The nightmare called Homework

Today’s post has to do with the never ending chore known as “homework”.  As a mother of two school aged children and a school psychologist, I deal with this topic on an almost daily basis.

School is far different today than it was for most of us, with higher standards, less “down time” and increased pressures to perform.  Nowhere is this more evident in most schools than with the idea of homework.  Designed as additional practice on concepts already taught, homework is nothing new to most parents.  However, homework has turned into a 4 to 6 hour torture-fest for many families – regardless of how capable the child is in school.

Homework hassles typically occur for a few reasons:

  1. Lack of structure and clear expectations
  2. Mismatch between work assigned and the student’s ability to effectively complete the tasks independently
  3. Lack of motivation on the part of the child, parent, teacher or all of them
  4. Boredom

Solving typical homework problems is relatively simple – though it may take a little creativity on the part of the parent.  Here is a short list of tips to assist in ending the homework nightmare once and for all.

  1. Structured time and place for homework:  Make homework a routine.  If your child states there is no homework, assign your own task (like reading) for a period of time so that the routine is not disturbed.  Be consistent about time – like anything, consistency goes a long way to solve many homework problems
  2. 80% rule:  Homework should be independent.  That does not mean you should allow your kid to complete everything with no input or help.  Just be careful – kids are wonderfully talented in making us believe they are less capable then they are – especially if it gets them out of work.  One trick to try…the 80% rule. Let your child know that you will not give assistance until they are 80% done with the assignment.  Most of the time, the child will be able to complete that much.  If your child is truly struggling, talk with the teacher.  But please, please, please….do not do the work for them – this serves no one.
  3. Try to make it fun:  Sometimes the problem isn’t that it is too difficult, but that it is too easy for your child.  This can often lead to hours of “fighting” because it is “boring”.  Try making it a game.  Play “beat the clock” with your child, challenging them to complete a certain amount in a specific amount of time.  Before you know it the work could be completely finished.
  4. Location, location, location:  Most children can’t do homework in their rooms without sacrificing quality.  They usually get more work finished and at a better quality when they have to do it under tighter supervision … like at the kitchen table.  This way, you can fix dinner and still be available to monitor the completion of the homework and the time being spent doing it.
  5. Set the expectation:  I have already stated that, as parents, we need to be careful about helping with homework too much.  So what is our role, then?  Our job is to consistently check the homework for completion – even when our very trustworthy child claims it is finished.  Our job is also to enforce our rules with regards to homework.  Whether you are home when the child does their homework or not, the parent still needs a routine of checking the work – every night. In my household, there is no excuse for not completing an assignment – none.  We take this seriously and look at homework completion as an extension of respect.  Therefore, if our child chooses not to complete an assignment, we have a pretty stiff consequence.  Again, it is a matter of expectations in our household.

These few tips generally make the homework routine much easier to handle and will fix most of the problems.  Sometimes, the homework issue is more deeply rooted. These problems are best addressed with the school and your child’s educator.

Feel free to comment or ask questions.  I love hearing from everyone.

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