Homework Helper: A good idea?

I come to commenting on this topic somewhat reluctantly.

If you’ve read “Like a Monitor More Than a Tutor” from this past Sunday’s New York Times, you might have an inkling about my trepidation. The article covers a rarified world- New York City- where families can afford to hire what I term “scheduling coaches” who tutor but also help students set routines and manage their time.

These homework helpers are adults hired to provide, structure to a student’s time and work. While we can get ourselves all up in arms that parents should be filling this role, the professional and economic realities can make supervising a child’s homework and time management difficult.

The blunt truth is, too, that this kind of service for hire is the domain of the wealthy.

“…As schools have piled on expectations and as career paths have sucked in both mothers and fathers, this niche industry is catering to ‘students who are capable of doing the work’ but ‘need someone there who can just be there with them to consistently do the work in a regular manner,’ said Mike Wallach, who along with Ms. Kraglievich runs the service Central Park Tutors.

But it has also led some educators to question whether this trend might simply be a subcontracted form of ‘helicopter parenting,’ depriving children of the self-reliance they will need later in life.

‘I think it really came about as a result of very, very busy parents who needed some additional care given for their children after school and saw the opportunity to meld that with some academic support,’ said Robert Lauder, the principal of Friends Seminary, a Manhattan private school. But, he said, ‘with any kind of support, there is the possibility of it becoming a crutch.’

One of those very busy parents is Benji’s mother, Debra Sternberg, who has four boys ages 7 to 15 and, like her husband, Marvin, works full time. She says the service is a lifesaver, preserving tranquillity in the short hours that she and Benji have together after work and before bedtime…”(NYT)

My .02- this is exactly what boarding schools do so well. Boarding schools provide a structure, framework, and set of experiences through which students live, manage their lives, work and grow- independently.

Successful boarding school students internalize their experiences and lessons graduating with an ability to manage their lives and the expectations of employers and schools. A gut feeling tells me that these kinds of lessons are more effectively taught and learned in a school setting. I base this notion on nothing more than personal experience. But, as with so many other activities, if you can afford to privatize it, you believe it provides an advantage.

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