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SALT LAKE CITY — Is homework without a fight possible? If I were to strictly follow these five rules, maybe it would be: Pretend it doesn't exist; put your husband in charge of it; talk to teacher at school and claim exemption with some exaggerated excuse; lobby for PE to be the only subject homework is allowed in; or pull children out of school all together.
At the risk of admitting I may have tried one or more of the above methods, I'm pretty confident none of these rules would be successful. Instead, I'm left to wonder if homework happening without a fight is possible.
I savor days off of school and weekend afternoons for mainly one reason: There is no homework on those days. It's accurate to say I'm not a fan of homework. However, with three children in school full time and with two yet to start, I am slowly yet surely accepting homework as a necessary evil.
While I haven't found a way to completely eradicate the fighting during homework time, I have found a few ways to make homework time a little less contentious in our home.
1. Find the RIGHT TIME.
Ever since my oldest child started school, I seem to be in a constant quandary about when the right time to do homework is. Immediately after school or after they've played and relaxed some?
I remember years ago a mother told me they do reading and homework in the morning before school. I was shocked. Even though our school mornings are fairly unrushed, I've never considered trying to fit in homework and reading amid teeth brushing and finding two shoes that match.
What I have considered, though, is the flexibility to know what the right time is for each child. At our house, that is different for all three of them. One child likes to get it done immediately upon coming home from school while another favors the quiet evening hours when half the family is settled in bed before homework emerges from her backpack.
As long as the homework gets done, I'm learning to relax on the "when."
2. Find the RIGHT WAY to do it.
Last school year my son was struggling to learn his times tables. All the homework sheets in the world could not quite get them into his brain. Besides, they were making him ornery and unpleasant (or was I the ornery and unpleasant one?).
One afternoon I tossed the homework sheet aside. I wrote the answers to times table problems on little pieces of paper and scattered them throughout the room. It turned into a game as I quickly yelled out questions and my son ran around the room finding the correct answer. The fact that my then-first grader was mastering them a little quicker than the third grader didn't help the contention level much, but it did make for a little more concentrated effort from the third grader!
When my son was faced with the original homework sheet again, it was much less overwhelming to finish. In the end, it doesn't really matter how homework is done — as long as it gets completed (and learned!).
3. Find the RIGHT PERSON.
I ignored any beginnings of guilt when my teenager walked over to the neighbor to get help with her homework recently. The complicated math formulas made so much more sense when explained from someone that had taken a math class within the last decade and not last century. There seemed to be a less drama and fewer tears reported to me than the math assignment was causing at our house.
More often than not, my husband is the right person to assist with my teenager's homework and I'm a pretty good match for the elementary-aged kids. But even then, there are times we turn our children over to another sibling, the other spouse, and even the neighbor.
I will admit it has nothing to do with our lack of knowledge, and everything to do with lack of patience. Throw out the guilt and find the right person to help.
4. Find the RIGHT BALANCE.
Some days I judiciously check each homework sheet; other times I let the natural consequences occur. If a child rushes through their homework on the school bus so they can get outside to play sooner, they'll certainly slow down the next day after having spent morning recess inside re-doing their homework sheet.
Some days I follow up about school assignments, other times I let my children carry the sole responsibility. A child will plan better after realizing the early-morning alarm will still go off despite staying awake far too late finishing a school project.
Find the right balance for you, your children and your family. How much will you help? How much will you hold back? For me, it is different with every assignment and every child.
5. Find the RIGHT ATTITUDE.
Recently on the last day of the term, with a four-day weekend ahead, my second-grader pulled out a homework assignment. With an exaggerated roll of her eyes and a whiny voice she declared, "Of course we get homework EVERY. SINGLE. DAY." (Hmmm... Wonder where she got that homework attitude from?)
Even though I daydream of my children never bringing home another homework assignment, it will probably never happen. Homework is going to be filling my afternoons and evenings for many years to come. If I have a good attitude about homework, it is more likely my children will have a positive attitude about it too.
Take my suggestions for what they're worth. I will admit to being the mother who returned my second-grader's homework earlier this school year with a note attached saying, "Please excuse this blank worksheet. We don't do homework on Fridays."
It's my way of increasing the harmony in our home — at least with the second grader. I haven't worked up the courage to write it on my junior high student's papers.
Tiffany Sowby and her husband Mike are the parents of five children. Tiffany's passion for motherhood and writing come together at www.ourmostofthetimehappyfamily.blogspot.com.