Originally published September 16 2008
Seven Steps to Hassle Free Homework for You and Your Child
by Barbara L. Minton
(NaturalNews) It's that season when the newness of the school year has worn off and the same old problems and struggles with homework show themselves again. But this year can be different. This year can turn into a pleasant and freeing time for you and a genuine learning experience in responsibility for your child if you follow a few simple homework basics.
1. Decide whose homework it is - If you think it is really your homework and you should be responsible for it, stop reading here. If you think this is your child's homework and he should be responsible for it, proceed to step 2.
2. Think about what homework really is – Back in the days when America led the world in intellectual development and productivity, there was very little assigned homework. The country had a large population of critical thinkers and innovators, and we led the world in invention. The age of technology was born here.
Today, as we slide down the poll in international standing, homework is part of the dumbing down of America. It's sold as time to spend reinforcing the skills taught during the school day, but the reality is that children are given time during the day to do this. The real reason for homework is to extend the school's control over your child into the evening and weekend hours.
3. Align yourself with your child – This is easily accomplished if put yourself in your child's place for a minute. Imagine your work day is ending. You've worked hard, done your very best and feel proud of what you have accomplished. You have your evening planned and it includes some time to relax and enjoy yourself. But wait, here comes your boss with a stack of files he wants you to review and correct. He wants you to spend three hours doing it and you need to get your mother to sign off that you really did it. How would that feel?
Once you acknowledge that homework is generally a complete waste of time, and realize how intrusive it can be into you and your child's lives, you can stop conning him about it and get real. You can tell your child that you know homework is a royal pain, and that you wouldn't like to do homework yourself. You can tell him that you don't want homework coming between you and him, and you have a plan for him to get it done as quickly as possible so that he has more time to do the really important tasks of childhood -- playing, daydreaming, and pursuing his interests.
4. Let your child make the decisions about homework – Find out how much time your child should be spending on homework every night from his teacher or from your state department of education. Make that number the amount of time you allow for homework. Then let your child decide when he wants to serve this time. Some kids like to get their homework over with when they first come in from school. Others need a period for detox and want to do homework later in the evening. It shouldn't matter to you what time your child decides to do homework, because you won't be involved in it.
Let him decide where he will do it, as long as it is not in your space. Remember, this is his homework, not yours, so he doesn't need you around to help, correct or oversee. If his teacher requires you to sign his homework, tell her you will not be doing that because it is important to you that your child learns to be responsible for his own life.
Ask him what he needs in his homework space and make sure he has it. A computer with word processing capabilities and internet access is essential for homework, since he won't have you to rely on. Make sure he has all the notebooks and supplies he thinks he needs, and a place such as a book bag to put the homework in when it's finished.
Some kids want complete quiet for homework, while others do much better with the radio or TV on. If your child wants the radio or TV, let him have it. If it works for him, that's fine. It means that he is one of the lucky people that can focus in on something no matter what else is going on. If he finds that it interferes with his homework to the point where he is experiencing negative consequences, he will eventually figure out that he needs to turn it off.
5. Keep to the time schedule, no matter what – Let's say your child is a 6th grader, and you have been told that he should spend one hour and 15 minutes every night on homework. He has decided to start at 7:00 in the evening. This means that at 8:15, he will stop doing homework, whether he has completed it or not, and whether he understands the assignment or not. The only exception to this rule is if he is truly involved in and happy at what he is doing and really doesn't want to stop.
If his homework is incomplete, you are being called upon to remember that you have aligned yourself with your child, not with the authority of the school. So no matter how stressed out you are because his homework is incomplete, all you can do is show some sympathy, such as saying "It looks like you are going to have a rough time at school tomorrow." You might want to give him a hug to show you are sorry he didn't get it done.
After you and your child have become comfortable with the plan and things are going well, shave about 20% off the time you allow for homework. This will give him even more time to have a real life.
There should be no time allotted for homework on the weekend.
6. Talk to your child – Tell him that in spite of what the school has in mind, you want his homework experience to help him learn some of the meaningful lessons of life, such as how to take responsibility for his actions, how to anticipate and accept consequences, how to structure his time, and how to make decisions that affect his daily life as well as his future.
7. Have faith in your child – You have undoubtedly been a great parent up until now, so of course your child is going to do just fine in life. When you decide to put this new homework plan into place, the transition period may be difficult for you and your child. He is probably used to having his every thought and action directed by someone else, and it will take him some time to sort himself out in his new roll as a burgeoning responsible person. He may cry and throw a few fits trying to get you to reassume responsibility for his homework, help him with it, and make sure he turns it in. And you will probably feel guilty and question whether you are doing the right thing.
It will be up to you to insist that you and he follow the new plan. If you are loving but firm, he will soon begin to grow into the responsible child you want him to be. He will soon see the value of your plan as he begins to develop more of his potential in his new free time. This transition period will be made easier by your frequent explanations of the reasons for the new plan and your faith in him to be successful at it. Children are easily molded when expectations are clearly defined and reinforced.
As the plan begins to work, the quality of your relationship with your child will really improve. You will no longer be in the role of school policy enforcer. You will actually be able to act like a parent. You will have time for your own life and interests and time to relax and become refreshed after a hard day. And best of all, you will have a lot more positive energy to direct toward your child.
About the authorBarbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.
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