I’m going to let you in on a little secret: even the teachers hate homework. I really don’t think there’s a single human being on earth who likes it. Well, I guess I shouldn’t say that. I mean, if the internet has proven anything it’s that there are a lot of weird people out there who are into a lot of weird things. But, I digress.
Kids hate it because, after working hard all day, all they want to do is go home and relax but instead they have to do more work. Parents hate it because, after working hard all day, all they want to do is go home and relax but instead they have to deal with their kid freaking out over his homework assignments. And teachers hate it because, after working hard all day, all they want to do is go home and relax but instead they have to sit down and grade eight thousand pages of homework.
Whether or not homework should even exist is a topic for another day because, today, it most definitely does. The teacher’s a lost cause (nothing but chocolate will make all of that grading any easier), but there may still be hope for you and your child. Here are a few tips for how to make homework time go a little bit smoother.
1. Get it out of the way
It is more than likely that homework is the very last thing your child wants to do upon arriving home. If given the choice between doing homework and eating slugs he’d probably choose the slugs. But, if he doesn’t do it now, it will just become more and more of a battle as the evening wears on. So let him eat a snack, pet the dog, tell you about his day, but that’s it. TV, video games, reading for pleasure, playing outside, (whatever it is that he loves to do) is the incentive for finishing his homework. Once he’s off doing those things, calling him back will be nearly impossible. Also, if he waits until the last minute to do his homework, he’s going to end up going to bed later and then he’ll be tired and cranky at school and won’t want to do his homework at home, and on and on and on.
2. Make sure he has a designated spot to do his homework
The kitchen table is a good spot if your child is younger or needs to be reminded to stay focused. If he’s more independent, setting up a desk in his room is a good idea. Make sure the designated area is already equipped with the supplies he needs. Teachers will usually send home a list of supplies to keep at home but, if your child’s teacher didn’t, it’s more than reasonable to ask her what’s expected. (Usually pencils, colored pencils, a ruler, markers and a glue stick are all good bets.) Your child may seem perfectly happy doing his homework on his bed, or on his bedroom floor, but he’s much more likely to become distracted by the toys on his floor, or fall asleep if he’s on his bed. Not to mention the fact that his work will end up looking messy, and some teachers knock off points for that.
3. If possible, let him do his homework on his own
In an ideal world, homework is meant to be done by the child, not the child and his parents. In theory, it is a check-in between the teacher and the child to see if the child understood the material he learned in class. (He seemed to understand when the teacher was standing right next to him, but does he still get it a few hours later when he’s alone in his room?) Of course, in reality, there are a million reasons why sending your child off to do his homework on his own isn’t feasible (he’s super distractible, he really struggles in math, his teacher is kind of mediocre so he rarely understands the material, etc. etc.). But, if your child actually is able to do the work on his own, standing right next to him giving him hints (or telling him what answers to put because you want him to finish so he can eat dinner) totally defeats the purpose.
4. If your child seems totally baffled, it’s okay to put it away and speak to the teacher the next day
If your child is usually able to complete his homework just fine but, tonight, is looking at it like it’s written in Swahili, and you’ve done your best to help him but, frankly, it looks like Swahili to you too and now he’s on the brink of an epic tantrum, it might be time to call it quits. But, be sure to speak directly to the teacher about it in the morning. Or, depending on your child’s age, make sure he speaks to the teacher. Tell her that your child made a really good effort but was very confused. Explain that you also looked at it and weren’t totally sure how to help him. (Don’t accuse the teacher of sending home impossible work or imply that her teaching methods are ridiculous. Assume that she knows more about teaching than you do because, well, she does.) A good teacher will then find some time during the day to sit with your child and go over the assignment. She will then either have him complete it at school or, after making sure he understands, send it home again the next night. (Sorry, this doesn’t totally get you off the hook.)
5. Don’t try to teach your child another way of doing it
I know there are a lot of new-fangled ways of teaching out there (particularly in math) and that not all of them are popular. I know that when you look at your child solving 24+19 by writing 20+10=30, 9+1=10, 10+3=13, 13+30=43, it may look like a big waste of time to you and you’re just itching to stack that 24 on top of that 19 and call it a day. Don’t. I’m not going to spend time defending this method of doing math (though I could), that isn’t the point. The point is, if your child is happily solving his math problems (or any other subject) this way, and it’s the way his teacher showed him and expects him to do it (for clear and thoughtful reasons that she would explain to you if you asked her politely), showing him your way will just utterly confuse him. It’ll probably result in him turning red in the face and screaming, “That’s not the way my teacher showed me!” at the top of his lungs and storming off. And tomorrow, in class, he won’t be able to solve that problem any way at all because now he’s thoroughly confused. If he was struggling with the teacher’s method, by all means show him yours. But let the teacher know you did.
Nothing but vacation will stem the tide of homework but, if you follow my advice, you might find it becomes just a little bit easier. And, if not, there’s always chocolate.