Is homework getting you down?
You dread it as soon as you see your child take his backpack to the kitchen table or maybe even get in the car.
You anticipate the fights, the struggle and sometimes the necessary bribing and manipulation to get the homework done.
Just the other night, your child cried at the kitchen table for 20 minutes because he didn’t want to even try a hard math problem.
You had no idea how to help him. Maybe you tried Youtube, you tried googling, but nothing.
Or perhaps your daughter sat there with the assignment of writing a 5 paragraph essay but refused to actually write something.
It was painful. You remember these essays well and how much you hated them. Frankly, you don’t know how to encourage her and it all makes you rage-y inside.
Our own experience of homework and school affects how we deal with our kids when it comes to homework.
We may be conscious of it or we may have no idea it plays that big of a role.
My book, Drama Free Homework: A Parent’s Guide to Eliminating Homework Battles and Raising Focused Kids releases on August 13th on Amazon. You’ll want this book in your library!
Until then, check to see if any of these dramas are wreaking havoc in your own mindset and affecting the way you help your child with homework.
#1 You think the assignment is stupid
Yes, there are stupid assignments. I’m very judgmental when it comes to that.
In my freshman year of high school, I refused to write a paper on Machiavelli’s The Prince because I felt it was busy work given to us by our teacher, Mr. Hensley.
(I’m sorry, Mr. Hensley. I fully admit now that I didn’t understand the assignment)
The truth is that teachers usually have very good reasons for assigning work. If you ever question the worthiness of the assignment, it is completely ok to ask the teacher about it.
A great email to send is:
“Bobby brought home a paper of 30 double-digit divisor division problems last night. It took him 2 hours to finish it. Is it possible to assign less?”
“Alexis completed four of her Greek Mythology cards and it took her 2 hours. Is this the right amount of time? I’m wondering how long it will take her to complete the assigned 30 cards.”
#2 You hated homework in school
I’m guessing, it was probably a very specific kind of homework. When I was in my Master’s program for education, my professor polled the class:
“How many of you think you’re horrible at math?”
Over half the hands in the class went up – most of them women. The fact is that all of us can be good at math, but we have huge scars from our school days where it didn’t make sense and we just didn’t get it.
That’s ok. But knowing that our elementary school experience affects our adult life is the first step to realizing that you may be passing down this belief to your kids.
If you find that you’re getting unreasonably frustrated, look back to your past. Did you always feel like you were bad in a particular subject? Is that the subject that frustrates you most with your child?
If so, that’s ok. Parents are not expected to reteach their kids subject material to do homework. I officially release you from this responsibility.
Kids in elementary school should know everything they need to do to complete the homework at home.
If they don’t, it’s worth bringing it up to the teacher.
Your kids’ teacher wants to know. You’re not bothering them. They need to know where students need extra help.
When I was a fifth-grade teacher, I had 30 students and often couldn’t track the progress of each of them on each concept. I relied on parents to tell me where their kids struggled so that I could slow my instruction down and get those who needed it, extra help.
#3 Is a new method freaking you out?
You know what I’m talking about. I’m looking at you Common Core.
I always tell parents that Common Core gets a bad rap. It’s one of those subjects that would benefit from a great public relations campaign. However, since it’s government-funded, that’s not going to happen so let me do my best to finally give Common Core the good PR it needs.
These standards are a completely different approach to math. Notice I said ‘different’, not ‘stupid’ or ‘unreasonable’. There are some very good reasons for this new approach. The math we learned in elementary school asked us to memorize formulas and perfect a specific system to solve a problem. As a result, math didn’t make sense to a large percentage of students.
Do you remember the rhyme when dividing fractions?
“Yours is not to question why, just invert and multiply.”
That is what was wrong with the way we were taught math! We weren’t taught to question or understand exactly why we were doing something. Our teachers simply expected us to memorize a procedure—referred to as an algorithm—and replicate it.
Like a monkey.
Common Core takes a different approach. Instead of teaching one approach to solving a problem, it teaches kids multiple ways. Ways that conceptually make sense.
But, here’s the issue:
Because of the way Common Core was rolled out, and the nature of standardized testing at the end of each year, schools are applying the old way of teaching math to the new Common Core approach.
For example, there are many ways to teach two-digit multiplication now, one of which is the area model which asks kids to visually draw the multiplication problem. It’s super-cool and helps students see exactly how multiplication works.
However, teachers are taking this one way to solve it and making students repeat it over and over again. This isn’t teaching for understanding; it’s teaching the exact same way as the old math.
Expecting students to do things like a monkey.
When parents see a way to solve a problem that they’re not familiar with, the natural instinct is to freak out. But remember, you don’t need to reteach your child. If the process doesn’t make sense to the student, they are not yet independent enough to have that assignment as homework.
Talk to the teacher. Other kids are probably having the exact same issue and the teacher can address it by devoting more time to that particular method or by teaching your child another method that makes more sense to her.
Just say no to homework drama
Being aware of your own experiences and thoughts around homework can help you feel better about the entire process.
Our past deeply affects our current actions and homework is no exception.
One word of warning though. These are simply areas to be aware of. Most moms think they should be doing better. They do everything for their kids and still feel like their failing in every single way.
This is not you. You’re not failing. Knowing these struggles will release you from some of the anxiety and frustration you feel around your child’s homework.
Your child’s homework is their responsibility, not yours. If they don’t understand, it’s totally OK to talk to the teacher.