that is turning her into a sleep-deprived teen zombie so many mornings? By late afternoon, I am tired after filing a magazine article on deadline. When I arrive home, a few minutes ahead of Esmee, I consider delaying my week of homework, but then I realize that Esmee can never put off her week of homework. We have 11 algebra equations. I am surprised by the amount of reading. Seventy-nine pages while scanning for usable material—for a magazine essay or for homework—seems like at least two hours of reading.
But the math is easier than I thought. I breeze through those 11 equations in about 40 minutes and even correct Esmee when she gets one wrong. I think. I may be overconfident. We have only one copy of the book, so we decide it will be more efficient to stagger our work. But after 30 minutes I am only about 16 pages in, and Esmee has finished studying for Earth Science and needs the book. So we switch. It is now time for me to struggle with Earth Science. Tarbuck and Frederick K. Then come carbonates, oxides, the sulfates and sulfides, halides, and—I am asleep after about 20 minutes.
I struggle with Earth Science for another half hour, attempting to memorize rather than understand, before I give up and decide I have to get my reading done. My study habits were atrocious.
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If my daughter came home and said she had no homework, I would know she was lying. What has changed? No, our children are going to catch up with those East Asian kids on their own damn time. Every parent I know in New York City comments on how much homework their children have.
Well, imagine if after putting in a full day at the office—and school is pretty much what our children do for a job—you had to come home and do another four or so hours of office work. Monday through Friday. Plus Esmee gets homework every weekend. If your job required that kind of work after work, how long would you last? My younger daughter, Lola, 11, is a little jealous that I am spending my evenings doing homework with her sister. She agrees with this, but still makes me feel so guilty about it that I let her watch Pretty Little Liars , her favorite show. There is also a Spanish test tomorrow on irregular verbs.
The algebra is fast becoming my favorite part of this project. I may have picked an easy week, but something about combining like terms, inverting negative exponents, and then simplifying equations causes a tingle in a part of my brain that is usually dormant. Also, the work is finite: just 12 equations. The Spanish, however, presents a completely different challenge.
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My daughter has done a commendable job memorizing the conjugations. I spend a few minutes looking over the material, attempting to memorize the list of verbs and conjugations. Then it takes me about half an hour to memorize the three most common conjugation patterns. I decide to skip the irregular verbs.
Esmee already worked on her Spanish this afternoon, so she goes right to the Humanities project, which she has been looking forward to. She takes a shower, then reads in bed for a few minutes before nodding off at about One evening when Esmee was in sixth grade, I walked into her room at a. One assignment had her calculating the area and perimeter of a series of shapes so complex that my wife, who trained as an architect in the Netherlands, spent half an hour on it before coming up with the right answers.
The problem was not the complexity of the work, it was the amount of calculating required. Another exercise required Esmee to find the distance from Sacramento—we were living in California—to every other state capital in America, in miles and kilometers. This last one caused me to question the value of the homework. She explained that this sort of cross-disciplinary learning—state capitals in a math class—was now popular. She added that by now, Esmee should know all her state capitals.
She went on to say that in class, when the students had been asked to name the capital of Texas, Esmee answered Texas City. The teacher was unmoved, saying that she felt the homework load was reasonable. If Esmee was struggling with the work, then perhaps she should be moved to a remedial class. There is little to no coordination among teachers in most schools when it comes to assignments and test dates. The class had prepared dioramas of the role women played in the Revolution, the Boston Massacre, the Battle of Yorktown, and other signal events of the period.
But since homework helpers need not be Ph. 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; in fact, Lynn Giese, the president of the National Tutoring Association , based in Lakeland, Fla.
Giese, who said his organization trains and certifies about 1, tutors a year, advises simply hiring a tutor; a good one should also teach organizational skills, he said. Tim Levin, who runs a tutoring company called Bespoke Education, said his homework helpers in Manhattan and Westchester County encourage students to develop a systematized approach to schoolwork.
But even he acknowledged that something can vanish if too many parental duties are outsourced. Levin said. Another oft-raised criticism is that some homework helpers have too broad an interpretation of the term help, Emily Glickman, the founder of Abacus Guide Educational Consulting , said. Glickman said. Tell us what you think. Please upgrade your browser.
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