All of us remember those painful days from our unrequited youth of homework. Maybe it was the seeming never ending story of World War II, perhaps math problems that warped our very being, or the memorization and repetition of spelling words. Having put those days behind us, it’s so easy to fall in the trap that we’re too busy to help our children through their own mind-bending exhaustion.
However, why not embrace it and take it as an opportunity to have fun and teach our children coping skills while we’re at it? While my oldest son has homework each and every night that is exhausting and my youngest has weekly homework packets, both are opportunities to have fun.
Make it a team sport
Nothing screams solitude more than sitting in your room while your sibling is running through the house like a maniac, and your parents are laughing at the events of the day. Humans are social creatures. We love relating to others, and having others relate to us. “Misery loves company” is about sharing our experiences.
When the children have homework, try to line up their time to do homework together (if you have more than one). If one has more homework than the other, this is a great opportunity to have “quiet time” or “productive time”. Let them increase those reading skills, learn how to program, or engage in a crafting activity. Don’t stop with the kids. Take the opportunity to catch up on those pesky administrative things in your life, like bills or clearing out emails, in the same are as them. Also, consider having a regimented time for this, so it’s just part of your culture as a family.
The goal is both for the kids to know that they aren’t alone, but it also extends into richer communication with everybody helping out when work is especially intense. There are few things as heart warming as hearing your children root for one another.
Break it to make it
Homework can take time. Often times, it can feel like an endurance race. Just think about how hard it was to write a one page essay on your favorite book for the first time. I remember sitting at my IBM PCjr (yes .. I just dated myself) trying to type one page for hours. Just like anybody running a marathon grabbing a cup of water along the race, kids need breaks to.
Feel out a pace with them and make it something that clears their minds. Oftentimes when we start a homework session, there is a negotiation.
“I’ll give you ten for forty”, I say
Holden replies, “How about ten for thirty?”
“Tell you what. Ten for thirty-five”, I’ll negotiate down
“Deal”, Holden will accept
He’s negotiating the amount of a break that he gets for work completed. We end up agreeing that he’ll do 35 minutes of focused work, and will get 10 minutes of completely free time. That’s time that is not used to clean off the table and time that is not judged by me. If he wants to play Minecraft, he gets it. He will have fulfilled his end of the agreement, and thus gets time to clear his head. While I have not written about it yet, this also gives him a voice .. important for a (pre-)teen.
Breaks don’t always have to be associated with time. Sometimes, it’s just progress. My youngest, Archer, gets a packet of homework on the weekends. Like any seven year old, when he sees a page full of math problems, exhaustion sweeps his body. The bargain we sometimes make is, for each problem done, he gets a minute of free time. After he agreed to it, a smile crept across his face and he slammed through them all. “Do I get 40 minutes?”. Yes. That’s the agreement. Maybe it’ll be 30 seconds for each problem next time, but this gave him that self-motivation to fly through his work.
In fact, when kids have time for breaks, it turns out, they don’t also take them, but it keeps them in good spirits. Just like that marathon runner, they can measure their progress and the homework doesn’t seem never ending.
No homework? You still have work, kinda.
Homework is a good reflection on the day or week of learning. Just because they don’t have homework, it’s good to use the time to reflect on the day. In a later post, I’ll cover reward systems rather than allowance, but for this discussion, just realize that the kids get rewards for good behaviors and chores. That said, whether they have homework or not, the children have an opportunity to get rewarded for “homework”.
If there is no homework, make it a point to discuss their day. For Archer, who admittedly has a much lighter homework load, he has to tell me at one thing he learned during the day, and one thing he enjoyed from the day. This is a great conversation starter, and make him enthusiastic to talk about his day. Also, it usually reminds him of the reward system (covered in a later post), so he can earn some of his coveted Poke coins.
It’s easy to look at homework as that thing that has to get done before having fun. Hopefully, these tips help turn homework into a positive, fun, and family bonding experience. It has definitely changed the way my kids look at homework, and even I look forward to our homework time.
Until next time, happy fun parenting!