Moral levels in helping with homework


So, say Mom helps Sally with her schoolwork each night, and Sally has to write an essay. what are the moral limits to Mom’s input? If Mom suggests better words, is that too much? Sally could use a thesaurus, so she could look the words up.

Is correcting all the spelling ok? Is helping Sally write complex sentences instead of easy ones (say Sally is in 3rd or 4th grade for this one) acceptable?

One if the problems I have with too much parental input is that then the teacher doesnmt know what problems Sally has and so does not address them. OTOH, since there is a grade involved, it gets a little tangled…

I homeschooled so didn’t have this problem myself!


Homework is supposed to help the student research and gain knowledge, not get the best grade by having an adult do the work instead. An adult can point in the right direction, such as getting out the thesaurus to use. But the child should be learning not merely getting answers to get the teacher’s approval. It’s a fine line, that’s certain. Any way a child can learn is fine, but doing homework for a child isn’t really going to help the child to learn to study.


My kids are just approaching school age, but as a former teacher I agree with this. If you are helping your child learn the lesson, IMO that’s fine. If you’re bypassing that for a grade, then not so fine.

I think the child’s personality matters too. Some children may lean on parental help unnecessarily, others may resist reasonable help out of pride. And sometimes the family situation just doesn’t lend itself to being available for help.


As a teacher (high school so there are differences for sure), I grade little or no homework. In my world, it usually isn’t parents doing the work for their kids but absolutely kids “share” with each other. It really is a difficult boundary for students to understand where helping their friend ends and cheating begins.



Help implies clarification. Which is fine.
Doing anyone’s homework is never suggested, either by peer pr parent. For example, if your children’s vocabulary is poor, work on that but allow them to submit their own work, errors and all. It’s going to help the teacher to know how to help the child in the long run. They find out pretty quick when a child doesn’t score well on exams. Teachers aren’t naive.


I wouldn’t tell the child what to write, but I might point out where there was something lacking and encourage them to come up with improvements. For example, “I’m not sure I understand what you are trying to say here. Can you make it more clear?” or “Could you provide some examples?” or “This word is spelled wrong. You can look it up.” or “Are there more descriptive words you can use?” That way, the child is doing the problem solving.


The best way imho is to teach a child how to find the answers themselves and how to study independently. This is more valuable then any other lesson.

If my 4th grader came to me with a simple sentance, I would have them find and read a non-related sentance that has more detail and ask them to compare the two.

As for math, bring out the textbook and we can review concepts.


I agree. My upper level students rarely plagiarize, but I know undergraduates do. We do have plagiarism software to catch that, though.


I think one has to take the purpose of the lesson into account. At the risk of oversimplifying, assignments are usually meant to either convey information, teach skills, or both. If conveying information is the primary goal, then it matters little what medium is used to obtain the information so long as the student will retain it. If certain skills are to be reinforced, then there should be less hand-holding.

For instance, helping a child memorize their multiplication tables is fine, because the goal is just to have them retain certain facts. Assistance should be more limited for writing an essay. There are some grey areas of course. How should you help them study for a history test? On one hand, the test would mostly just assess how well they retain certain facts. On the other hand, history courses often have the additional purpose of teaching students to scan a textbook for pertinent information. In that case, I would ask the student to gather the information on their own first before I help with the studying.


As long as the ideas are Sally’s, and Sally sees how Mom is coming up with the better ideas, it’s fine. If Mom is actually writing the essay, or the essay is about Mom’s ideas rather than Sally’s ideas, then it’s going to be a problem, ultimately, because it won’t be Sally’s work.

Is correcting all the spelling ok? Is helping Sally write complex sentences instead of easy ones (say Sally is in 3rd or 4th grade for this one) acceptable?

As long as Sally is there for the spelling corrections, and can see how it’s done - she sees Mom looking up the doubtful word, and copying the correct spelling out of the dictionary, for example, and then is invited to try looking up the next one.

Also, Sally should be introduced to the idea of sounding out the word, and she needs to be clued in to the fact that the 26 letters of the English alphabet work together to make the 44 sounds that give us the words of the English language - and how that works - so that she can get closer to the correct spelling in most cases.

At this stage, don’t worry about the grades. Just give Sally every opportunity to do her very best, and help her to learn from her mistakes.


Thanks all for your thoughtful, helpful, and detailed answers :slight_smile: This will help me to help someone else!


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