Don’t Make Your Au Pair Do Your Kids’ Homework

by cv harquail on March 8, 2014

Haven’t we all wished for someone else to do our Algebra homework?

il_570xN.392205173_8eh2That’s normal. What’s not so normal, though, is to ask your au pair to do your 17 year old’s homework.

This situation is a little outside our usual boundaries, because the au pair is in Europe (US rules don’t apply), because she has been with her host family for 2 years already, and because she’s already helping to teach the younger child. However, the general question is still interesting:

What’s an Au Pair to do, when a host parent/ host child expects the au pair to do the homework for the child?

Hi AuPairMom!

I have been au pairing for a family for two and a half years now. The girl is 17 and goes to school, and the boy is 14 but I am his homeschool tutor.

Recently, the mother asked me to help the girl with homework.  I had no problem with this as I am good at teaching. However, she also asked me to write some speeches for an English project and complete homework for the girl, because her daughter had too much ‘other’ work to do.

As I said earlier, I have no problem ‘helping’ with homework, but I do have a problem with actually ‘doing’ the girl’s homework for her. I let the mom know that I couldn’t possibly do the actual homework for the girl.

The mother got really upset and threatened to hire someone else if I didn’t comply.  I am stuck because I don’t want to lose my job, but at the same time I feel it is wrong to ask me as the au pair to complete homework for the kids.

Please give me some advice on how to handle the situation?  I do love my job, but I can’t go against my values as an au pair. ~ CC



Homework printable, available from SpreadCreative on Etsy


German Au-Pair March 8, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Wow. This may sound harsh but the mother sounds really horrible to me. She seems to A: not understand the value of education and that she is taking the chance to learn away from her daughter and B: not have any respect for someone who says she won’t do something against her values and beliefs.
When she says “hire someone else” did she mean she would actually fire you as her au pair over this (seems very unlikely after two years…but then again, she does seem weird) or does she just want to hire someone for the HW part?
Either way, I would talk to the mother and the “kid” about the fact that it’s not helpful AT ALL if you do her work and that you feel really strongly about this going against your beliefs. Also, you are not in school, don’t know the teacher and have nothing about the topic at hand so it’s really hard to actually produce something good.
Offer to help her -as you probably already have- and suggest reducing the work load some other way. How does the girl have too much work anyway? Is she occupied in too many after school activities? Or are her priorities just wrong? It seems weird that she could have so much work that she cannot handle it by herself. How are her classmates coping? I would discuss all that with both of them -seperately so they have a chance to actually process it without someone else backing up their initial opinion- and try to find a more acceptable approach.
I would also mention that they are basically asking you to participate in plagiarism. In Germany that is a crime, but you’re obviously not here. I’m sure that there’s a school policy against that no matter where you live in Europe.
This is insane.

exaupair March 9, 2014 at 9:28 am

Dear OP…Wow the HM sounds unreasonable asking you to actually do the homework for that girl.
I would suggest having a sit down with both of them to discuss how you can solve this.
You should explain that doing her homework for her is not only against your ethics but also illegal!
Does the 17yr old holds any part time job (which is very popular in Europe)?
If so it maybe all down to her terrible time management. In that case she should just give it up, concentrate on her school workload and take up another job during the summer when she is off school anyway.
Another thing is house chores, you have some (you never said how many – Europe has different regulations when it comes to house duties Au pairs can and cannot be involved with), and I suppose 17 year old teen has some too. Maybe her amount of household chores should be reduced. The tricky thing is not to allow her house chores be passed onto you! Don’t let anyone make you work outside your hours in order to “help” the girl.
As an ex aupair in Europe, I too was asked to assist with homework, check if it’s done properly, but never to do it for the child. This is just plain wrong.

mommymia March 9, 2014 at 11:44 am

I empathize with you, CC. That is a tough situation.
Interesting that German au-pair mentions plagiarism: we’ve had two German exchange students and two German APs and none of them seemed to understand the concept or worry about lifting whole sections of works read for their school work reports and including in their papers. (They asked me to proofread homework sometimes, and I could always tell what was not “their own words” and tried to teach them the use of quotation marks and citing, to no avail!)

Off topic, I know, but I have the opposite problem: AP does some of the younger child’s homework to save time and frustration because my youngest has some learning difficulties and ADHD and homework time is brutal. Have tried coaching her: that the teacher needs to see where child is struggling in order to help, and that it’s OK if everything is not completed-can turn in with notes/questions, that they should work for short periods and do physical activity in between as a break, etc. I get that it’s easier for AP and child and gets them “free” sooner, but this has been a problem with previous APs, too.

German Au-Pair March 9, 2014 at 7:46 pm

To the OT: the topic became a very big deal over hear just a couple of years ago when someone found out that a politician’s doctor thesis was almost completely plagiarized. He lost his title and his job. Other politicians -on EU level. followed. (Now his name -Guttenberg- “can” be used as a verb “I’m going to guttenberg this from you. Germans never do that with nouns. He’s the first.)
But something that is generally very different in Germany than in the US is the way cheating is handled. Cheating in High School (until 10th grade; they do start caring once you reach 11th) is not a big deal. If you get caught the worst thing you do is give you a 6 (a fail) on the test. Some teachers just take away your note, scratch out what you’ve done so far and let you go on. Others pretend they don’t notice. You NEVER get sent to the principal’s for cheating. They get stricter when you reach 11th grade and prepare for the final degree that allows you to study in universities, but even then they only REALLY care when it comes to that one paper you do at home. For reports or homework you get a slap on the wrist, for cheating on tests taken in class you fail and that’s it.
So the reason “your” Germans didn’t really care is because they were educated in a school system that doesn’t really care. We get told not to copy anything from the internet but no one strictly enforces that like they do in the US. I know more than one person who mainly copies things from the internet and then re-writes it so you can’t tell right away. That’s what they learned to do. No one feels guilty about it and we don’t get what the big deal is because no one has ever made a big deal about it. Which is really funny considering that Germans are such rule followers that we’ll wait at a red pedestrian light in the middle of the night with no one around.
I don’t know when we start transitioning to not doing it anymore. I know I used to be really good (and with absolutely clear conscience) at cheating around 8th grade but eventually stopped completely (although I will still give a hint to friend in exams if I can).

Sorry, got a big long, but this is a major cultural difference that I am really fascinated with.

German Au-Pair March 9, 2014 at 7:46 pm

* over here of course

mommymia March 10, 2014 at 10:26 am

Thanks, German Au-Pair – that does help explain in a way that I understand! I wish I had had this background back then. Interesting that Guttenberg became a noun substitute (and is so similar to the famous first “press-printed” Bible). And yes, I found it odd because as you say, a typical cultural trait we found in all was the rule-following!

German Au-Pair March 10, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Not officially, of course. We don’t do that. But the media has ridden this horse to death and everyone gets your point when you say it. No bible connection though -different pronunciation.

One mor thing to the cheating thing: cheating in Germany is usally taking little notes with you or making notes on the table before the test. And of course looking at other people’s tests. But testing here also works differently, as we hardly ever (for me I can say never) have multiple choice tests. We write essays in school. We don’t get second tries on tests written in school and I have never had a test/exam that I could take home. Presentations count as one grade for one lesson, not as much as they do in the US. With Math we hit the point really early where you have to use all the formulas in the right context instead of just reproducing them. So taking notes really only helps remembering the basics but for the rest your are still on your own.It also calms your nerves knowing that you won’t fail because you can’t remember that tiny formula even though you’re pretty good at solving the problems.
I did feel like pointing that out because viewing it from an American background it might seem like we cheat our way to our graduation. I assure you that even with little notes you still need to study and pay attention to actually be able to pass the tests. Having all those notes with the information for a multiple choice test is probably “more” cheating than taking notes of how to structure your essay but still having to actually write your essay.

Momma Gadget March 9, 2014 at 6:48 pm

This post seems so odd to me- First because the OP is here for 2 1/2 years when the max for a legitimate AP is 2 years. Secondly since the HM after 2 1/2 years has suddenly decided to extort homework out of the illegal AP or she’ll fire her? I suppose I would ask the OP why it would surprise her when the HF feels they are entitled to operate outside the rules when it comes to employing an illegal nanny, would follow the rules when it came to schoolwork.

Momma Mia- I can empathize! I have 2 ADHD boys homework was always a battle, mostly because of the anxiety of having to do it. It would take 2 hours to do what would have been 30 min if they would just do it! Though it is still an issue with my pre-teen, my teenager now does his homework in a timely and to a satisfactory level independently. I hope there is light at the end of the tunnel for you too!

German Au-Pair March 9, 2014 at 7:48 pm

“This situation is a little outside our usual boundaries, because the au pair is in Europe (US rules don’t apply), because she has been with her host family for 2 years already, and because she’s already helping to teach the younger child. However, the general question is still interesting:”

She’s not in the US.

Momma Gadget March 9, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Ahhhhh. I missed that. Thanks for pointing it out.
Still it seems odd that after so much time a HM would make such an ultimatum!
The most I have ever bent the rules on my kids work is to type something for them, and probably fix a few minor spelling mistakes along the way.
I can’t imagine outright demanding that someone else do their homework for them.

London Mum March 10, 2014 at 4:18 am

I can’t believe a 17 year old isn’t capable of doing her own homework! At that age I would not expect my kids to need au pair input, surely she could discuss homework issues with friends to get help? It’s not “illegal” here to do someones homework for them, but it is really frowned upon. AP could just say no, it’s against her ethics? After 2 years with the family she should feel ok to speak her mind I hope, it does seem very unreasonable!

exaupair March 10, 2014 at 7:28 am

Where I come from ( one of the eastern european countries) things are a bit different. Children are never specifically told to cheat but if they do and manage to get unnoticed it’s considered smart, not disgraceful. So people copy their homework and when it comes to tests they bring additional notes hidden in their pockets/bras/ sockings – you name it. If you’re caught cheating you get told of…not because you’ve cheated, but because you weren’t smart enough not to get caught. Where I live now you can even get expelled for that, this is why I don’t support either cheating or any “outside” help, even though I’ve been raised a little bit different.

exaupair March 10, 2014 at 7:31 am

as an addition to my post above I’d like to mention one of the funniest situations I ever came across. In high school kids sitting an exam were divided into 2 groups, I was in the morning group and when I was done with mine and went outside there were people sitting on the benches outside school grounds with smartphones and headsets dictating answers to those who were sitting their tests, some of them adults so supposedly even parents.

German Au-Pair March 10, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Once a Math teacher (12th grade) said “Huh, the other class really had to use the bathroom a lot during their exam.” They had the advanced class waiting in the cafeteria. Everyone knew (unofficially, of course) and I assuem the teacher did, too.

On the other hand us Germans have 10000 forms to sign for basically everything. So weird.

Angie host mom March 10, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Before I could weigh in on this one I’d need to know the country of the host family.

This is a cultural question and I wouldn’t want to answer it with my own American do – it – yourself bias without understanding the situation.

We have had au pairs from countries where almost no one cheats and from countries where almost everyone cheats. I no longer assume everyone views education the way I do!

German Au-Pair March 10, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Well that’s one side of the issue. But isn’t the other that the au pair is asked to compromise her own ethics and beliefs for what the HM thinks is a good idea?
She really doesn’t want to do it because she believes it is wrong. So she should try to find a solution no matter what the cultural view is. I saw a lot of American HF ask au pairs to do things I am not sure I would have done because I just felt really strongly that they were unethical. Especially when it comes to treating animals for example culturally we often have a very different idea of what is right and wrong and I would have refused (and did refuse as a matter of fact) to particpate in certain practices.
So no matter if it is culturally acceptable, the au pair in question here has an ethical problem, too and needs to address that with the HP anyway.

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