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Navigating the Homework Blues

Navigating the Homework Blues

by Dewana Thompson

If you are anything like me, you are juggling a lot of balls in the air everyday while trying not to drop any. As parents we juggle work, after-school activities, home life, church, marriage, family, friends and if you’re lucky, a social life. And then….there’s homework. Homework can be a challenging time of the day that begins with good intentions but ends in confusion, frustration and sometimes even tears. And that’s just the parents! Here are some tips that can help you and your child survive homework time and protect your relationship at the same time.

Set up a routine. 

Having a routine in place at home helps children to know what to expect every day and how to meet these expectations. We send mixed messages for example, if one day (while we are pinning just one more thing on Pinterest) we allow our children to start homework after they play outside for awhile, but the next day we demand that they get started on homework as soon as they walk in the door. Being consistent is key.

Have some downtime. 

After a long day, we as adults often need some time to unwind once we get home. Children are no different.  After spending an average of 8 hours a day at school, some children may need some downtime which can include having a snack, playing outside, reading, or playing a game.

Limit your child’s media intake. 

A Neilsen Study in 2009 showed that on average, children between the ages of 2 and 11 watch more than 28 hours of television a week. These numbers increase when we look at teenagers and include other media influences such as video games, computers, and phones. I suggest either not allowing media time during the school week or limiting the amount of time they spend on media to 30 minutes each day (perhaps as an incentive before or after homework is completed).

Limit distractions during homework time. 

Whenever possible make sure that your child has a quiet place to complete homework. This becomes tricky when you have several children or very young siblings. Yet, following a routine, giving everyone a quiet activity during homework time and separating children can often cut down on distractions. Quiet does not necessarily mean complete silence. My 9th grader swears that he concentrates better when he is listening to music. So if your child gets homework completed and does not seem distracted by background noise then some noise may be helpful.

Make the weekends special.

I always encourage parents to set up a rewards system at home.  A homework chart looks similar to a calendar and allows children to get a point daily for completing their homework with you or independently in a timely fashion. At the end of each week, if they receive their 4 points (Monday-Thursday) they get a weekend reward such as, extra media time, having their favorite food for dinner, using their allowance to rent a movie or game, extending bedtime or curfew by 30 minutes or my favorite–having dessert before dinner. 

Ask for Help. 

Am I smarter than a 5th grader? Well based on my 3rd grader’s homework I would have to say NO. So, I always ask my children’s teachers for assistance. Most teachers and counselors are more than happy to help you support the work that they are doing in the classroom at home. They may offer you websites, worksheets, games or strategies that they use at school that may help.

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Take a Time Out.

 If you are still pulling your hair out at homework time and it is putting a strain on your relationship with your child, then you may need to take a time out. I highly recommend having someone else help with homework whenever possible. This could be your spouse, a friend or relative, a tutor and for younger children, perhaps a teenager or an older sibling. Some schools and churches also offer homework assistance before or after school. Hearing it from someone else may be helpful.

Praise your child. 

Most importantly, do not criticize your child. Instead encourage him and praise him for doing his best. There is nothing worse than a child feeling that his parent does not believe in him.

Homework time does not have to be stressful. Set up routines, guide your child instead of yelling, set reasonable expectations and ask for help when you need it. And when all else fails- just do what I do: at the end of the day when it’s quiet and all the homework is done, the kitchen is clean, the dog is fed and the last email has been answered, grab a bowl of Blue Bell ice cream and relax. Remember, you may not be smarter than a 5th grader and you may not have done everything exactly perfect today, but the blessing in it all is that we get to try again tomorrow. Remember-no one is perfect. That’s why pencils have erasers!

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