How much homework help is too much? Sometimes I think that I (parent) am getting a grade for a homework assignment, especially projects. -- Too Much Work

Wow. This certainly is a topic with a lot of room for disagreement. Believe it or not, recent research tends to show that helping children with homework typically does not improve their standardized test scores. In fact, once children enter middle school, the data published in "The Broken Compass: Parental Involvement With Children's Education" shows that parental help with homework can actually bring test scores down.

Parenting columnist John Rosemond, who has spent years researching homework issues, points out that the more responsible the parent is for children's homework, the less responsible the child. He feels that helping children with homework leads to some acquiring a helplessness syndrome. Thus the more parents help, the more incompetent the child begins to feel, and the more helpless (and in need of help) the child begins to act.

There is another ugly problem that can occur when parents offer homework help. The parent simply may not know how a subject, especially math, is being taught.

Of course, some homework help is of a positive nature. Young children often need guidance in learning how to handle homework. And older students can profit from parental proofing of assignments provided they limit themselves to pointing out errors. And when children are struggling with a topic, there is nothing wrong with suggesting ways to master it or even giving an explanation. However, when children are truly struggling in school day after day, outside help is advisable.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

We are well aware that some projects are so complicated that it seems impossible for children to handle them by themselves. In this case, parents should simply ask the teacher how children are expected to do them.

The guideline that we support for homework is the sooner that children can handle it by themselves, the better.

The price of college textbooks has really upped the cost of college. Besides buying used books, which are often marked all up, what other ways are there to find cheaper books? -- Too Expensive

At a four-year public college, students can expect to spend about $1,200 per year on books and materials according to the College Board. First of all, students don't need to buy all their books at the college bookstore. They can do an online search using the textbook's ISBN, which uniquely identifies it. They should visit such sites as, and to find good deals.

Another possibility is to rent books from online retailers or the college bookstore. And there is always the possibility of going electronic. Digital books typically cost much less and can be accessed on most devices. Plus, there are tools that allow you to highlight and take notes.

Students should also investigate the free textbooks that are available on Rice University's OpenStax College website at These books meet the scope and sequence requirements for most courses. They are free because philanthropic organizations have donated funds to OpenStax College.