It seems to me that over the years kids are getting more homework. It’s not uncommon for first graders to come home with homework! And every year afterwards the amount of homework increases, proportionate to the child’s age and stage. A rule of thumb for most teachers is 10 minutes per night for each grade, depending on what the teacher is working on in class.
Some kids breeze through homework time. They don’t mind doing twenty five math problems, reading a chapter in a book, or writing an essay. Even though they knew how to do the first math problem on the worksheet, the busy work of the next twenty four similar problems doesn’t bother them. They may be motivated by getting good grades and praise from teachers and parents.
But many children struggle. Some kids procrastinate—“Not now, later!” Others are tired at the end of a long day—they just want to veg out in front of the TV or play video games. Some children want to shoot hoops, ride bikes, or do anything but their homework. Many of these kids are not motivated by teacher or parental praise or by grades.
And, we have raised a generation of consumers. Kids today are critical consumers of everything—where to eat, what to wear, the newest gadgets, or where to go! They approach school in the same way. Why should I do this boring, tedious, busy work? What’s in it for me? Their parents never even thought to question the whys of homework. They just did it.
Here are the common complaints and their antidotes!
“Homework is boring.” Fair enough—mostly it is. But remember, the purpose of homework is not just to help kids consolidate what they have learned in school into long term memory. It is also to help children develop effective study skills for the years ahead. And, in fact, there are many boring tasks that are part of adulthood (housework, laundry, dishes, paying bills, mowing the lawn and dusting are not very interesting!). Learning how to approach boring tasks is preparation for adult life. It’s important.
“I’m too busy.” That’s a fact. Kids today are so programmed with activities and entertainment that homework can be an afterthought. I spoke to a high school student who spent 3 hours a day practicing with her soccer team—she was pretty exhausted by the time she got home! Schedule a time, every day, for your child to do homework. Make sure that they have some mental energy left over when they tackle their homework! If you can’t be there, text them and make sure they are on the job.
“My homework never ends!” Why is the homework dragging on all night? Make sure there are no distractions—TV, computer, cell phone is on the OFF position. Play time happens AFTER homework is done. That creates an incentive for actually finishing it. Kids will fight you on this one. “I need to relax first!” they will say. OK, but that shouldn’t take too long. Keeping a tight structure that is consistent and predictable (remember those words?) goes a long way.
“I don’t have any homework. I did it all at school”. Trust you kids—and verify. Children have a way of bending the truth when it comes to homework. With computerization at schools, it is becoming increasingly easy for parents to verify the truth, and sometimes hold their kid’s feet to the homework fire.
I know I have been accused of being old fashioned. But I always felt that reading was important and demanded that our kids spend some time every night reading—whether it was assigned or not. When they were in elementary school, they read to me. As they got older, they did their own reading. The length of time was age appropriate. The net effect—they are both big readers as adults! I am on their Kindle accounts today and I can’t keep up with them!
“I have no clue how to do this homework!” I remember when my little one had a big assignment, she would clutch over the enormity of the task. After she had a thunderstorm, we would help her break it down into small, manageable tasks and it started to look doable to her. Once she got started, and could see how it would work out, the sun would come out.
Sometimes it may be necessary to discuss your child’s homework with her teacher. Or in the later grades, have your teen talk to their teacher. There may be after-school help. When my daughter was having trouble with advanced math, I couldn’t help her. We hired a college student to tutor her and after a couple of months she figured it out.
I know—what happened to the “good old days” when kids didn’t require their parent’s involvement in their homework? For one, school work is more complex today. And, like it or not, parents are expected to be more involved.
Do you have any tips for winning the homework wars? Share them!