3 Easy Steps to Eliminating Homework Chaos

You Can’t Call a Homework Strike. So what do you do?

You remember like it was last night... tears and arguments about whose responsibility it really is to get the science homework done. Or promises to your 8 year old that she only has 14 more math questions to do before bed and that she can study spelling words at breakfast.

You can’t face another school year like the last one.  But you can’t call a homework strike.

This School Called A Homework Strike

So what do you do?

1.  Step back from your role as homework forewoman and embrace the role of mediator. Be the buffer between unreasonable homework expectations and your child’s ability / sanity / need for “life” time.

Set a fixed amount of time for homework. What’s reasonable depends on your child’s needs and your family’s values and schedules.  But starting with 5 minutes for SK and adding five minutes each year to grade 3 is reasonable.  Try 30 minutes in grade 4.  Then 35 for grade 5 and 40 for grade 6. For grades 7 and 8, say 45 to 60 minutes.  Just remember, you’re going for on-task time.

Meet the teachers and explain your decision.  Keep it friendly.

2.  Change your focus: Role model and encourage good habits.

Turn homework time into family “quiet-work” time.  You can write your Aunt Alice a letter or pay some bills; your hubby can...well, I’m sure you can think of something he can do quietly at the table.

Create some rules.  Bathroom before quiet work.  No television.  No phone calls. (Ahem...the rules are for you too.  Stop tweeting.)

Ask teachers for handouts about project details so you have the information you need to help your child chunk large tasks into manageable pieces.  All mini-deadlines go into the school agenda.

Subtly time your child’s reading speed.  How long to finish an average page? Then, how many days would it take to finish the book assignment?  The page numbers that have to be read each day go into the agenda.

Stick to it.  No homework?  Your child could use this time to take a bite out of a long term project.  No project?  The time can be used for reading, practising math facts, writing a poem, reviewing social studies notes...

How To Survive Homework Hell

3.  Know your role and your limits.

Leave the real teaching to the teachers. They know the material and they don`t have trouble understanding why your child isn`t good at math even though your accountant hubby is.  Think about that vein throbbing in his forehead when tries to show your daughter how to do long division (not to mention the number of times he’s questioned her paternity afterwards.)

Repeat until memorized: “I will not complete my child’s homework/project/speech...”  You’ve heard it before, but you aren’t going to go to high school with your child, are you?  Let the teacher see what your child can – and can’t – do.  When the teacher sees your child doesn’t understand, he should re-teach.  If he`s too bent on ramming through curriculum to focus on your child`s needs... well, that’s an important issue (and a separate article), but it’s not a homework issue.

Give mediation and modelling a try. You might just (all) sleep better. One last thought: If your child loves reading....please don`t put a limit on that.  Have a great year!

Photo from Chris Yarzab/CC

Diane L. Duff is an educational consultant and reading specialist whose over-riding passion is children’s right to read. As a former principal, classroom teacher, and college teacher, Diane brings rich and varied experience and expertise to her work with families and educators.

Diane currently lives in Ottawa with her husband, but is super excited about transitioning her business to the GTA this September (2012) and living in the same city as her daughters and two of her grandchildren (Yay!).

For more information about Diane's work, please visit www.dianeduff.ca/  Contact her directly at [email protected]