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How Much Help is Too Much Help?

posted Feb 7, 2013, 11:44 AM by Christine Brower-Cohen
February 7, 2013
Recently, one of my children applied for an advanced science class.  Part of the application process was to write a 200-250 word essay on advances in genetic science.  As a teacher, I figured the best way to help my own child was to visit the library, where we checked out several books on the topic.  At home, I handed over a pack of Post-Its, and my child read and annotated.  A few days later my child made an outline for the essay, and the day after that, my child wrote a first draft.  I proofread the draft and made some suggestions for grammar and flow.   My child liked some of my suggestions, balked at others, made some revisions and printed out a final copy.  My only other involvement in this whole process was signing the form giving my child permission to apply for this advanced course.
Imagine how I felt the afternoon that my child came home and told me of a classmate who wrote a 500-word essay with the help of a doctor.  Or how I felt upon learning that another mother who works in medicine, dictated the essay to her child while the child typed on the computer.  Is typing, writing? 
Feeling guilty that my child might not get into the class because I was not helpful enough, the only thing I could say was,  that if those other students get into the class, they will have to take the midterm and final on their own, without the help of a doctor or mom dictating the answers to them. 
On Sunday, I read a piece in The New York Times, about a mother who helped her 6th-grade daughter with a homework assignment comparing the theories of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes.  The writer felt she was just building her daughter's background knowledge.  The teacher, (probably inspired by The Common Core) wanted  the child to interpret the theories for herself, and was reluctant to even grade the assignment. 
In this day of Common Core, as teachers release responsibility to their students, will parents follow suit?  Can we all take a step back and look at the big picture and ask ourselves, what is the best way to help our children?  Or, is the bar set by the Common Core so high, that children will need more parental involvement at home?
Happy reading,
Christine Brower-Cohen