The calendar turns to August. The Back to School ads appear. And that feeling of dread starts in your chest cavity and radiates up and down your frame. Tranquil summer evenings will soon give way to… the Homework Wars!
You picture every night, rushing home from work, trying to get dinner prepared, served and done by 7:30 so that there will still be time. Will this be a night free of angst and struggle or will the math, or science, or Shakespeare demons wreak their havoc with your children?
Maybe this year could be different.
Parents often feel somewhat at the mercy of schools, teachers and homework assignments. One thing you have on your side is that you know your child. You know their personalities. You know if they will find the time and complete their assignments on their own or if they could use some structure to help them. You know their interests, likes and dislikes. You know if they will spend hours on science but leave writing a literary analysis of Silas Marner till the last second. You know their psyches. You know if they feel comfortable stopping when they get stuck or if they are fragile spirits who lack confidence and may tend to get quickly frustrated. And you know that your child is always growing and changing. Knowing your child is your secret weapon in the homework wars.
Take some time before the start of the school year to think about how your child typically deals with homework. Identify one or two ways in which your child struggles with homework and one or two ways in which you might help him or her focus on their strengths and take steps to address their challenges.
During the first week of school, set aside time to have a conversation with them about homework. “We had a few challenges with homework last year. How do you think things will go this year?” Wait for a response. You are encouraging your student to take the first step in taking control of the homework situation. S/he may have some excellent suggestions.
If no suggestions are forthcoming or if the conversation does not go the way you had planned, try proposing an idea that you balance with a success. “You seemed to have no problem last year with math (or short term assignments or reading or…) but you had a few challenges with English. What if you (or for younger students, “we”) form a study group for English, or always start with your English assignment so you get it out of the way first, or create a calendar for yourself to plan out the work so that you don’t get stuck at the last minute, or set up a regular meeting with the teacher to make sure you stay on track? Which of those ideas do you think would help?”
By providing choices, you provide a measure of control for your student. They cannot control what the assignment is or how much work they will be given, but they can control how they will respond.
This year really can be different.