Why I Never Made My Kids Do Their Homework

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What parenting decisions have you made which others found controversial?

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Perhaps the most controversial choice their mom (my ex) and I made when it came to raising our kids was to pretty much leave their school work responsibilities between them, the school and their teachers. We did not supervise the completion of their school assignments and homework. Both of us were resources and provided information, advice and support as requested.

They both did quite well in school grade-wise, but neither were particularly compliant with the various deadlines and and other requirements, especially homework. It was a conundrum at first, and we stumbled a bit early on trying to find the right balance of engagement in various parts of their life.

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While neither really needed to study to know the material, we were unsure of what we should insist upon to ensure they would develop effective study habits when needed and see the value of compliance with the rules. We ultimately settled upon letting the school decide how to determine lack of compliance it thought required intervention.

Schools and teachers prefer students that cluster at the norm, and it’s a challenge for the students, parents, and school when a student is an outlier. Our desire to have them not be an outlier at school doesn’t mean we didn’t do our very best to enrich their life experience.

Between ages 6-13, apart from going to hundreds of A’s baseball games (baseball is the crucible in which all life’s lessons can be learned. And both eventually ended up pitching in college), each had attended over 50 lectures by prominent thinkers, politicians, authors, scientists, entrepreneurs and media personalities.

By ages 8 and 10 they were both bored with chess, and became interested in poker. I allowed them to play in the penny-ante online games before they became illegal. The 3 of us went to a lecture and book signing by the bad boy of poker, Phil Helmuth.

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I was a room parent 11 times for my 2 sons from their time in Pre-K to sixth grade, and in both of their Pre-Kindergarten classes I would come in once a week and lead a process we called “critical thinking for 5-year-olds,” where I helped them examine how things that were interesting to small kids were packaged and marketed.

When my older son was 12, I started a short-lived, once-a-month Father-Son book club. I had read several articles of similar activities for mothers and daughters, and was a bit jealous of the intimacy. The first meeting we readTo Kill A Mockingbird, and it went great. The second was A Catcher in the Rye, and was decidedly so-so. By the third meeting we had lost interest due to Sunday football (not everything is meant to be).

I guess the point is that we let teachers do the school part and we did the rest. They are 23 and 26 now and doing just fine.

Peter Stanwyck is a small business attorney and litigation lawyer in the San Francisco Bay Area. See more of his Quora posts here:

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