Homework went great this week!
Of course, school isn’t in session and there is no assigned homework this week.
Last week, I wrote part one of this post making my case for why I don’t hate homework. I got a little (expected) flack from some readers, because as the mother of a Kindergartener they pointed out that I really have not yet felt the full brunt of homework pain, and thus have no right to an opinion on the matter.
I get that. I know my resolve to try not to hate homework for my children’s sake sounds naive, and will be sorely tested. I’m sure my perspective about it will change, just by virtue of experience. But, I still maintain that I can see how homework can be valuable.
“Just you wait…” is a familiar refrain I’ve heard over and over as a parent. Name virtually any parenting issue I’ve yet encountered, and there have been no shortage of people on the sidelines telling me, “You have no idea what you’re in for.” And, you know what, they are right. Not one of us knows what we are in for, and not one of us has the exact same set of circumstances to contend with.
But I do know that if you start a marathon—and parenting is one hell of a marathon—focusing on how hard it will be, you won’t get too far before you call it a day, go sit on the couch, and wonder why you never got anywhere.
So, what this has taught me so far is I’ve got to have a vision as a starting point for my children; not so much what they will do, but what sort of people they can grow to become. I’ve also got to be flexible, seeing them as they are. Both are indispensible in parenting.
When it comes to homework, I have a larger commitment to fostering a love of learning, and the ability to be disciplined in order to follow wherever their individual paths lead them. I’m flexible about what role homework plays in that, realizing that that depends on their learning styles, interests and abilities, their teachers, and yes—to a degree—me.
At this stage of the game, I have a lot of responsibility in the process of building the foundation; but what they build on that foundation, well that’s really up to them.
This is how I’m trying to help my son not hate homework at the start of his marathon, and finish still loving to learn:
- Make it a natural extension of learning at home.
I’ve made a conscious effort to create no dividing line between learning at school and learning at home in our household. I send my son to school to learn from others, with others, and I continue helping him learn at home.
I am his teacher, as much as his teachers at school are, with all their authority and investment in his learning as they have, and more. Learning is happening all the time at home, through reading together, playing games, completing projects, or doing chores. I treat homework, and frame it, as an extension of the learning activities we already do at home.
- Stick to a routine.
I‘ve learned that my kids thrive when they have good routines, guided by who they are. Because my son is a very active child, and a bit introverted, that means he needs to refuel and have some down time after school. That way he is recharged to do the work.
He also works best with fewer distractions. We have designated a public, but quiet, place in our home to do homework, and I make sure it has supplies at the ready. If there is one place I’m going to make sure is tidied up before we return home, it’s this space. This routine works for him; every child is different. The point is to find the conditions under which they best can learn and create that environment consistently.
- Teach time management.
Activities and play-dates, within reason, are important to us. To manage those and homework, I try to keep what’s going on during the week in mind in pacing my son through his assignments. For example, if I know he’ll have a friend over or an activity mid-week, I’ll help him to plan to work ahead to lighten his homework that day. The ability to plan ahead and pace one’s self is an invaluable skill as a student—and in life—that homework can help teach early on.
I keep a visible calendar in our home of what is going on. While I’m very hands-on right now about this, as he matures, he’ll increasingly take on this responsibility himself. This is going to be hard for me, but when he first starts flying solo on this, I’m resolved to let him do it, even if that means he doesn’t plan well and has to bear the consequences of that. The earlier he learns this the better.
- Attitude and flexibility.
Whether you were the best student, or the worst, we carry our baggage, attitudes, and expectations with us as parents. I’ve learned (the hard way) that my attitude directly affects my child’s. I can’t tell him to have a good attitude; I’ve got to show him a good attitude, especially when it’s tough going.
Also, recognize your own strengths and limitations. I’ve learned what I’m good at teaching, and what my husband is good at teaching. We have a very different history with homework—I didn’t mind it, while he refused to do it. But, he is very good at being creative and flexible in helping my son learn. So, while I handle the day-to-day (which he hates), I’ve learned to call him in when we’ve hit a rough patch, and we need to think of a way around it.
- Failure is an option; in fact it’s essential.
A struggle I have with helping my child learn, is that I get impatient for the (correct) outcome, and forget that it’s the process (and the mistakes) that is often the most important thing he’s learning from. Talk with any innovator, and they will usually tell you that they failed a lot before they succeeded. Failure didn’t discourage them; it motivated them.
One of the greatest lessons I think I can teach my child is how to fail, learn, and try again. Precisely when homework is so hard, therein lays an incredible opportunity to teach and reinforce this. I love what our teacher tells her students, “Don't say, ‘I can’t do it,’ but ‘I can’t do it yet.’”
It’s your turn to tell us what works in the homework department. Particularly for those parents further down the path, what practical things have helped your children. When homework wasn’t working, what did you do? Also, for parents working traditional business hours, outside the home, how does homework work in your household?