Am I Supposed to Check My Kids’ Homework?


I'll admit this homework was pretty cool…building a machine to measure lung capacity.

I’ll admit this homework was pretty cool…building a machine to measure lung capacity.

I don’t understand homework in elementary school.  My past, and likely yours, too, had many hours devoted to homework…but I never did any, had any, until middle school.  And I settled myself after school at the kitchen table with paper and pencil because teachers told us do this at home and turn it in tomorrow, and I did (yes, I was one of those kids…).  But it’s a different ballgame today for families: homework comes home for our elementary schoolers, and they really need some supervision, unlike (mostly) the older kids.  It can be a time-consuming process, especially when kids are tired and may also have after-school activities.  It’s a lot to fit together in a short amount of late afternoon and evening time.  And often, in our family’s experience anyway, homework is like a moving target…some teachers give it every week, some give it out sporadically, and others don’t give it out at all.  (And some is given and it never makes it home…)  So I need some help.  The why of homework…well, I’m interested, but it’s not my most pressing issue.   The when to do it is individual.  But here’s what tops my need-to-know list:

Am I supposed to check my kids’ homework?  And if I do, do I help my kids correct their mistakes?

You are probably thinking why the heck don’t I just ask the teacher, and why am I asking now, more than halfway through the school year.  Well, here again, I have found these answers to also be a moving target.   Because sometimes the homework returns checked by the teacher.  Ok, easy.  At other times…we never see it again so we don’t know what happens to it, or how important it is to our kids’ learning.

Yes, asking the teachers is my best option.  But I confess that I don’t unless there is a real problem.  And I believe that is because I have a firm idea in my head about the ritual of homework.  My own belief, no other reason than that and I’m finding it’s not my best move.  My feeling is I don’t think I should check it, much less correct errors.  My parents didn’t check mine unless I needed help…and that was because my teachers did, or when I got older, we ‘traded’ papers in class and checked each others.  But as I mentioned before, some of our homework goes into a black hole when it leaves the house, never to be seen again.  And my kids are, well, kids.  Keeping track of “miscellaneous” papers is not their strong suit.  (Unless it’s a party invitation or a field trip consent.)

But I’m having second thoughts about my decision to not check my kids’ homework.  And I’ve created yet another hot mess inside my brain thinking about it so much.  Which is one reason I write.  So I’ve listed below both sides of my mental debate:  should I or should I not check and help correct homework:

“Pro” the checking of homework:

~Knowing what my kids are learning in school.

~Better awareness about my kids’ academic strengths and weaknesses.

~Demonstrating interest in my kids’ education.

~Letting my kids know education is important.

~Encouraging my kids that practice makes improvement.

“Against” the checking of homework:

~newsletters and access to online curricula help me stay up-to-date with what my kids are learning.  These sources help considerably when I get the “nothing” answer to “What did you do at school today?”

~helicopter parent!  Looking over my kids’ shoulders at homework does not help them learn responsibility.  If they ask for help, I definitely give it, but otherwise I feel my best course of action is to help my kids become independent and learn to manage their time.  Which may mean learning the hard way if they lose privileges for not finishing assignments.

~it’s more important my kids learn the routine of homework that “getting it all right.”

~If I help my kids correct homework mistakes, teachers won’t know if my kids are struggling (which is why I help with homework).  Of course, I can always shoot a teacher an email giving them a heads up…but that seems awkward when the teachers are the ones spending all day with my kids.

~teachers don’t ask us parents to correct homework so I figure that means they don’t want us to (but I have been wrong on that point more than once).  That’s the way it was when I was in grade school.  So I go with it.

Those are my confused thoughts.  But what do you think?  I’d love some advice and wisdom from teachers, other parents, and those of you who are on both sides of the equation…who teach and who are the parents of elementary students, too.  What should I be doing when the homework comes home?


  • Heidi, interestingly I also have had this dilemma with K and P. I think it totally depends on the kid. I also like to think that the release of homework responsibilities needs to be a gradual process, which especially needs to be retaught/reinforced during the elementary years. I consider it to be like front end loading (more effort on my part now so less for later will be possible). For example, K (grade 5) tends to need more guidance, is easily distracted, and has to work harder than the average kid to master some skills, such as math. Therefore I am more active with her learning at home than with P. (grade 3), who is more independent, more disciplined and seems to have an easier time with school. I still check K’s work and circle questions that need to be looked at a second time. (she tends not to be very detailed oriented) She also knows she can ask questions if needed at this point. I hope that once she gets to high school, she will be to the point where she is nearly independent with her learning. I tend not to look at the details with P’s work, but I am always present for support when he is doing homework. I also do a visual check to make sure he is completing everything listed in his planner from school before signing off. I tend not to go back over his work to circle areas of needed attention, because he tends to be more detailed oriented. He also tends to be more self driven when it comes to homework, where K. needs more prodding to get started and to keep working.

    As a kindergarten teacher, I appreciate any time that a parent spends with their child practicing what we are studying. Even if a parent feels that they may be doing too much, it is teaching the child and the parent, that time dedicated to learning should be set aside on a regular basis. I realize that there are some parents that are over involved in what is sent back to school. This is not necessarily what I intended with the home practice, but I am always happy that effort has been made and routines are being set.

    As a previous middle school German teacher, there were definite lines between the kids that did their homework, and those did not. As a teacher, the level of correctness was not what I was looking for, but rather the effort and willingness to practice what we were currently learning. (not every teacher feels this way) Full credit was given for completed activities. Questions and discussion always followed the checking of homework. Students that did their homework were generally more successful in my classes, because they were able to learn more about what they did not know from our homework discussions. Maybe the extra practice did pay off??? Parents of my students would not have to know any German, but they definitely could be checking to make sure that homework was being completed/attempted on a regular basis. Fostering the skill of asking a teacher for help for greater understanding/help would be a wonderful thing to work on at the middle school level as well.
    By the time kids are in high school, they should be ready to fly on their own concerning homework…yet parents should still realize that their kids still need support. It is so much easier these days to know about missing assignments and assessment scores, which are nearly instantly posted online for parents to see. Discussing current topics covered at school, asking when the next test will be, helping to proof read a paper, hash though some project idea possibilities, etc. are all great ways to “be in the know” concerning their homework. A routine of daily homework should now be second nature and continued to be reinforced by the parent. Again, fostering the skill of talking to their teacher about any difficulties / asking for help or clarification is a good idea.
    I keep thinking about what I want my kids to be able to do independently once they are finished with high school. I am hopeful that in the end, they will be able to set their own daily routine of time to study as well as feel comfortable asking their instructor/boss/professor for help when needed.
    Well, I’ve rambled on long enough. Hope this is of help, or at least stems a few ideas to continue to ponder.

    • Susan,
      Wow, thank you! I always appreciate and value your insights. My kids sound much like yours…A and W like K and D like P. I feel our kids strengths and weaknesses with their education are “coming out” as they get older and have more academic responsibilities, and we hope we can help them in their own individual ways. And I hope your note helps other readers, too! Thanks again for your input!

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