I definitely cross the line between helping my daughter do her homework and actually doing it for her. It is a fine line. Please admit you cross this line, too (at least sometimes).

When my daughter shows me her homework, I never intend to do it for her. I simply plan to sit and help. But it doesn’t always work that way. She starts out fine, excited to do homework, but then within 10 minutes, her eyes are glazing over and she just gets tired. Is tiredness an excuse for not doing homework? Well, yes, actually. I believe so.

She arrives at school just after 8 a.m., plays in the playground running around until 8:30 a.m., then has a full day of class, including on some days gym and swimming, until 3:30 p.m. Then, she’ll have after-school activities, like dance or play dates, and then dinner at 6 p.m. Then it’s bath time. Her schedule exhausts me, and I’m not the one actually doing the physical running around and using my brain all day.

She’s so tired sometimes that she doesn’t read the instructions when we do her homework and I have to remind her, not so gently, to “READ THE INSTRUCTIONS FIRST!” I don’t like myself at these moments. I hate the impatient tone in my voice. My daughter hates it, too. (I really only get “impatient voice” when it comes to homework.) Which leads me to just want to take over because, quite frankly, I’m much nicer and my daughter is much happier when I just tell her what to do.

When it comes to spelling, I can tell when she’s too tired, because her letters get bigger and BIGGER. And, her spelling, even the words she’s known how to spell since first grade, turns to shit. Excuse my French (and English.) So when she has to come up with words from a list of random letters, I sometimes just say, “On,” and, “Open,” and, “Gone,” giving her “helpful suggestions” in making up the words that she then writes down. But, really, am I just doing her homework for her? Well, yeah. Kind of. Sort of. But not all of it. She, too, comes up with words – just not as many as I do!

The other day she came home with a list of random letters from which she not only had to make three-, four- and five-letter words , but all the letters spelled a “big secret” word. I looked at the scrambled letters and immediately knew what the “big secret” word was. I love word scrambles and crossword puzzles, and I really couldn’t hold it in. “The letters spell the word ‘COMMUNITIES!’” I screamed out. I couldn’t help it. Spelling homework, to me, is fun. So if I see a list of letters, I am the one who wants to come up with as many words as I can. My daughter doesn’t get mad or anything. She watches me, amazed and proud, and writes down the words I list off. I feel smart and my daughter thinks I’m smart!

Yes, technically, you could say that I’m doing her homework, but I think she’s learning by example, because I point out how I found the words and say things like, “If you just add an ‘S’ to every word, you’ll have a five-letter word instead of a four-letter one.” Then there was the homework called “Personal Artifacts” where she had to bring in three things that tell “who she is.” She wanted to bring in stuffed animals. I was the one who said, “You’re in third grade now. Why don’t you bring in your favorite book, a pair of ballet slippers and some photos of your family?” She did. I made her practice what she was going to say about each item, and I chimed in with, “You could also say….” So am I doing her homework or just helping?

Last year, I was a bit of a Tiger Mom when it came to her weekly spelling tests. I would act like her teacher and call out the words and she’d write them down. Then if she got any wrong, I’d say, “WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!” and write HUGE ‘x’s across the misspelled words and get her to write them down five times. It sounds awful, but we actually had a lot of fun doing this. I got to play teacher and she loved it. Helping, or even DOING, her homework is a bonding experience. If I just let her do her homework alone, then I wouldn’t be spending time with her. And, honestly, I rather make homework fun and help her a lot sometimes, than just leave it all to her.

Last year she had to do a presentation on elephants. She did do all the research, the hard part, but I helped (or rather I did) cut out really cute photos of elephants and cartoons of elephants to make her Bristol board stand out from her classmates’. We had a super fun time doing this together, even though it was me who found all the photos and cartoons. Do I feel bad? Nope. I don’t feel all that bad practically doing her homework for her, because it’s a time thing. If I believed that homework was more important at her age than playing with friends after school outdoors, or dancing, which she loves, than she’d have all the time in the world to do her homework on her own. But since there isn’t so much time, and mommy doesn’t believe she is doing any harm in helping  a lot, then so be it.

But, when it comes to math, I leave that to her. I hate math. I will look at her math homework to see if she’s done it, but that’s all. So maybe, yes, I do her homework for her (or at least really, really chip in) – but I only do the fun homework. And you?

(Photo: Comstock)