Parental involvement


Homework (Photo credit: christinepollock)




I think parents need to be involved in their children’s education. I’ve seen too many issues come up when they are not. That being said, I can’t count the number of times I have stood up in front of parents and urge them to “get involved in their children’s education”. I often cite word from the national PTA organizations and enumerate research.  Then today, as I reread a blog post by Alfie Kohn that I stopped at this citation.



And a review of fifty studies found that, while parental involvement in general was “associated with achievement,” the one striking exception was parental help with homework, where there was no positive effect (Hill & Tyson, 2009).


Louis Sergent, 16, who is in his first year at...

Louis Sergent, 16, who is in his first year at high school, does his homework. Both he and his father are determined… – NARA – 541288 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



I am not one of those educators that are diametrically opposed to homework.  I believe the common practice in schools around the world has some purpose, but I have been forced to rethink the practice as my children have grown up through school.  My fourth grader, for the most part, has quality homework, or work that she does not complete in school hours (as do I) and this seems like a natural extension of what will be “real life learning” for her.  Kohn on the other hand notes in rather terse terms that,


The practice of forcing children to begin working what amounts to a second shift after they get home from a full day of school has absolutely no proven benefits before high school, and there are increasing reasons to doubt its value even in high school (Kohn, 2006).  What kids need, therefore, are parents willing to question the conventional wisdom and to organize others to challenge school practices when that seems necessary.  What kids don’t need is the kind of parental involvement that consists of pestering them to make sure they do their homework –  whether or not it’s worth doing.


I think this is something to think about.  Is that sweet spot of too much and too little really a reachable goal?  How does one find that space and still give kids a chance to learn without being fettered by parent “involvement”??  Do we as parents feel brave enough to question the conventional wisdom of homework?  As educators, are we open enough to hear those questions of criticism?

References cited by Dr. Kohn:

Nancy E. Hill and Diana F. Tyson, “Parental Involvement in Middle School: A Meta-Analytic Assessment of the Strategies That Promote Achievement,” Developmental Psychology 45 (2009): 740-63.


Alfie Kohn, The Homework Myth (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2006); and, for a look at a new high school study,



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