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Is it true that parents are doing their child's homework?

Original post made by Parent, JLS Middle School, on Nov 7, 2012

My child came home and said a girl said, "My mom did my homework for me last night." And someone replied, "So did mine!"

Being that middle and high school are such rigorous academics, it's possible that parents are doing their children's homework to offset stress while other students suffer in silence. This is a shame. This is a public school system, not a private school where parents willfully pay for rigor. They should stop teaching to the squeaky wheels who want 5s on AP exams, and give extra homework to those who want to score 5 on AP exams, while keeping the workload lower for those who take AP classes to learn.

Comments (52)

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Posted by horselady
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 7, 2012 at 7:48 pm

When my son was in kindergarten (here in PA), I volunteered in his classroom two days a week. I would collect the homework assignments fromthe night before and see that the printing and drawings were too neat and too small to have been done by five-year-olds in the case of four or five of the children ( and, I am sorry to say these children were Asian ). I once mentioned this to the teacher, who sharply refuted that these children were artistic. I hghly doubted it, though.

A couple of years later, at another school elsewhere ( a private school no longer in PA ), the Science Fair projects were labelled and displayed in the library. Again, the writing, the drawings, and the composition of the sentences were just too good for those of seven-year-olds. It was obvious which children had done their projects themselves, but, of course, the ones whose parents did the real work were the ones awarded prizes! In one case, I could see that someone else had written the text in penciland the child had traced over it it pen, not always following the pencilled letters . It made me sick.

What lesson does this give our children? That it is okay to cheat if it makes you win??


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Nov 7, 2012 at 8:41 pm

I'm not so concerned about the cheat-to-win morals. I'm more concerned that the teachers will continue to pile on homework, thinking the students can handle it, when in fact, they are likely doing homework in one subject while a parent is doing their other homework, just so the student can get to sleep at a reasonable bedtime. High school is teaching from college texts so students come to school with the homework completed, thanks to the tutor or parent with the graduate degree who can help their child. Teachers are getting a distorted view of what children can handle.


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Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 7, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Ducatigirl is a registered user.

I suspect that, given the amount of homework little kids are given these days, and the small amount of time working parents have, that it is just easier for some parents to just do the assignment for the kids. Less frustration, less time, no loss of sleep time.

The big problem with this is that it cheats the kids...they do not really learn in this situation. It also skews things for the kids who really did do the homework themselves, because they will not do as well as the kids whose parents did the work appear to do. In the short term, anyway. In the long term, of course, the opposite holds true.

When my own son was in the third grade in another district, unfortunately, all third graders were given a one-month deadline for a particular assignment that required a good deal of research. There were many parents who let their kids slide until the last minute, for whatever reason, and then did the assignment for them in order to bail them out. I do know that in two particular cases, the mothers felt guilty that they had no time to drive their children across town to the library before it closed. And it was not the kind of neighborhood a child should be bikeriding across town in. Meanwhile, though, the other kids really sweated to get this assignment done on top of their usual homework. This was really unfair to THEM.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Nov 7, 2012 at 9:12 pm

I suppose I should have not stated "child" in my original posting. Elementary school children hardly have any homework. Middle school and high school students are my concern. Depending on the teachers, students can get swamped with homework so it seems that parents end up "helping" their children complete the homework. Of course, life is not fair, but our schools are public and should teach to all levels of students, not just the top tier with the Ivy League parents who demand college prep education for free.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 7, 2012 at 9:50 pm

My child would not start the HW until 10/11 every night. So How could I help? BTW, this thread is good for a laugh!


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 7, 2012 at 9:59 pm


In our experience all European, Chinese and Indian immigrants help their children with their homework and hire tutors for high school homework

Because they want want their kids to get the best grades and go to the best colleges

It works-look at the results


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Posted by John94306
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 8, 2012 at 9:01 am

John94306 is a registered user.

Sharon - I think Palo Alto parents across all ethnic backgrounds are helping their kids these days.

My Taiwanese immigrant parents almost never helped me with my homework.
And they didn't even see my college applications until the night before I sent them in. Same situation with my wife.

Now that we are parents, we just ensure that the kids know what's been assigned and what's due. But it's our kids' responsibility to do the work. If they have a question, we're happy to provide some suggestions. If they have errors in their homework, then they'll learn from those mistakes.

No plans for tutoring. If the kids want to learn more on their own, they're welcome to use Khan Academy online or do their own research.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 8, 2012 at 10:51 am

Once my kids were in middle and high school, while I didn't actually do their homework, there were papers I typed for them, map coloring I helped with (coloring in high school, seriously?), etc. They both have learning differences, and sometimes parent help was needed.

Some of the schools have gotten smart and changed where certain projects are done. When my older child was at Jordan, the 7th grade kids made a model of a cell at home. These were extremely elaborate art projects - a little learning about the parts of cell - lots of learning about fun things to buy at Michaels... The cell art projects were displayed in the cafetorium, all the younger kids and parents came to see them. 3 years later, the cell project was done in class, in groups, with donated materials from around the house. Less stress, focussed on the actual cell parts, more fun because it was done with fellow students.

One of the suggestions of the Homework committee was that all homework should be able to be completed by the student without parents assistance.


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Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Ducatigirl is a registered user.

Sounds like the East Bay and PAUSD are at opposite ends if the spectrum. When he was in the New Haven School District, my son had nearlt an hour of homework every night in kindergarten. In first grade (which he ended up repeating), he had an hour or more, plus homework on weekends. By second grade, he had an hour and a half plus weekends and holidays, which enraged most of the parents. By third grade the poor kid had so much homework he had no time to play after school. By fourth grade he had so much that not only was play time affected, he was just finishing when his father came home from work: 7:00 pm! Middle school there started in fifth grade, and we moved away, but we kept in touch with friends who told us it got worse in middle school and then--VOILA--abruptly stopped in high school. The reason: high school kids there usually had afterschool jobs, and would drop out or simply not complete it if homework was assigned!!! BTW, I have been told by the Sequoia HS librarian that they have the same problem there.

Anyway, by the time we moved here, my son was completely burned out, so we put him private school for a year, which gave far less homework than what he was used to, but also had a longer school day. Then we enrolled him in Jordan, which still assigned less homework than the New Haven district. It wasn't until Paly that he was overloaded again.

My husband has an employee from Finland who says that Finnish schools used to give huge amounts of homework back in his day, but then they made the school day longer and the kids completed all schoolwork IN SCHOOL, where the staff could help. They also now have plenty of recesses, even at the high school level. That solved the burnout problem there, as well as eliminating the problems of cheating and parents doing the actual assignments. Now they have the highest rated schools in the world, and the highest rates of college graduates. And the children love school, even at the high school level. Isn't that how it should be?


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 8, 2012 at 1:19 pm

"And the children love school, even at the high school level. Isn't that how it should be?"

Yes. However, Finland is an educated, enlightened country. Over here uninformed parents want a simple measure of educational excellence, so they demand ever more homework.


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Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 8, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I am not very familiar with Finland's educations system. Can someone answer a few questions

1) do all teens 15 - 18 attend comprehensive high schools or do some attend vocational or specialized training schools?
2) I like the "longer day" idea with all work being completed at school, but how do Finland schools deal with after school sports. I think a high percentage of our students participate in after school sports. If the school day went until 5:00 those students would miss the last 2 - 3 hours of "school"


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Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 8, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Ducatigirl is a registered user.

In Finland, as in Germany, there is aptitude testing to determine what a student's likes, interests, and strengths are. High schools are mostly comprehensive, but there are vocational schools. Upon graduating high school, all kids who qualify can go to college at government expense. However, college studies do not include "general ed", so a bachelor's degree equivalent can be gotten in little over two years. Vocational schools are an option to college and are also two years. College and vocational school, like as Germany, are paid for by the government. If the student wants to pursue a graduate degree, however, that is the student's expense. Most parents chip in, though I am told.

As for the longer school day, it starts earlier, does not just end later. Kids get out around 4:00pm. However, until summer, Finland, due to its northerly location, has short days of sunlight. Most sports are indoors. There are lots of indoor pools, stadiums, and arenas, even indoor horseback riding. My husband's employee said he was never outdoors so much in the fall, winter, and spring until he attended UC Berkeley.


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 8, 2012 at 3:13 pm

There was a great book that came out a few years back called "The Cheating Culture" and sadly the lengths parents will go to get their kids ahead in school by whatever means was a large part of it. From having their kids declared "challenged" in some way and getting special treatment to those who can afford it getting tutoring or in some cares threatening the teachers or the school with legal action it seems there is no depths too low for some parents to stoop to push their kids ahead. No, I did not mean to imply that tutoring is cheating by the way.

Other parents do not even think of such things and their kids are at a disadvantage in many cases. Also people more familiar with the culture and how things work have an advantage ... this is really like war. No wonder kids are confused and unhappy living in an environment that this hidden and they have no control or understanding of.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 8, 2012 at 4:04 pm

If students did their work at school, then teachers would know exactly what they were really capable of...instead of what their parents are working on.


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Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 8, 2012 at 4:49 pm

@ Sharon

Uh? I am European and a Palo Alto parent. I have never done any of my kids' homework and they have never had tutors.

So, please, spare us your racist generalizations. Thanks


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Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 8, 2012 at 4:53 pm

When I was in elementary school and middle school, I would do art/coloring projects for my older brother. I think I probably did most of the work for the living skills class, and I still don't regret the decision: many of the projects were just time-taking and he had better ways to spend his time (actually learning the material). I, as a younger student with no work, found the coloring to be a bit entertaining. I think it's mutually beneficial for parents/siblings to do some of the busywork for presentations and posters -- cutting out lines and pasting them to notecards, coloring, etc.
As for "parents doing work," it depends how you define "work." My parents always help me edit my essays and sometimes will add a sentence or two themselves. Also, I've been known to call my college-age brothers when I need help with APs... is this cheating? I don't think so. For all classes but English, my parents don't help me. My brother helps me with AP Chem and Physics H when I have questions.
Also -- I don't know how elementary school is now, but I rarely had homework. The HW I can remember -- in 3rd grade you would take home up to 60 multiplication sets if you failed to advance in the test, this was recommended to take 5 minutes or less. It was fairly common -- in all grades -- to have book reports due, but oftentimes the "report" was in reality just a summary. In 4th grade, we had "logic" and "math" booklets/packets which we were told to finish by the end of the year. But we were given time in-class too. And in 5th grade we had a project relating to Native Americans due... in 3rd grade a project on the Stanfords was due.... this is really all I remember. It wasn't work intensive at ALL.
Back to high school and APs: As a student taking 3 APs, I really appreciate when teachers actually teach the AP curriculum. For example: each APUSH test includes an essay that has to be written in 30 minutes (25? I forget how long it is, but it's however long the AP section essay is, I think). The teacher gives absolutely FABULOUS feedback and, since I think he actually serves as a grader for APUSH essays sometimes or has in the past, it's very useful. The test is added to the grade, and A's and B's are uncommon, 100%'s are rare (C's and B-'s are found in abundance). The way he grades it is definitely "harshly," but I think the class would be worse-off without it. I'm also enrolled in an AP class that has AP and non-AP students. I, of course, do more work and read more of the textbook than the non-AP students.... I don't have any particular problem with this, but if the classtime itself were lowered in quality, that is to say that all AP-only curriculum were removed, I think the class would be worse(as it is, the teacher uses the phrase "you don't need to know xxx for this class, but on the AP" which is fine). And if you mean just making AP classes on the whole easier (instead of making it a mix of AP/non-AP but teaching the class so the average is a 3 or 4 instead of a 4 or 5) that idea scares me a bit. AP tests have already gotten easier over the decades -- AP Chemistry, for example: I've heard from people practicing the AP that the AP tests from the '80s are WAY harder -- and I can't imagine what'd happen if I had to make up learning enough material to move me from a 3 to a 5. Since AP test-scores often reflect grades in the class -- A=5, B=4, C=4 -- you'd be almost telling me to make up two letter grades worth of material independently. If I had to do this with no help from the teacher then I'd probably just not take the class.


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Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 8, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Also, @Sharon: "In our experience all European, Chinese and Indian immigrants help their children with their homework and hire tutors for high school homework

Because they want want their kids to get the best grades and go to the best colleges"
I fit into none of the categories you listed -- pure American here, to the extent of which I'm nearly divorced from my racial/ethnic history --and my parents have tried to get me tutors. It's a widespread practice, also, since there are tutors in the ARC, tutoring services are available to everyone. And not everyone does it just for college.... some acquire tutors just to learn the material.


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Posted by MS parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Nov 8, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Middle school parent here -- I have never done my kids' homework, and I learning how to keep track of it is their responsibility, not mine. I think the teachers are pretty good about incorporating those skills into the lessons and have the same attitude.

We have a homework policy here now, from my perspective it's working pretty well.


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Posted by Finnish Mom
a resident of another community
on Nov 9, 2012 at 8:00 am

Sharon-
I'm one of those immigrants from Europe, and I have never done my son's homework for him.
~~

For the subject,

Yes, I've helped. Like when I used to drive him to school(Grades 1-3) , the drive time was used to practice spelling. I'd memorize his list of spelling words for the week, then ask him to spell the words out loud when we were in the car.

Yes, I do require that he gets his homework done.
Yes, I hired a tutor for him to keep up with math, that was in Middle School. Now in HS they have after school tutoring at Campus, free of cost for any student to attend if needed/wanted.

One year in Middle School he did not get his Science Fair entry started early enough, and what do you know, it all came down to the last night. Even then it was my son who worked late to get it done. Not me, not his dad (another Finn).


Helping with their homework and doing their homework for them is two totally different things in my book of life.


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Posted by Another European Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 9, 2012 at 8:13 am

As another Euopean Parent, I did help my child once making some sketch maps as she had not been taught how to do them (incredible) and I felt as guilty as hell when her work was returned with the only comment that the maps were excellent.I never helped with homework again apart from typing as the schools once again expected typed homework when they had never taught my child to type.

As far as tutoring, we did get SAT tutor because I asked about SAT preparation at school and was told by a teacher that they do not specifically prepare the students for SATs as they do not teach to the exam, just teach curriculum. When my child did the tutoring she was amazed at how much they taught her to do well on the exam which had never been mentioned in the classroom.

We are therefore pretty disgusted in the gaps in their education which we have to supplement. They expect results when they do not provide the classroom teaching.

As for science fair projects, they are obviously done by the parents in elementary level and are of much higher standard than our children who do it completely by themselves. In the middle school it is more apparent that the students do it themselves when they choose such subjects as what brand of bubble gum holds it flavor best. Our child decided to build a game with an electronics kit, using electronic circuits, wiring semiconductors, valves, etc. and learning a lot, but got poor response from the teacher as the game was not scientific. We agreed that the game was not scientific, but the fact that our child had learned so much from building the circuit showed more that the teacher had no idea about electronics than our child who did.


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Posted by vicki
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 9, 2012 at 9:26 am

Growing up in Palo Alto in the 50's,60's and 70's was absolutely wonderful. Kids didn't have stress and most of them did their homework on their own. It was actually fun! One of the sad things was that it took one student 2 times to get through high school and he still didn't know how to read when he graduated.


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Posted by Parents-Have-A-Role
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2012 at 10:41 am

> We are therefore pretty disgusted in the gaps in their education
> which we have to supplement. They expect results when they
> do not provide the classroom teaching.

There are any number of special interests for special interest groups that often expect the schools to do what they should do. We saw that with Mandarin Immersion--when other languages, such as Hebrew, was suggested as being offered if MI were offered.

Parents have a much greater role in their children's education than most people fully realize. The schools go to great end to try to suppress this fact, but given that children are in their parents' care more of the day than in the schools--it makes sense that children will learn a lot from their parents--proving that the parents are aware of their role in their children's education and make the effort to enrich their learning opportunities.

> Like when I used to drive him to school(Grades 1-3) ,
> the drive time was used to practice spelling. I'd memorize
> his list of spelling words for the week, then ask him to
> spell the words out loud when we were in the car

This is not helping your children doing their homework--this is helping your children learning how to spell, and pronounce, the words that are necessary for becoming more than just basically functionally literate.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2012 at 10:56 am

homework committee discussed all this stuff, Board Policy and Administrative Regulations are available for comment and study
people will be happy to know that all of these things were brought up - and not just by our friends at wcdbpa - by all of the participants


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Posted by Another European Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 9, 2012 at 11:02 am

I would not put learning to type, drawing sketch maps to explain a geographic feature or learning skills to get them through the SATs in the same category as learning Mandarin or Hebrew.

I would expect computer skills, using diagrams and SAT skills to be part of a basic educational curriculum, not extras.

I would like to see foreign languages taught to all elementary schools not just to lucky lottery winners.

Parents helping kids learn to spell is not doing their homework for them. Parents doing homework often means writing the book report, doing the historical research for a paper or doing the umpteen pages of repetitive math probems - all at the middle and high school levels. There is definitely some of this going on and there is no way that anyone posting here is going to admit that they do their child's homework with perhaps the exception of busy work.


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Posted by Finnish Mom
a resident of another community
on Nov 9, 2012 at 11:16 am

Parents-Have-A-Role -

Spelling those words WAS his homework.
Maybe if that homework was not done (with Mom's help) he would not be able to spell better than most kids his age. So yes, it helped more than just to get the homework done.


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Posted by DowntownMom
a resident of Addison School
on Nov 9, 2012 at 11:23 am

Just to disagree with those above who said there is no homework or take home projects in elementary school, guess what? THERE IS! My 4th grader has had an average of one creative/research project a month so far, usually centered around a book he was to have read at home on his own. The projects had timelines and are intended to get the kids used to managing and organizing long term projects. This is in addition to math homework a few times a week, daily reading and sometimes other types of assignments. I agree that there is a difference between helping with homework and actually doing it. I think it is essential for parents to help with something their kids are having trouble with, either understanding a math concept or explaining instructions. This is even more essential if the kid has learning differences. Then there is no way the kid can complete the homework on their own without help depending on the severity of the learning problem. Plus the kids are already working twice as hard as everybody else spending extra time everyday practicing their reading, math facts, etc...I really wish the kids had no homework and love the Finnish school system concept. Sigh! BTW Sharon, as wonderful as PA must have been in the old days, and it does sound like it was for most kids, the kid you mentioned who did not know how to read was probably an unidentified dyslexic and unfortunately did not receive the help he desperately needed because schools were not providing that kind of help then.


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Posted by Parents-Have-A-Role
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2012 at 11:31 am

> Maybe if that homework was not done (with Mom's help) he
> would not be able to spell better than most kids his age.

The world is comprised of individuals who operate on different levels from birth to death. Perhaps in Finland the view that there are no individuals--just one big group prevails, but not here.

Studies have shown that mothers (most often "white" mothers) often say 500,000 words to their children before the time they enter first grade. "Black" mothers tend to only say about 250,000 words--putting their children at a distinct disadvantage in the early development department.

Recognizing the role of early development education is not something that comes with the owners manual when you take your child home from the hospital after birth. It is, none the less, necessary to get these kids ready for school, and to help the become enthused about life-long-learning--which again will result in some people "knowing more" than others.

Perhaps this child didn't do his homework, and this particular incident was "helping". But if every parent did the same thing, children would end up with better vocabularies than they would if their parents didn't use this time to its best advantage--expecting the schools to do all the work.

The same logic applies to diner time. No reason not to have a little fun with word games, or geography, or mental math. In the long run, the ball is more in the parents' court than the schools.

And no--parents shouldn't be doing their children's homework. However, they should take the time every so often to look it over, as well as keep track of how much time they are spending on it. Claims that some kids (high school age) are at it up until 1AM to 2AM seems hard to believe, but the stories persist.


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Posted by Finnish parent
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 9, 2012 at 11:33 am

Uh, I'm Finnish and Palo Alto parent too, never done my kids' homework. It's their responsibility, not mine. No extra tutoring, either, it almost feels like cheating. Of course, we help if they ask it, otherwise not. We seem to be a last resort of getting help, since it might involve a lot of questions and explaining and not straight answers.

That said, I felt I needed to reply @Ducatigirl, and explain the Finnish education system further.

Ducatigirl: "College and vocational school, like as Germany, are paid for by the government. If the student wants to pursue a graduate degree, however, that is the student's expense."

I actually have two master's degrees from Finland and government paid everything. In fact, when I studied, the master's degree was the lowest university degree. The bachelor's degree was something you could apply for after the certain amount of studies, but in practice, there was/is no value in it.
Finnish higher education has a dual model, where universities focus on scientific or artistic master's and higher degrees, and 'universities of applied sciences' (~polytechnics) mostly on bachelor-level vocational and practical education.
Bachelor's degree usually means about 3 years of studies, while master's can take 5 years or longer. If you can show you got at least the minimum amount of studies for each year, you'll continue to get a 'Study grant' as long as 70 months, which is, if you subtract the summers when most of the students are working, over 7 years of support. You'll also get help to pay your rent, usually about 80% of the rent and of course the government guarantee for student loans.

Ducatigirl: "My husband has an employee from Finland who says that Finnish schools used to give huge amounts of homework back in his day, but then they made the school day longer and the kids completed all schoolwork IN SCHOOL, where the staff could help. They also now have plenty of recesses, even at the high school level.
As for the longer school day, it starts earlier, does not just end later. Kids get out around 4:00pm. However, until summer, Finland, due to its northerly location, has short days of sunlight. Most sports are indoors. There are lots of indoor pools, stadiums, and arenas, even indoor horseback riding."

The school days for the elementary school age kids in Finland are among the shortest in the world. The minimum amount of school hours for the first and the second graders is 19 lesson hours (lesson hour = 45 minutes of study + 15 minutes recess) per week and the length of the school day can't be any longer than 5 hours. For the middle school students (7., 8. and 9. graders) the corresponding numbers are 30 and 7. In the US "the lower secondary teachers have almost double the number of teaching hours of their Finnish counterparts" (see a link below).

The most of the elementary school kids nowadays go to the after-school daycare, which is good, I didn't. On the other hand, for example my oldest who started her school in Finland attended the after-school care only when she was the first grader, she didn't want to go there any more on the second grade, since she considered the care was for 'babies'. She rather stayed home alone and/or played with her friends. The kids are way more independent in Finland than here.

I don't remember having huge amounts of homework even when I was at high school (1980s) and the days were usually 6 to 8 hours long, not any longer than here. Recesses have always been around and in my theory recesses are the reason why Finnish school system is so successful. You actually concentrate in your studies for 45 minutes and then you relax for 15 minutes before the next class.
I do remember leaving to the school in the morning when it was dark, and it was dark again when I got back home, but then, I lived near the Arctic Circle, not much daylight during the winter months... :) We had some indoors sports, of course, but the weather was seldom a reason to stay indoors. There are no such things as snow days, the school is always open. You can stay indoors during the recesses if it's too cold outside, but it's your choice, you can go out if you really want to and sometimes the teachers even encourage that. It's better to go outside even for a minute and then come back refreshed and ready to study.

From a link below you can find a report of describing and comparing Finnish education and training internationally.

Web Link


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Posted by Henry
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 9, 2012 at 11:43 am

The previous comment from Parents-Have-A-Role is an example of the not so thinly veiled anti-Asian racism that exists in Palo Alto. Parents-Have-A-Role stated that "There are any number of special interests for special interest groups that often expect the schools to do what they should do. We saw that with Mandarin Immersion..."

How can advocates for MI be singled out as a special interest group when the Asian student population is nearing half of the student population? Why are MI advocates responsible for teaching Mandarin to their children at home when PAUSD offers multiple languages to all, no matter their ethnic origin?

The demographics in Palo Alto are changing. We are becoming a community composed of more recent immigrants, that do not hail from Europe. Average Family size is growing with multi-generational families living together in one home. We need to learn to live together and learn from each other. We need to build on each others strengths and not tear down the others when they achieve success.


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Posted by Parents-Have-A-Role
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2012 at 11:54 am

> The previous comment from Parents-Have-A-Role is an example
> of the not so thinly veiled anti-Asian racism

This comment is an example of the not-too-thinly-veiled race-baiting that goes on in Palo Alto.

Objections to MI, or any non-English-based eduation, paid for by the public, was the purpose of the comment. The suggestion that the population of Asians is true--but if we are not required to provide public education in Chinese (Mandarin/Cantonese/Wu/Etc.), suggests that we should stop teaching our core curriculum, shifting to those of the Chinese school system.

Immigration is supposed to strenthen our country. Balkanizing it can hardly be seen as anything by weakening it.

People who want to speak another language are free to pay for that instruction--leaving the public out of their particular needs. Again, parents have a role here--not the public, at large (meaning the taxpayers).



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Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 9, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I am not from Finland and I don't know Finland's education system well, but I am not sure their system is entirely transferable to the US as is.

For one, do all Finnish kids attend free, public pre-school or some other quality preschool program? Many US students don't and many of those are at a disadvantage when entering Kindergarten.

What is the poverty rate in Finland? Poverty has an impact on results at school.

Is Finland as multicultural as the US and does it have the same number of kids who don't speak Finnish at home as we have non English speakers here? Or is it a more homogeneous, mostly Finnish speaking group of kids that enter schools?

All this matters. I am afraid that even if we try to import all the best Finnish educational practices we'll still have different results for socio-economic reasons.


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Posted by Phil
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm

My son's in elementary school. I don't know about other parents, but he does his own homework. Once in a while he will have a question, and I will help him understand how *he* can approach and complete the problem. I do ask him to write more neatly. I do ask him to do his best, and not the minimum he thinks will be acceptable. I do ask him to take as much time as he needs and not to rush through the work.


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Posted by Left of Boom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Left of Boom is a registered user.

Students will get out of a course what they put into it, unless the homework is needless busy work. My child doesn't complain about the amount of homework but I think there is far too much rote memorization of terms without a deeper understanding of the subject.

As for whether parents are doing the homework, there's a difference between answering questions or quizzing your child to review the material and actually doing the work.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 9, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Being a product of PAUSD circa 1980's, it wasn't sheer memorization and understanding of subject matter that made a difference in my life, it was the endurance, efficiency and drive to succeed at the big things in life. In other words, get to work kids. If you can't handle it, the parents should move elsewhere and make way for someone more worthy to take their place. Sounds harsh, but why are you here?


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 9, 2012 at 7:38 pm


The reality is that immigrants to Palo Alto from Europe, China and India do not come here for some "Kumbaya" experience

We came here to make money and help our kids make money.

That is what capitalism is all about-

These immigrants will do whatever they can legally do to make sure that their kids get into the best schools, the best colleges and the richest professional/business jobs.

To pretend otherwise is naive.

Even the elite in China will pay/do whatever it takes to get their kids into elite American engineering/medical/business schools.

Helping our kids with their homework and paying for tutors is the least we do-and it is legal


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Posted by justme
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 9, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Yes, it's true. Parents are helping too much.


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Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 9, 2012 at 8:36 pm

I don't know how it is helping our kids having them cheat their way into "top" colleges. At one point or another such kids' inability to function on their own, without their parents' intervention, will catch up with them and they'll collapse, academically, professionally, or emotionally.

What "Sharon" says (advocates?) is incredibly short-sighted at best. I think it actually is utter non-sense.


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Posted by dontknowmucher
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 9, 2012 at 11:39 pm

I don't know how it is helping our national debt having these clowns in the Capital. At one point the inability to repay the national debt, without intervention, will catch up with us and the nation economy will collapse and you are owe it to your child by not helping them out or telling them the truth of our nation future


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Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Parents are either intentionally trying to mislead here in some posts, or are uninformed: PALY's ARC is nothing to do with the controversy over tutoring. Probably most schools have some sort of tutoring available, and we all know that is fine. It certainly has nothing to do with the slippery ethics and borderline cheating we see among some vaunted students here nowadays - and these students overshare their "accomplishments" on facebook, incidentally, thereby demoralizing others.

Where the concern arises is from the increased philosophy here of "the ends justify the means" which is being put into practice to cleverly assist certain students.

Some parents are hiring specialized tutors to tutor their high school students IN ADVANCE of taking advanced courses (for a grade, of course) and this directly leads to an unfair advantage over students who do their own work and manage their lives at school. Not to mention, some students and their parents cannot afford years of such prepping, but that isn't the main issue: it is a method of poor ethics, sometimes secretly having others write one's essays, et. One of my kids witnessed this at a neighbor's home one time (this was years ago). This particular kid went on to become a National Merit Finalist and was fairly well lauded, though he did not get into Harvard or Stanford, a major letdown for the parents.
Of course, there are other ways to benefit and they are arguable: the secret EC (extra-curricular) hidden from "friends" (err, those who thought they were friends, but who were really only peers and competitors at that - though they themselves did not put themselves into this social placement...) and ultra-special summer "activities" designed by parents to advantage their kids. I must issue a disclaimer in that I do NOT object to people benefiting their kids - it is a free world - and some have the money and foresight to plan such endeavours - and SOME kids DO have the genuine interest(s); however, I am jaded as I have seen quite a few kids managed as projects, malleable by their parents, and some do NOT have a strong interest in Math, for example, to cite a high-status interest among Palo Alto parents, yet they can be molded and prepped to score very high in Math and this sure helps in ultra-competitive top university admissions. Sad that the ethics fall by the wayside. Sad that the kid could not follow certain interests (Art, let's say, for one example); sad that people smooth the way for their kids rather than permit them to enjoy learning and education and ANY serendipity whatsoever - which COULD, after all, lead to personal discoveries and passions.
I vote that ALL essays, science fair projects, etc. should be completed in class.


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Posted by Chill out
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm

My kid is in 2nd grade in public elementary now. She didn't have much homework in kinder and first grades, not more than 10 mins each time and it's not everyday. In 2nd grade, she has around 15 mins homework(not everyday) and teacher recommends at least 20mins reading everyday. i think it's a good amount of homework and responsibility. They are not overloaded like other people said in this forum. I can see other parents overload their kids with activities - 3 soccer practices per week, 2-3 dance classes per week, gymnastic, swimming, music.... Kids may not have energy to do homework after they finish their activities. Therefore, parents kick it to do homework for them.

Sad to say, it's difficult to find unstructured time for some kids to relax.


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Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm

All the elementary school parents, this thread is not directed at you. We are not complaining about elementary school homework! When your children reach middle school and high school, then you will understand the large workload students sometimes endure. SIX or SEVEN classes worth of homework, NOT ONE class from ONE teacher.

As for "Bob", your posting implying "if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen", you graduated in the 80s and so did I. FYI, it aint what it used to be! We had a lot of free time back in the day and we weren't learning from college textbooks. It was a cake-walk to be accepted into UC Berkeley, USC, UCLA, and we did little studying for the SATs compared to the students of today. Hardly anyone scored a perfect SAT back then opposed to nowadays.

Amen, "Paly Parent" re extracurriculars. My husband is an M.D. and in undergrad while he was in pre-med, he has stories of the unethical competition. Someone botched his lab experiment once. Others lie about studying, pretending they are not studying at all. Someone else claimed he hung out all the summers when he was really doing lab internships each year. A shame that people feel the need for such insincerity.

I also know of many parents who force their children to play piano or violin for college apps. And after high school, the children NEVER touch the instruments again! Hello psychologist bills! Wake up, parents! Find what your child enjoys doing and have them excel! Don't force them to do things they don't want to do!


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Posted by high school parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 10, 2012 at 5:47 pm


former Paly parent,

"I vote that ALL essays, science fair projects, etc. should be completed in class."

Me too. The issue would be for teachers know how to do this. Kids will do anything you get them to do. Instead of everyone getting the parents to do stuff.


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Posted by justaparent
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 10, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Morality is independent of what others do.
If someone stole and didn't get caught, that doesn't mean you should steal.
Parents know what's best for their children.


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Posted by some guy
a resident of another community
on Nov 10, 2012 at 7:45 pm

I haven't read all the comments, but this subject is funny to me. Years ago my brother told me about how he got his daughter into the AP track in high school by doing her homework for her in middle school. Maybe he was taking too much credit, but I think being in the AP track may have helped get her into the college of her choice, which she did very successfully in.


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Posted by AsianParent
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 11, 2012 at 9:20 am

What's on the Editor's mind when someone posted as Asian Parent? It quickly re-edit to Parent. We need an answer for that. We have Finnish Mom, DowntownMom, European Parent, Another European Parent on the board but Asian get deleted.
And please Do Not remove the post. Thanks!


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Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Do not take it personally, but most Asians (or blacks, latinos, etc) feel they are being racially singled out and get very angry, sometimes threatening lawsuits, in such situations. The webmaster is probably trying to prevent this. Most Europeans do not have this reaction. Nor do most caucasian Americans. We are trying to be sensitive , is all.

Anyway, a good book about education reform in Finland and how it changed their schools' ratings to the highest in the world with NO HOMEWORK is now in paperback. It is called "Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?" by Pasi Sahlberg.

A Finnish employee of my husband's recommended it to me. When he was a boy in Finland, their schools were a lot like Palo Alto's, and the graduates did not do well, IF they graduated. There has been a 180 degree turnaround since they overhauled their system. I just ordered it from Amazon myself!


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Posted by Einstein
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 11, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Finnish Parent: Do you go back to Finland often? Risto goes twice a year, and says that it is no longer as you say. He is in his forties and says what you say is to some degree no longer true, but was true when he was in that school system. In fact, his wife takes their two boys home to Finland every year for summer school (they have dual citizenship).

He came here to get a PhD because at that time, it was more valuable to get an American degree than a European one. That, of course is no longer true. Most of Europe has reformed its education. Kindergarten is back to what the name implies (in most of Europe, anyway)

This country is WAY behind. The rest of the world pays teachers well, and they enjoy great respect and prestige, more like what an American doctor receives. Craig Barrett, the former CEO of Intel, spends a lot of time in Washington trying to convince the powers that be that our system needs massive reforms because it is failing. American companies are hiring immigrants for jobs that should go to Americans because there are not enough educationally qualified Americans. In high tech, anyway, a graduate degree is a must, but it is cost-prohibitive. Mr. Barrett is trying to show the Dept of Health, Education, and Welfare that the government needs to help with this.

Preschool, however, has been found to make a huge difference and in many European countries (Germany and the Netherlands, for sure) pay for it, though it is not mandatory.


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Posted by POS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 12, 2012 at 2:39 am

Aside from once coloring the edges of what seemed a near life-size map of Asia, I have never done my kid's homework then have them pass it off as their own. I think their grades would suffer if they did! Yet I do read some of their books, memorize their Spanish vocab, even try their math problems - I just never show them my answers. (In fact with math, they often have to explain to me where I went wrong!) So why do I do this? Because I can check if they are engaged in their studies, recognize when they are not grasping a concept, guide them, or send them back to their teachers with focused questions. I can also chat with them about the books they are reading, save them topical news articles, and exercise their math skills in the car. I don't have time to keep up with all they do but I wish I could - maybe just to try out for Jeopardy one day! My middle schooler is starting to pull away and be independent - yeah, who didn't see that one coming, but I'm ok with it. Anyway I know I won't be able to keep this up in the high school years (AP chemistry again, no thanks) - though I might keep borrowing those Spanish books. I am almost fluent and I took French in school.


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Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 12, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Ducatigirl is a registered user.

I have never done my child's homework for him, either, other than to answer questions he had when writing papers on American or British literature, or European medieval history, Native American history, or Civil War history (he would refer such questions to me because those subjects I have expertise in. Other questions we would research together so that I could learn something new, too). Helping with homework is not the same as doing it for them.

However, I have seen quite a few instances over the years in which the help with homework and projects was very obviously way more than just help. In a couple of those instances it was obvious to me that it was plkagiarism and shame on the teacher who could not spot it. But many times it was obviously the work of a parent or some other adult, not the child. That is just plain wrong. It cheats the child as well as the other children who did their work honestly and cannot hope to compete with parent-completed work.


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Posted by Finnish parent
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 12, 2012 at 5:18 pm

@Dugatigirl,

I didn't say that the school system in Finland now is like it was when I was at school. But then it seems that your husband's Finnish employee is about the same age as I am and started the school in Finland after the education system reform. (The reform started gradually from north in 1972, Helsinki was last in 1978.)

I only wanted to point out that you DO get support for your graduate studies as well, not only for your bachelor's degree studies as I understood from your earlier post. Of course the maximum eligibility period for 'study grant' is determined by how long getting a degree in one's line of study is normally considered to take.

Also, the length of the school day is regulated depending on what grade a student is in. The school days in Finland are among the shortest in the world and still they have less homework than here. BUT the amount of homework wasn't bad either when I was in high school, certainly not as much as my daughters get now from a PA high school. Still, the reason we live in Palo Alto is its schools, so I'm not really complaining.

I recommend Pasi Sahlberg's book, too. He also has a blog, link below:
Web Link

And some online newspaper articles:
Web Link

Web Link


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Posted by geraldine
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 12, 2012 at 5:24 pm

My husband was on an ICE train in Germany. , on his way to an economic summit with Asians and he met a Scandinavian who told him that our education system is the best in the world. He also said that Obama is the best president the USA has ever had. My son and nephew are products of the PA school system and they are currently overachieving in the real world.


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