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Helping the kids with homework

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

So, yesterday my kids were doing their homework and asked me for some essay help. I was real busy so I searched the net to see if I could get some info and was quite surprised with what I found. There are numerous sites like this one, for example, http://essayshark.com where you can get someone to write your essay for you. I remember that when I was at school nothing like that existed, but nowadays you can find all kinds of stuff thanks to the Internet. I am interested in hearing what others think about this...would you let your kids use it if they are having problems with their essays or have run out of ideas?

post #2 of 24

That is an interesting question. I have had to rework my thoughts about the acquisition of information in the last few years. The traditionalist in me says "we had to dig for the info and come up with our own thoughts." I chafe at the idea that it can just be laid out for a student. I do worry about everything coming too easy for kids now and not having to work enough for it. On the other hand we live in a different world now, where information will never again be hard to get. I guess I'm up in the air and conflicted!!

post #3 of 24

Essay farms are clear examples of cheating and academic dishonesty.  Any school handbook will clearly delineate that these are not ok.

 

No matter how old you are, there have always been things like this around, by the way.  Academic dishonesty is nothing new in the internet age.

post #4 of 24

Yikes, that's not "helping with homework." That's paying someone to do it for you. Totally unethical, and using such a service would put a student in line for suspension, essay or course failure and possibly expulsion. Major, major repercussions. As much as essay mills have become easier to access (I was born in 1963, and I remember ads for such places in magazines when I was in high school and university) there are now some pretty potent tools out there to check for plagiarism too. Buying an essay is now easier, but getting caught is also easier. 

 

Miranda

post #5 of 24

It raises the question though, what is better for success? The ability to form your own ideas and express them, or the ability to find someone else to do it for you....better still, the ability to navigate technology to serve your purposes.

 

I always find high earners get other people to do this sort of work for them. Those that can navigate technology to their advantage are even better off. Not that i think its right. 

 

(not trying to be silly, this is something i often think about)

post #6 of 24

But when it comes to "what is better for success" you need to consider what you mean by "success:" in particular who benefits from the accomplishment. In this case the comparison to the workplace really breaks down. The beneficiary in job-related work is the organization or the client. The benefit is external to the person doing or administering the work (which is why money is used to compensate the workers). By contrast the benefit of essay-writing lies within the person doing it: goal is to learn, and to provide evidence of that learning. The world doesn't need another essay on Animal Farm. Your teacher isn't the one benefitting from having that essay in hand. The benefit is that you are becoming educated and proficient.

 

Miranda

post #7 of 24

No way in H-E-double-hockey-sticks would I let my kid use an essay farm.

 

I do certainly let them use the internet to do research, to cite their sources (using easybib.com or another similar site), or even to refresh their memories about how to structure an essay, but I definitely want them to know how to write and how to communicate on their own. I want them to have those skills down and not to be reliant on others. I want them to know how to form coherent sentences, to be able to hold their own in front of a group of people, to demonstrate their knowledge and insight in the workplace and out of it. 

 

You know what, my kids are both pretty adept essay writers and researchers now, too, in the 4th and 7th grades. They are very confident in their writing and know the importance of coming up with their own ideas, doing their own research, and not plagiarizing. They would _never_ think of having someone else write an essay for them. They enjoy it too much!

 

My 4th grader just wrote an unassigned paper last night. She loooooves to write. 

 

Neither one of them are big on math, though.

post #8 of 24

My kid found a site that solves algebra problems.  I didn't let her use it.

post #9 of 24

If that is a service that writes essays for people -- yea, no, no way. Oh, my, no. Even in middle school I imagine something like that is grounds for some heavy punishment...not to mention skips over most of the learning objectives. 

 

But, my DC used a service for helping to format bibliographies, which was interesting and totally allowed (required, in fact!) by her teacher. Personally, I would have LOVED this sort of thing. You select the type of resource and then follow the prompts for entering information. You do this over and over and then just hit "create" and you end up with this beautiful bibliography with NO formatting stress. Yes, one could say that the person using this service is not learning to format a bibliography...but, that chore sucks anyway so... ;-)  

 

I had a great heart to heart with one of my DC's 6th grade teachers about homework help because this is my DC's first year of HW and some of the lines are so grey and subjective. He basically told me that parents should help where they enjoy helping. Ok, that's vague but I totally respect that advice. He also does all the instruction in class so kids don't come home needing help from parents to complete assignments. 

 

My DC doesn't like help from us - she's headstrong that way. Me helping with an internet search feels like cheating to her. (But she doesn't seem to mind if I dictate...go figure) I like helping her and think I have good enough boundaries but for us it just seldom comes up. 

 

Half-way though our first year of having a child with homework and I'm coming to realize that it's really a personal family preference and a lot of different arrangements and philosophies can work well.  One thing that would make me uncomfortable is if my child absolutely needed my help to succeed.  I prefer a situation where it is about enrichment and expectations are flexible and understanding of family availability, aptitude and interest. 

post #10 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by contactmaya View Post
 

It raises the question though, what is better for success? The ability to form your own ideas and express them, or the ability to find someone else to do it for you....better still, the ability to navigate technology to serve your purposes.

 

I always find high earners get other people to do this sort of work for them. Those that can navigate technology to their advantage are even better off. Not that i think its right. 

 

(not trying to be silly, this is something i often think about)

To me this is all about learning objectives. What you mention is a good skill but it's one learned along with all the other objectives, not instead of. 

post #11 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by IdentityCrisisMama View Post
 

One thing that would make me uncomfortable is if my child absolutely needed my help to succeed.  

 

I think that depends on what you mean by "help". I think dd1 may need DH's and my help to succeed in Math, but that's because she's not learning it at school. Her teacher isn't reaching her. She has a lot of trouble with math and he can't connect, so rather than have her fail math, we do re-teach it via homework. We don't do the problems for her, but we go over how to do the problems with her and re-teach her. She does need our help to learn how to do some of it (not all of it). Her brain just doesn't work that way. (She's got all As in all her other classes, but flunked her last math test.) She may very well have a math learning disability, but she doesn't want to go there. I mentioned the idea of an IEP to her because a lot of her friends have IEPs for one reason or another, but she really did not want to go there, and until this last test she had a B in math. It was a very hard-won B, but a B. This last test, though...ugh. So, yeah, I'm all about helping her understand the material if the teacher can't connect with her to make sure she gets it. 

post #12 of 24

Yes, I can totally see that, Beanma.  My DC has what I suspect is a mild LD with reading. Like you we did not go the IEP route and instead opted to do extra work at home. What I am referring to are situations where the expectation from the teachers/school is that kids have lots of extra help at home in order to succeed reasonably well in school. A child/family who declines the services offered by school or extra help from the teachers is one thing...but a curriculum and school culture that necessitates parent intervention in order for kids to do well is not OK, imo. 

post #13 of 24
Thread Starter 

It's certainly an interesting topic and it turns out there's a lot of discussion about this kind of thing, now students are turning to the internet more.

I read this http://essayseek.com/blog/writing-essay-help-for-students and it made me think about the kids who have all the knowledge but lack the ability to put those facts across. Do they deserve to get lower grades just because they messed up an essay? Most people, once they leave college, never have to write this kind of thing again. But I am talking about older students, not kids in high school, surely if they've got that far then they've put the work in?

I'm just playing devil's advocate here as I find it all really fascinating.

post #14 of 24

I'm not sure about even the phrase "deserve lower grades".  Even in middle school my DC has a rubric so that students know how their work is graded. In college (if that's the level you're talking about) I think this is also the case and if it isn't a teacher should be able to provide a clear description of the grading criteria. If part of that grade is putting a students research and knowledge into an essay, I think it's reasonable to expect that the grade reflect that skill.  I mean, some people are brilliant writers but poor (or lazy) researchers. Is it unfair that they get graded in part on that portion of their effort/ability?  

 

I mean, we can get into the idea of whether grading itself is a good measure. Sure!  But if we agree that grading is an ok thing to do then what we have is a rubric that is either agreeable or not. From there, I think it's OK for a child's ability or effort in various skill areas to be reflected in the grade. 

 

My DC is in 6th grade and is a struggling writer and was, for a long time, a struggling reader. What she lacked in those areas she made up for in other areas. She's brilliant with time management, organization, and personal responsibility, for instance. She knows that those things come naturally to her and that other skills come naturally to other kids. Now, she may have a peer who really struggles with time management and it's absolutely fair and beneficial that those kids have some help from school and home. BUT, it shouldn't take the form of otgivenher people "doing it for them" because it's still a skill that they ultimately need to learn. 

 

So, I guess I'm saying that, yes, I think it's ok for certain skills and abilities to be reflected in grades (if we're going to do grades, which I'm undecided about but are a reality for our area). And, yes, I am totally OK with parents and teachers giving extra support for kids who struggle in certain areas. In fact, I think that after 6th grade all schools should be required to offer extra help to kids who can't get it at home. I also think it's great for kids to seek out technology to use to help them so long as the teacher is OK with it. But, no, I don't think that kids should find ways around learning some of the objectives. 

post #15 of 24

I also wanted to say that part of this is pretty philosophical for me and very timely. I'm getting my certificate in art education right now. Part of that certificate involves me taking art classes. So, the idea of whether we should grade on aptitude (or worse just aesthetics) is on my mind a lot lately. And, honestly, I don't know how I feel about it. Right now I'm leaning towards feeling like, yes, we can totally grade on that stuff because it lets those kids shine in a field that for whatever reason they are performing well in.  If we're going to grade anything on aptitude, interest, talent, we should allow ourselves to grade on that for other things. Art, PE...writing, science, research, math. Let kids shine where they're gonna shine and embrace the idea that all kids struggle with some things (and that's a GOOD thing) and help kid find what they love doing. 

post #16 of 24
I think those essay writing services, which is what the other poster linked to — not a blog like the URL suggests (and I'm not going to link to it to drive traffic to it) are cheating. Flat out cheating. And no I don't think it's in any way helpful or ethical or okay.
 
If a student can't write an essay then the student needs to learn to write an essay. There are many, many, many careers that rely on clear and persuasive communication skills. It's an important skill to learn. 
 
My kids are pretty good writers, but, unlike ICM's kid, they are pretty challenged at time-management . We constantly work on that. And they are learning, but it is not a natural skill for them. They're not math naturals either, but that doesn't mean they get to get someone else to do their math homework for them. They need to learn it. I certainly help them with math and read over their essays and keep on them about time-management and organization. I don't do it for them, but don't let them sink or swim on their own. I coach them and teach them so that they will — one day, someday — be able to do it all on their own (like pick up their dirty clothes, and get to work on time, etc).
 
And I agree if they deserve to get grades at all they definitely deserve to get bad grades because they messed up an essay just like my kid deserves to get a bad grade if she messes up her math test. It sucks, especially if she knows the material, but got flustered — how often in real life do we have to do algebra or long division w/o benefit of the calculators on our phones — but if we're doing grades (and frankly I would rather not do them at all) then heck yeah we're grading the essays and the math tests, too.
 
And ICM, my kid gets grades in art, too. It is one of her shiny areas and she works hard at it so if we have to do grades then yeah I guess grade art, too, though I would like to see it graded more on the amount of effort. Art is vicious, though. I had some college art classes and the professor could just rip someone's work apart in critique. I could do w/o that for my kids.
post #17 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by beanma View Post
And ICM, my kid gets grades in art, too. It is one of her shiny areas and she works hard at it so if we have to do grades then yeah I guess grade art, too, though I would like to see it graded more on the amount of effort. Art is vicious, though. I had some college art classes and the professor could just rip someone's work apart in critique. I could do w/o that for my kids.

 

I'm in the space right now where I feel that if a child should excel in math, writing, science...or whatever because of a combination of things that includes aptitude, that perhaps art should be graded in a similar way. (Of course this leaves me in a pickle in regards to PE because I'm not sure at all how I feel with that subject being graded on aptitude).  So, yea, difficult to decide. I think writing and visual art are a good comparison though. Or music. 

 

But a big part of this comes down to grade level. I think it's entirely appropriate for college level art (for an art major) to be graded on talent and aesthetics (among other things). And then it goes down from there. Highschool, yes, for sure but to a lesser extent. Middle school...?  I don't know. Perhaps to give a taste?  Maybe in middle school it is more about neatness, mastery of the medium, "good use of color", and etc. In elementary school I can see some value in talking about what works well in a student's work but I don't think the grade (if they are required) should reflect aptitude or aesthetic. 

post #18 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunflower80 View Post
 

it made me think about the kids who have all the knowledge but lack the ability to put those facts across. Do they deserve to get lower grades just because they messed up an essay? Most people, once they leave college, never have to write this kind of thing again. 

 

Agree with ICM on this one: if part of the intent of the course is to encourage kids to learn to share their knowledge through good essay-writing skills, then certainly, a student who does well on that skill should get a higher grade than a kid who doesn't. It's an ability, to be sure, but not an inborn one; it can be taught and developed and refined. It's a way of gathering ideas, organizing them logically and presenting them clearly and persuasively -- and even if you never write another essay in your life after high school those underlying skills are used over and over again. And really, most truly poor essays are poor primarily because of lack of appropriate research and organization, not due to poor language arts skills. So I don't really buy the argument that one can have an excellent understanding of the material but be cursed with an inborn lack of language skills that make it impossible to learn the organization-of-ideas skills that are required for conveying ideas clearly in an essay. And I say this as the parent of a STEM-focused senior high school student who is dysgraphic and never wrote an essay until 10th grade but who learned to do so exceptionally well and is now being encouraged to look at careers in technical writing. 

 

Miranda

post #19 of 24
Thread Starter 

IdentityCrisisMama, it's interesting what you say about grading art. I think kids should be allowed to shine in that are, if that is their thing but I think it's incredibly difficult to assess it. How do you measure aptitude? Isn't it just very subjective? How do you do in your classes?

A lot of it does depend on the actual teacher, my daughter is great at art, although I'm not sure what I'm basing that on. She enjoys it, she finds it easy, she does it in her spare time when I'd read a book, and what she produces looks great, but not always how it's 'supposed' to look. I don't know anything about technique, but the shading etc she does is lovely. her confidence was knocked by a teacher who told her, when they were doing portraits, that she wasn't very good at doing eyebrows!

post #20 of 24

I'm still earning my certificate so I haven't given any grades yet.  I imagine all the things I'm thinking about now will be drastically influenced and changed once I give my first grade (which is an odd thing to imagine, to tell the truth). 

 

I don't have super strong "hand skills" (aka draftsmanship). So, in drawing I really had to work for my "A". In fact, I wouldn't have minded if on a college level the "A"s were reserved for people who brought the whole package, including strong drawing skills. That would have left me with a "B" even as one of the more responsible students in the class and with strong skills in aesthetics.  I would have been 100% fine with that. 

 

But, yes, it is all somewhat subjective. I have been involved with adult artist most my life so I'm not too offended by that though - it just is what it is. I do hear over an over the negative experiences people have during critique. I've sat through a lot of critiques and have never seen the negativity that people have experienced. I do think that the subjective nature of visual art make it more difficult to express (and accept) criticism. 

 

Back to your OP, I think writing (outside of grammar and spelling) is also pretty subjective.  Another skill that a student is ideally learning, however, is to target their audience.  Paying attention to what a teacher's values and aesthetics are is a great thing to start practicing even in middle school. 

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