Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Homework Beast

Last fall a friend received a “Homework Tip” sheet from their 7th grade daughter’s new school.  Parents were directed to check the homework memo book nightly, supervise the homework and provide all needed help.  If books were forgotten, the parent should come to school – access to lockers was available 24/7! 
Makes you wonder whose responsibility the homework is, doesn’t it?!  Many parents take school expectations on homework way too seriously.  They sit with their children, coaching, nagging and hand holding night after night.  And the more they do, the less their children do.  Families are held hostage by the nightly homework battle – nerves get frayed, bedtimes get later and later, and homework takes center stage for the whole family.  Parents feel that it is a “good parent” requirement to make sure the homework is done and done correctly.  But all this help only builds dependency and actually, lowers self-esteem as the child feels increasingly incapable.

Under these conditions, the child is learning absolutely nothing about becoming a responsible, resourceful human being – and isn’t that a MAJOR component of the homework experience?

I would suggest that the proper parent role is to MINIMIZE their involvement.  Inquire and be aware of homework assignments, show interest and an expectation that it will get done.  Provide a quiet place AWAY from family activity to do homework and basic supplies such as pens, paper, crayons, and pencils.  If the child needs assistance, tell him to pick up his work from his quiet homework place and bring it to a parent with his question.  After a couple minutes discussion, send the child back to his homework haven to continue on his own.  If the child truly doesn’t understand the work, it is a good sign that he needs more help from his teacher and should ask for it the next day in class.  But very often, once sent back to continue his work alone, the child gathers his wits about him and figures it out.  And perhaps most importantly, there should be a rule about when homework must be done. 

In our home it was 8PM at which time the pre-bedtime routine began.  When this rule went into effect, my 8 year old daughter did indeed cry hysterically when homework wasn’t done.  I stood absolutely, calmly firm; the kids faced the consequences in school the next day of not having finished their homework; and suddenly homework started getting done by the deadline.  I am sure my children said fun things like “my mom wouldn’t let me finish my homework” and I am sure teachers had a few raised eyebrows.  But once we got past these couple of incidents, homework forever and always became my children’s’ responsibility and was nearly always done and done well. 

They learned their school lessons, but they also learned responsibility, resourcefulness, time management and perseverance – traits that will follow them throughout their lives!