Monday through Thursday every day a battle would ensue in our home. It never failed and I am sure the neighbors heard the screams both mine and my son’s. It was something neither of us looked forward to and was hard for both of us to complete. Homework, we battled nightly to get it done when he was younger and sometimes still do as he is a teenager. We slowly worked on a system to help us make homework more bearable. Dare I say easy!
First thing is first, we needed to adjust where we were going to do homework. This fell to me as the Mom. You see our kitchen table can sometimes be a dumping ground for papers, grocery bags I knew did not need to be put away right away and even random toys. Not at all conducive to focusing for anyone. So, it became my job to ensure that each day after school the kitchen table was clean from all clutter. You may be thinking oh why not send him to his room to do his work. Well, talk about a distraction zone and in the kitchen, I can be present with him but not hover next to him. I can see how it is going and do simple check ins.
The setup is important. The last thing you want to do is have to be trying to find a pink crayon because the pig on the paper has to be pink. So, we have a homework drawer in our kitchen. It has pencils that are sharpened, a full box of crayons, markers, scissors, tape, glue, and index cards. It is easy to get to and is always fully stocked. No hunting for the pink crayon. And yes, this idea did stem from a very long hard battled fight over not having a pink crayon to color a pig on a homework sheet.
Set the expectations for homework. Currently, as a teen our rule is homework must be completed before evening practices. For our younger kids it is different. Our middle son likes to come home and get it done and out of the way. Our youngest needs a break after the school day. He needs to recharge before doing homework. So yes, you guessed it at any time during the day someone in our house is doing homework. But here is the thing, trying to get them to do the work when it was easiest for me didn’t work. Let’s be honest, it isn’t about me when it comes to homework.
So, we talked about when and when now let’s touch on my role as a parent. My job is to help or guide them and not do it for them. This is a hard one for me especially when it comes to projects. I am there to check in with them as they do their homework. I ask how’s it going and need anything from me several times during the afternoon. I don’t sit next to any of them anymore. Not even my youngest who is only in second grade. My check ins are more frequent, and I may talk through a math problem more with my youngest, but homework is not usually a new concept.
The epic nightly battles over homework don’t happen anymore in our house, thankfully. We do still have storms that roll in with more challenging work or days. I try to remember to be the calm for them during the storm now instead of adding to it. I offer them to take a break and come back to it later. I may sit down and just be present for them during the storm. I also remember that while homework is usually something already taught in school that day maybe they just didn’t get it or maybe it is a harder concept to understand. Sometimes we don’t get it done. Not because we didn’t try but because we needed it to be taught to us again. In those cases, I send an email to the teacher letting them know that my child really worked hard on this but just didn’t get the concept, so they didn’t get it done.
Homework doesn’t have to be that epic nightly battle. It takes time and awareness to see what is working and what isn’t for your home. Be flexible and willing to adjust things. Apex Occupational Therapy frequently offers homework inservice events for parents to join and learn more about ways to make homework easier for everyone. If you don’t see one on our schedule and would like one let us know!
By Kim Nolder