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No Homework Hassles

Raise Conscientious Students

Photo courtesy of wecometolearn on Flickr.

  Homework serves many helpful purposes. Students learn how to follow through on lessons taught in the classroom. Homework tests a student’s comprehension of material that has already been covered in class, so that learning gaps can be caught early. Finally, homework teaches kids how to focus in locations outside of school. Being able to settle down and get to work on a project is a skill that serves students not only in school, but throughout the rest of their lives.

  Like it or not, parents, homework is an important part of school and learning. Over an academic career, the amount of work your child brings home will gradually increase as a student progresses through the grades. Homework will also become more challenging and complex as the years go by. Many parents are surprised when they can no longer confidently answer their child’s homework questions, especially in math — but don’t let this throw you.

  Of course, you are not the person who needs to complete your child’s homework. You are the person who can help create a space at home where your student can apply focused concentration in the completion of assigned tasks. If you want the transition from school to homework to go as smoothly as possible, be forewarned, you are going to need to monitor your behavior as much as your child’s. If you follow these simple tips you can help all your children avoid homework hassles.

  Be Pro-homework. Whatever you do, parents, do not get down on the idea of homework. If you do, you might implicitly grant your student permission to dismiss it, too. If your child cannot handle the load that is considered typical for each grade, discuss your child’s challenges with the teacher. However, a generally negative or critical attitude towards learning, teachers or school will only undermine your child’s ability to prioritize homework. Addressing any concerns swiftly, and giving teachers and administrators the benefit of the doubt, will serve your student’s highest good, inside and outside the classroom.

  Make Space for Each Student. If you have more than one child doing homework, try to create a separate space for each of them to work. The goal of homework is to take students out of a group environment and teach them to work independently. If others are always nearby creating distractions or trying to help, they won’t get a chance to see what they can accomplish on their own steam. Of course, some homework is meant to be collaborative. Look to your child for invitations to participate. Otherwise, try to give each of them space where they can spread out and concentrate uninterrupted for the appropriate amounts of time recommended for their grade. Declare quiet time in the house until everyone has had a chance to complete their work.

  Participate But Don’t Take Over. Sometimes you will be invited to participate in homework, but more often, your child needs to see what can be accomplished alone. Even when you are invited to pitch in, let students lead the collaboration process. Make sure you are the helper, not the boss. Once you take over your children’s homework, it’s difficult to get them to reclaim responsibility. After all, you can get it done so much faster and more accurately than they can. So be mindful about not taking over in the first place. If your child is lost or confused about homework instructions, seek out teacher input to help get your student back on track.

  Encourage Routine. Use the first few weeks of the school year to establish a set routine for getting homework done throughout the year. Your child might be crabby or tired during the first weeks of school as she adjusts to new schedules and juggling more responsibilities than she did during the summer. But resist the urge to make exceptions to the expected homework routine in the beginning, as these habits set the tone for the rest of the school year. In fact, you will likely find yourself going through a homework adjustment period after each school vacation throughout the year. Stand firm that homework is the first priority when students return home each weekday. Homework for Mondays can be completed on Fridays or Sundays, depending upon what works best for your family.

  Take Advantage of Student-teacher Interaction. Some children are more shy than others. Other children may have trouble listening carefully to homework instructions in class. Still others may forget to write down assignments or leave needed materials behind at school. Try to see all of these homework pitfalls as opportunities for your child’s growth. Don’t interfere unless you have to. Conspire with your child’s teacher to work together to help  him overcome unproductive habits. Don’t get down on your child. Instead, brainstorm with the teacher about ways to inspire improved academic performance. Teachers always have plenty of experience in this department.

  Check Grades Regularly. At some point, your child’s grades will be posted online with the expectation that students and parents will keep up with academic progress. When this happens, it means that you won’t likely hear from teachers beyond parent-teacher conferences and report cards. The onus falls on parents to monitor their child’s progress in classes, and address any discrepancies in grading. Don’t merely check your child’s quiz and test scores. Students are expected to turn in homework in a timely manner and to participate in class, in addition to working hard on quizzes, tests and projects. Don’t let a few misplaced homework assignments bring your child’s grades down.

  Use Tutors as Needed. Despite your best intentions and your child’s best efforts, you may find yourself in need of a tutor during the school year, the summer, or even year-round. One of the best things we ever did for our daughter was to say yes to suggestions from teachers to enlist extra help beyond the school day. Academic challenges often show up during the elementary school years, and when they are met with helpfulness instead of judgment, academic frustration can be addressed and improved swiftly, especially when parents and teachers work together. Remember you are not your child, so seek the type of help most likely to remedy the situation. If you find yourself taking her disappoints too personally, working with a tutor is your opportunity to demonstrate detachment and humility for your child. Life presents challenges to us all. How we meet them determines how successful we will be in school and in life.


Author, journalist and writing coach Christina Katz actually enjoyed doing homework when she was growing up.

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