Homework time. For many households, it’s a battle of wills where only the strong survive. Often, homework’s not even conquered and the fight is ugly-tears, shouts, and arguments that leave soldiers wounded and fearful of the next charge.
It doesn’t have to be that way, nor should it be.
We’ve all been there-we want to help our kids with their homework, but for whatever reason, our attempts are feeble or unsuccessful. We all somehow managed to navigate the (more often than not) horrifying first few weeks with newborns; we taught our kids to eat, drink, talk, and walk for goodness’ sake-what’s a little Guided Reading or pre-algebra?
Doing the homework for our kids is clearly not the answer; sure it gets done, but teacher know (they do,–they really, really do!), and that not only looks awful for your child (and you!), but it obviously won’t help your kid learn and practice concepts.
Here are the “Magic 3”: three tricks for becoming a solid, supportive, helpful partner for your child as far as homework goes. This is not top-secret stuff; it’s just a few tricks from a teacher who’s been there and a parent who’s also trying.
1. Start from scratch. Start from the bottom. Literally. Open up that backpack together, throw everything out on the floor, and organize. For younger kids, you need to take more of this on, helping to put papers in the correct spots. But for the older kids, helping them to initially create dividers (or one individual binder) for each subject will get them on the right track. Label or color-code everything. Pick up an agenda book for kids to write down homework, and offer some sort of positive reinforcement when your kiddo actually uses it. Everyone needs to be organized if this homework thing will work, and everyone needs to be made aware of these ‘new’ roles; you’re not only a parent, you’re also a teacher.
2. Don’t be afraid. Of the subjects. To ask for help. To act like you know what you’re talking about or to admit you’re not sure. Most likely you know this stuff; education is so cyclical in nature, that you probably learned what your kid’s covering in school, they just called it something different when you were little. Refresh your memory, do a little research, email the teacher (you’re allowed to do that-seriously!). Put on your confidence hat and walk into your new role as ‘homework partner’ with your chin up and shoulders back.
3. Be a partner. After the initial organization, walk yourself into partner mode. You’re co-commander, not the pilot of the ship; your child needs to take the reins, be in charge, and take initiative. You need to be there to check in-regularly, like a partner should!-you need to sit down next to her at the table while she works (do some reading, work on your laptop, do whatever), and you need to talk to her at dinner about what she’s working on.
It may take time, but it’s totally worth it. Parents need to be active in their kids’ educations, and they should be. After the initial shake-up, it’s not that difficult; it takes time-sure-but it’s an investment in education and relationship-building. And it’s worth it.