Do You Check Papers?

Being a medical doctor requires honing observational skills.  I used to observe patients, but now I try to observe successful parents and teachers to see what tools I can pick up for use in my home.

She Checked Their Papers Every Day

A couple of weeks ago a well-seasoned mom with grown children shared something with me about her children’s success in school.  She raised two valedictorians and three doctors, although she and her husband attained only high school diplomas.  I thought her words were worth sharing even though the idea is so simple.  (Aren’t simple truths often the greatest truths?)

I’m not a smart woman–but I learned right away that I had to look at my kids’ school papers every day.”

She checked her children’s work every day.  She went on to say that every day the kids dug through their bags to show her their work.  If not, she dug through the bags.  (“And, hey, any love letters were fair game!”)  Together they assessed if the child had done their best or not or if there was just a lack of understanding.  Stupid mistakes were called out (and called just that) and real mistakes were worked through together so the child understood (and understood they were not “stupid.”)  A 65% was never criticized if the child did not understand something.  A 90% was sighed over if the child was in a hurry and missed easy questions.  Often the dad was called to the kitchen table to help sort out a math problem the mom couldn’t help with.  Although they did not “homeschool,” learning was a home endeavor.

Asking Questions

My family does homeschool, but I want to check each lesson without fail too.  And with each lesson I want to ask my children, did you do your best?  Were you in a hurry?  What do you not understand?  What can I help you with?

I’ve been asking myself, what did checking their work every day teach this woman’s children?  How did it help them succeed?  What was it?  Was it knowing the parents cared?  Was it the actual knowledge the parents were able to help with?  Was it the accountability?  Was it the caution against “stupid mistakes?”  (And if you knew the woman, you’d know it wasn’t a threatening environment or a desire for the children to be the best or outdo someone else.)

What do you think?  Do you check papers daily?  Or when your children were younger, did you check them?  If you homeschool, do you let your children check their own work or do you check it (or both)?  What do you think “checking” fostered in this woman’s children?  I’d be fascinated to hear.


P.S.:  Our newborn is a little fussy, but I’m still tracking iodine and other nutritional topics.  Your patience is appreciated until I have two hands free again to hit the keyboard!

26 thoughts on “Do You Check Papers?

  1. lakenormanprep

    With three kiddos, I have to admit that I do not check everything. I do check a lot though. Math is self checked on the computer. If they get below a 96 then we go over it to find out what concept was missed. Grammar and spelling are checked pretty much everytime. Science-I let them do on their own. I think the experiments and the lessons are more important than the worksheets right now. I think involvement and demonstrating interest is important as parents.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      It does get harried with increasing number of children that’s for sure! I used to check right after the assignment was completed–but that “don’t work” anymore! 🙂 And sometimes my husband will help check math. Remind me, which math curriculum do you use? Do you like it lots for your kids’ learning styles?

      1. lakenormanprep

        We are using Teaching Textbooks now that they can all have the abstract concepts of math (ie-they do math in their heads). We also Life of Fred which we all enjoy and do together. My oldest is also going to work through a business math this year using a Simply Charlotte Mason resource.

  2. mommytrainingwheels

    I remember when I was a child, the first thing my parents expected me to do when I got home was take out my agenda and schoolbooks. Every single day they would look over my work to make sure everything was up to par. As a young child, I remember I loved it, but as I grew up, I found it annoying. At the same time, though, I also felt as though it was important and I think it is one of the reasons why I took school seriously. They stopped checking my things when I was in my second year of high school, but by that time, the “damage” had been done: it had become important to me that my work be well done and that I understood what I was doing (I became the teen who would go see her teacher when she got a grade of 95% on a test to see the test and see where she had gone wrong).

    I plan on being as “annoying” with my kids as my parents were with me.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Damage! Ha! Ha! I love that kind of damage! Great input! I did wonder if this would be annoying to some students/kids. Your comment addresses this nicely. So you were “that” student, eh? 🙂 May your children be “those” students too! Thinking of you and that new baby and big brother!

  3. Wiese

    As the middle child of the mom that your referring to in your blog, I truly feel that she had a big impact on my success in school. Reflecting back, I was born with a hearing impairment that I think may have affected me more than I realize. But my mother made sure that we worked extra hard on reading during the summer between 1st and 2nd grade to ensure that I kept on track with my peers. We also put in a lot of hours working on spelling words, that to this day I can remember how much I hated those nights before a spelling test and I had to practice spelling each word on the list. Math was another one of those subjects that took me a while to catch up on and by the time I was in junior high I was able to move up into the highest math class offered for my age group.

    I was talking with a friend regarding the age that children should begin school and whether summer birthdays should be held back or allowed to go to school with children their age. Given that I am summer birthday, I wonder if it would have benefited me to be held back a year or if that would have just prolonged the whole learning process. I can’t really say. But I don’t think that I would have achieved a college degree, let alone doctoral degree, if it were not for the active involvement of my mother in my education process.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Wow! Thanks for commenting! I didn’t even factor in the impact on learning obstacles! I wonder what she’d have to say about that. Kudos to you for all of your accomplishments! Would you describe your mom as incredibly patient or not?

  4. FitMomPam

    My oldest (son) is just starting second grade and my youngest (daughter) is starting kindergarten. We got into the habit of unpacking my son’s bag daily to clean it out and go through his lunch. We would look at his work to see what he did and if there were any mistakes we would talk about them. Now that I read this post it makes even more sense for us to keep up this habit but focus more on talking about the work and the mistakes. We did actually find that he was making mistakes b/c he was hurrying and we had to work with his teacher to set up a reward system for him slowing down and doing his best work. Thanks for this!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Based on what this mom shared, it would seem to make sense to keep it up as long as possible, even with “A” and “B” grades, which would be when most of us would say, “good enough.”

      What a good idea to set a up a reward system to slow him down! If you have time for a response, would you share the rewards the teacher has in place for this? How she implemented it? It might come in handy to know!

      Said wistfully: I wish I could have you pack some lunches for me.

      Hope your school year teaching has gotten off to a grand beginning. ~~Terri

  5. IrishMum

    When mine were in school, there was little to check as they didn’t bring much work home. Now, I check everything with the younger two, and about half of the older two’s work. My older two know much more than me in so many things, it feels weird to ‘check’ them 😉 When work is below par it’s redone, and when it’s excellent, I tell them so. I think this checking accomplishes many things, accountability, trust, they know I will help them if there is a genuine difficulty, and it helps avoid long spells of them not understanding something. I have noticed, with friends’ kids in school that they don’t know a child is struggling till the child completely hits a brick wall, usually after many months, or years have passed. Checking my boys work daily avoids this.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Excellent point about not catching delays/deficits until too much time has passed! Has to be a top reason to check papers!

      My kids are starting to know more than I do now too. I feel sad that I can’t keep up with their Spanish and history knowledge any more. They’ve blown me in the dust. I’m just sitting here sputtering!

  6. The Vanilla Housewife

    I used to when I only had Chico. These days I keep forgetting to check when I get home that he has to remind me in the morning. I should because at my son’s school, parents are required to sign the homework notebook everyday. It is helpful in our case because the teacher leaves notes too if your kid needs extra help in a subject or if he was being naughty. 🙂

      1. The Vanilla Housewife

        Oh he gets in trouble a lot, mostly because he does crazy thinga to make his classmates laugh. One day he was reprimanded for hiding inside the classroom cabinet to give his classmate a shock. Ugh.

      2. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

        Hiding in a closet to shock a classmate! Good, clean, honest boy fun! That is so funny! How do you reprimand him for this? “Son, I’m sorry. You have to conceal your sense of humor and playfulness at school. The teacher is a sourpuss.” 🙂

  7. Jackie

    Interesting post! Due to having students, teachers cannot go over every missed question for each student and identify the reason for the mistake. Maybe the parents checking the work with them taught them a way to identify their mistakes and how to think about their mistakes that other kids miss out on. Also, maybe it taught them to not just accept a 95% without further thought because it is an A. They were encouraged to look at what made up the 5% they didn’t get correct. Finally, not being reprimanded for a poor grade so long as you tried your best and instead being encouraged has to count for a lot. Trying your best, understanding concepts, and not giving up was valued over an easy A which I think translates to real life skills.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      “Trying your best, understanding concepts, and not giving up was valued over an easy A which I think translates to real life skills.”

      Yes, Jackie. I think this is how I was thinking the post would be summed up. Aside, I sure do wish those poor teachers had less students in a classroom. How challenging it must be to teach in today’s system.

  8. andthreetogo

    I am impressed that you are even able to post! I am not homeschooling yet, but I think checking your childs work every day is really important to see how they are doing and what they might need help with. Thanks for sharing the advice!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Another reason I make sure I check work daily was because a friend assigned her homeschool child math for the week. It was a busy week for them, and she didn’t get a chance to check the math until the end of the week. The boy hadn’t done his math assignments! Ha! Ha! So, of course, his mom now advocates for checking assignments!

      I’m not getting things done like I’d like. It is stretching me, teaching me to let it go, so I’m trying to chill about it. Have a good weekend! ~~Terri

  9. Rachael @ mummyflyingsolo

    Oooooo the baby is here! How did I miss that? What did you have? Name? Did the birth go OK? I’ll have to scan the back catalogue and see if there is an update.

    As for this post, I think this is a great idea. Maybe the accountability helped. Knowing rhat if they rushed their work and made silly mistakes that it would be picked up every time. Perhaps in exam time it pushed them to take their time. I think the mum is selling herself short though. She may not have more than a HS diploma but she is no dummy. You don’t get 3 Drs out of dumb parents…

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hi Rachael! The baby is here and we are doing great!

      I think you should be a psychologist, if you’re not! This mom is selling herself short! But I guess if people measure themselves against the college expectation of today, she doesn’t feel smart? I don’t know. It’s too bad, but she certainly seems to be a devoted mother!

      Have a great weekend! ~~Terri

  10. lizziebulleyment

    This is thought-provoking: it hadn’t even occured to people that kids’ parents did that. I do not want my child to repeat ‘do your best at accademia’ as a mantra: I want my child to ‘do her best’ at life. My straight As and university education have helped me a lot, but the things that they helped me to acheive are not the most important things in my life. I want my children to learn to enjoy and express themselves, not to perform as well as is possible by studying schoolwork again after school. I wonder if that means that my children will not do so well in life? Who can say? There are so many ways of parenting and so many variables.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Yes! So many ways of parenting and variables! It’s so much fun to sit back and observe, thinking about why a parent does this or that and the outcome it may have or why it had a certain outcome. (Completely overthinking things! LOL! 🙂 ) How would that work in my family–or not? Why I think that’s a good idea-or not. Should I re-examine how I do things–or not. And so on.

      I like the way this mom approached it, though, in that I would like my children to focus on what they are capable of rather than a man-made performance criteria–darn the straight As–I want to know, did you do what you were capable of? Using schoolwork as a way of character development rather than focusing on whether of not the kid is at the top of the class. It sounds like that (top of the class) just kind of came along completely unintentionally for this mom and family. She told me she NEVER expected her children to be at the top of the class, and in fact, she even discouraged them from thinking they could achieve this. She also never dreamed they would all go to college, much less go on to earn doctorates. So her main goal was to make sure the kids were “doing their best” in all that they did.

      Warmest wishes to you and your children! Thanks for commenting and adding thoughts to the conversation! May your children (and mine) be happy, content children who are never afraid to chase their dreams. ~~Terri


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