It's a "win some-lose some" sort of day for Parents' Almanac, with reactions from both the teacher and the taught.
Sue Garland, director of Traveling Tutors in Silver Spring, writes:
"After reading your column of Oct. 4, 'The Homework Hassle' and the letter and response of Oct. 25, I am writing to support your point of view.
"Parents often call us in to 'help' students with their homework -- that is, to help them organize their studies and oversee their progress. In these cases, we try to help students take responsibility for their assignments and to work effectively on their own.
"Our job is often hampered, however, by concerned parents who can't give their children the freedom to be responsible for their own work and the consequences of their decisions. Obviously children shouldn't be allowed to fail repeatedly, but if they don't feel the consequences of handing in their homework late, how can they learn to turn it in on time?
"Providing a structured environment is not the same as hounding a child to perform. The first makes learning easier and conveys a sense of caring and concern; the second makes a child despair and lose confidence.
"The self-worth of parents shouldn't be tied to their child's achievement."
And now for the "lose some" side of the picture:
Q. "I would like to reply to your answer on helping a child with her homework," writes the 16th ranking senior in her class, and a mighty indignant one too:
"I'm sorry to say, you have failed. In fact, I can't understand how you can be called a co-author of a mother's almanac when you believe in such foolishness.
"I belong to a family of eight children from 23 to 10 years of age and we all have obtained honors in our respective schools.
"The reason is, our mother helped and supervised us with our homework every night from first through eighth grade. She did not, and I repeat, did not, hover over us and tell us what to do. She helped us when we ran into difficulties.
"She corrected our homework when we were wrong. But she never gave us the answers and she made us solve the problems ourselves. That is how a child becomes capable of handling her studies. The reward is the learning itself.
"I was extremely upset when I read your reply and would not mind if you decided to leave the motherhood business to someone else."
A. Every now and then we feel like we must be writing in Esperanto, at least until we check the files.
Specifically, we objected to the parent who hovers, who tells the child what to do and, above all, who does the child's work. These are all degrees of interference which range from disrespect to dishonesty -- the very antithesis of learning.
You're a lucky person to have a mother who knew that supervision is fine (as we said before), so long as the child is the one who solves the problems. Now if you promise to read the paper better, we'll promise not to write about homework for a long, long time.
Q. You wrote about a new book called "Free Stuff for Kids," published by Meadowbrook Press. Do I have to send away for it?
A. No. It's available in local bookstores.
Reader's Comment: "I read with intrest your article on 'Parent Care' postpartum support groups, sponsored by ASPO and by Parent and Child.
"There also is PACE -- Parents After Childbirth Education -- an 8-year-old nonprofit group founded as a substitute for the "extended family" so many mothers lack today.
"Educational, supportive workshops for mothers of new babies (up to 5 months) are given, as well as workshops for mothers of children from 1 to 3. They cost $35 for one parent; $45 for two, plus nominal charges for any babysitting involved.
"My own daughter (now 3) and I went through the workshops with the same group of mothers and children. We are all still good friends and meet for a weekly playgroup. PACE was a wonderful antidote for the new-mother blues. For information call me at 897-5595 or the PACE phone, 530-7274."