Singing the Homework Blues

As we enter the third week of school, it’s safe to say that homework has become the norm.  With my own third grader, we’ve had a few meltdowns already and I’m seriously dreading the rest of the school year.  I have been working hard to help set up some homework routines that help minimize the homework drama that ensues.  We’re not there yet, but it’s safe to say that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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Homework can be frustrating for any student, especially after a fun-filled summer without many routines.  Helping students get back into the routine of school and responsibilities can help get them get back into the homework frame of mind.  We have a routine for after-school and homework.  Some students find they work best when they jump in and start their homework as soon as they get home.  I know for my little guy he needs some time to relax (and play Minecraft) before he is ready to dive into his school work.  You know your child best; do what works for them based on their needs and their personality.  We tried homework after school and the tantrum and the excuses took longer than the actual homework.  I figure out that he needed a break after school.  A lot less tears and complaining.

Set up an area where homework is to be completed.  Homework in our house is completed at the kitchen table.  The TV is off and I make sure there are no other distractions.  That includes putting my distractions away like the paperwork piled up on the counters and my cell phone.  When it’s homework time, I give him my attention.  It’s important for him to know that I think homework is important and that his struggles are important.  That I am there for him.

kitchen table

Have everything that you need for your child to complete his/her homework readily available.  I bought a small cup at the dollar store and purchased extra pencils, highlighters,  and coloured pencils when everything was on sale at the beginning of the year.  Everything is sharpened – I make sure of it or else we are spending time sharpening and organizing the pencil container.  Homework was challenging because he’d forget his pencil case at school or we wouldn’t have what we needed to get started.  Now I keep the pencil caddy and a ream of lined-paper in a cupboard in the kitchen so that we are always prepared.

pencils

I help my son review his homework so that he understands what is required.  I do the same with my students that I tutor.  In order to do their homework they need to know what is expected.  Just recently, my son was assigned five out of 9 questions.  On the top of the page the teacher had written “Complete any five of the following questions”.  He missed that the first time he read through.  Working with him, we discussed why it’s important to read the instructions and make a checklist of what is needed.  Helping him prioritize what is needed minimizes his anxiety and confusion.  He’s learning important skills on how to break tasks down into smaller parts and how to organize himself.  All are important and transferable skills for life.

homework-tips

If your child is really having a difficult time with an assignment – speak to the teacher and explain your concerns.  Work together with the teacher to come up with a plan that works for your child.

I always praise my son for a job well done.  If he worked hard on an assignment I make sure he knows that I am proud of him.  I want him to show GRIT.  I want him to understand the value of preserving, of working hard to get through a difficult task.  He needs to know that learning from challenges (and failure) is important and that achievement doesn’t come easily.  That it is something he needs to work for.   I don’t care if his paper was perfect or if he answered every question correctly.  I want him to know that I admire him for not giving up, for setting goals and working through tough times.  I share with him my own struggles and how I have to work hard.  He knows it’s not easy for me all of the time either.  Kids need to understand that as parents we too have our own challeneges that we face.

happy-child

Be a role model.  If your child needs to read each night, read next to him.  Show him what a good reader looks like, show that you enjoy reading. Reading together helps encourage a life-long love of learning for your children.

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I won’t lie – I hate homework.  I loathe the conflict it creates in my home.  As a parent, it kills me to go through the battle some days.  As a teacher, I know that homework is important.  It’s teaching my son to be resilient.  It is teaching him to be disciplined and helping him practice what he has learned.  Some nights it’s a struggle to read a chapter while other nights I can’t get him to put the book away.

When all else fails consider a tutor.  There was a time when I just could not go through the homework battle anymore and I hired a colleague to work with him.  It helped.  He was much more receptive and willing to try with her.  I don’t see that as my failure.  I’m a teacher and work with many students and help them with their struggles, why did I need to find someone to work with my own son?  The short answer is that my son and I have a multifaceted relationship.  I’m his mother, he’s my child.  We have an incredible bond and are very close.  At that time with all of his struggles he needed someone who wasn’t tied to him emotionally.  He’s in grade three now and I have learned to not sweat the small stuff.  Surprisingly, some days he enjoys homework or at least it’s not a battle.  Homework isn’t going anywhere.  It will get a lot worse as he gets older.  I feel confident that we’re working towards a system that helps him and minimizes stress in the house.  Each child is different and what works for one may not work for the other.