Is homework taking over your life? Is it causing arguments and meltdowns that are driving a wedge between you and your kids?
If the answer is “yes”, you’re not alone. Homework is an important part of growing-up and I believe that it not only helps children develop a good work ethic, but also teaches them to how to take responsibility for their own success. Despite the positives, I know I’m not alone when I say that it sometimes feels like homework is destroying our family time. It seems like there is always homework to be done and when it’s not spread out across the table, we are giving reminders and removing privileges to pay penance for the incomplete work. The homework load, coupled with a few chores as well as sports and other activities seems to be enough to put the whole family on edge.
My daughter started grade seven this fall and the change in expectations has hit our family like a wild storm. Between teen hormones and the workload, there have been more than a few meltdowns at our house. Our daughter had extremely limited experience with homework, quizzes or tests, so let’s just say it’s put quite a strain on the entire family. She is a great student, but that didn’t help the fact that she had no experience with time management, juggling due dates and the pressures of homework. For the first six weeks of the school year, we tried to work on helping her establish good work habits by teaching her strategies to make the work load manageable. Here are some of the things we tried to teacher Eden to assist her in coping with the changes and increased demands of grade seven.
1. Write down the due dates/test dates on a calendar. I actually found printable calendar templates and then printed 4 pages on one sheet, so my daughter could see the entire term at a glance. This allowed her to look ahead to projects that weren’t due for a while and still plug-in closer due dates as new projects came up. She didn’t use this for homework that was due the following day, more so for assigned projects, homework and tests.
2. Do not focus on everything that needs to get done. Pick one assignment at a time. Generally speaking, I’ve taught my daughter to work on those things that are the most pressing. So in other words, work chronologically with those items that are due first.
3. When there is more than one item due the same day, it can easily become overwhelming. In such cases, there are basically two plans of attack. One option is to work on the biggest/hardest project first to get it out-of-the-way. The second is to do all the small easy jobs first, so you don’t feel like there are so many things to do. Sometimes the sheer number of assignments/tests can be overwhelming, so completing the easy jobs means you can completely remove them from your mind and thus feel less pressure.
4. With large projects, it is really important to read through the entire assignment first, even if you aren’t ready to begin. Sometimes it is more daunting, when you haven’t taken the time to read over the assignment. Once you read it over, it sometimes helps to see the “big picture” and gives a better understanding of the expectations. In some cases, this can relieve some stress. The “unknown” coupled with deliberate avoidance (procrastination) can often cause more anxiety than the assignment itself. I’ve noticed that once Eden takes the time to read a larger assignment through, she’s sometimes able to see how she can break the project down into smaller manageable sections that don’t seem as overwhelming.
5. It is also important to read through an entire assignment right before beginning, so that specific expectations are very clear. Most teachers include a rubric with assignments/projects. A rubric is a step by step guide on how to achieve the best marks possible. When you begin without reading through the rubric first, it is easy to make very simple avoidable mistakes. My daughter learned this the hard way when she spent hours doing an assignment and then when she referred to the rubric near the end, she realized that her visual map was to be organized in chronological order. Although this was only worth a mark, it was an easy mark to guarantee just by following the rubric set out by the teacher. Don’t begin an assignment before reading over the entire rubric first!
6. Turn off the devices! Believe me when I say that 20 minutes of homework can easily take over an hour if your iPod or phone are turned on. Those little interruptions to find a good song or answer a text are killing the homework. They are a huge distraction and absolutely need to be removed. Spend good quality, uninterrupted time on assignments and they will be completed much faster.
We are now almost at the end of October and I think Eden has gotten a better handle on how to approach her homework successfully on her own. As a parent, I want so much for her to be successful, but it is difficult to know when to help and when to step back. I will never do homework for my daughter because that serves no one. She needs to develop the skills to be successful and can learn this best by experiencing both the highs and the lows. She needs to know what happens when she leaves an assignment until the last-minute and does poorly. She needs to know how it feels when her name is called out because she didn’t hand something in on time. As parents we always want to run to the rescue, but it is often at the expense of our children. In life, they will have ups and downs, and sometimes the best way to learn how to make it through the difficult times is to learn from your own person experience. We need to give children the opportunity to do just that….fail. They need to know what it feels like, how to process it and how to move beyond their mistakes and failures, so they can learn from them. In life, we won’t always be there to rescue them or pull their weight at a future job ~ therefore, they must learn to manage more independently.
Do not complete assignments for your kids. It is simply ridiculous. Do you honestly think the teacher doesn’t know you did the science project for your kid? Believe me….teachers know. In fact, they may even have your name in their books of marks! Don’t do your kids homework for them, but rather take the time to teach them strategies that will help them be successful and feel good about their accomplishments. Like my husband says, what’s the worst that can happen? She’ll bomb an assignment or a test. Hopefully, if there is a failure, your child will learn from it and do a much better job next time. If you bail them out by doing their work for them, believe me, they’ll never complete an assignment at school again…why would they? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out: “If I do my work at school, I have to do it, but if I take it home, my mom will do it for me!” Don’t fall into this trap!
If Eden has started an assignment and isn’t understanding something or needs me to proofread a finished report, by all means, but I will not do the work for her. Assist and teach as needed, but do not do the work. Hopefully, the worst is behind us and we have instilled some essentials techniques and skills that will help her to become more independent and achieve great success in grade seven without the entire family falling victim to the homework beast.