When it comes to homework, I’m a hands-off mama. I already did my time, so I have zero interest in sitting down and doing more with my kids. That’s not to say that I don’t value homework — I do. It’s just that my time is better spent showing my kids how to be self-learners and how to develop homework habits, and not by actually doing their homework.
I will admit, it hasn’t been an easy path. A lot of the ideas I had surrounding homework just didn’t work for my always-on-the-go family, so we had to rethink our approach. Here are five simple things we’ve implemented that have made homework time a lot easier on all of us.
I used to subscribe to the "homework first, everything else later" mentality. That meant when my kids got home from school, they couldn’t do anything else until their homework was done. Between extra-curricular activities and just the craziness of day-to-day life, it wasn’t sustainable. Now we work with a day-planner to schedule when homework will happen. Some days it’s before practice, other days it’s after. Set up a schedule that will work for your family's activities to find what will work best for you.
I don’t know how and I don’t know when, but somewhere along the way, math got a makeover and became "the new math.” I’m not sure what was wrong with the old math but the first time I tried to show my eldest daughter how to solve an addition problem and she shouted “THAT’S NOT HOW IT’S DONE, MOMMY!” I was out. From that point on, we deferred to the experts: their teachers, tutors, or a an education centre like Kumon. I actually wish I had heard of Kumon years ago because I love their philosophy.
The Kumon approach was started in 1954 by Toru Kumon, a math teacher and father, who was looking for a way to instill the love of learning into his son. He developed short, incremental assignments to helped his son master a concept before moving on. His technique was so successful that by Grade 6, his son was solving calculus problems. Fast forward to today and Kumon's unique approach has helped millions of students achieve educational success by empasizing the importance of establishing strong daily routines. Creating strong daily routines can help boost your kid's confidence. Once enrolled in their programs, progress is extremely gradual and designed to move at your kid’s pace. If your kid needs help with math, reading, or any other subject, don't be afraid to get help from those who can offer it.
When we're sitting at an airport, in a waiting room, or stuck in traffic, I get my kids using that time to complete schoolwork or practice skills. Sometimes they do it without me asking, mostly not, but at some point they will make the connection that time spent waiting is a good time to get other things done. Try it with your kids, you'll be surprised to see how much can get done in all that waiting time.
Homework isn't the only way to create routine for your kids. Establishing consistency with chores and extra-curricular activities is a great way to boost kids' confidence and foster a sense of responsibility. For years, my kids have had the same morning routine expected of them — make your breakfast, pack your lunch, and beds must be made before you leave the house. If they miss a day, I don't sweat it too much because life can get busy. As soon as it starts to become too loosey goosey though, there is a consequence. For example, room is not done in the morning? No tech in the evening. When it comes to extra-curricular activities, it's up to them to ensure they have their bag and water, and they have to be ready to get out the door on time. If they're late, it's not my fault and it's up to them to explain to their coaches why they didn't get there on time. Needless to say, we've rarely been late because the responsibility is on them.
My 11-year-old wants to be a veterinarian, so on a recent visit to our vet, she came along and asked him to tell her what she needed to do. I was expecting him to tell her to get good grades and go to university. He actually looked her straight in the eyes and said, "You came to me just in time. You have no idea how competitive things will be for you." To my surprise and delight, he actually mapped out what she needs to do starting right now. He then he told her to come talk to him anytime. It was incredibly motivating for her and the message to focus on high grades and to keep on top of her homework now meant more coming from a role model than from me. I can't say that she'll be a vet for sure, but any opportunity you have to light a spark in your child, take it! Listen to what your kids want to do in the future and try your best to connect them with someone who inspires.
As a parent, it has taken me a long time to realize that I can't be an expert on everything. When it comes to school and homework, I'm all too happy to find the people who are, so I can focus on being my kids' cheerleader. That's a job I'm an expert at.